Apologies in advance to the folks who don’t like bread puddings, because I seem to be on some kind of bread pudding tear this autumn. Just one more, and that’s it, I promise! Today’s recipe is a Casa SoupAddict tradition: baked French Toast on New’s Years morning, prepared the night before.
In case you hadn’t made the connection, French toast is just pan-fried bread pudding: bread, custard, spices, heat. Traditional French toast — seared up on a hot griddle — is a bear of a dish. For two people, no prob. For a family … pans, everywhere. And somehow I always run out of custard before bread slices.
I don’t know who first thought to shove the whole thing into the oven, but they should be food-sainted. Seriously. It’s just brilliant. Breakfast for 8, assembled the night before, practically hands-off the morning of the bake.
Judging by the glut of eggnog-in-food recipes on the interwebs right now that are all intro’d with some variation of “I don’t like to drink eggnog straight-up, but I love it in desserts,” I’m not alone in my general indifference to the classic holiday drink. But, when you think about it, it’s the perfect ingredient for baking: it contains milk, eggs, sugar, and sometimes alcohol.
And it works perfectly for baked French toast custard. Not overly-eggnoggy, but definitely a hint of holiday spirit. Especially when you add, uh, holiday spirits. Brandy is my favorite hair-of-the-dog flavoring, but I’ve also done variations with Grand Marnier (orange!), rum, Baileys, and even Kahlua. And the smell of cinnamon permeating your home as it bakes will wake up even groggiest of sleepyheads.
Or, if you’ve got kids in the house, skip the booze, and add more vanilla extract (or some almond extract). Or orange zest. Or blueberries. It’s all good. And totally make-ahead easy. Perfect for entertaining a house full of hungry guests.
Over the years, I’ve changed up the recipe a bit to refine the texture. Originally, the bread was completely immersed in the custard. To introduce a bit of the pan-seared texture, I reduced the amount of custard so that the top layer of bread cubes are exposed. They crisp up a bit in the oven, adding a nice little crunch to the works.
Cinnamon Eggnog Baked French Toast
for the bread pudding and custard
- 1 loaf challah or Italian bread
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 cups egg nog
- 2 cups whole milk
- 4 eggs
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup dark rum or brandy optional
for the topping
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 pinch freshly ground nutmeg
- 1 pinch salt
- Butter a 9" x 13" baking dish.
- Slice the bread into 1" slices, then each slice into thirds. Arrange half of the bread pieces in one layer in the pan. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. Layer the remaining bread pieces on top.
- Whisk together the custard ingredients (including the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon). Slowly pour the custard over the bread, saturating the top layer. The custard will not cover the top layer - the exposed bread cubes will still absorb the custard, but will also be a little toasty/crispy after baking, which adds a nice texture, a la pan-fried French toast.
- Cover the dish with wrap and refrigerate for several hours, or overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. Remove the dish from the fridge, and uncover.
- Mix the topping ingredients in a small bowl, breaking up any clumps of brown sugar. Sprinkle over the top layer. Bake for 30 minutes or until puffy and golden. Serve with maple syrup, or even a fruit puree.