Now that we find ourselves heading into the cooler season of fall, thoughts of berries, stone fruit and watermelon are in the past. The produce aisles are filling up with rows of apples—so many different varieties. During this time of year, I love taking a trip to one of the many apple orchards we have here in Washington state and seeing which new varieties each orchard has to offer. The smell of apples frying or baking in cinnamon and brown sugar is one that stirs up so many emotions and childhood memories: The first time I made an apple pie with my mother. The first time my husband, Brent, and I perfected the cinnamon roll. I wish I could bottle up that aroma and wear it as perfume. On dreary days, I’ll fry up some apples, butter, brown sugar and cinnamon and eat them warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It is the pinnacle of comfort food.
Fall also brings a more hectic schedule. I find that having casseroles on hand to heat up can really come in handy when I’m in need of some good homemade food. I love going out for dinner, but lately, looking forward to a nice evening at home is far more appealing than rushing out because there’s nothing to eat in the house.
I decided to make this Apple Cinnamon French Toast Casserole with a Cream Cheese Icing for a Sunday brunch with friends. I really wanted French toast, but it’s a little tricky when you’re at someone else’s house because you don’t want to dirty their dishes and rummage around their cupboards. I thought that if I prepared the French toast as a casserole baked with cinnamon, brown sugar, apples and pecans beforehand, I could save time and work the following morning.
I think the key to a good French toast is having really good brioche, so I picked up a loaf from the farmers’ market. If you don’t have access to a local market, you could always opt for a loaf of white bread. The addition of the apples and pecans added flavor that really enhanced the dish, and topping it off with a cream cheese icing was definitely the right thing to do. It was such a hit at brunch that everyone wanted the recipe. I can’t wait to make it again.