I am not a big fan of winter. The lack of sunlight, frigid temperatures and icy roads are just not my thing. During these months I cower in oversized sweaters and wool socks while clinging to hot drinks in chilly desperation.
All that being said, there is something fun about trying to create a cozy, warm atmosphere at home during the winter months. In the end we have to make the most of our situation, right?
The truth is that I don’t go outside much in January if I can help it. The holiday bliss has worn off, the Christmas lights have been taken down and the cookies have all been consumed. The novelty of seeing that first snowstorm has long worn off. I daydream about sunny days on the beach, gardening, and picnics in the park.
But instead of packing up and moving to California, I do what I can to make weekend mornings at home a bit more enjoyable for me and my husband. Since there’s no rush to head outside, we can take our time enjoying warm coffee and breakfast.
One way I like to make January months a bit more cozy is by adding spices to our meals. The fragrance of chai tea is both soothing and invigorating which is why I love incorporating its flavor into my recipes. And it really doesn’t get much easier than this baked chai spiced french toast because you can do much of the prep in advance. It’s a simple, comforting recipe that will warm up even the chilliest winter morning.
For the French Toast: 4 large eggs
1 1/2 cup 2% or whole milk
1/3 to 1/2 cup granulated sugar (use less if serving with maple syrup)
1/2 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Chai Spice Mixture
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
9 to 10 cups day-old challah bread, chopped into cubes
For the Topping: 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon Chai Spice Mixture
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and chopped into small pieces
In a small bowl, whisk together the cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, allspice and cloves for the Chai Spice Mixture. Set aside.
For the french toast, whisk together the eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of the Chai Spice Mixture in a medium bowl.
Grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan with the butter and layer the cubed challah inside the pan, gently pressing it down. Briefly re-whisk the liquid ingredients and pour them evenly over the bread, taking care to cover all of the exposed bread. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes or as long as overnight to allow the mixture to absorb into the bread.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F. In a small bowl, combine the topping ingredients until crumbly.
Uncover the loaf pan and gently press the bread down evenly until the liquid begins seeping up. Spread the topping evenly over the bread. Bake for 45 minutes until the top is golden and crunchy.
Allow to cool for several minutes and then slice and serve.
Make-Ahead Recipe Note
To save time, soak the bread in the French toast custard the night before and then continue with the remaining steps in the morning.