good friday feast: a mary oliver good morning with baked french toast

“It is Spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.” ~ Rilke


Good morning, Poetry Friends, and Happy Spring!

More than a few rabbits have invaded the Alphabet Soup kitchen but we don’t mind in the least. Thought we’d ease into Easter Weekend by serving up an iconic Mary Oliver poem and some delicious baked french toast.

In this season of renewal, growth, and fresh starts, it’s good to remind ourselves that something wonderful may be waiting for us just over the horizon. As someone once said, “you can’t turn back the clock, but you can wind it up again.”

So let’s toast this new morning, this new day, with all the positive energy we can muster up and nourish ourselves with food for the mind, heart, body, and spirit.

Remember: we can be the light.

via Moon Over Belgium

by Mary Oliver

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who made the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and the crotchety –

best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light –
good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

~ from Why I Wake Early: New Poems (2005)

* * *



The table is set, so put on your best bib and take a bite of this delicious Baked Apple French Toast with Hazelnut Crumb Topping:


While looking for a good Easter Brunch recipe, I found this “pain perdu for a crowd” in The Apple Lover’s Cookbook, fast becoming one of my favorite cookbooks of all time. Some have said this may be the only apple cookbook you’ll ever need and I agree. I’ve already made and loved the Sweet Potato-Apple Latkes and Apple Pumpkin Walnut Muffins and have dozens of other recipes I’m anxious to try.


About this recipe, author Amy Traverso says:

Here’s my go-to brunch dish for company. It’s like light bread pudding with apples, and the hazelnut crumb topping gives it a nutty flavor kick and welcome crunch. While it looks impressive, it’s so easy to put together that I’ve prepped it half-asleep after waking at midnight with the realization that guests were due the next morning.

french toast collage 1

french toast collage 2

As Amy says, it is easy but it does involve a little advance planning, since the bread custard part of the recipe is best chilled overnight. This actually makes it the ideal Easter breakfast or brunch dish; if prepared the night before, all you have to do is whiz the topping ingredients in your food processor and sprinkle it over the french toast in the morning before you bake it.

And it smells so, so good while it’s baking! Think butter, brown sugar, toasty hazelnuts, as well as vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and apples . . . mmmmmmmmm!


Amy recommends a tender sweet apple (Cox’s Orange Pippin, Fuji, Gala), “which will cook up soft and silky and melt nicely into the bread and custard.” I used Fuji apples and they were perfect.

Len and I liked this so much we even ate some for dinner . . . not only with maple syrup but a little whipped cream. “Why not?” he said, “think of this as something in the fancy waffle category.” I didn’t need any convincing. This is great breakfast grub unadorned, but you can dress it up and consider it dessert too, if you like. 🙂


(adapted from Amy Traverso’s The Apple Lover’s Cookbook)

For the French Toast:

Butter for greasing pan
6 large eggs
3 cups whole or 2% milk
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 pound loaf challah or brioche, cut in half lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick slices
2 large tender-sweet apples (about 1 pound total), peeled, cored, and sliced 1/4-inch thick

For the Topping:

3/4 cup whole hazelnuts
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) salted butter, cut into small cubes

Equipment: 9 x 13″ baking dish

1. The night before (or at least 2 hours ahead), generously grease the baking dish with butter. Whisk together the eggs, milk, brown sugar, vanilla, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Arrange the bread slices in the prepared dish so that they overlap. Stick apple slices in between the bread slices, then pour the egg mixture over all. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a food processor, pulse the hazelnuts, brown sugar, flour, and butter to form a crumbly mixture. Sprinkle the topping over the bread.

3. Bake until the custard is set and the topping is golden brown, about 1 hour. Let cool on a rack for 15 minutes, then serve from the dish with maple syrup.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Note: Don’t worry about removing the hazelnuts’ papery skin. The topping is so finely chopped in the food processor that the skins won’t be detectible.

* * *

So there you have it. The perfect Easter morning dish. Read Mary’s poem once before eating and once after, and you’ll be all set to face the world, happy and energized. 🙂


* * *

poetryfriday180Our fearless PF leader Mary Lee Hahn is hosting today’s Roundup at A Year of Reading. Do take her a piece of baked french toast and have a Happy, Restorative, and Inspiring Easter. I predict a giant chocolate bunny in your future.


♥ If you’d like to be included in my Kidlit Poetry Month Roundup, please leave your link at this post. Thanks!

*whisker twitch*


Copyright © 2013 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.


46 thoughts on “good friday feast: a mary oliver good morning with baked french toast

  1. Yum yum and again I say yum, to baked mary early french oliver waking apple toast! (I think this is a preview of how the 30days30words poem may come out). Thanks as always for ALL the nice clicks and pics and picks, and for rounding up the NPM specials for us all. Happy Easter!


    1. LOL — it’s going to be a lot of fun to see what you cook up next month. It’s like a potluck of words — everybody throwing something into the pot. Can’t wait. Happy Easter to you and your family, Heidi!


  2. Loved this post. Thank you for introducing me to this poem and this recipe! Now I have something to make with the extra loaf of Challah after Shabbat!


  3. Was going to write a comment, but am too busy wiping the drool off the keyboard. Apple-FrenchToast-hazelnut-custard-bread pudding-breakfast…good grief, what part of that doesn’t sound amazing?? (well, of course, there’s no bacon, but I an rectify that)


    1. Bacon is the perfect complement to this french toast. I’ll have mine mostly crisp with just a touch of chewiness, please.


  4. I love the idea of this for dinner! :–) (We have been known to eat dinner desserts for breakfast, so it seems only reasonable to have breakfast treats for dinner!) I am thinking though that it’s a shame all your cooking and lovely place settings are only available online – maybe it’s time to open a little cafe! :–)


    1. It’s always fun to have breakfast for dinner — pancakes work very well in that regard, too. Hmmmmm, Jama’s Cafe does have a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? I’ve always wanted to own a B&B actually but since I’m not exactly a morning person I don’t think it would work out. LOL


  5. Having a little Mary Oliver this morning is just right, Jama. The recipe looks divine (Bread pudding is a favorite, & it’s almost that!). I like seeing Mr. & Mrs. Easter Bunny all dressed up there at the end, ready for Easter weekend, and I love “you can’t turn back the clock, but you can wind it up again.” Thank you!


  6. One of my favorite Mary Oliver poems, Jama! It always fill me with a feeling of warmth and well being…just like these yummy treats you’ve shared pictures and recipes for…sigh. My low fat yogurt and blueberry breakfast looks rather sad in comparison!


  7. Oh I do just adore your Peter Rabbit china!! That is my favorite page in the story too – “Now run along and don’t get into mischief! I am going out.” How I long to say that to my crew one of these days!! Glorious Mary Oliver too!! Happy day indeed!


    1. LOL. It’s almost as if you say, “don’t get into mischief,” it’s a prompt to do just that! We have PR china for big people, and Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle china for dolls and bears (you can see that in Wednesday’s post). 🙂


  8. Oh, Jama, I can;t wait to try this french toast recipe. I have a feeling it may just replace my Easter breakfast cheesecake. And the Oliver poem? I think it will replace my very favorite “Wild Geese” in the poem series our pastor will print in April church bulletins. Thank you!


    1. Breakfast cheesecake? Wow — want to hear more about that. We must get our dairy and calcium somehow :). Have a beautiful Easter, Joyce!


  9. I love that book, I ought to read the poems more often. That apple dish sounds scrumptious! Happy Easter!


    1. Wow, what a cool poem, Laura. Thanks so much for pointing me to it. I love O’Hara’s work but hadn’t seen this particular poem.


  10. I can’t wait until they invent “aroma-posts” – I’d never leave your blog! Mary Oliver’s poem is perfect pre- and post-brunch brain food. Happy Easter, Jama!


  11. This looks yummy. But even better for mood-brightening is the tulip photo–a reminder to me that tulip season is almost here and better times are just around the corner.

    In 1980 I had French toast at the Plaza Hotel in New York. It was scrumptious and light as air, puffy, almost like a souffle. I went back about a year later and had the same dish. It was just ordinary French toast: nice, but not puffy. If you ever find that recipe, please share it with us. 🙂

    Happy holidays!


    1. Wow, French Toast at the Plaza sounds pretty decadent! I’d be happy puffy or not, as long as I could be there. Wonder if they ever circulate any of the recipes they serve there . . .


  12. Oh dearest Jama you had me at Mary Oliver. I will always be grateful that you introduced me to this beautiful poet with a heart as big as the universe. Thank you for the feast. Delectable as per usual. 🙂


  13. Am saving that recipe immediately! My parents are growing a number of hazelnut trees so I will send it to them, too. The poem is one of my favorite of MO’s. Beautiful. Happy Easter, Jama!


    1. Hope you and your parents like the recipe! I’ve never known anyone planting their own hazelnut trees before. Cool!

      Happy Easter, Tabatha :)!


Comments are closed.