When your birthday falls on a weekday (as birthdays so often do), high expectations can fall a little flat. Answering emails and going to meetings do not constitute a celebration. The simplest way to avert birthday disappointment, and one I think I learned the hard way after years of birthdays that left me a little let down, is to lower expectations. When you’re over the age of 12, birthdays technically aren’t such a big deal anyway. But that’s easier said than done, especially when you’re a birthday-o-phile like me!
My boyfriend Alex’s birthday fell on a Tuesday this year. He doesn’t muster quite the birthday enthusiasm that I do (though he likes the cakes I’ve made him) so he wasn’t too worried. Still, once dinner plans had been made at a great local Italian restaurant, I set about figuring out a way to make his day a little more special, without going overboard. (I don’t think sending flowers at work would have gone over very well with this guy.)
Breakfast here is normally cereal laced with homemade granola – nothing to scoff at, but nothing fancy either. I decided to give our weekday breakfast a bit of a birthday makeover. So I looked for something that was special, that wouldn’t take me too long to put together but that would still make the apartment smell awesome when Alex got out of bed.
After some deliberations, I found a great solution... a French-toast-bread-pudding hybrid. I used almond milk, which I accented with ground almonds in the crumb topping, and I added cubes of mango for some tropical flair. The dish soaks up the sweet custard overnight, bakes in the morning, and turns out seriously good. Rich French toast is awesome on its own, but it turns out that crumb topping is the one thing French toast was missing. Now, it’s here.
Toasting his year with coffee mugs, the birthday got off to a festive enough start to cancel out some of the impending emails and meetings. At least til our sweet vermouth toast at dinner time.
From my kitchen, making birthdays wonderful, to yours,
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Mango Crumble Breakfast Bake
Inspired by The Pioneer Woman
If you’re not worried about dairy, feel free to replace the almond milk with whole milk and omit the 1 1/2 tablespoons oil. In the crumb topping, replace the 2 tablespoons of oil with 3 tablespoons of cold butter cut into small chunks.
This happens to be fantastic leftover, straight from the fridge, so don’t worry if you can’t eat it all at once.
For the base:
5 cups cubed good white bread, Italian bread, or challah (about 1/2 a small loaf)
4 whole eggs
1 1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 mango, cubed
For the topping:
1/4 cup whole oats, ground to a flour in a food processor (yielding 1/2 cup oat flour)
1/4 cup sliced almonds, plus more for garnish
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons neutral oil
Grease an 8 x 8-inch baking pan with oil. Distribute the bread cubes in the pan–they should go about halfway up, or a little more.
Mix together the eggs, almond milk, oil, sugar, vanilla, lemon juice, and salt. Pour evenly over bread. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and foil and refrigerate overnight.
In a mini food processor, combine the oats, almonds, and sugar. Grind until they’re very fine. Add the flour, cinnamon, and salt, and process to combine. Drizzle in the oil 1 tablespoon at a time, until the mixture comes together. Store in a covered container overnight (or you can make this at the time you bake the dish).
When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F.
Remove the pan from the fridge and arrange the mango cubes evenly over the top. Sprinkle the crumb mixture in large chunks over the top. Bake 45-50 minutes, until the top is golden and the pudding is brown around the edges and cooked through.
Garnish squares of the breakfast bake with sliced almonds. Serve with butter and maple syrup if you dare.