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Freezer Eggnog French Toast is a no-mess, no-stress dish

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Years ago, at a holiday gathering I attended, I overheard the hostess in conversation with one of her guests. As the Christmas-sweater-clad woman ladled thick, frothy homemade eggnog from a large punch bowl into a clear glass cup, I heard her say in a half-whisper that she always made plenty of the creamy beverage "spiked" with bourbon so she would have enough to use for French toast the next morning.

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That night the noise level in the house heightened as the level of 'nog in the punch bowl diminished. I doubt the aroma of eggnog-dipped bread sizzling in butter was wafting through that house the next morning.

Made with whole milk, cream, eggs and sugar, eggnog is a rich holiday slurp with a strong following. I've never developed a liking for eggnog. The one I live with loves the stuff. Soak some thick slices of bread in a bath of eggnog scented with cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice to turn into French toast, and it's an eggnog breakfast that makes us both happy.

The party hostess with a penchant for a morning meal made with her leftover eggnog with a kick was on to something. I've discovered I enjoy eating eggnog much better than drinking it.

Soaking slices of bread in spiced eggnog batter days before it will be served and storing them in the freezer makes French toast a convenient option for serving at a holiday breakfast or brunch. A baking pan or two of eggnog-saturated bread slices sending spicy holiday aroma through the house is much more inviting than the smell of bread cooking in burning butter on the stove and much more efficient for feeding a group than frying one or two slices at a time.

Slices of Eggnog French Toast puff up and develop a crisp shell as they bake in a 500-degree oven. Once out of the oven, the French toast pillows sink slightly in the middle, creating a shallow nest for a knob of butter to melt over the top. Inside, the baked toast takes on a luscious custard-like quality that melts in the mouth.

If you'd like to fancy up your eggnog-flavored breakfast toast, simply cut the sliced bread into cubes and allow them to soak in the eggnog mixture. Spoon the saturated bread cubes into buttered ramekins, cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, preheat the oven, place the uncovered ramekins on a baking sheet and bake them for 20 to 25 minutes. Individual French toast casseroles are an impressive presentation produced with ease. Serve them sprinkled with confectioners' sugar and lots of warm pure maple syrup.

Whether you grab a carton of eggnog from the refrigerated case in the grocery store or make your own, just be sure to have a couple of cups extra for Freezer Eggnog French Toast. It's a holiday breakfast you can serve with no mess and no stress. Wearing a Christmas sweater when serving is optional.

Freezer Eggnog French Toast

4 eggs

2 cups low-fat eggnog

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon allspice

12 slices day-old French bread,

1-inch thick

Melted butter

Confectioners' sugar, for serving

Pure maple syrup, for serving

Beat together eggs, eggnog, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice.

Arrange bread on a 10- x 15-inch baking pan. Pour egg mixture over bread and let stand a few minutes. Turn slices over and let stand until just about all of the egg mixture is absorbed. Place pan in freezer, uncovered. When bread is frozen, transfer to zip-top freezer bags and return to freezer.

To serve, preheat oven to 500 degrees. Place frozen slices on greased rimmed baking sheet. Brush top of each slice with melted butter. Bake in preheated 500-degree oven for 8 minutes. Turn slices, brush again with melted butter and bake 5 to 10 minutes longer or until puffed and golden. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar and serve with pure maple syrup. Serves 6.

Tips from the cook

--Lining the baking pan with aluminum foil before arranging frozen slices on it will make clean-up quick and easy.

--Heat the syrup and warm the plates before serving Eggnog French Toast.

--To make individual casseroles, cut the 12 slices of bread into 1-inch cubes. You will have about 10 cups of cubes. Add bread cubes to eggnog mixture and toss until all of the cubes are coated. Spoon into 8 individual buttered ramekins. Cover and chill in the refrigerator overnight. Uncover ramekins and place on a baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

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