Orange Pecan French Toast

• 4 large eggs
• 1 tablespoon orange zest
• 1 cup fresh orange juice
• 1 cup milk
• 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 6 slices challah or brioche bread, each 1-1/2 inches thick
• 2 teaspoons granulated sugar, divided
• 12 thin orange slices, optional
• Toasted Pecan Maple Syrup:
• 1 cup chopped Pecans
• ¼ cup butter
• ¼ cup dark brown sugar
• ½ cup maple syrup, divided

1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, orange zest, orange juice, milk, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and salt.
3. Soak the bread slices, one at a time, in the egg mixture for 10 seconds per side and then transfer to a ½ sheet pan. Pour remaining liquid evenly over each slice of bread in the pan. Let set for 10 minutes and then flip the toast over and let set another 10 minutes.
4. Generously butter or grease another ½ sheet pan and space thin orange slices on the pan, if desired. Using a large spatula, transfer each slice of soaked bread to the prepared sheet pan. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of sugar evenly over the bread slices.
5. Bake for about 25 minutes or until the bread starts to toast around the edges. Flip the bread over, sprinkle evenly with remaining 1 teaspoon sugar and bake another 10 minutes until bread is golden and crisp.
6. While the bread is toasting in the oven, prepare the syrup. Place the pecans in a shallow saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter and let pecans cook, stirring occasionally, until you can smell them start to toast, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low, add brown sugar and ¼ cup syrup. Let simmer until a thick syrup forms. When ready to serve, stir in remaining ¼ cup maple syrup and transfer to a serving dish. If syrup is too thick, add more maple syrup to thin it out.
7. To serve, place a piece of hot toast on a plate and top with toasted pecan maple syrup.