This is a beautiful, delectable dish for a holiday breakfast or brunch, and is lovely on a buffet table. The technique is similar to making a French Tarte Tatin, with French toast replacing the pastry. Apple halves are nestled into hot caramel studded with pecans and dried cranberries, then challah dipped in egg custard is used to fill the skillet that is then baked. A platter of breakfast meats, a dish of scrambled eggs, coffee, juice, and this gorgeous dish would make any breakfast a celebration!
Equipment needed: 10-inch cast iron skillet
4 extra-large eggs, beaten
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
10 ounces challah, or other rich, egg-y bread (I used "Indiana Spuds" bread!)
2 ounces unsalted butter, cut into slices
1 cup brown sugar + more for sprinkling
5 small to medium JonaRed or Honeycrisp apples, peeled, halved and cored
1/4 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup pecan halves
2/3 cup dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 350-degrees.
In a 9 X 13 Inch pan mix together the eggs, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon until very well blended. Lay the bread slices in the pan to coat and absorb the custard mixture, turning the bread slices to coat both sides.
Place a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium-low heat. Add the butter and brown sugar and cook until the sugar is melted and caramelized, about 7-8 minutes. Remove from the heat and gently whisk in the heavy cream. Evenly sprinkle the pecan halves and cranberries over the caramel. Gently press the apples halves into the caramel, round side down and flat side up to create a flat surface. Lay the soaked bread over the apples, arrange so that there are no voids at all, breaking the bread into smaller pieces, if needed.
Sprinkle the top with some brown sugar, then place in the preheated oven on the middle rack. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the top is golden and puffy all over. (I place a baking sheet under the skillet to catch any drips.)
Remove from the oven. Run a table knife all around the side of the skillet, then allow the skillet to sit for 2-3 minutes. Invert the skillet onto a large plate. Serve immediately.