Spiced apples meet brunch-worthy French toast in our Baked French Toast Recipe. Custard-soaked slices of rich challah get layered with spiced apples and topped with candied nuts. It’s the perfect hybrid between French toast, apple pie and sweet rolls. What could be better?
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Why This Recipe Works
Our goal was to create a French toast recipe that could easily feed a hungry crowd without feeling too casserole-y. When we think of French toast bakes, or any breakfast bake for that matter, we think of cooler weather and cozy mornings.
Inspired by the flavors of fall, we set our sights on an Apple French Toast recipe. Simply incorporating apple flavor in the custard or topping wasn’t going to be enough. Thick slices of cooked apple were the only way.
To bring out the flavors of the apples even more, we cook them down in a bit of butter with brown sugar and the essential apple pie spices.
The thick slices of spiced apples are layered between buttery custard-soaked layers of challah, which is not only gorgeous, but creates a delicious balance of contrasting textures and flavors in every bite.
We prefer Granny Smith apples for just about any baked application. They’re crisp and tart and hold up well both in texture and flavor during baking. Cooking and baking the apples mellow their tartness, which is replaced with a lovely sweetness.
If you need a substitution, Honeycrisp apples would work well.
We tried this recipe with all kinds of enriched breads, but challah won out every time. Don’t be tempted to use brioche—it will just become a soggy mess! Challah is ideal because it’s butter and decadent, while also having enough structure to hold up to the milk custard.
We recommend using pecans or walnuts for the topping. For added sweetness and a dose of decadence, we toss them in a simple caramel sauce before drizzling over the partially baked french toast. This nutty caramel gives pecan roll vibes without being cloyingly sweet.
A simple combination of cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom offer a lovely spice to the French toast without taking over. We kept the amounts of each to a minimum in an effort to not over power the entire dish. If you particularly love one of these spices—go ahead and measure generously.
Notes From The Test Kitchen
We think the key to really good french toast has to do with two things: the bread you use and how much flavor you pack into the custard. For starters—you need to make French toast out of bread you like to eat on it’s own (aka it needs to be quality bread).
We also think you need to slice the bread yourself so you can get thick slices instead of thin sandwich-style slices. And when it comes to flavoring the custard, you need to load it up with good quality spices, pure vanilla extract and maple syrup.
Make It a Meal
Round out your brunch meal with these tasty dishes.
- Gruyère cheese and bacon come together in this tasty low-carb Crustless Quiche Lorraine.
- These Cheesy Fried Eggs are filled with fried eggs featuring a savory frico (cheese crisp) layer.
- It’s not a brunch without this sweet, salty, and slightly Spicy Candied Bacon recipe!
- Elevate your day with the refined, elegant Blood Orange Mimosa!
- Fill out your fall brunch menu with this flavorful Cranberry Sangria.
- This absolutely stunning Kir Royale cocktail only requires two ingredients and is always in season.
- Make banana French toast by switching out the apples and cinnamon for bananas.
- Switch out dairy milk for coconut milk or almond milk. If you want this to be even more decadent, substitute some of the whole milk with heavy cream.
- We favor walnuts or pecans for this recipe but macadamia nuts or almonds would be great options.
- Sprinkle powdered sugar over top right before serving for a sweet and stunning finish.
- Serve with maple-sweetened Whipped Cream and fresh berries.
- Dot the top of this baked French toast casserole with cubes of cream cheese before baking.
We haven’t tested this yet, but we anticipate you can prep the recipe as written up until the point of making. Cover the assembled French toast with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Bake as directed, adding a few minutes as needed.
We do not recommend prepping this more than 1 day in advance.
Absolutely! Let the baked French toast cool to room temperature then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Reheat in a 300ºF just until warmed through.
We do not recommend baking this more than 1 day in advance.
It’s likely you used a different type of bread that has a lighter crumb and isn’t as sturdy as Challah. You also may need to bake it a little longer—most ovens run a bit hotter or cooler than they say.
Baked French Toast
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 6 large eggs
- 2 ¼ cups whole milk, warmed
- ¼ + ⅓ cup pure maple syrup, divided
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 ¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh nutmeg, divided
- Morton kosher salt
- 5 Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored (about 2 ⅓ pounds)
- ⅓ cup packed brown sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 (1-pound) loaf challah, cut in ¾-inch-thick slices
- ½ cup raw pecans or walnuts, roughly chopped
- Coat a 9×13-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon softened butter or nonstick cooking spray. Heat oven to 350ºF (177ºC).
- In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, ¼ cup maple syrup, vanilla, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon nutmeg and ¼ teaspoon salt. Set aside.
- Slice peeled and cored apples into ¼-inch thick slices.
- Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add apples, brown sugar, remaining ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, remaining ½ teaspoon nutmeg, cardamom and ⅛ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until apples are nearly fork-tender and syrup is thickened; 8–10 minutes.
- Dip each slice of challah into custard mixture, flipping, for about 5 seconds.
- Arrange soaked slices at an angle in an overlapping pattern in prepared baking dish. Pour any remaining custard over bread.
- Layer cooked apple slices between layered bread slices.
- Bake until puffy, about 25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, add remaining 3 tablespoons butter and ⅓ cup maple syrup to skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until sugar syrup has thickened and leaves a trail when spatula runs through (and takes 3 seconds to fill in), about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in walnuts and ⅛ teaspoon salt.
- Remove baking dish from oven, pour caramel over french toast and continue baking until top is golden brown and center is set, about 25 minutes more.
- Serve with warm maple syrup or a dusting or powdered sugar.
This recipe article was originally published on March 5, 2016. It was most recently updated on September 24, 2022.
Images by: Megan McKeehan