Baked French Toast with Caramelized Pears and Hazelnuts

In France, French toast is called pain perdu, which literally means “lost bread”.  The unused, leftover and stale bits of bread are soaked in a batter of cream and eggs, and then fried, transforming the bread into a delicious hearty meal.  Nothing is wasted. This French toast recipe is baked instead of fried and can be assembled the day before, which makes it easy if you are having guests over. It’s a decadent recipe featuring fall pears caramelized in butter and maple syrup with toasted hazelnuts and real vanilla beans. It’s perfect for the holidays or a special occasion brunch. 

This can be made in a baking dish, a large cast iron skillet, or even individual oven proof ramekins or bowls.

Use left over bread, french bread or baguettes, or for an extra special touch make brioche ( see recipe below).

For extra flavor, infuse the cream with real vanilla. With a sharp knife, split a vanilla bean down the center and scrape out the tiny seeds and place but he the seeds and pod in small pan of half and half. Warm on the stove.

I used bosc pears, but really any pear would work great.

Caramelize the pears in a skillet with butter and at the end add a splash of maple syrup. This gives the french toast a little depth.

Toasted hazelnuts, crushed with a rolling pin, also add depth and fall flavor. You could substitute pecans.

Make the batter with eggs and half and half, nutmeg, and cardamon. Adding a little orange zest to the batter brightens the dish.

Arrange bread, caramelized pears and hazelnuts in a baking dish and pour batter over top, being sure to get in between all the cracks and crevices.

Its important to let the bread have some time to soak up the batter. You could do all of this the night before and refrigerate. Or let stand 30 minutes, before baking.

Instead of a baking dish, you could use individual oven proof bowls or ramekins, to spice up the presentation. Just remember that if the bread is layered higher than two inches, you may need to increase the baking time.

One of the wonderful things about this dish is how your house will smell when you pull it out of the oven.

Bake in a 350 F oven, until it is puffed and golden, about 45 minutes.
When it comes out of the oven, dot the top with a little butter and serve with warm maple syrup.
Thanks for reading! For more Feasting at Home … 
5 from 1 reviews
Baked French Toast with Caramelized Pears and Hazelnuts
Recipe type: Brunch
Cuisine: Northwest
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
Baked French Toast with Caramelized Pears and Hazelnuts
  • 7-8 Cups french or sour dough bread (about one large loaf) or baguette or brioche ( see below)
  • 2 ripe bosc pears
  • ½ C toasted hazelnuts, crushed
  • 7 eggs
  • 2½ cups half and half ( or use whole milk)
  • ½ C real maple syrup (divided)
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp cardamom
  • 1 vanilla bean ( or 1 tsp vanilla)
  • 2 T butter
  • Zest of one small orange
  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Toast hazelnuts 10-15 mins, let cool, and gently crush ( using a rolling pin).
  3. Split vanilla bean, scrape out seeds and place directly in a small sauce pan with 2½ C half and half. Add the remaining vanilla pod. Warm up the half and half and vanilla on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until almost to a boil. Turn heat off and let cool and seep 20-30 minutes.
  4. Slice the pears.
  5. Melt 2 T butter in a skillet and sauté pears on medium heat until golden, about 8-10 minutes. Add 1 T maple syrup. Simmer for a few more minutes, allowing them to caramelize. Set aside.
  6. Cut bread in to ½ inch slices. In a medium bowl, beat eggs, salt, spices, orange zest and 3 T maple syrup. When half and half has cooled, remove vanilla pod, and add a little at time into the egg mixture, mixing it together. (Do NOT add hot cream to the egg mixture, it may cause your eggs to curdle. Either let the cream cool, or temper the eggs, by adding just a little warm cream at a time, mixing in-between... so the eggs gradually warm up.)
  7. Generously butter a 9x 13 inch baking dish. Layer bread, hazelnuts, and caramelized pears pouring all the buttery syrup from the pan evenly over the bread. Pour batter over, using a spatula to ensure it goes in all the cracks crevasses. Let sit at least 30 minutes, so bread can soak up batter, or refrigerate overnight. Right before placing in the oven, drizzle the top with 1 more T maple syrup and sprinkle with a pinch of cardamon. Bake 45-50 minutes until puffed and golden. If your layers measure higher than two inches, you may need to bake longer. Check the middle to see if all the liquid is cooked. I have found that the true test is, if it puffs up, it is done. Melt small dots butter over the top and serve with warm maple syrup.


  1. says

    Kelly Feb 21, 2008 – I think that buying lolalcy (and organic) when you can, and buying organic when you can’t buy lolalcy is a good compromise. Why should anyone have to give up mangos???

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *