When I was a kid French toast used to be the breakfast food my Father used to make when breakfast wasn’t poured out of a box. Of course when he made it, he did so with flimsy sandwich bread and we ate it with cheap-o, artificial maple syrup (which now isn’t allowed in my house). So when I was home last month he desperately wanted to whip some up. He actually suggested this casserole as an alternative. He didn’t have to convince me! I was right on board. We went to work assembling this bad boy up immediately.
This casserole is great for a breakfast with a crowd. It makes a lot and it can be assembled the night before and ready to pop in the oven the morning of. There’s nothing better than not having to do any work for a meal right before you’re going to eat it. I did have a problem with the way the instructions asked you to slice and arrange the bread. They took a loaf of French bread and sliced it, then arranged the slices in two rows, standing on their sides. I thought that would make for an unevenly shaped casserole since the slices were not all the same height or width. I ended up arranging them in two layers horizontally- one layer across the bottom and one layer on top (laying flat, not sitting upright). Although that made the casserole much more even, the top wasn’t able to absorb a lot of the liquid and their were lots of gaps. Honestly the best way to assemble this casserole for an even layer and an even soak, is to cut the bread up into 1″ cubes. I’ve made other French Toast Casseroles like that before and it was a much better technique. I altered the original directions to have you assemble it in a cube-like fashion, but feel free to use the slice technique as well. And if your bread is a little stale, the better this will be. You can even oven dry your bread @ 325 degree F for about 8 minutes or so.
So how did this 5-star rated, 2,134 person reviewed recipe turn out? Excellent! The thing is, you have to be a huge French toast fan to like this.. as well as a lover of custard. Like Paula Deen’s bread pudding recipes, this makes a high ratio of custard to bread, leaving the french toast super moist. Honestly I like my French toast to have a lot of structure with the bread and less of a custard-like soft interior. So for me, if I were to make this again, I would just add less custard or more bread to compensate. The thing is, it’s hard to judge because you don’t know how much custard is going to be soaked up by the amount of bread you use (especially since it depends a lot on the level of dryness to your bread), so it’s hard to prepare it to change the consistency of the custard. But that’s just me. I like my French toast less gooey, and more firm. My Dad on the other hand thought that the texture was perfect. He was overly enthralled with this recipe and probably wouldn’t have changed a thing, except for arranging the bread differently as I suggested above. I mean this recipe is highly rated in the reviews so I really think that I have a weird French toast preference. Or maybe is wasn’t cooked long enough or we should have let it set up for a while before serving it. Regardless, I still thought it was delicious.My favorite part though? Definitely the praline topping… OMG. SO gooooood! The brown sugar gives it notes of caramel and the nuts give it a fantastic crunch. For me, this is what made the casserole over the top. If you prepare this the night before, leave the topping out on the counter overnight. If you refrigerate it, it will become hard and will be difficult to spread across the top of the casserole. You might be able to evenly dollop it in small mounds, but if you leave it out, you will be able to spread it (ideally..). Don’t worry about the butter being left out and causing food poisoning. If you use salted butter, or add some salt to the mixture, it will act as a preservative and should be fine. Also, a lot of bacteria that may develop will be killed off in the heat of the oven.
- 1 loaf French bread (13 to 16 ounces)
- 8 large eggs
- 2 cups half-and-half
- 1 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Dash salt
- Praline Topping:
- ½ pound (2 sticks) butter
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Maple syrup
- Cube the French bread into 1″ cubes. Arrange the cubes in a generously buttered 9 by 13-inch flat baking dish as evenly as possible.
- In a large bowl, combine the eggs, half-and-half, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and whisk until blended but not too bubbly. Pour mixture over the bread cubes, making sure all are covered evenly with the milk-egg mixture. Spoon some of the mixture where it may be needed. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.
- The next day, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Spread Praline Topping evenly over the bread and bake for 40 minutes, until puffed and lightly golden. Serve with maple syrup.
- For Praline Topping: Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and blend well. Makes enough for Baked French Toast Casserole.
Adapted from Paula Deen