For the Super Bowl this year I was charged with bringing a vegetarian appetizer to my friend Ariel’s party. Although I’m a proud meat-eater, I embraced her request and decided to have some fun with it, after all it is the biggest sport day of the year and not exactly a formal dinner.
The oh-so-fun-and-isn’t-it-cute appetizer I made was Savory French Toast Bites, adapted from Martha Stewart’s Hors d’Oeurves Handbook. The bites were perfect: a warm finger food that could also be enjoyed at room temperature and had a rich, savory flavor slightly reminiscent of pizza. Adding to my enjoyment was the other guests’ confusion when I told them it was French toast because these bites were nothing like the sweetened, dipped and fried bread enjoyed during brunch.
For starters, this version of French toast is baked and there is no sugar or sweetener involved. The savory ingredients consisted of roasted garlic, basil, tomato and Parmesan cheese – almost like a bread-pudding pizza. Finally, after baking I used a circle cutter to turn the French toast slices into bite-sized rounds, which made for a cute and appealing presentation that was just perfect for the Super Bowl.
And the best part was that there were plenty of yummy scraps leftover for the cook. Just sayin’.
Here’s the recipe:
Savory French Toast Bites, adapted from Martha Stewart’s Hors d’Oeuvres Handbook, makes 60 to 70 pieces
1 head garlic
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
1 1/3 cup milk
1 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 medium (12-oz) loaf challah bread (or brioche), or approximately half a large loaf, cut into 1-inch thick slices
1 tomato, seeded and diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, plus a few leaves thinly sliced for garnish
Heat the oven to 350°F. Cut the top off the head of garlic, leaving the remainder intact. Drizzle the garlic with olive oil and wrap in foil, then place it in the oven. Roast the garlic until very fragrant, about 40 minutes. Cool to room temperature, then squeeze out the softened garlic and mash into a paste.
To make the French toast batter, begin by combining the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk, then whisk in the flour mixture until smooth. Stir in the Parmesan cheese which will make the batter lumpy.
If using challah bread, pre-cut the slices so they lay evenly in a 13-inch by 9-inch baking dish, sort of like creating a jigsaw puzzle. Remove the bread and set aside. Coat the baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
One at a time, dip each piece of bread in the batter and turn over to coat both sides. Arrange the bread in the baking dish.
Stir the roasted garlic, diced tomato and chopped basil into the remaining batter and mix well. Spread the batter evenly over the French toast.
Bake the French toast uncovered at 350°F for 30 to 35 minutes or until set. Cool for 15 minutes, then use a 1-inch round cutter to portion the French toast into bite-sized rounds.
If making ahead, arrange the rounds snugly in a baking dish and chill. To reheat, bake at 250°F for 10 minutes.