During the winter holidays, I make plenty of pies so that everyone feels comfortable taking a big slab, but that also means I have some leftovers. Transforming apple pie leftovers into a stuffed French toast isn't difficult at all. Crush up the filling and crust, stuff it into a generous slice of brioche or challah, give it a quick pan-fry, and bake it to finish. Not too shabby, eh?
Choosing the Right Bread
To make this stuffed French toast, you need to get a long loaf of soft, enriched bread like challah or brioche, cut it half, lengthwise, and start stuffing. The goal here is to get the egg mixture to seep into the bread without the bread falling apart.
Making the Bread Pockets
The bread has to be thick enough on each side and on the bottom to support the weight of apple pie filling. You will be trimming the ends off a loaf to make it seven or eight inches long. It's then cut lengthwise into two thick, very long pieces. These two slabs of bread then get a pocket cut into them that you stuff with the pie. All this definitely means you can't use bread that has been pre-sliced.
The good news is that this French toast can be made with one- or two-day old bread. I buy or make a second loaf when making my holiday stuffing and label it "hands off," so no one eats it before I get to it for breakfast.
This is a versatile dish; it works with any leftover fruit pie or nut tart. To be honest, though, this recipe has another purpose for me. I serve stuffed French toasts through the holiday season when (some of) my college-aged kids are home, with plenty of fresh fruit and piping-hot coffee or tea, so we can all sit down and eat together, knowing that everyone will leave with a full tummy and a smile, and I get to share another moment of savoring that holiday pie, with all of us together.
Apple Pie Stuffed French Toast
Serves 4 to 6
(8 1/2- to 9-inch) loaf brioche or challah bread
ground white pepper
apple pie (filling and crust), each about 1/8th of a pie
peanut, canola, or avocado oil
Arrange a rack at the top of the oven and heat to 375°F.
Cut 1 (2-inch) slice from one end of the loaf of bread, leaving a loaf that is 7 to 8 inches long. (Reserve the slice for another use.) Cut the remaining loaf in half lengthwise. Each slab of bread will be about 7 to 8 inches long by 5 inches wide and about 2 1/2 to 3 inches high. If you are using challah, which is lumpy and bumpy from the braiding, trim the crust so it has a flat edge, trying to keep as much bread as possible.
Turn one piece on its side so that the long cut side is face-down. Holding a long knife parallel to the work surface, cut a 3 1/2- to 4 1/2-inch slit into the crust, making the cut halfway between top and the bottom and cutting about two-thirds of the way into the bread, being careful not to cut all the way through. Rotate the bread back so that the slit is now on top. Gently open the slit so that it looks like a New England-style (split-top) hot dog bun. Set aside and repeat with the second piece of bread.
Whisk the eggs, vanilla, salt, and white pepper together in a large bowl; set aside.
Chop both the crust and filling of the apple pie until the mixture is soft, comes together, and there are a few small pieces of apple and pie.
Scoop half of the chopped apple pie, 1 tablespoon at a time, into the slit of one of the bread pieces, gently pushing the filling into the pocket. Turn the filled bread so that the cut side is down and the pocket is to the side and gently close the opening without pushing down hard. It's fine to leave about 1/2 to 1/4 inch of filling exposed. Repeat with the remaining filling and the other piece of bread.
Heat the oil in a 12-inch or larger cast iron or other ovenproof skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Place the egg mixture near the pan. Place one piece of filled bread into the egg cut-side down and soak for 20 seconds. Using your hands, turn the bread a quarter turn, so that the bottom crust is in the egg, and soak for 10 seconds, scooping some of the egg onto the filled pocket top. Turn again, positioning the other flat side down, and soak for 20 seconds.
Using a flat spatula, place the soaked bread flat-side down in the pan and cook for 1 minute. Repeat the soaking process with the second piece of bread and place in the pan, being careful not to let it touch the other piece.
Using 2 flat spatulas, flip the first piece of bread over and cook for 1 minute. Flip the second piece. (At this point, the French toast will not be cooked through.)
Place the pan in the oven and bake until cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the French toast on a serving platter and cut each one into 2 to 4 pieces.
Storage: Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator, well-wrapped in plastic, for 1 day. Reheat in a covered pan in the oven.