French Toast Casserole Fail (well, almost...)

Instead of serving my husband breakfast in bed, I slipped under the covers and told him breakfast wasn't ready yet. I wasn't sure when it would be.

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The afternoon before, I had prepared a french toast casserole. I layered crusty sourdough bread into a large casserole dish, tearing the slices into shapes that fit together like puzzle pieces. I used a whole loaf, knowing how much my husband liked this recipe, both fresh and reheated. 

I wrote down the recipe and took pictures so that I would be able to share it with you here on the blog. After pouring the egg mixture over the bread, I started to doubt my ratios. Still, I put the dish into the fridge overnight thinking of the beautiful breakfast we would have the next morning.

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1 loaf of crusty bread
6 eggs
3 cups milk
Pinch of salt
Cinnamon and nutmeg to taste
Dash of vanilla

After baking uncovered at 400°F for the usual 45 minutes, the top was beautifully puffed and golden brown. Perfect! Except that as I pulled it out of the oven, I could tell the center hadn't set. In fact, as I tilted the dish, liquid spilled from between the slices of bread.

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The top was done, verging on overdone, so I turned the temperature of the oven down to 375°F and covered the dish with a lid so that the center would warm up without affecting the nicely browned top too much. Then I set my timer for 10 minutes. After checking, the center was still underdone, so I set the timer for another 10 minutes. So it goes when something in a recipe isn't quite right.

I've learned to embrace it. Sure, I wasn't too happy telling my husband his breakfast would be late. Nor was I excited about the prospect of my blog post turning out differently than I had hoped. But in the end, I'm content. The french toast casserole was delicious that day and the days following when we warmed up leftovers for a quick breakfast.

Next time I won't use quite as much bread. I'll bake it at 375°F instead of 400, and maybe keep the lid on for the first half hour so that it will cook through instead of only browning on the surface. Each time I repeat this recipe I will refine it and make it better. I'll continue to experiment and learn.

I like casseroles like this one because they are flexible. Not done in the middle? Drop the temperature and/or put a lid on. Not golden brown on top? Turn the temperature up and/or remove the lid. These are the basic principles of cooking casseroles, and once you've mastered them, you can start making up your own recipes based on the ingredients you have on hand.

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I hope this story has helped you learn something about the process of kitchen experimentation and salvaging recipes that don't quite turn out. This skill is especially important to me when I use high-quality (AKA not cheap) ingredients like farm-fresh eggs and handmade bread — ingredients I don't want to waste!

Tell us a story of a recipe-gone-wrong from your kitchen! Were you able to salvage it? How?