It’s another holiday weekend, and I have decided to broaden my food experiences. No, I do not plan on eating kale. I’m talking about trying another breakfast casserole. I have company for three mornings this weekend. I needed one more breakfast that will feed a table of people, without much prep work. I found the recipe for Baked Cream Cheese French Toast Casserole. It was delicious! Anything that I can prepare the day before, is my kind of dish. I don’t mind turning the oven on in the morning when it’s going to be near 90 degrees, You have the rest of the day to cool off the kitchen. This recipe has some of my favorite ingredients – eggs, challah bread, and cinnamon. How can that be wrong?
8 large eggs
2 1/4 cups whole milk
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 (12-14 ounce) loaf french bread, sourdough bread, or challah (my preference)
Cream Cheese Mixture
8 ounces brick-style cream cheese, softened to room temperature – use full fat
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. confectioner’s sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
6 tbsp. butter, cold and cubed
Don’t panic. It may appear to be many steps, but it’s not. It’s a custard with bread, a cream cheese filling, and a topping. You cube the bread earlier in the day, so it can get stale. Right? This is the one time you want stale bread. This is all assembled the night before. You don’t add the topping until you bake it. Make the streusel the night before, put it in a container, and pop it into the fridge next to the casserole. You don’t want to forget it. If you have company, it’s easy to get distracted.
Grease a 9 X 13 pan with butter of nonstick spray. Slice the bread into 1-inch cubes. Don’t get a ruler, just eyeball it. Spread half of the cubes into the prepared baking pan. You’re going to add the cream cheese mixture on top of the bread. The original directions call for a hand mixer. I am not looking for more things to take out, put away or wash. I use a fork to soften and mix cream cheese. Those fork tines are mighty mighty. I just mash away at the cream cheese, adding the vanilla extract and confectioner’s sugar. Done. Drop spoonfuls (or forkfuls?) of cream cheese mixture on top of the first layer of cubed bread. Layer the remains bread cubes on top of the cream cheese. Set aside.
Whisk the eggs, milk, cinnamon, brown sugar, and vanilla extract together until no brown sugar lumps remain. This could count as a cardio workout if the brown sugar isn’t soft. Pour over the bread. Make sure you pour it all over the bread, and not in one spot. It needs to hit every tiny piece of bread. We are looking to soak the bread people. The bread has transformed from stale cubes to wet cubes. I won’t use the word “moist”. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and stick in the fridge for 3 hours or overnight. Overnight is best.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove pan from fridge.
Sprinkle the streusel topping all over the pan. You make the streusel by whisking together the brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon together in a bowl. Cut the cubed butter into this mixture. You can use two forks, a pastry blender or your hands. I like to make it ahead of time, so it can harden. Then you can crumble the topping onto the bread mixture.
Bake uncovered for 45-55 minutes or until golden brown on top.
You can serve this with maple syrup and/or sift confectioner’s sugar over the top.