When the Hun Buns first commented on how much he loves french toast, I casually mentioned that I had a great french toast casserole recipe. His response? How can a sweet breakfast recipe be a casserole? Cue Southern heart palpitations everywhere. Now granted, he is a Yankee but how can one not understand the all-encompassing wonderfulness of casseroles? The question is not how can a sweet breakfast recipe be a casserole. It’s how can it not.
Now in case you are under a similar misconception, casseroles do not have to be savory or chock full of cream of mystery meat soups. A casserole is like the American dream; it can be whatever you want it to be. Including sweet, crunchy, cinnamon-y, and covered in syrup.
This french toast casserole is the perfect make-ahead breakfast for a crowd. After marinating in the fridge for four to eight+ hours, the casserole takes a quick spin in the oven and emerges guest-worthy. But please don’t wait until you have guests to feed. While this may be impressive enough for your best company, it’s also casual and easy enough to put together for any old weekend breakfast. Miraculously, as good as this is fresh out of the oven, it somehow turns even more like delicious bread pudding as leftovers. You will be eating this for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and still wanting more.
You can really use any kind of bread for this french toast casserole and you can choose between thick slices or torn chunks. The only really important thing is that the bread is a little stale. You can simply use leftover bread or leave fresh bread out for a few hours or more to deplete some of the moisture. Using stale bread really helps to absorb the egg mixture and results in the best texture.
I made this particular french toast casserole using skim milk and it was still fantastic. Using fuller fat milk will definitely make it richer but isn’t necessary. The great thing about casseroles is that they take the ingredients that you already have and turn them into something wonderful. So if you have 1% milk and leftover sourdough, use it. Full-fat milk and honey wheat? Divine.
- ¼ cup of unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1T cinnamon
- 1t nutmeg
- 8 large eggs
- pinch of salt
- 1 cup milk (any fat percentage)
- ½ cup of cream (or coffee creamer-try a flavored one, even sugar-free!)
- 1T of vanilla
- About 2 medium loaves of bread, end pieces discarded, or enough to make about 20 1-inch slices. Can also cube or tear bread.
- Coat a 13x9 casserole dish or deep-dish pan with cooking spray. Add the melted butter and tilt pan to distribute evenly.
- In a small bowl mix the brown sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon.
- In a larger bowl beat the eggs with the salt, milk, cream, and vanilla.
- Place half of the bread into the pan, arranging evenly. If using slices, tear up a slice or two as needed to fill any holes or crevices. Distribute half of the sugar and spice mixture on top of the bread. Pour half of the egg mixture on top.
- Place the rest of your bread on top of the first layer and again top with the rest of the sugar and spice mixture and the rest of the egg mixture.
- Use a spatula or fork to press the bread down into the egg mixture as needed to make sure all of the bread absorbs some of the egg mixture.
- Cover the dish with plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator until ready to bake, a minimum of 4 hours but preferably 8-10.
- When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Bake casserole in the preheated oven for about 40 minutes. Casserole should puff up a bit and will be golden.
- Allow cooked casserole to sit for 5-10 minutes.
- Serve with syrup, powdered sugar, or fresh fruit. Or all three!
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