Brunch With Bess & Dane (Baked Blueberry & Nectarine French Toast)

July 2013

I will in no way pretend to bear the same burdens as a new mother, but in many ways, taking on the responsibility of a puppy is a lot like adjusting to a newborn: I lament her rapid growth; I rework my schedule around hers; I had bags under my eyes for at least a few weeks after her arrival, and I am prone to stupid voices and silly nicknames. The main advantage to my scenario is I can put my “baby” in her “crib,” leave home, and I won’t return to find Child Services has plucked away my little one.

Table Setting

For new parents, reclaiming a few pre-child habits might mean dining at a restaurant without talking about diapers (at least that’s how sitcoms portray these milestones). In my puppy world, I was due to reclaim dining room brunching, and I had just the girls in mind for my first attempt at juggling a little one’s schedule and hosting.

Champagne Pop

Fortunately, Bess and Dane know a thing or two about juggling. These talented ladies are all about balancing day jobs, über creative side projects and social lives. Bess is a cofounder of the Pittsburgh Vintage Mixer (ie: an extended feeling of Christmas morning for vintage lovers) and gleans the best of goods. Dane is all over the design world with her blog Steeltown Anthem and her latest illustration project Pittsburgh Digs. Most importantly though, both of these girls are there when I need them, and they add a generous share of laughter to my life!

Fig Goat Cheese and Garnish

Fresh fig slices + Blueberry chevre
Blueberries & Nectarines for Apricot Juice Mimosas

Champagne Toast

Whether you’re juggling a puppy, a baby or just plain ol’ busy schedules, there’s no need to skip hosting for fear of overly complicated preparations. This brunch reaffirmed everything I love about a good, baked French toast (ie: breakfast bread pudding): most of the prep work happens the night before the brunch; the bread is a blank canvas for creativity, and it’s deliciously sweet way to start the morning with friends!

Brunch Plate

Baked Blueberry & Nectarine French Toast
makes a 9 x 13 pan


Butter for greasing pan

1 loaf stale, multigrain bread

8 large, local eggs
2 cups whole milk (or the milk of your choice)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons pure almond extract
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup bourbon
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg

4-8 oz mascarpone cheese
1 pint fresh blueberries
2 nectarines, sliced

2 Tablespoons organic, dark brown sugar


Butter a 9 by 13-inch baking pan.

Arrange half the slices of bread in a single layer in the baking pan.

Add a dollop or mascarpone cheese to each slice of bread and then use a spatula to smooth into an even layer.

Top the mascarpone with nectarine slices and blueberries.

Arrange the remaining slices of bread to form a top layer. Use any extra bread to form chunks and fill in gaps.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, almond extract, maple syrup, bourbon, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Pour the egg mixture over the bread in the pan, spreading it around so the liquid saturates the bread.

Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Uncover the baking pan, sprinkle with brown sugar and bake for 40 to 50 minutes.

Serve warm with a dollop of whipped cream and pure maple syrup.

Homemade Whipped Cream

For a basic whipped cream, follow the recipe below. For a little extra flavor, use this Lemon-Rosemary infused whipped cream. Add a little dollop to your coffee too to make your own Poor Girl’s Cappuccino!


1 cup organic heavy cream
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2-3 Tablespoons maple syrup Directions

In a chilled bowl, use chilled mixers to beat the heavy cream until soft peaks begin to form. Add the vanilla and maple syrup and mix until just incorporated. Keep chilled until ready to serve.

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