There are plenty of French toast casseroles out there right now--some decadent, some soggy, some fussy, some divine. I was searching for one because one week after church my three-year-old took a loaf of blah white bread that was leftover from the soup kitchen (um, I think--she sort of just showed up with this loaf of bread). And then she proceeded to whack it against things--the floor, the walls, her brother--whatever her little arms could reach. By the time it got home that poor loaf was nothing more than chunks and crumbs, but I'm pretty sure it's a sin to just waste the leftover soup kitchen bread that someone gave to your three-year-old. So I made the easiest French toast casserole ever. And I'm glad I did. Not only was it very easy, but it was also the perfect vehicle for using up leftover nubs of bread. You don't have to run out and buy challah or French bread or anything whatsoever. You just have to take that dry nasty slice that one of your children left on the counter and throw it in a big bowl to dry (or the freezer). You can make it healthier if you usually eat whole grain breads. Or not, if you don't. Also, when served it tastes a LOT like regular French toast. Not fancy or overly sweet, but very French-toasty. And nobody had to stand around by a hot skillet dipping bread in an egg batter for 20 minutes either (yeah, that makes me sound pretty lazy doesn't it?).
We ate ours as a breakfast-for-dinner with syrup and fruit on the side. But the next day. Oh, the next day. The next day I cut it and then pan-fried it in a bit of butter until each side was golden and, dear Hannah, it was completely amazing in every way (better than a donut people).
Really Easy French Toast Casserole
adapted from Taste of Home
makes 1 9x13 inch pan-ful
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 40-50 minutes
bread: .80, eggs: .80, milk: .40, other stuff: .05
Note: You can make this ahead and let it sit in your fridge overnight. This is what the instructions tell you to do. I made it just before dinner and let it sit 5 minutes and then baked it (rebel without a cause, that's what I am). It was not soggy in some spots and dried out in others. However, if you're using a dense type of bread, you're going to need to give it a longer sitting time, so it can soak up and then distribute the milk/egg mixture. My cheap white bread just soaked that egg up. Your nice challah and wheat combo might not. So let it sit until it soaks up most of the egg/milk mixture.
Note: Since it is that pumpkin time of year when we put pumpkin into everything, I subbed out an egg for 1/4 C pumpkin puree. Glad I did--I mean I was going to serve a pan full of white bread to my family and tell them they could put syrup on it. I'm sure some traces of vitamin A didn't hurt.
Note: Ideally your bread will be on the dry side. My mother always had a bowl of drying bread in the kitchen. We usually made bread pudding with it (this recipe is a lot like bread pudding, only with less sugar). However, if your bread isn't dry, no biggie.
1 loaf bread (or enough to GENEROUSLY fill that 9x13 inch pan)
8 eggs (or 7 eggs and 1/4 C pumpkin puree)
3 C milk
4 tsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp salt
Set oven for 350.
Grease your pan. Grease it, I say.
Place bread cubes into pan.
In separate bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla and salt (and maybe some pumpkin puree). Pour this over bread.
Refrigerate overnight or for 8 hours. Remove from fridge 30 minutes before baking (this is the type of step that makes me wonder why do the do-ahead step at all, but I think it works for some people). Alternately, you can skip the whole fridge thing and just wait till your bread has soaked up your egg/milk mixture.
Bake at 350 for 40-50 minutes. The original recipe said to cover the pan. I missed that step and was actually happy with the crispy top I got. So, it's up to you--crispy top or not. Remove from oven when knife inserted comes out clean and the center seems set.
Serve with maple syrup or powdered sugar or whatever your poison happens to be.