One of my favorite memories from my childhood was watching my dad Christmas morning open his presents. He would always receive a book from someone and as soon as he opened it he would turn to the first page and start to read. It didn’t matter if there were more presents to open he was hooked and usually finished it that day or the next. I wanted to read everything my dad did. I picked up Piers Anthony’s Xanth series when I was around 12 and devoured them. My dad went through a mystery stint and I followed reading many Agatha Christie mysteries. I still love a good mystery with quirky characters and a good plot. With so many good mystery writers out there and with food being a central part of many mystery plots it’s no wonder a mystery cookbook hasn’t been done before. Thankfully there is one now, The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook put together by Kate White.
There were so many good recipes to try I thought I would start at the beginning of the day and make breakfast. This recipe, Granny Knots Baked Toast, was included by the author Margaret Maron whose most recent book is Designated Daughters, which I haven’t read but will. This recipe requires overnight soaking so you will need to plan in advance. I added another egg to ensure it would go far enough for my hungry crew. It asks for honey or syrup and I happened to have some leftover homemade plum syrup my chef husband had made and I used that instead. I found at 10:00pm that I was all out of vanilla extract so I omitted that ingredient. (I would have made a run to the store and grab some vanilla extract, but the nearest grocery store to me that would have been open at the time of night was 1½ hours away!) I realized that I would have to set my alarm to get up an hour earlier than normal to get the oven pre-heated (mine takes FOREVER) and cook this delicacy before my first shift of children left the house at 6:30am. My thoughts as I went to bed were, this better be worth a missed hour of sleep!
It tasted a lot like French toast, but without the pain of making individual pieces. My daughter thought it was a little too sweet and my extremely picky youngest child wouldn’t eat it, but he doesn’t eat hamburgers or lasagna or spaghetti so you can’t trust his judgment. The rest of them gobbled it down quickly. With breakfast out of the way I’m off to download one of Margaret Maron’s books and settle down for a long good read. (Reality, I’m doing homework, but a girl can dream!)
Granny Knots Baked Toast
Proportions will vary according to the number of mouths to feed. I usually cut thick (1½ to 2 inch) slices from loaves of bread with some body to it: sourdough and whole wheat work well, and so does Italian bread. You want to approximate the thickness of Texas toast even if it takes two slices of your thinner bread to make it up. This is a very forgiving recipe. If you need to fee a larger crowd, figure 1 to 1½ eggs for every cup om milk and adjust the other ingredients as necessary.
YIELD: 6 servings
1 cup dark brown sugar, divided
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (1¼ sticks) unsalted butter, divided
¼ cup honey, maple syrup, or molasses
Enough bread slices to cover the bottom of a 9-by-12-inch casserole dish
2 cups milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Reserve 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar for later. Cover the bottom of the casserole dish with a thin layer of the remaining brown sugar.
- Melt 1 stick of butter; stir in the honey, and drizzle over the brown sugar.
- Lay the bread over the brown sugar, leaving no spaces between slices. (Tear extra slices into small pieces and fill in the cracks.)
- Beat eggs, milk, and vanilla together and pour over the bread, completely covering it.
- Lightly sprinkle the reserved 2 tablespoons brown sugar on top. Melt the remaining ¼ stick butter and drizzle over the sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- In the morning, preheat oven to 350º F. Pour off most of the liquid that hasn’t been absorbed. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. The sugar on the bottom should be caramelized and the top well browned. Serve immediately to six hungry people with links or patties of pork sausage. (Do not ask about carbs or calories!)