“I held my breath as we do sometimes to stop time when something wonderful has touched us…” Mary Oliver
I sat on the cold hardwood floor in my office furiously sifting through a box of photos as if my life depended on finding this one particular image taken so many years ago.
My husband’s worry-free face 14 years ago [oh how I miss you!], my girl, maybe three? curled up so small sifting through wet sand, weddings, sunsets, Fenway, misty beach mornings, graduations, forced smiles and genuine ones, baby boy 1, big chocolate-brown eyes [ you haven’t changed yet…] baby boy 2 smooth cheeks, a big under-bite, almond blue eyes [ a compilation of many generations all present in your sweet, chubby face], drunken fun with best friends, worry, innocence, love, in love and love past, Christmas, Mama [happy?] surrounded by her 3 ducklings circa 1989, Dad in the old orange rocking chair, beer in hand, absent yet physically present, school pictures of my littles…I sink momentarily into these memories, my heart full, blessed, nostalgic and then I let them go and take a giant, slow breath. I had stopped breathing.
I didn’t find the picture I was looking for, nor is it relevant I tell you about the photograph, or the people captured in it. It is gone just like the moments captured thousands of hours ago, the photos now scattered on the creaky wooden floor in our tiny home office. I sat and stared at the mess of memories, grateful for almost all of them. And yet. I carelessly tossed them back into a nondescript, beige box because that is where they belong.
Hours later I wash the kitchen floor, scrubbing away at the faint paw prints, yogurt droplets and strawberry stains left marking the events of another day. One pound of fresh strawberries gone, consumed by my hungry little monsters before dinner. Another pound still in the refrigerator. I’ll need to hide them.
I empty the bucket of dirty water into the sink. A small spider, no bigger than my pinkie nail scurries to the lip of the sink and willingly crawls in, brave yet unaware of the possibilities. The spider explores for a bit, his movements becoming more cautious each second. I turn on the faucet, pull out the hose and aim it right at him. The current sweeps him off his minuscule legs, pushing him towards the drain. I turn off the faucet. He fights, finds his sea legs, tries to avoid the impossible. With a half jealous smile, I turn on the water. One final flush and he is gone.
Baked Strawberry French Toast with Oat Crumble
Recipe adapted from NYT Cooking
9 cups good quality French bread cut into 1 inch cubes (challah or brioche will also work)
Cooking spray or butter for baking dish
8 large eggs
2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup honey
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound strawberries, cored and halved
Ingredients for topping:
½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup old fashion rolled oats
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup or 1 stick cold unsalted butter cut into cubes
Preheat the oven to 450F. Cut bread into 1 inch cubes and spread out on a baking sheet. Toast the bread for about 12 minutes. Cool and set aside.
Spray or generously butter a 9×13 baking dish. Add bread cubes to baking dish.
Next make the custard. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, honey, vanilla, ginger, cloves and salt until smooth and well combined. Pour custard over bread. Toss with your hands until all the bread is wet. Press down gently on the bread so it forms an even layer. Spread strawberries over the top. Cover and refrigerate for at least four hours and up to 48 hours. Overnight is best!
Preheat the oven to 350F. Prepare oat crumble. Grab a large bowl. Add the flour, oats, brown sugar, ginger, cloves and salt and stir together. Add the butter. Work the butter into the flour mixture using your fingers until the mixture resembles wet sand and is crumbly. (Topping can be made 48 hours in advance. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.)
Sprinkle topping over the strawberries/bread. Bake until golden brown about 40-45 minutes. Turn on the broiler for the last two minutes for crunchier crust. Serve warm with real maple syrup. Enjoy!
5 Can’t Miss French Toast Links!
Traditional French toast dipped a subtly sweet Panko breadcrumb mixture, fried to perfection and topped with lots of butter and syrup sounds like a bit of heaven to me. Head to Pioneer Woman for her crunchy French Toast recipe.
French toast in sandwich form? Yes it exists. Head to Handmade Charlotte for Sarah Kieffer’s French toast sandwiches with peaches and mozzarella.
Lemon French toast topped with in season strawberries screams spring. Head to Simply Delicious for the recipe. Yum!
Want to wow your brunch guests? Make Smitten Kitchen’s morning bread pudding with salted caramel. This is on my must make immediately list.
If you a more of a savory than sweet person, head to Food 52 and check out their recipe for crispy salt and pepper French toast.