Sunday, January 23, 2011

Easy Sunday Brunch: French Toast Casserole!

My husband and I had brunch with our friends Sarah and Jack a few weeks ago, and they introduced us to the fabulous idea of French toast casserole.  It has all the yumminess of French toast without all the work of frying the individual pieces of eggy toast.  

There were a bunch of French toast casserole recipes on the internet, but most of them sounded like glorified bread pudding.  As usual, Cook's Illustrated to the rescue!  This recipe has the bread soaked overnight in eggs, milk, and cream just like regular French toast, and then the topping makes the outside sweet and crunchy. No syrup necessary!

French Toast Casserole

1 loaf (16-ounce) supermarket French or Italian bread , torn into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon unsalted butter , softened
8 large eggs
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter , softened
1 1/3 cups packed (9 1/3 ounces) light brown sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 cup pecans, chopped coarse
1 cup slivered almonds

1.  Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Spread the bread out over 2 baking sheets and bake until dry and light golden brown, about 25 minutes, switching and rotating the baking sheets halfway through the baking time. Let the bread cool completely.

2. Coat a 13 by 9-inch baking dish with the butter and pack the dried bread into the dish. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl until combined and then whisk in the milk, cream, granulated sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the bread and press on the bread lightly to submerge.

3. Make the topping by first stirring the butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup together until smooth, then add nuts.

4. TO STORE: Transfer the topping to an airtight container and wrap the dish tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the topping and casserole separately for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours.

5. TO SERVE: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap the casserole and sprinkle the topping evenly over the top, breaking apart any large pieces with your fingers. Place the casserole on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until puffed and golden, about 1 hour. Serve immediately.

Yields: 6 to 8 servings
Active time: 15-20 minutes
Total time: 15-20 minutes of prep, overnight soak, one hour of baking

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