Berry French Toast Loaf Campfire Cooking
Some recipes seem to go so wrong but they turn out so right. Here is a tale of frustrated ambitions that resulted in a superior breakfast bread. I call it: “Camper’s Berry French Toast Loaf.” You can call it “delicious.”
Camper’s Berry French Toast Loaf is an excellent example of an experiment gone wrong that turned out to be so very right. I didn’t get the fancy, thick sliced bread I had wanted. The outer crust was totally burnt. Yet, this meant that, what begins as a normal sliced loaf of white bread is transformed into a single block of bread pudding, interspersed with berries. Add some fresh berries on top with syrup and whipped cream and the end result rivals french toast found in the hottest brunch spots of Manhattan.
Camper’s Berry French Toast Loaf Recipe
- 1 loaf sliced white bread*
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup mixed berries
- 4 eggs
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- whipped cream (optional)
* My first impulse when shopping for french toast bread is to find something thick cut, like Texas toast. In this case, however, the thickness of the slice only matters in terms of how densely the fruit is scattered within the loaf. Thus, thinner is actually better. In cooking the loaf, the egg mixture will knit the slices together into a single loaf.
Preparing the Loaf
The first step is to compose the loaf. In this case, rather than cooking each individual slice of bread, we are cooking an entire loaf at one time. To do this, we want to make sure that all the bread is suffused in the egg mixture. Thus, the berries will serve a dual purpose: they taste delicious and they are spacers between each slice of bread to let the egg mixture to soak through everything.
Chop up berries and distribute them between the slices of bread. Allow them to create a gap between each slice. I find it easiest to do this by lying one slice down on the counter at a time, placing some berries, and then stacking the next slice on top of it as if I’m making some giant, multi-stacked sandwich. If you aren’t careful, it could even turn into a game of Jenga. You might want an extra set of hands or something to prop the stack against as it gets taller. Yet, this method prevents the berries from collecting at the bottom. (And I think it’s fun. Which is why I do most things.)
Once all the berries are placed and the bread is stacked like some mini sky-scraper, it’s time to prepare the loaf for the egg mixture. Being a liquid, the egg mixture is going to want to spill everywhere. So, it is very important that the loaf is wrapped securely in multiple layers of tin foil around the bottom and sides of the loaf. Leave the top exposed so that the egg solution can be poured over each slice.
Mix eggs, milk, vanilla, honey in a bowl then pour over the loaf. Try to distribute the mixture throughout so that all the bread gets at least a little soggy. Wrap the top of the loaf up as tight as possible. The better enclosed, the less egg mixture will be lost to the fire.
Cooking the Loaf
Place loaf near fire. I suspend it in a dutch oven. You may have coals or a grill. While you don’t want to burn up the outside by placing it directly over the fire, don’t worry about blackening the sides. We will cut off the blackened crust at the end to reveal and awesome, spongy interior. Cooking the loaf through took us 45 minutes to an hour but it is important to regularly check your progress.
After cooking the bottom for the first 20 minutes, carefully start exploring rotating the loaf to cook the sides and the top. This is where things can get messy. If the loaf isn’t fully sealed, egg mixture may leak out. Don’t hesitate to add some more tin foil to prevent the leaking. Check the loaf occasionally to see that the interior is fully cooked through.
Presenting the Loaf
Once the center of the loaf is fully cooked through, it is time to remove it from the tin foil. By this point, the exterior crust is likely blackened from all the heat and fused to the tin foil. This can actually help the next step. With a knife, cut away the crust from the spongy interior. You can use the tin foil to help peal back the crust as your are cutting.
Once the loaf is freed from the tin foil, cut into nice, thick, slices and top with any remaining berries. Serve with syrup and whipped cream.
Feel free to substitute different fruit for whatever your taste or occasion may call for. Let us know how it turns out in the comments!