French Toast Bake [Breakfast Casserole]
Try this mouth-watering French toast recipe courtesy of the Hummingbird Café in Greenbrier, Arkansas.
I recently interviewed Colleen Walsh, owner of the popular (and newly opened) Hummingbird Café in Greenbrier, Arkansas. She generously shared her French Toast Bake recipe.
I love her heartier take on classic French toast. I hope you will too.
This delicious breakfast casserole is the perfect choice for a slow Sunday breakfast or a weekend brunch with friends and family.
The recipe includes ingredients you probably already have on hand. If not, add them to your grocery list because this French toast recipe is worth making.
But, don't stop reading once you get to the recipe. Be sure to read the interview too.
During the interview, Colleen shared her uniquely Southern Louisiana perspective while describing how the recipe evolved over the years.
Colleen also describes her experience sourcing ingredients locally and making this recipe as a working mom stretching her budget while raising her kids in Louisiana.
The French Toast Bake Recipe
Check out the recipe below. You can download and print it or take a screenshot to save it on your phone.
What is Steen's Syrup? If you're not from Southern Louisiana, you may not be familiar with this product. Steen's Syrup is made from pure cane sugar. It's a pantry staple in Cajun/Creole recipes.
Interview with Colleen Walsh of Hummingbird Bakery and Café
The text of the interview is shared below. Some parts of the interview have been edited for clarity.
Anita: How did the Hummingbird café get started?
Colleen: I was at the right place at the right time. Somebody was leaving, and I was able to take over the café immediately - it was done in five days. It took longer to get the paperwork done, but we were able to do the transition in five days.
Anita: Tell us about the menu. How do you decide what you’re going to serve?
Colleen: I serve foods that I like. Anything that I would eat, I would serve. So the food is simple, fresh, and delicious.
Anita: I saw a picture of your French toast bake on Facebook. That picture prompted me to reach out to you. It looked so good. Tell me about the recipe. How did it come about?
Colleen: This recipe, the French toast bake, has evolved. I used to cook it for my kids back in the day, so it’s been around for many years. It’s been cooked and served many times.
I cooked it one Sunday [at the café] for a special, and it went so fast - it sold out. So we decided to put it on the menu full-time.
Anita: I’m familiar with French toast, but this is called French Toast Bake. Is there something different about this recipe that you call it a French toast bake, not just French toast?
Colleen: Yeah. It’s [baked in a pan] like a casserole. You can use any type of bread, but I like to use stale or hearty bread. You can use anything that’s on sale. That way it’s cost-effective.
I try to get an Italian bread or a seeded bread on the sale aisle. That way it soaks up the ingredients properly and bakes up like a casserole.
Back in the day, I would make it in a large pan for my kids, that way we would have it for several days. I would refrigerate the leftovers so we could have it through the week.
Anita: It’s great that it makes a lot and doesn’t cost a lot.
Colleen: Yeah. It takes a good amount of eggs, but eggs are not expensive. And it takes milk and sugar. That’s something that most people have. Sometimes we had it with pecans on top because pecans are plentiful in Louisiana.
We got sugar from the sugar house. Being so close to the sugar mill, we always had brown sugar.
It was a cheap meal. It would feed us breakfast for a week.
Anita: Can you talk more about sugar house for those that aren’t familiar with that term?
Colleen: That’s where the sugar cane goes to get processed. They cut it in the field, then they bring it to the sugar house - the sugar cane mill.
We lived right across the street from it, literally right across the street from the scales. We would get bags of raw sugar before it got processed into white sugar.
Anita: So you would get brown sugar there?
Colleen: It’s not a true brown sugar but it’s the closest thing I had [back then], and it was cheap and free. Now I use true brown sugar in the recipe.
Getting stuff I had or could find that wasn’t expensive, that’s why I say the recipe has evolved over the years. I encourage people to use what they have to make it their own.
Anita: Is there anything else about the recipe or the café that you want to share?
Colleen: It’s been a blessing and a wonderful experience. I’m enjoying the moment and the simplicity of a small café and small bakery and being able to do everything from scratch and cooking it myself.
Everybody says you have to hire people in the future to do all of this. But then, it’s not going to be me. I enjoy doing it myself.
Anita: I think about this too. People are always pushing, pushing businesses, saying you’ve got to grow or you’ve got make more money or do this or that.
But, I don’t know that that’s what life is really all about. I mean meeting with your customers and enjoying the experience that’s an important part of it too.
Colleen: Right. That’s right. I want to be there. I like coming out of the kitchen, wiping my hands, and being full of flour, and saying “Hey, how ya’ll doing? What can I get you?”
The customers know I’m baking the macarons, baking the banana bread, making the chicken salad. I do everything, and they know it’s me. I like the fact that they know I’m doing it, and it’s not a fast food restaurant.
It’s good food, it’s simple food, it’s not “trough” food.
Anita: Like ready-made or institutional-type food?
Colleen: Yeah. Some of it can be good, but our food is freshly made. Good, simple, fresh food.
Anita: That sounds delicious. Thank you for speaking with me today. I appreciate you taking the time to share the story behind your café and bakery and your generosity in sharing your French Toast Bake recipe. I think our readers will enjoy trying the recipe.
Colleen: Thank you for talking with me.
If you’re in the area, be sure to stop by Hummingbird Café at 294 South Broadview, Suite 2, Greenbrier, AR 72058. Also check out their group, Hummingbird Café and Bakery, on Facebook.
Comments are closed.