French Toast Casserole

Things have been chaotic lately.  Holiday events, out-of-town visitors, puppy classes, XMAS shopping.  You know what I’m talking about…

Either way, I’m still here.  Bear with me!  I will be back to posting regularly in no time!

This year, due to family planning complications, we weren’t able to have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.  That’s right.  No Turkey.  A little sad, but to be honest, I eat turkey once a year.  I like the dark meat on Thanksgiving, but I usually don’t opt for turkey any other time of the year.

Instead of Thanksgiving dinner, Jeff’s family was able to come over for Thanksgiving brunch. Not exactly what the pilgrims had in mind I’m sure, but hey, you make it work any way you can.  The important part is getting family together and enjoying a nice meal, whatever genre of meal that may be…. As more and more people get married and begin to have dual family obligations, we are grateful just to be able to find any time that works for everyone.

As with any kind of large family/food event, I think one of the best cooking strategies is taking advantage of as many make-ahead recipes as possible.  That way you can just throw it in the oven when you need it and you can focus on the things that cannot be made ahead.  This is one of those make-ahead gems.  Not only is this an easy recipe, but also a universal crowd-pleaser.  Who doesn’t like french toast!?

Start by heating the oven to 325 degrees. The best kind of bread for this dish is a generic supermarket baguette or Italian bread.  These breads have thin, lightly browned crusts and a fluffy crumb.  They are ideal for this casserole because they keep a lot of the texture, but are soft enough to fully absorb the custard.

Tear the bread into 1-inch pieces and spread the  pieces out over 2 baking sheets and bake until dry and light golden brown, about 25 minutes, switching and rotating the baking sheets halfway through the baking time.  Let the bread cool completely.

Coat a 13 x 9 inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter and pack the dried bread into the dish.

Whisk the eggs in a large bowl until combined  Follow by whisking in the milk, cream, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Pour the egg mixture evenly over the bread and then press on the bed lightly to submerge.

Wrap the dish tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, or up to 24 hours.

To make the topping, stir the butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup together until smooth, then stir in the pecans.

Wrap the bowl tightly and store with the casserole dish for at least 8 hours.

To serve, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Unwrap the casserole and sprinkle the topping evenly over the dish, breaking up any large pieces with your fingers.

Place the casserole on a rimmed sheet and bake until puffed and golden, about 1 hour.  Serve immediately.  You’ll find that the casserole has a pleasantly moist and gooey texture, with the topping adding a nice sweet crunch.  The best part is you can work on other aspects of your meal while this bakes away, filling your house with delicious breakfast smells.

Ingredients

    1 16-oz supermarket French or Italian bread loaf, torn into 1-inch pieces

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Topping

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/3 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2 cups pecans, chopped coarse.

Serves 6 to 8

Original Recipe, The Best Make-Ahead Recipe

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Categories: Breakfast, Recipes

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