As is our custom on Christmas morning since we got married, Joey & I hosted Christmas Breakfast for his immediate family and a few relations. This year, I aimed for ease in preparation, aiming to please all the different palates but not spend every minute of the morning making individual portions of dishes.
So I checked online in late November and searched for recipes that might fit the bill. I was hoping for some kind of overnight sweet breakfast dish that could serve 7. I stumbled upon overnight baked french toast--a recipe by Paula Dean with over 9,000 reviews and 5 stars.
I decided to make the "baked french toast" as a test weeks before Christmas and then ended up failing at that plan because I didn't realize it required overnight time. So we went cold turkey on Christmas Eve/Morning with a new recipe.
I also made an error in my bread buying on the 23rd. Paula called for French bread and I thought she meant those long thin loaves but it turned out after closer inspection that she meant the wider and flatter Italian French bread. We decided to mix the bread choice from Giada's baked French toast recipe with the recipe for Paula's by using Challah bread that we cut into thick slices from two loaves. We also used the Mario Batali Lasagna pan which is 9x13 but taller--3.25 instead of a traditional 9x13x(2inches?) which caused us to increase the ingredients a bit to make sure we had plenty of liquid.
The process was incredibly simple, the French Toast took about 15 minutes to assemble and slept in the refrigerator all night long. In the morning we took it out about a half hour before baking and then baked it for about 40 minutes with a topping making the FT soft in places and crispy in others--almost as perfect as the fried variety.
Paula Dean & Giada's Overnight Baked French Toast
adapted from The Food Network Recipe 1 & Recipe 2
Serves 10-12 (we served 7 and almost everyone had a second helping but there was enough for maybe 3 more)
1 1/2 loaves Challah bread, let the bread sit out for a few hours or longer so it dries out a bit in advance
9 Large Eggs
1 1/2 C Whole Milk
2 1/2 C Heavy Whipping Cream
2 T sugar
2 t Cinnamon (or to taste, we liberally added cinnamon)
1 t nutmeg (or to taste, I wasn't watching the person adding this)
1 t vanilla extract
dash of salt
butter for greasing the pan
2 T sugar
1 T cinnamon
1. Grease a 9x13 pan, preferably with higher than 2" sides, but that will work fine in a pinch (I totally missed this step and it made a difference in the clean up)
2. Slice the Challah bread into 1 inch slices and line the pan with the bread close together slices on end (like a file cabinet). If you have holes, slice smaller pieces to fit into the holes. The bread should be tight enough not to fall over but not too tight so you can't get in between the slices with your fingers
3. In a large bowl, beat eggs until all the yolks have broken.
4. Add all other ingredients and whisk to combine
5. Pour liquid evenly over the pan of bread and use a spoon to distribute in between the layers. Cover with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight
*The next Morning*
1. Remove the dish from the refrigerator when you get up
2. Preheat the oven to 350
3. Make the topping by combining 2 T sugar and 1 T cinnamon in a small bowl. Remove the cover on the dish and sprinkle the topping all over--this will make the top crisp
4. Bake 40 minutes or until toast is lightly golden brown and puffed and liquid is mostly set
5. Cut into squares and serve warm with syrup