In case you haven't noticed, we have a bit of a thing for French toast around here. And given our obsession, we've had a lot and we have standards: a good French toast should be custardy, sweet but not too, and interesting. The French toast that inspired this recipe was all that and then some.
On a trip to Nashville we fell in love with the Gulch neighborhood and especially were into the craft coffee shop, Barista Parlor. They had just gotten in some heirloom apples known as Arkansas Black and made us a super simple bacon and apple French toast. We riffed on that idea but made it bake-able so you can make it for company without too much effort. Loaded with those Arkansas Black apples, a coffee-maple bacon (as a nod to the coffee shop, ya know?), and toasted pecans, this Upside-Down Baked French Toast looks as fancy as a Tarte Tatin but takes just a few minutes to make.
plus more for serving
or another baking apple, cored and cut into 1/2-inch slices
For the bacon: Heat an oven to 375°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, arrange the bacon across the pan and bake until the bacon is just begin to get color, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, stir together the espresso, 1 tablespoon of the maple syrup, and 1 tablespoon of the sugar in a small bowl until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the bacon from the oven and turn the heat up to 400°F. Brush the bacon with the mixture and put back in the oven for 5 minutes. Continue to flip and brush the bacon every 5 minutes until it is crisp, fully cooked, and the coffee mixture is glazed on, about 10 to 15 more minutes. Set aside to cool while you make the French toast.
For the French toast: Combine the apples, 4 tablespoons of the sugar, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt in a bowl and toss to coat. Meanwhile, melt the coconut oil in an 8-inch cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Add the apple mixture and cook until tender, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the eggs, milk, vanilla, a pinch of salt, and the remaining sugar in a bowl and whisk until evenly mixed. Dip the bread slices into the egg mixture to moisten (about 30 seconds) then place arrange over the fruit in the pan, making sure to cover the fruit entirely. Pour any leftover egg mixture over the bread and let the mixture sit for 5 minutes.
Recipe can be prepared up to this point in advance, covered and refrigerated overnight
Bake the French toast, uncovered until the top is golden, about 25 to 30 minutes. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes then place a serving plate over the pan, and carefully turn them over to unmold the French toast. Spoon any syrup or fruit left in the pan over the bread, and serve at once with crumbled bacon, pecans, smoked sea salt, and maple syrup.