Tuesday's Real Food Recipe for this week? Um. Strawberry Strata. I was making some strawberry jam today (forget canning for the year...I just buy organic fresh or frozen fruit and simmer it down as needed!) and was dreaming of this chicken sausage and cheddar strata I had made the other day. I kept thinking about the fabulous texture of the custard, and thought that making a sweet version would quite possibly convert me from traditional french toast.
As I stared at the beautiful strawberries simmering, I decided to go for it. What rose from the oven was something quite spectacular that could have improved if only I would have given it a torched sugared topping (think creme brulee). A great reason to have to make it again! The beauty of this recipe is in its simplicity. Use high quality ingredients, like local cream and eggs, organic items, etc. This isn't fancy food- it's comfort at its best, and using good quality ingredients delivers! Here is the recipe, which would serve as a delicious spring dessert, or a fabulous brunch option along with something savory.
1 9x13 pan, buttered
1 1/2-2 cups organic strawberries
1/2 cup sugar (preferably raw cane sugar)
4 eggs, preferably pastured
1/2 cup half n half or heavy cream (preferably local, not homogenized)
6 slices soft bread (either homemade or good quality soft bread from the store), crusts removed
Ceylon cinnamon (find at Penzey's Spices), which pairs wonderfully with fruit- much milder and more citrus in flavor than other cinnamon
1 TBSP lemon or orange juice
zest of lemon or orange
extra sugar for sprinkling
Hull and halve the strawberries and place in a bowl. Add 1 TBSP lemon fresh lemon juice and zest of the lemon (orange can also be used) and 1/2 cup sugar. Let macerate (sit) for 45 minutes. If you are in a hurry, you can use prepared jam, or warm up the strawberries over the stove.
Meanwhile, remove the crusts and place on the bottom of your prepared pan.
When strawberries are ready, put strawberry mixture in a large measuring cup. Add half n half (or cream) to fill up to 2 1/2 cups. Add the 4 eggs and whisk the mixture together until combined, slightly breaking up the strawberries while you mix (if you heated your strawberries, make sure strawberries are not hot when you add the eggs or you'll get scrambled!). Pour strawberries custard over the bread and let sit for 15 minutes so the bread absorbs the mixture thoroughly. Sprinkle Ceylon cinnamon and sugar on the top, and place in preheated oven. Bake for 30 minutes or until the strata is set in the middle. Do not over bake. Let the strata cool for about 15-20 minutes, cut and serve.
*note, if you are making this and not using fresh, in season strawberries you may want to consider adding a little extra sugar.