So I do a LOT of recipe sampling. And tweaking. And finessing. To get a recipe juuuuust perfect. (Or at least perfectly the way I like it! :P) And this, my friends, will knock your socks off.
An ode to Minimalist Baker for the idea of caramelized apples, and to Easy Not Cheesy for giving validation to my idea of using flax eggs, and of course, a must in my book... PECANS. This new and improved Vegan Frenchie Casserole will please even the eggiest-lover among you. (Yes, we call French Toast "frenchies" around here. It started when our kids were born and it stuck...) Here's what to do:
12-14 1" slices of french or any crusty bread (I used whole wheat ciabatta), cubed
2 C unsweetened almond milk (trust me, this recipe is sweet enough! Use unsweetened.)
1/2 C ground flaxseed
2 T maple syrup
2 T brown sugar
2 t vanilla
2 t cinnamon
4 apples, cored and wedged
2 T Earth Balance butter
light dust of cinnamon
3 T Earth Balance, melted
1/3 C brown sugar
1/3 C maple syrup
2 C chopped pecans
1. Cube bread and set aside. Very lightly oil a 9" x 13" pan.
2. Mix the rest of the ingredients for the casserole in a large mixing bowl and set in refrigerator to gel about 15 minutes. When slightly congealed, whisk again and pour evenly over bread, tossing as you go to make sure all the piece get covered. (I do this right in the 9" x 13") Let soak in refrigerator for 1 hour or overnight.
3. Prepare pecan topping and set aside.
4. Just before baking, caramelize your apples. To a large skillet over medium-low heat, add the apples and 2 Tbsp butter. Sprinkle with cinnamon. I like a light dust on all my apples, but do as much or as little as you like, then stir and cover to steam for a bit. When they start to get tender - about 4-5 minutes - remove cover and sprinkle with 1-2 Tbsp brown sugar (this step is optional and will depend on whether you used sweet or tart apples). Continue cooking with cover off until tender-crisp and slightly caramelized. You don't want them to get mushy so be careful not to keep the cover on for too long. Remove from heat to cool slightly.
5. Top casserole with apples, then pecans and cover with foil lightly. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes -1 hour. Uncover halfway through cook time. You'll know it's done when it pecans are getting toasty, and there is bubbling around the edges. If it's jiggly or wet, bake another 5-10 minutes. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.
You can serve with a drizzle of maple syrup, but truthfully, it doesn't need it!