Cook’s Corner

Make-ahead French toast ideal for houseguests



Q. I got a recipe from a magazine in the early 1970s and made it each year as a Christmas pie. When we moved in 1986, the recipe got lost and I have tried repeatedly to duplicate it, to no avail. It was called a French fruit tart. The crust was made of Jiffy pie crust mix, sugar and heavy cream. The filling was Jell-O vanilla pudding mix — not instant — with cream and vanilla among other things. The top was mandarin oranges, canned pineapple segments and bananas. I would love to wow my family with it again.

Sharon Roetger, Wilmington, N.C.


Make-Ahead Baked French Toast

1 loaf crusty sourdough or French bread

8 eggs

2 cups milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

3/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons vanilla


1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 stick butter, chilled and cut into pieces

Fresh fruit (optional)

Maple syrup

Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with butter. Tear bread into chunks (or cut into cubes) and evenly distribute in the pan. Mix eggs with milk, cream, sugar and vanilla. Pour evenly over bread. Cover tightly and refrigerate several hours or overnight.

Mix flour with brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. Cut butter pieces into the dry ingredients until mixture resembles fine pebbles. Refrigerate, covered.

When ready to bake, heat oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle crumb mixture over casserole. (If using fruit, sprinkle it on first.) Bake for 45 minutes for a softer, bread-pudding texture, 1 hour or more for a firmer texture. Scoop into individual portions, and drizzle with maple syrup. Makes 12 servings.

Per serving: 363 calories, 41 percent from fat, (9.1 saturated, 4.7 g mono) 162 mg cholesterol, 10 g protein, 43 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 351 mg sodium


Quick Crescent Pecan Pie Bars


1 (8-ounce) can refrigerated crescent rolls


1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup corn syrup

1 tablespoon butter or margarine, melted

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg, beaten

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Unroll dough and separate into 2 long rectangles. Place in ungreased 9-by-13-inch pan, pressing over bottom and 1/2 inch up sides to form crust. Firmly press perforations to seal. Bake 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, in medium bowl, mix filling ingredients. Pour filling over partially baked crust. Bake 18 to 22 minutes longer or until golden brown. Cool completely, about 1 hour, before cutting into bars. Makes 24 bars.

Per bar: 97 97 calories, 39 percent from fat, 4.3 g fat (1.2 saturated, 1.6 g mono) 9 mg cholesterol, 1.1 g protein, 13.8 g carbohydrates, 0.2 g fiber, 85 mg sodium

Main Dish

Beef and Guinness Stew

5 pounds stew beef, such as chuck, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes

1/2 cup flour

Salt and freshly ground pepper

5 tablespoons vegetable oil or suet

3 or 4 large yellow onions, coarsely chopped

1 pound white mushrooms, halved

2 (12-ounce) bottles Guinness Extra Stout

2 cups beef stock

1 teaspoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

Generous pinch of nutmeg

4 bay leaves

In a large bowl, toss the meat, flour and some salt and pepper, until the meat is coated. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat. When the fat is very hot, add the meat, working in batches if necessary to avoid crowding. Fry, stirring occasionally, until well browned, about 10 minutes.

Remove meat from the pot and set aside. Add the onions and cook over medium heat until just become translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Return the beef to the pot and add the mushrooms, Guinness, stock, sugar, thyme, nutmeg and bay leaves. Add salt and pepper, using a light hand with the salt at this stage. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently for 2 hours. Stir occasionally. Makes 10 servings.

Per serving: 434 calories, 35 percent from fat, 17 g fat (5.2 saturated, 6.8 g mono) 145 mg cholesterol, 53 g protein, 13 g carbohydrates, 1.1 g fiber, 283 mg sodium

Hope P. asked for make-ahead recipes to make for cold-weary visitors coming for extended stays. We’ve received a few recipes to share, starting with Susan Barnes’ make-ahead French toast.

“I made it for my kids as a special breakfast before they returned to college after Christmas break this year,” Barnes writes. “It was so delicious my daughter has again requested it while she is here for spring break. I used a loaf of challah in place of the sourdough or French bread, and it was perfect.”

Barnes credits the recipe to Ree Drummond, better known as The Pioneer Woman on the Food network and at her blog of the same name. Look for more make-ahead recipes in future columns.


The 46th Pillsbury Bake-Off — in a redesigned version — is underway. Home cooks are competing for nearly $1.1 million in cash, prizes and trips, including a $1 million grand prize. Voting opens Thursday at in the first category, Amazing Doable Dinners.

The pecan-pie bar recipe here is from the 24th Bake-Off in 1973, when the focus was on family-friendly recipes. Prep time for the treat is a mere 10 minutes.

Cookbook corner

You’re probably celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with corned beef and cabbage, a fine American tradition, but if you’re interested in learning about classic Irish cooking I recommend Real Irish Food by David Bowers (Skyhorse, $24.95).

Bowers, Galway-born and Dublin-raised, is a New York food writer and photographer who knows that real Irish food is rich stews, fresh seafood and lovely baked tarts, scones and brown bread. The recipes are accompanied by charming anecdotes from his boyhood in Ireland, along with tips for getting Irish tastes with American ingredients.

In addition to the Guinness stew here, with its balance of sweet against the bitter undertone of the beer, recipes that captivate include whiskey chicken, Dublin Bay scampi, boxty, cally, champ, colcannon and cauliflower cheese and everything to do with a potato from crisp cakes to leek pie. The desserts and breads beckon, from everyday soda bread to apple snow and almond buns.

Send questions and responses to or Cook’s Corner, The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132. Personal replies are not possible.

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