Here’s a ridiculously simple summer dessert — the happy marriage of blueberry pie and French toast with a little cinnamon sugar sprinkled on top. It’s perfect not only for blueberry lovers, but also for those home cooks who consider themselves dessert-impaired.
For all of their wonderfulness, blueberries can be unpredictable, even in season. Some are sweet as candy. Others are tart enough to make your whole head pucker. Naturally, then, whenever you plan to make a recipe with blueberries, you have to start by tasting them. If the batch at hand is too sweet, ratchet up the acid in your recipe. If they’re too tart, add more of the sweetener.
My favorite blueberry sweetener is maple syrup. The two go beautifully together. But be sure that your maple syrup is robust. Until just a few years ago, the strongest-tasting maple syrup was labeled Grade B. But then the labeling system was changed. Now your eyes should be peeled for the words dark or robust on the label. In general, the darker the color, the stronger the flavor.
The filling is thickened with cornstarch, which has a tendency to clump up. Prevent clumping by carefully mixing the cornstarch into the berry-and-maple-syrup mixture at the start of the recipe, then give it a second vigorous stir two-thirds of the way through the baking period.
One of this recipe’s bonuses is its versatility. Evenings you can serve it hot, right out of the oven, topped with whipped cream or ice cream — and call it dessert. Mornings you can serve it cold, topped with yogurt — and call it breakfast. Either way, you’ll find it delightful.
Blueberry Pie with Cinnamon French Toast Crust
Start to finish: 1 hour, 15 minutes (30 active)
4 cups blueberries
1/3 cup dark maple syrup
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2 large eggs, beaten lightly
1/3 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 slices homemade-style white or whole-wheat bread, crusts discarded
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream for garnish
Preheat oven to 400 F.
In a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate toss the blueberries with the maple syrup and the lemon juice. Combine the cornstarch and the salt in a small strainer and sift the mixture evenly over the blueberries. Stir the blueberries gently, using a rubber spatula until the cornstarch is dissolved and evenly distributed. Cover the pie plate with foil and bake the blueberries on the middle shelf of the oven for 20 minutes. Take the dish out of the oven, lift up the foil and stir the blueberries gently with the rubber spatula, scraping the bottom of the dish to mix everything well. Cover and bake another 10 minutes.
In a bowl combine the eggs, milk and vanilla. Cut the bread slices in half diagonally. In a small bowl combine the sugar and cinnamon. When the blueberries are done, remove the foil and working with one bread half at a time, dip the bread in the egg batter, until it is well moistened but not soggy, letting the excess batter drip off and then place the slice on top of the blueberries. Continue with the remaining slices and the remaining batter, arranging the slices in an overlapping decorative pattern. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar evenly over the bread slices and bake the pie for 12 to 15 minutes or until the bread slices are golden brown. Serve right away topped either with the ice cream or the whipped cream.
Sara Moulton is host of public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals.” She was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows, including “Cooking Live.”