Well, it’s that time of year again when my refrigerator is bursting with apples because we’ve made not one, not two, but THREE trips to various apple orchards, and yet without fail each trip ends with the boyfriend insisting on picking “just a few more!” To be fair, though, he’s in the kitchen preparing an apple coffee cake as I write, so I can’t say that he’s not doing his part to help use them up.
For my part, I whipped up this apple pie French toast casserole! After falling head over heels in love with the cherry pie French toast casserole I created in February, I immediately started brainstorming ideas for other flavor variations, but I decided to hold off on this one until fall, when I knew we’d be up to our eyeballs in freshly picked apples.
Have you ever waited a really long time for something and in the meantime built it up in your head to such a degree that the actual thing turned out to be a bit disappointment? I definitely have, but trust me, this was NOT one of those times. This apple pie French toast casserole will impress you and your fellow brunch-goers with your very first bite…if not sooner! Its cozy, cinnamon-filled aroma is so inviting that you may find it hard not to yank the pan from the oven a few minutes early. But as amazing as it smells, it tastes even more amazing: how can you go wrong with tender, sweet challah cascading with juicy apple chunks and topped with a crispy, crumbly walnut streusel? Answer: you can’t!
One loaf of challah makes a full 9×13 casserole, so this recipe is perfect if you’ve got a group (~6-8 people), but it also keeps quite well in the fridge for several days if you have leftovers—just warm ’em up for a minute in the microwave and you’ll be good to go. This casserole is easier to make than a pie or a ton of individual slices of French toast, so it’s a win-win: you get the flavor and comfort of both but with just a fraction of the effort!
How has fall been treating you? Ours here in southeastern Michigan has been unusually warm for the most part, but that certainly hasn’t stopped us from going about our customary fall activities, like apple-picking and doughnut-eating. What are your favorite fall traditions?
- 4 cups peeled and diced apples (about 4 medium apples, cut into 1/2-inch cubes)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon allspice
- squeeze of lemon juice
- pinch of salt
- 1 loaf challah (1 pound), cut into cubes or torn into chunks
- 8 eggs
- 3 cups milk (non-dairy is fine)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 stick butter or margarine (non-dairy is fine), chilled and cut into pieces
- 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
- Combine all the ingredients for the filling and place in a non-stick skillet. Cook over medium-low heat until the apples are softened (but not mushy), about 4-5 minutes (see notes).
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9x13 pan. Put the bread chunks in the pan. In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Stir in the milk, sugar, and cinnamon. Pour the mixture evenly over the bread chunks.
- Spoon dollops of the apple pie filling in between and on top of the bread chunks.
- In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Add the butter and work it into the dry ingredients until the largest pieces are no bigger than the size of peas. Stir in the chopped walnuts and sprinkle the mixture on top of the bread chunks.
- Bake for 40-50 minutes, depending on the consistency you prefer: 40 minutes for a softer/wetter texture, up to 50 minutes for a firmer texture.
- The casserole can be assembled in advance, covered, and refrigerated overnight. I recommend taking the casserole out of the refrigerator while the oven is preheating. You may also need to bake the casserole a few minutes longer, since it is going into the oven cold rather than at room temperature.
- The amount of sugar (both granulated and brown) for the apple pie filling will vary somewhat depending on the type of apples you use. I used Jonagolds for this recipe, which are considered sweet-tart apples. If you use a tart variety like Granny Smith, you will probably want to add more sugar than the recipe specifies. The time it takes for the apples to soften may also vary somewhat depending on the type; for instance, it may take more than 4-5 minutes for harder varieties such as Granny Smiths.
- I would not recommend using this filling recipe in an actual apple pie, as there is no thickening agent.
- Casserole recipe adapted from The Casserole Queens Cookbook.
- Streusel topping recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman.