4-30-17 very good, good for family brunch, partially make ahead
yield: 12 SERVINGS prep time: 30 MINUTES total time: 9 HOURS, 25 MINUTES
For anyone who enjoys basic french toast, this indulgent overnight baked cream cheese french toast casserole is certainly a revelation.
1 (12-14 ounce) loaf french bread, sourdough bread, or challah1
8 ounces (224g) brick-style cream cheese, softened to room temperature2
2 Tablespoons (15g) confectioners' sugar (don't leave it out, trust me)
3 teaspoons (15ml) vanilla extract, divided
8 large eggs
2 and 1/4 cups (540ml) whole milk
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup (133g) packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup (69g) packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup (42g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 Tablespoons (86g) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
Optional: fresh fruit, maple syrup, and/or confectioners' sugar for topping
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Grease a 9x13 pan with butter or spray with nonstick spray. Slice then cut the bread into cubes, about 1 inch in size. Spread half of the cubes into the prepared baking pan. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the room temperature (not cold!) cream cheese on medium-high speed until completely smooth. Beat in the confectioners' sugar and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract until combined. Drop random spoonfuls of cream cheese mixture on top of the bread. Layer the remaining bread cubes on top of cream cheese. Set aside.
Whisk the eggs, milk, cinnamon, brown sugar, and remaining vanilla together until no brown sugar lumps remain. Pour over the bread. Cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap and stick in the refrigerator for 3 hours - overnight. Overnight is best.
Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Remove pan from the refrigerator.
Prepare the topping: Whisk the brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon together in a medium bowl. Cut in the cubed butter with a pastry blender or two forks. Sprinkle the topping over the soaked bread.
Bake for 45-55 minutes or until golden brown on top. I usually bake it for 45 minutes because I like it softer. Serve immediately. Cover leftovers tightly and store in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.
Make ahead tip: Prepare the topping in advance, cover tightly, and store in the refrigerator. Sprinkle over the soaked bread before baking. For freezing, prepare the recipe through step 4 (without preheating the oven) and freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator then bake as directed.
This recipe can easily be halved in an 8 or 9-inch baking pan. The bake time will be slightly less, around 30-35 minutes.
Day-old, crusty bread is perfect for french toast casseroles. I prefer challah bread. I slice it up and let it sit out all day. You'll wind up with about 12 cups of cubed bread. A little more or less is OK.
Since the cream cheese is only mixed with a little sugar and vanilla, make sure you are using quality cream cheese that tastes good. I love full fat Philadelphia brand brick-style cream cheese
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