I love make-ahead French Toast Casserole. You can make it in the evening, leave it in the fridge and the next day you can just pop it in the oven and wait for a yummy breakfast treat! I have only tried one French Toast Casserole recipe and that is the one by David Leite of Leite's Culinaria - it is so good that I never bothered to try anything else. Here is the link to the original recipe.
We first had this casserole when we stayed with a New Jersey couple who kindly accommodated us when we visited New York. For our breakfast, this is what she prepared - Deep Dish Brioche French Toast. I fell in love with the dish immediately and had to ask her for the recipe. She kindly printed me a copy and that was when I got acquainted with the amazing website and blog of David Leite.
This recipe is a very slight adaptation of the original just because I had to make use of what's available to me. I hardly see a Brioche Loaf where I live so I had to try another similar buttery sweet roll which in this case was the Hawaiian Sweet Roll. Also, I tried to experiment by using other dried fruits - dried cranberries and cherries instead of just the usual raisins. Wow, now I actually prefer the tangier cherries or cranberries 'cause they provide a delicious contrast with the cream cheese and the sweetness of the bread! I also tweaked the amount of the spices according to my taste. Because of these changes, I decided to use a different title than the original post 'cause I'll never be able to do it with Brioche anyway and from now on I'll only be using mostly cherries or cranberries! :-) So if you are looking for a new French Toast Casserole, I highly recommend this! Enjoy!
Butter or non-stick spray for greasing pan
One 24-ounce brioche loaf or 2 12-ounce Hawaiian Sweet Rolls, cut into 1-inch cubes
One 8-ounce package cream cheese, cut into 18 cubes
3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1/2 cup of either dried cherries, cranberries, or raisins or a combo
8 large Eggs
2 cups Milk
1/2 cup firmly packed dark Brown sugar
2 teaspoons Vanilla
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon of Cloves
4 tablespoons melted Butter
Pure maple syrup, warmed
Either butter or use a non-stick spray to grease a 9-x-13-inch baking dish. Place half the bread cubes in a single layer, filling in all the gaps.
Evenly scatter the cream cheese cubes, nuts, and cherries or cranberries (or raisins) on top. Cover completely with the remaining bread cubes.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Evenly pour the egg mixture over the bread cubes. Gently press down on the cubes with your palms to allow the top layer of bread to absorb the liquid. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Meanwhile, remove the dish from the refrigerator and let sit for 20 minutes at room temperature. Bake the French toast covered for 20 minutes; uncover and bake 15 to 20 minutes longer, or until the cubes are nicely toasted and there’s no liquid puddling on the bottom.
Transfer the dish to a rack and drizzle the melted butter on top. Run a knife around the rim of the pan to release the French toast. Let sit 5 minutes. Cut into squares, arrange on individual plates, sprinkle with powdered sugar, and serve along with the warmed maple syrup.
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