Baked Mascarpone French Toast with Cherries
at least 3 hours, largely unattended
For French toast that’s custardy but doesn’t fall apart, you need stale—or at least dried-out—bread. Oven-drying fresh bread gets it there pretty quickly, and the results are worth the extra time. Heat the oven to 200°F and put the bread on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer. Bake until the bread is dried on the outside but not browned, 5 to 20 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of your slices.
4 egg yolks
1 cup milk
½ cup mascarpone cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
8 thick slices challah (stale or oven dried, see the note above)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
6 cups frozen Bing cherries (no need to thaw)
½ cup chopped pecans
Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish
1. Whisk together the egg yolks, milk, mascarpone, vanilla, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, and a pinch of salt in a bowl; it’s ﬁne if the mascarpone isn’t completely incorporated. Put the bread in a 9 by 13-inch dish in a single layer. Pour the custard over the bread, wrap the dish tightly with plastic, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
2. Heat the oven to 375°F. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, then add the remaining 4 tablespoons sugar and the cherries and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cherries have given up most of their juice and the liquid is syrupy, 20 to 25 minutes.
3. Grease a large ovenproof dish or skillet with butter. Put one slice of bread in the center of your skillet, then overlap a ring of the remaining slices over it; pour any excess custard over the top. Bake the French toast until the bread is golden brown on top and springy to the touch and the bottom is caramelized, 40 to 50 minutes.
4. Put the pecans in a medium saucepan and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until toasted and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. To serve, sprinkle the French toast with the nuts, dust with sugar, and spoon some of the cherries on top. Cut into wedges or just spoon it out, then pass the remaining sauce at the table.