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Baked French Toast

['1 (13- to 14-inch-long) loaf of soft-crust supermarket Italian bread', '1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened', '2 large eggs', '1 2/3 cups whole milk', '3 tablespoons sugar', 'Accompaniment: pure maple syrup']

Cut 12 (1-inch-thick) diagonal slices from bread, reserving ends for another use.
Generously butter 1 side of each slice and arrange slices, buttered sides up, in 1 layer in a buttered 13- by 9- by 2-inch glass baking dish, squeezing them slightly to fit if necessary.
Whisk together eggs, milk, and 1/4 teaspoon salt until combined well, then pour evenly over bread. Chill, covered, until bread has absorbed all of custard, at least 1 hour and up to 1 day, depending on bread.
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Bring mixture to room temperature and sprinkle bread with sugar.
Bake, uncovered, in middle of oven until bread is puffed and top is golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve immediately.

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