The best French toast casserole has crispy pieces of bread peeking over and in between pillowy custard bites fragrant with cinnamon and orange zest that give way to nutty, crunchy crumble. An easy breakfast casserole to make ahead, it’ll become your go-to recipe for French toast bake for its sheer simplicity.
We’re big fans of French toast (and waffles and pancakes) for breakfast in my home, and this recipe for French toast casserole is a fun and convenient take on the classic. Instead of frying, you just bake, which is why many call it French toast bake.
Crisp and puffed up fresh out of the oven, top it with icing sugar and some berries, and it transforms into a breakfast bake that just falls short of crossing that sinful Rubicon.
REASONS TO TRY THE FRENCH TOAST CASSEROLE RECIPE
super-easy one-pan meal with minimal clean-up.
Virtually all the prep can be done ahead of time.
Winning recipe when there’s a crowd for breakfast or brunch.
HOW TO MAKE FRENCH TOAST CASSEROLE?
Step 1: Using a sharp knife, cube your bread and place the pieces in a baking tray.
Step 2: Whisk milk and eggs with vanilla, cinnamon powder, a pinch of salt, brown sugar for sweetness, and orange zest for a surprise.
Step 3: Pour the custard over the chopped bread, making sure all the pieces are well coated, and let it sit (either for an hour or overnight).
Step 4: Meanwhile, make the crumble topping for the casserole French toast by mixing softened butter with all-purpose flour, brown sugar, and chopped walnuts and pecans till you have moist clumps.
Step 5: Spread the crumble evenly on top of the French toast casserole and bake for 40 to 50 minutes in a preheated oven until the custard is puffy, and the crust is golden.
Final step: Let the baked French toast casserole sit for a couple of minutes and then serve!
NOTES ON RECIPES FOR FRENCH TOAST BAKE
- Whisk the custard thoroughly into a homogenous mixture, so there are no eggy bits left in it.
- Stick to the ratio of eggs to dairy, so the breakfast bake is not soggy.
- French toast casserole with sliced bread: you don’t have to cube the bread. You can tear it into bite-sized pieces with your hands or slice it. Layer the sliced bread for that pretty visual.
- Make-ahead breakfast casserole: prep and assemble everything the night before. Cover your tray with cling wrap and then slide it into the refrigerator.
- Browning too quickly: tent the dish with aluminum foil if the casserole is browning too much on top.
- Storing leftovers: I advise eating freshly baked French toast while it’s still hot, soft, crunchy, and satisfying. But if you have leftovers, transfer them into an airtight container and refrigerate. They’ll keep well for 2 to 3 days and can be reheated in the oven or microwave.
CAN YOU FREEZE BREAKFAST CASSEROLE?
I haven’t frozen French toast casserole, but I believe it can be stored for 3 to 4 weeks in the freezer. Bake it, cool it completely, double-wrap it, and then freeze it. The day before, thaw it overnight in the fridge and then heat it in the oven the next morning.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FRENCH TOAST CASSEROLE AND BREAD PUDDING?
On the face of it, both French toast bake and bread pudding look the same. However, the milk-to-egg ratio differs. Bread pudding uses a lot more milk than eggs. French toast is heavier on eggs.
French toast casserole is also less sweet, given that it is served for breakfast or brunch. Bread pudding, generally enjoyed as dessert, is much sweeter.
FRENCH TOAST BAKE VARIATIONS
Bread: When making bread pudding or classic French toast, I lean towards brioche. But a challah or a sourdough loaf will go well in recipes for French toast casseroles.
Any hearty, thick bread (or a stale one) with a good crust is a yummy choice because they soak up the custard nicely; and yet holds its shape. The loaves of bread you should stay away from are baguettes.
Milk: I say this from years of experience. Use full-fat coconut milk. The creaminess it has is unmatched. Not a fan of coconut milk? Use half cream and half full-fat regular milk.
Skim or low-fat milk does not work for casserole French toast because it’s too thin to make a custard for the bread to sop up.
Flavors: I completely forgot to add vanilla extract to my custard. How? I don’t know! After years of baking, it should have been muscle memory. So, I know what I'm talking about when I say vanilla is important. Don’t skip it.
You can omit the orange zest and go for the traditional nutmeg or even ginger powder. Some chocolate chips would be fantastic, and if you really want to indulge, a dollop of Nutella will do in two ticks. I categorically can’t go sweeter for breakfast.
Another variation that I’ve seen others love is some orange marmalade incorporated into the custard.
Crumble: The sweet and nutty topping is completely optional, or you can switch up the nuts to any you prefer. Honestly, though, it adds so much texture to breakfast casserole French toast.
Serve: French toast casserole is scrumptious as is! A dusting of icing sugar takes it up a notch. It's out of this world, with fresh strawberries and blueberries on top. A drizzle of honey or maple syrup is the final touch.
MORE BREAKFAST BAKE RECIPES
The Best French Toast Casserole Recipe
- 12 slices Bread, cut into cubes I used Brioche. Sourdough will work very well here too.
- 1 3/4 cup / 400 ml Coconut milk, full fat You can also use half milk ( full fat) and half cream
- 4 Eggs
- 1/2 cup / 100 gms Brown sugar
- 1 tsp Vanilla extract
- 1 tsp Cinnamon powder
- 2 tsp Orange zest
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 3 tbsp Butter, softened
- 2 tbsp All-purpose flour
- 3 tbsp Brown sugar
- 1/3 cup/ 45 gms Nuts, walnuts and pecans chopped
- Place the cubed bread in a 9" baking dish.
- In a large bowl, combine the milk, eggs, brown sugar,, vanilla extract, cinnamon powder, orange zest, and salt.
- Whisk well and pour over the bread. Press the bread down gently so it soaks the custard well.
- Cover and keep aside for at least an hour. You can refrigerate the casserole at this point overnight as well.
- When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 180C.
- Combine the softened butter, brown sugar, flour and nuts in a small bowl using a fork, until small moist crumbs are formed.
- Scatter the crumble evenly over the soaked bread and bake for 50-55 minutes at 180C, until the top is golden and puffy and the custard is set.
- Let the casserole rest for 10 minutes before serving with maple syrup/ honey and fruits on the side. Enjoy!
- Store the leftover casserole, covered in the refrigerator for upto 3 days. Reheat in the microwave or in a preheated oven at 180C for 10 minutes.
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