Ok, there are hundreds of French toast casseroles out there that you can try. I have tried just a few. To me, they are loaded with a sugary syrup or crunchy sugar topping that resemble more of a bread pudding or pecan roll than a French toast casserole. My definition of a French toast casserole is an easy way to make French toast for a crowd without having to stand in front of the stove or griddle frying up individual slices. I just wanted a simple, delicious, French toast casserole where the sweetness is determined by the person pouring the syrup. Ease in preparation with the choice to cook right away or preparing it the night before. My goal was to create a casserole where it actually tastes like French toast and not bread pudding. A crunchy buttery topping that wasn’t created by loads of sugar, but instead by the crusts of the bread complimenting the soft – not soggy – interior.
My plan was to serve this to my family on Easter morning. The night before, after preparing the dinner menu and cooking all day in the kitchen, I realized I forgot to prepare the casserole. I thought it was necessary for it to sit overnight to soak up the liquid and be delicious. But, I was too tired to go into the kitchen and figured I would just make it in the morning. It doesn’t take long to prepare so what’s the worst that could happen?
The next morning, I sliced up the challah loaf into 3/4 inch slices and arranged them in my buttered 9×13 glass baking dish. I overlapped them to ensure maximum surface exposure of each slice.
This can be accomplished by lifting and tucking each piece. Lift and tuck, lift and tuck…kinda sounds like my future!
The next few steps were simple…whisk together the milk, cream, eggs, vanilla, salt, and half of the sugar in a large measuring cup for ease of pouring. In a separate bowl combine the remaining sugar and cinnamon. I don’t add the cinnamon mixture to the liquid because the cinnamon clots up and doesn’t combine well.
Carefully, slowly, sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the bread. Lift up the slices to cover every piece.
Believe it or not, 2 tablespoons of sugar is enough to accomplish creating a crunchy cinnamon toast topping adding just enough sweetness to the dish.
Then, slowly pour the liquid all over the challah bread, lifting each slice to ensure the liquid covers the surface. Every nook and cranny can be coated just by slowly drizzling it rather than pouring it all at once requiring pressing down on the bread to get the same effect. Pressing it down also squishes the bread which would change the texture I was looking to accomplish.
Slowly drizzle the melted butter on top – again to coat as much of the top as possible without requiring using another whole stick of butter.
Now you have a choice. You can cover this and put it in the refrigerator overnight and cook it in the morning at your leisure, or you can cook it right away. The texture may be different if sitting overnight because the casserole has all that time to sit in the liquid. If you slowly drizzled the liquid onto every piece, lifting as you go, the liquid will be absorbed regardless of it sitting for 5 minutes or overnight. After adding the liquid and topping with butter, I place it in the oven and you will see by the photos that the casserole is moist and perfect. Again, I was looking for a French toast consistency rather than bread pudding.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 – 50 minutes. I bake it for 50 minutes because we like it crunchy. The outcome will be a delicious, crunchy, golden, moist casserole that will please everyone at the breakfast table.
No fuss, just a delicious breakfast to enjoy with your family.
Please serve this with real maple syrup. It’s the only way to go and you and yours are definitely worth it. Now YOU can control the sweetness by pouring as much or as little as you want. I’m type A, therefore, I like being in control.
I hope you give this a try.
- 1 (1 lb.) loaf challah bread
- 1 cup milk - I use whole
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 4 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1/4 teaspoon table salt
- 4 tablespoons sugar divided
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 stick butter melted, divided
- Pure maple syrup for serving
Preheat oven 350 degrees.
Pour half of the melted butter (4 tablespoons) into a 9x13 inch baking dish - preferably glass - and coat the bottom and sides.
Slice the challah bread into 3/4 inch slices.
Place the slices in the baking dish overlapping each piece. Lift and tuck to aid in fitting the slices in the baking dish. Do not press down or squish bread.
Combine 2 tablespoons of the sugar with the cinnamon. Slowly sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture over the bread. Lift up the slices to cover every piece.
Whisk together the milk, heavy cream, eggs, vanilla, salt, and remaining sugar in a large measuring cup for ease of pouring.
Slowly pour the liquid all over the challah bread, lifting each slice to ensure the liquid covers the surface.
Slowly drizzle the melted butter on top covering the casserole.
Bake for 40 - 50 minutes. The casserole will be puffed and bubbly. The top will be golden. I bake it 50 minutes because we like crunchy.
Serve with real maple syrup. You are worth it!
You can substitute the milk and cream and use all half and half or light cream.