As with all good cooks I have learned my lessons on life and gathered a legacy of recipes and ideas from people and places that I have visited and had the pleasure of meeting while traveling the many bumps and bends on the road of my life! Those who know me well know that I have lived several lives within my single existence–and that’s just so far!
In just one of them I was a new car sales associate at the Butler Lexus dealership in Macon, Georgia–my first career after retiring from the U.S. Air Force. What an incredible experience and one that I gave up very reluctantly when I married my husband, Russ. Oh, how I loved that job and the people I worked with and for! The Lexus brand defines luxury, quality, customer service and satisfaction but the Butler family– the owners of the Butler Auto Group–are truly some of the finest people you could ever hope to meet! You don’t buy a car from them–you join a lifestyle!
To this day, my family and I simply cannot buy a car from anyone else! It’s worth that 12-hour drive one way–certain that you have just been handed the very best “deal” out there and that you know that they stand firmly and proudly behind every car they deliver! I learned everything that I carry with me today about customer service from Marshall and Jane Butler and David and Bonnie Gibson–their daughter and her husband! Unimpeachable integrity and impeccable standards of excellence–friends, it’s just how they roll!
Just like my career in the U.S. Air Force, selling luxury cars was/is a very male dominated business and all the gentlemen that I worked with on the sales floor had found themselves at a point in their lives where they were without significant others–including our sales manager, Michael L.. That made me the “go to” ear for the female perspective on advice to the lovelorn, the selection of all manner of investment clothing including ties, bespoke britches, braces and jackets, food preparation, and “what was (the latest) ‘she’ thinking and how the heck am I supposed to react to that?” tirades.
Summoned to Michael’s office one day via the public announcement system, he asked me to make a recipe that he had found while reading that day’s “Macon Telegraph” newspaper. If my memory serves me well, it was published in response to a reader’s request for the chef’s recipe following a stay at one of the grand hotels in Hilton Head–a recipe with true waterside roots!
Armed with the newspaper clipping, I made it that night, baked it the next day before work and carried it in for “the guys'” breakfast! An instant hit, I was so impressed with the results that I immediately turned around and made it for my children that weekend–a true test and testimony of a “good” recipe! My friends, I’ve been taking out that yellowed and fragile piece of newsprint to make it ever since and always, always to rave reviews!
This recipe is so sinfully rich, crispy, creamy, and brown sugar-y caramel-y wonderful that almost everyone is just amazed to find out that it literally takes minutes to prepare the night before, a luxurious overnight refrigeration and then the next morning all you will have to worry about is a quick bake in the oven the before serving to your guests!
My recipe serves four (with two slices per serving) but I have frequently doubled (serving 8) or even tripled it (serving 12) when I have a houseful without ever having anything less than a perfect outcome each time!
A true “Make-ahead Marvel” that is perfect for Sunday mornings with a houseful of family or friends with a big day ahead–making it perfect for holiday mornings, after church for brunch or even before a day spent antiquing, shopping, boating, riding or lazing on the deck with a book!
I have added my own touches over the years and you will find them followed by ( ) in the ingredients and instructions below!
Thanks, Mike L., you crotchety (but beloved) ol’ thing, for what has proven to be a real gem of a recipe!
9 X 13 cake pan with a lid (you can use plastic wrap in a pinch)–I am a huge fan of AirBake brand–that doubled wall limits the possibility of scorching the caramelizing sugars on this recipe and others like caramel/cinnamon rolls.
1 loaf of French or Italian Bread, cut into 8 1-inch slices
1 stick salted butter (the original recipe required unsalted but I added this to enhance the flavor of the sticky, caramel brûlée topping)
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons white corn syrup
5 large (I use only jumbo) eggs
1 1/2 cups half and half
1 teaspoon vanilla (I use my homemade)
1 teaspoon Grand Marnier (I also have substituted 1 teaspoon of a good bourbon with great results)
1/4 teas. kosher salt (I use only kosher and Diamond Crystal brand–anything else and you will need to be very careful since different salts deliver different levels of salinity)
(Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries or strawberries for garnish)
(Powdered sugar–just enough for dusting)
Spray a 13X9X2 baking dish with cooking spray and set aside. In a small saucepan melt the butter with the brown sugar and corn syrup over medium heat. Stir until smooth. Pour into the bottom of the prepared baking dish.
Arrange the 8 1-inch slices of bread over the brown sugar mixture–squeezing slightly to fit.
In a medium sized bowl, whisk the eggs until a deep butter color and then whisk in the half and half, vanilla, Grand Marnier (or Bourbon) and salt. Pour the mixture over the bread until covered.
Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.
Preheat your oven to 350°. Bake uncovered on the middle rack of the oven until the edges are pale and golden–about 35 to 40 minutes.
Serve immediately with brûlée side up, (dusted with powdered sugar and garnished with fresh berries!)
Pair with apple wood smoked bacon, sausage links and freshly squeezed orange juice or a Mimosa!
This one is true love on a plate!