We like to have breakfast for dinner, probably a little too often, but the food police haven’t found us yet. French Toast Casserole is one of our favorites. It started out as a recipe from a Cooking Light magazine several years ago. I have since adapted it just a bit.
The original recipe made 12 servings, which is just too much for our family of three, unless we are having company. I cut the recipe in half, but you can easily double it for a crowd. Bake it in a 9 by 13 inch dish or pan, and add a few minutes to the cooking time. I also added the cinnamon and quadrupled the original amount of vanilla. I play around with the milk and half and half, depending on what we have in the house. When I made it this time we had cream and skim milk (I know that sounds weird). So I used skim for the milk and about ¼ cup cream with the rest skim milk for the half and half. Turned out just fine. We have tried making it with all skim milk, but that little bit of richness from the half and half really adds something. If you don’t care about the fat, you can use regular cream cheese, whole milk or whatever dairy product you like for the milk and half and half.
We usually have this with a couple different kinds of fresh fruit and, if we are really going all out, bacon. Enjoy, for dinner, or for breakfast.
8 slices hearty white bread (not Wonder Bread), whole wheat or a combination of both, about 5 cups of 1-inch cubes
4 ounces (1/2 block) 1/3-less fat cream cheese, room temperature
1 teaspoon cinnamon, optional
¼ cup maple syrup
¾ cup milk (2%, 1% or skim)
1/3 cup half and half (or milk)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Powdered sugar, for serving
Maple syrup, for serving
Tear or cut bread into 1-inch pieces. You don’t have to be precise. Heavily grease an 8-inch square baking dish. Place bread cubes in dish and set aside.
Beat cream cheese at medium speed of a mixer until smooth. Add cinnamon, if using, and beat until well combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each egg. Add maple syrup, milk, half and half and vanilla. Beat until combined.
Pour mixture slowly over bread in prepared dish. If there are any large pieces of cream cheese (which can happen if your cream cheese isn’t quite warm enough), use a knife to spread them over the surface of the bread, otherwise they will bake into hard lumps. Cover with foil and place in refrigerator for several hours, or overnight. If time is short, an hour or so is fine. If you are going with the shorter time, use the back of a fork or spoon to gently push the bread under the egg mixture after you pour it on. Repeat right before baking.
Remove casserole from fridge for 20-30 minutes before baking. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake casserole, covered tightly with foil, for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 10-15 minutes, or until casserole is set and browning on top.
Let casserole cool for 5 minutes before cutting into serving pieces. Pass powdered sugar, maple syrup, or both. Store leftovers in the fridge, or for longer storage, in the freezer. Reheats well. I like it for lunch the next day, though my waistline says differently.