It’s apple picking season! Or so I’ve been told. I’ve spent all of September traveling and certainly have not been to an apple farm, but Instagram has duly informed me that there are apples to be picked. And those apples should be picked by smiling women with their smiling babies, all wearing matching scarves and boots.
I will not be participating in such activity (mostly because I can’t be bothered to figure out how to transport myself outside of New York City to go apple picking, not because I hate fun family activities). Instead, I will be sharing an apple recipe with you that I think would be perfect for using up all of the hand-picked local apples you’ve gathered over the last few weeks.
So, say hello to this Apple Cinnamon French Toast Casserole! It features alternating layers of vegan french toast, maple syrup-cinnamon coated apples, and a crunchy oat-pecan topping. YUM!
Like all of my favorite sweet foods, this Apple Cinnamon French Toast Casserole is indulgent and mouthwatering, but not overly sweet or heavy. In addition to being vegan, it’s also refined-sugar-free (if you use coconut sugar instead of brown sugar).
This French toast has rich warming spices folded into each component, from a winning trio of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in the French toast, along with a generous amount of cinnamon in both the apple filling and the oat-pecan topping. If you want to keep things even easier, replace the individual spices with pumpkin spice (use about 4 teaspoons instead of the cinnamon/ginger/nutmeg called for in the French toast).
To make assembly quick and efficient, slice up the apples first and get them started on the stove. While they’re cooking away, make the oat milk “custard” (a simple whiz in the blender) and pour it over the sliced bread.
As for presentation, if you want to get fancy, you can (a) layer the sliced apples between the bread slices (see the image below), but if you don’t care about fancy presentation, (b) simply tear up the bread into pieces and dice up the apples and mix everything together.
You can assemble it the morning of and let it rest for 30 minutes before baking it, but for a low-stress brunch (and so that you can sleep in on the weekends, if that’s something you are capable of doing), assemble it the night before and pop it in the fridge, then baked it off in the morning while you slurp on your coffee.
Regarding ingredients, I recommend using a sturdy piece of bread, like a French bread (no soft sliced sandwich bread or you’ll end up with a soggy sad mess). The bread should be dried out and hard, not soft. You can use stale, day-old bread, but my preferred method is to use freshly baked bread and then dry it out in the oven. This enables the bread to soak up the “custard” while maintaining a soft, pillowy but not soggy interior. Plus, it also maintains the delicious freshly baked bread flavor that you lose when using stale bread.
For the “custard,” I use a combination of oat milk and silken soft tofu. If you want something even creamier, you can substitute some of the oat milk with some “lite” canned coconut milk.
And as for the apples, be sure to use a variety that is firm and crisp. I like a sweet-tart variety, but feel free to use any firm variety you like (my recommended varieties are in the ingredients below). When you sauté the apples on the stove, you want them to soften up but not completely break down (they’ll continue cooking in the oven).
Finally, for the oat topping, if pecans aren’t your thing, you can substitute slivered or sliced almonds instead.
That’s all you need to know about this Vegan Apple Cinnamon French Toast Casserole, so happy apple picking and happy brunching!
Vegan Apple Cinnamon French Toast Casserole
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or neutral cooking oil of choice
- 4 medium apples, sliced (I recommend a crisp variety, such as Fuji, Braeburn, Granny Smith, Jonagold, or Gala)*
- 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 large loaf French bread (about 16 ounces), sliced (not too thick or thin) or torn into pieces**
- 2 cups oat milk (or other creamy plant-based milk)
- 8 ounces silken soft tofu
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (optional but adds a nice rich body)
- 2/3 cup coconut sugar or brown sugar
- 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated or ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
- 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder (or cornstarch)
- 1/2 cup rolled oats
- 1/3 cup chopped pecans
- 2 tablespoons coconut sugar or brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- A pinch of sea salt
- 3 tablespoons sunflower oil, grapeseed oil, or other neutral-flavored oil
For serving (optional)
- Non-dairy yogurt or whipped topping
- Make the Apple Filling. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the apple slices, maple syrup, and cinnamon, and mix to evenly coat. Cook for 10 minutes, until apples are soft but not falling apart. If you are using a good nonstick skillet, you can skip the oil, but be sure to stir frequently.
- Lightly grease a large rectangular baking pan (about a 13×9-inch pan) with oil or nonstick cooking spray.
- Make the French Toast. Arrange the slices of French bread in the greased baking dish so the tops are facing up.
- In a blender, combine the oat milk, tofu, coconut sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt, baking powder, and arrowroot powder (or cornstarch). Blend on high speed until the mixture is completely smooth and no lumps remain.
- Pour the oat milk mixture evenly over the bread, making sure to moisten each piece completely. Pour the apple filling on top of the soaked bread and stir to combine, or carefully layer the apples between the slices of bread, as shown in the photos.
- Make the crisp topping. Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl using a spatula or your fingertips. Sprinkle the crisp topping evenly over the French Toast.
- Cover the casserole with aluminum foil and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the baking dish from the refrigerator and bake, covered, for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake another 20-30 minutes, until the crisp topping is golden browned and the casserole is completely cooked through.
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