While Amir enjoyed his holiday weekend in Chicago, I just returned from a thunderstorm-soaked weekend in Atlanta, Georgia. Georgia, otherwise known as the Peach State. Now that I’m back in California and sharing this peach-centric recipe, I’m laughing inside at the fact that I ate not one furry fruit while I was in the South. Such a shame. And senseless when I really think about it. When I was younger, I spent a few summers going down to Georgia to visit family, and one of the things I vividly remember besides raging humidity, sleeping three to a bed and walking down red clay dirt roads is eating huge, juicy peaches. The kind of peaches that make a huge mess when you take a bite. Although California’s peaches may not have quite the same effect on me, no matter what, I have to admit that summer tastes better once they are in season.
After doing a bit of reading about peaches, I came across a New York Times article that made me aware of the fact that nowadays, South Carolina may have edged past Georgia as the biggest peach producer in the South. No one in my family mentions SC peaches, but why would they? Those who are loyal to their home state will rarely drop a competitor’s name. I could let them know that California is actually the top producer and shipper of peaches in the country, but I would have to quickly concede that the West coast varieties do not compare. Due to the fact that I rarely find a CA peach that measures up to the fond memories I hold about the GA guys, I tend to cook with frozen peaches. Frozen fruits are picked at the height of ripeness, so they are a great substitute for fresh fruits if they are not available or up to your standards. Even though I wish I could have Georgia peaches on hand during the summer, I will make adjustments to satisfy my cravings.
With a couple of bags of thawed peaches waiting patiently to be used, I whipped up this casserole using ingredients that I already had at home. Correction: The day before putting everything together, I did grab a loaf of bread from a local market. In order to speed up the “stale bread” status, I cut it into pieces, dumped the chunks into a bowl and let them sit out, uncovered, overnight. The next day, my little squares were stale enough to proceed with the rest of the recipe.
The best part about this casserole is that it works perfectly for brunch or, if you’re one of those people, breakfast for dinner. Overnight casseroles similar to this allow you to prep everything ahead of time–several hours ahead of time–and enjoy the bounty when you’re ready. If you are someone short on time, this is a great dish to have in your back pocket. Plus, no matter what kind of peaches you prefer, there is no doubt this casserole will please the taste buds.
Baked Peach French Toast Casserole – Serves 6
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 1/2 cups milk, plus more if necessary
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
30 ounces frozen peaches, thawed and drained
12 ounces stale bread (croissants, brioche, ciabatta, etc.), cubed
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1. For the casserole, grease a 9″ square cake pan with floured baking spray. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the sweetened condensed milk, eggs, milk, salt, sour cream, almond extract and pumpkin pie spice. Fold in the peaches and bread, then pour the mixture into the prepared pan.
3. For the topping, stir together the melted butter, brown sugar, flour almonds and salt until the mixture forms uniform crumbles. Sprinkle the topping over the soaking bread and peach mixture.* Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 45-50 minutes or until golden brown on top and baked through. (Cover with foil halfway through baking if the top begins to brown before the casserole is done.)
*If you are a prepping maniac, this is a great dish to make the night before serving. Once you’ve sprinkled the topping over the casserole, cover with foil and refrigerate overnight. The next day, if the casserole appears a bit dry, pour a bit more milk, 1/4 cup at a time, on top just until the bread appears moist again. You shouldn’t need more than 1/2 a cup. Bake as normal.
Click HERE for the printable recipe.