Ah, breakfast. So essential, so versatile...it makes an alarm clock a little less offensive knowing that it's not too far away. I know every person has their own breakfast staples as a part of their everyday routine, but it's nice to know a thing or two about throwing a special breakfast together when the time comes for such an occasion.
I agree that pancakes and french toast are great options, but I start to get cranky just thinking about all of the pans and bowls and utensils I have to get out and use so early in the morning, only to be left to clean them after my food coma has kicked in after eating. I want the paper (or...lets be honest, a good food book or magazine) and a warm cuppa' Joe to be waiting for me at that moment, not a counter full of dirty dishes.
This recipe is one of my favorite things to make when I want to make something special for breakfast, but don't feel like doing all of the hard work in the morning. It's great for holidays, vacations, when staying with friends, or on a Saturday morning to surprise someone special. I actually made a few of these casseroles last week for a catering gig and they were a hit with the gracious conference attendees. The casserole sits in the fridge overnight, with flavors mingling and developing, and is ready for the oven when you step into the kitchen in the morning.
And once everyone is awake and with a healthy appetite after the smells begin to waft from the oven, a glorious dish full of light custard soaked bread awaits the table...and your fork.
French Toast Casserole
I want to tell you that this recipe is a mere backdrop to infinite varieties. Go crazy with other ingredients as additions: dried fruit! fresh fruit! nuts! exotic spices! flavored liquors! Some stellar combinations await you.
1 loaf of crusty french bread, cut up or torn into bite size pieces
3 cups milk (or half-and-half or cream)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup (half stick) butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- Place bread pieces in a 9x13 baking dish. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, and salt.
- Pour egg mixture over bread. Press the bread pieces down to make sure they are fully submerged in the liquid. Cover with aluminum foil and place in fridge overnight.
- In the morning, remove the casserole from the fridge and let sit on counter as the oven preheats to 350 degrees. Mix together the brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon and sprinkle over the top of the casserole. Once the oven is at temperature, place the casserole in, uncovered, for about an hour. You want a puffed up, golden brown crust and a knife to come out clean from the center (that wont jiggle if you shake the pan). If it gets too brown before its done, simply cover it with the foil and continue baking until its cooked through.
- Pour some maple syrup over the top and serve - making sure there's more maple syrup to pass around too. And for goodness sake make sure it's the good stuff.
(I unfortunately wasn't fast enough to snap a picture of last week's casseroles, but the photo above is close to what you should be going for! courtesy of http://candcdish.wordpress.com/ )