4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 loaf brioche or challah, sliced
11/2 inches thick (about 11/2 pounds)
8 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Confectioners’ sugar, for accompaniment
Sorghum, cane, or maple syrup, for accompaniment
Combine the melted butter and brown sugar in a baking dish. Arrange the bread slices in the dish. Whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, and salt in a bowl. Pour over the bread, letting it soak in. Top with the pecans. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to 12 hours. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Let the chilled casserole stand at room temperature for 20 minutes. Bake until browned and set, 30 to 45 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool slightly. Sift over confectioners’ sugar. Serve hot or warm with sorghum, cane, or maple syrup.
James Beard Foundation Award-winner Virginia Willis has made cookies with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, foraged for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvested capers in Sicily, and beguiled celebrities such as Jane Fonda, Bill Clinton, and Julie Chrisley with her cooking — but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. She is the author of Secrets of the Southern Table; Lighten Up, Y’all; Bon Appétit, Y’all; Basic to Brilliant, Y’all; Okra; and Grits. She’s been seen on Food Network, CBS This Morning, and Fox and Friends and featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Eater, and Food52. She has contributed to Eating Well, Garden & Gun, and Bon Appétit, and more. Her fans love her foolproof recipes and down-to-earth attitude. Learn more at www.virginiawillis.com.
Reprinted with permission from Bon Appétit, Y’all by Virginia Willis, copyright (c) 2008. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc. Photography (c) 2008 by Ellen Silverman.