Just as wide leg pants and hair parted down the middle have made a comeback in the last few years, so has another 1970s gem: the slow cooker. In the breakfast realm alone, we’ve stirred slow cooker oatmeal, sliced into slow cooker egg casserole, even drooled over slow cooker cinnamon rolls. Considering the slow cooker’s large surface area, it’s a natural tool to lug out when feeding a crowd, and I’ve recently become a convert. Unless I’m laying out a bagel buffet, my go-to group brunch is slow cooker French toast. Similar to a fluffy bread pudding or baked oatmeal, slow cooker French toast is warm and filling, yet completely low-maintenance.
To assemble slow cooker French toast, mix together 6 eggs, 2½ cups milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 3 tablespoons brown sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon. Whisk in a glug of heavy cream if you have some in the fridge. Slice 2 bananas thinly. Grab a large loaf of sliced challah or French bread—even better if it’s a day or two old—and cut each slice in half diagonally. Grease your slow cooker with cooking spray, and lay the half sliced bread in a single layer in the pot. Layer half the sliced bananas over the bread. Throw in a handful of raisins over the bananas if you want. (Some of my friends like raisins. I don’t, really, but I like to add them for those folks. It’s a nice gesture.) Cover the first layer of the French toast casserole with a tablespoon of shredded butter.
Make another bread-and-banana layer, then drizzle the egg mixture over the whole thing. The liquid shouldn’t cover the bread completely, but it should reach more than halfway up the side of the slow cooker. Add more milk if the liquid doesn’t reach the halfway mark. Top the mixture with another tablespoon of grated butter, then sprinkle with another tablespoon or two of brown sugar. Turn on the slow cooker, set to low, and boom, you’re done.
Slow cooker French toast takes between two and three hours to bubble into a creamy casserole, so it’s best to use the cooking time to get a little fancy. Throw a tablecloth on the coffee table and light some incense for ambiance, maybe mix together a Champagne cocktail for the group and/or take a shower. By the time your friends arrive, the kitchen will smell like cinnamon and joy. When you’re ready to eat the French toast, stack bowls next to the stove and let everyone serve themselves from the pot.
Dressing up a bowl of slow cooker French toast is a deeply personal practice. Some of my friends go classic with maple syrup. Others like to cover it in fruit to pretend they’re healthier than the rest of us. Whatever. But you should definitely do that if you want, fruit is good for you. I prefer to drizzle my slow cooker French toast with tahini, add just a few sliced strawberries for good luck, and top the bowl with a tiny pinch of sea salt.