The ability to serve French toast for a brunch party without slaving at the stovetop for hours is a beautiful thing. And if we’re feeling particularly on top of our game, we can even prep this thing the night before and store it, covered, in the fridge before baking.
I love the velvety texture, light sweetness, and color of apricot preserves in this custardy baked dish, but you could easily swap out for another flavor—strawberry-rhubarb or orange marmalade would be divine.
1. Generously grease a sheet pan with butter or mist it with cooking spray. If you’re going to bake the French toast right away, preheat the oven to 400°F with a rack in the center position.
2. Spread some apricot preserves on one side of each slice of challah and place the bread, overlapping the slices, preserves side up, on the prepared pan.
3. Whisk the milk, eggs, granulated sugar, salt, vanilla, brandy (if using), and orange zest in a large measuring cup or bowl until well combined. Pour over the challah, thoroughly soaking each slice. There will be a bunch of liquid in the bottom of the pan. At this point, you can cover the pan with aluminum foil and refrigerate it overnight before baking.
4. If the French toast was refrigerated, preheat the oven to 400°F with a rack in the center position. Remove the foil from the pan.
5. Sprinkle the raw sugar evenly on top of the bread. Carefully slide the pan into the oven and bake until the French toast is very brown and puffed, 30 to 45 minutes.
6. Let the French toast cool slightly before serving with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar, some fresh fruit, and/or drizzles of maple syrup.
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