First, let us define brunching. ‘Brunching ˈbrənch-iŋ n : a social participation in the act of eating the combination of breakfast and lunch.’
That’s a lot of ‘the’s. But it’s true. I consider brunch to be a very social thing. It’s purposefully waking up to go eat brunch food, usually in the company of others. Some of my fondest memories include brunching. Or rather, maybe many of my fondest memories are brunching memories. Let us recap:
Starting early in my life, I remember that my family frequently brunched with our family friends on Sundays after church. Their house had a large table off of the kitchen, which they filled with fruits, sausages, and the most amazing homemade quiches I have ever had. As a kid, I didn’t like quiche — heck, even now I don’t like quiche — but I loved these quiches. So my first memories of brunch are a sun-filled room and table full of hot quiches ready to be devoured.
I remember making pancakes with real maple syrup what seemed like every weekend with my dad and sister. Aunt Jemima was not welcome in our house. As New Englanders, we only bought the good stuff. Countless mornings with jazz music weaving its way through the house, me with my high stack of pancakes drenched in syrup. These mornings are forever in my mind.
Then there are the weekends in college at NYU when we’d boozy brunch through the afternoon. Sitting at a patio table, watching people pass by with their dogs while sipping bellinis and scarfing waffles with our sunglasses on. Walking through Washington Square Park, a little tipsy, finally to settle down on a blanket in the sun.
There are brunches when I was on the serving end, too. Waking up at 6am each Sunday to serve hundreds of people at the small bakery and cafe I worked at in Boston. Drinking quadruple lattes to keep up with the line going out the door. Then, a few years later, working brunch at a 250-seat restaurant, still waking up at 6am, but by now settling on 1 (very large) coffee. Eating from the brunch buffet in a stairwell after it closed to the public, surrounded by 12 other chowing servers.
Most recently I’ve become keen on waking up late on Sunday mornings with Alex, brewing coffee, and lounging around the house. It’s my new version of brunching. No frills no mess, just us, coffee, and some good food. Like these french toast cups. They come together in minutes, and take a similar amount of time to be devoured. They’re perfect for brunching, as they have that unspoken but understood classiness that is so integral to a good brunch.
The blueberries and basil are so fresh and summery, and make for a great contrast to the thick french toast base. And they’re filling without leaving you stuffed, so you can eat other delicious brunch things like eggs, lox, and hash browns. Mmmm.
Tips for making french toast cups
Use day old bread — You want slightly stale bread for this recipe, as it holds up best when combined with the eggs and buttermilk. I used challah, but any sturdy bread will do!
Use only fresh basil — Fresh basil is the only way to go here. It brightens up these hearty french toast cups and absolutely can’t be replaced with dried basil. If you don’t have any fresh basil on hand, just skip it.
Don’t over bake — You’re looking for the tops of these french toast cups to be golden brown and the centers to be moist and gooey. If you over bake these babies, they’ll dry out and taste sad.
Glaze them while warm — Unlike most other baked goods, you want the maple glaze to be nice and runny on top of these french toast cups, so ice them while still warm.
Happy Friday, friends. Hope you all have great weekends. And hope some of you end up making these babies!
8 cups day old bread (I used brioche), diced in 1/2 to 1 inch cubes
4 oz blueberries
For the white maple icing
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 8 muffin tins with large muffin cups. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine buttermilk, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, butter, and basil, whisking until light and frothy. Toss in diced bread and mix until each piece of bread is thoroughly coated.
Scoop half of the bread into muffin cups, filling each cup half way. Place half of the blueberries on top of the bread, then fill the cup with the remaining bread, topping again with the remaining half of the blueberries. Bake for 30 minutes, until the tops of the muffins are perfectly golden brown. Allow to cool slightly before frosting & serving.
Make the icing while the cups are in the oven. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk thoroughly until glossy. Right before you spread over the muffins, place the icing in the microwave for 15-20 seconds. This will allow it to spread more easily, but will then harden in a nice glaze!