We talked recently about pancakes and waffles, but what about French toast? I will confess to not being the most enthusiastic morning person. So I'm a fan of recipes I can prepare the night before and then throw in the oven in the morning without much effort.
1 13- to 14-inch long loaf of soft-crust supermarket Italian bread
1/2 stick (2 oz.) unsalted butter, softened
3 large eggs
1 2/3 cups whole milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
to serve: maple syrup
TO PREPARE THE NIGHT BEFORE
Cut 12 (1-inch-thick) diagonal slices from bread, reserving ends for another use.
Generously butter 1 side of each slice and arrange slices, buttered sides up, in 1 layer in a buttered 13- by 9- by 2-inch glass or ceramic baking dish, squeezing them slightly to fit if necessary.
Whisk together eggs, milk, salt, cinnamon, and vanilla until combined well, then pour evenly over bread. Cover top with plastic wrap and refrigerate, at least 1 hour and up to 1 day, until bread has absorbed all of the custard.
Position a rack in the middle of oven and preheat to 425°F.
Bring mixture to room temperature and sprinkle bread with sugar.
Bake, uncovered, in middle of oven until bread is puffed and top is golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve immediately.
Here's what mine looked like after baking--I missed the opportunity to take a photo when it was still all puffy.