When I first started thinking about recipes for The Tale of Peter Rabbit, my mind naturally went to the vegetable garden and thoughts of Peter Rabbit inspired salads or side dishes. But then I remembered that little page at the end of the book. Right after Peter Rabbit has gone to bed (exhausted by his adventures and calmed by his mother’s chamomile tea), his sisters are shown feasting on “bread and milk and blackberries for supper.”
There is something so appealing to me about this simple supper of berries and milk and bread. Also, if I’m honest, there is probably a part of my rule-following personality that likes the idea of the hard-working sisters feasting, while their dilettante brother goes to bed with only chamomile tea. At the beginning of the book, we see the three sisters dutifully gathering berries, while their mischievous sibling scampers off to explore the forbidden world of Mr. McGregor’s garden. It seems only right that they get to enjoy the fruits of their morning labor with this delicious supper!
Of course, bread, milk and blackberries alone don’t make for a very exciting recipe. I decided to combine the three in a baked French toast dish that is sprinkled with ripe, juicy blackberries before baking. The blackberries soften just enough during baking to release some of their sweet, tart juice onto the French toast and create a wonderful sauce. For extra blackberry goodness, I’ve included a recipe for simple blackberry syrup that can be poured over servings of the baked French toast. The syrup is so simple to make and can be cooking on the stovetop while the French toast bakes. This French toast is best when assembled the night before baking, to give the custard plenty of time to soak into the bread, softening and flavoring it. However, if you forget to put it together the previous night, it can be made that morning and left to soak for 15 or 20 minutes on the counter before baking.
So as not to ignore the protagonist of this book, I’m also including a recipe for homemade chamomile tea with a hint of mint. This is similar to Celestial Seasonings Sleepy Time tea and is so easy to put together at home. Hopefully, it will subdue your little troublemakers as well as it does Peter Rabbit when his mother gives him “One table-spoonful to be taken at bed-time.”
Chamomile Mint Tea
Makes 1 pot
Time: 5 minutes
1/4 cup dried chamomile flowers
10 fresh mint leaves
4 cups boiling water
- Spoon the chamomile flowers into a small 4-cup tea pot and lay the mint leaves on top. Slowly pour the boiling water over and stir gently a few times to combine. Allow the tea to steep for about 5 minutes then pour through a strainer into individual cups. Add more boiling water as needed to reach the desired strength and, if desired, sweeten with just a drizzle of honey.
Overnight Blackberry French Toast with Blackberry Syrup
Makes 8 servings
Time: 1 hour plus overnight soaking time
For French Toast:
butter for greasing pan
10 slices of French bread or other crusty loaf
1 8 ounce container creme fraiche
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup cream
1/2 cup milk
2 cups fresh blackberries
For Blackberry Syrup:
2 cups fresh or frozen blackberries
1/4 cup real Maple syrup
1/4 cup water
- Lightly butter a 9 X 13 inch baking dish and lay the bread slices in the pan slightly overlapping each other. In a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk together the creme fraiche, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. Whisk until well combined. Add the eggs and whisk until incorporated. Slowly add the cream and milk, whisking slowly for a few minutes until the mixture is smooth and thickened slightly.
- Pour the custard mixture over the slices of bread in the pan, being careful to moisten all the bread thoroughly. Sprinkle the fresh blackberries evenly over the French toast. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Alternatively, you can leave the French toast out to soak while you preheat the oven, at least 20 minutes.
- When you are ready to bake the French toast, preheat the oven to 400ºF. Remove the plastic wrap and spoon some of the custard mixture from the bottom of the pan over any of the bread that looks like it is still dry. Rearrange the berries to be evenly distributed then bake in the preheated oven for about 40 minutes, or until the edges of the bread just begin to brown.
- While the French toast bakes, combine the berries for the syrup with the water and maple syrup in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and mash the berries with a potato masher or large wooden spoon to release all the juice possible. Return to the heat and continue to simmer for another 20 minutes or until syrup is thickened. Strain through a fine mesh sieve to remove all the seeds and serve warm with the French toast.