I posted the recipe for my mother Claudia’s French toast a while ago. For a few people it is a treat, but it is a bit finicky in that you have to soak the bread slices and then cook them two at a time. If you are having a crowd at the table, this leaves some people hungry while they wait for the next batch. My memory is that she made this when we had breakfast company.
Note: I have done a tweak or two from my memory of her recipe—it was not one that I took down when I left home—but I simply cannot stop myself.
Claudia’s French Toast Casserole
4-5 cups bread, loose packed
5-6 large eggs
2 cups milk (or 50/50 milk and half and half)
2 Tbs. brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon, ground
1 tsp. vanilla
¼ tsp. nutmeg, ground
Small pinch Kosher salt
Note: You may do this the morning of the meal, but it is very effective to set up the casserole the night before to give the bread plenty of time to soak up the egg mixture.
1. Cut the bread into one inch cubes.
Note: Almost any bread will do. My mother used sliced white bread, but this leaves your cubes very thin. I prefer to use an uncut loaf of soft peasant bread—whole wheat, sour dough, or challah also work well.
2. Lay the bread cubes on a lipped baking sheet and place them in a 400º F oven.
3. Toast the bread until the cubes are just starting to brown on a few of the sides, 15-20 minutes.
Tip: Toss the cubes half way through so the bread toasts evenly. Do not over toast the bread. You want the flavor boost of the Maillard reaction, but you do not want the bread to burn.
Note: My mother never toasted her bread. She simply tossed the soft bread with the egg mixture and then let it soak for a few minutes before putting it in the oven.
4. Put the remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl and whisk them together well.
Tip: For a richer toast add cream, if your diet will allow.
Note: My mother always used white sugar and never added salt to her French toast. Brown sugar adds a deeper flavor and just the smallest amount of salt will enhance the flavor of the dish.
5. Add the bread cubes and toss to coat.
Tip: Toss the cubes every few minutes, so that they absorb the egg mixture evenly.
Note: Untoasted bread will absorb the mixture in 10-15 minutes. Toasted bread may take a an hour or more—overnight is best with the toasted bread.
6. Butter or Pam a two quart casserole.
7. Put the bread cubes into the casserole and pour any remaining egg mixture over them.
Tip: If you are soaking the bread overnight, cover with plastic wrap or a casserole lid and refrigerate.
8. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Note: If you have refrigerated the casserole, put the dish in a cold oven—and add ten minutes to the cooking time—so that your dish will not break from the sudden temperature change.
9. Bake the French toast casserole for 50-60 minutes, until an inserted toothpick come out clean.
10. Serve warm.
Tip: You may garnish the casserole with sliced fruit or a dusting of powdered sugar.
Note: Serve with butter, syrup(s), and/or jam on the side.