This dish is a good one to assemble with children: They can butter the bread and make the custard. The whole dish can be put together the night before and baked when needed. The rhubarb jam isn’t a real jam – it does not have enough sugar in it to jell, but will keep in the fridge for two weeks. Serve with fresh orange juice and sticky bacon, if desired. A granola parfait would be a good first course if you wanted to have something extra.
2 lbs (1 kg) rhubarb, cut in 2-inch pieces
1 2-inch square orange peel
1/2 inch piece of vanilla bean
1/3 cup pomegranate juice
3/4 cup sugar
10 1/2-inch slices challah or brioche, crusts removed
3 tbsp butter
4 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp brown sugar
To make the jam, combine rhubarb, orange peel, vanilla, pomegranate juice and sugar in a medium pot. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer gently until rhubarb breaks down and mixture thickens (10 to 12 minutes). Remove from heat and stir vigorously with a fork to form a thick jam. Purée if desired, leaving it a little chunky. Reserve.
Butter a 2-litre (9-by-12-inch) baking dish. Spread butter over one side of each slice of bread. Place a layer of bread butter-side down in the bottom of the dish, trimming it to fit snuggly. Spoon 1 1/2 cups of rhubarb jam in a layer over the bread. Top with remaining slices butter-side up.
Whisk together eggs, sugar, milk, cream and salt. Pour over bread and let sit for an hour on the counter or in the refrigerator overnight. Bring it back to room temperature before baking.
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Bake pudding for 20 minutes, sprinkle brown sugar over the top and continue to bake 15 to 20 minutes or until custard is set and top is browned. If desired, place under broiler for the last 2 minutes of cooking for extra browning. Cool for 10 minutes, then serve with remaining jam.
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Suggested Wine Pairings
The French toast here is perfectly decadent, a fine counterpoint to … Champagne! That’s the classic brunch indulgence, of course; make it the official wine of your resident World’s Greatest Mom as well. If you feel compelled to ease more slowly into the day, combine the bubbly with orange juice in a two-to-one wine-to-juice ratio. On another level, “French toast” could also describe most Champagnes, imbued as they are with Gallic elegance and grilled-bread (or pain grille) flavour, the latter mainly owing to extended contact with spent yeast cells during the bottle-aging phase. And you may want to accompany this repast with a verbal “French toast” as you clink glasses, which should go something like this: “Bonne Fête des Mères, maman. Je t’aime.” – Beppi Crosariol