If you are the primary cook in your household, then you might be at a similar point as I am in this never-ending COVID-19 summer that started in March: You are tired of feeding everyone because they are always hungry.
The thought of preparing another salad with grilled chicken for dinner makes you want to crawl into a corner and lay there, motionless, until you have been completely covered in dirty laundry and dust bunnies like a depressed human snowdrift. And, yet, dinner looms every night like clockwork.
For home cooks like us without help, there’s really only one thing to do: Take the easy way out and make breakfast for dinner. It’s not the healthiest way to round out your caloric intake for the day, but it sure is a crowd-pleaser.
The foundation of a good breakfast-for-dinner experience is a casserole that can hold its own on the table surrounded by a cast of supporting characters such as the obligatory protein (sausage or eggs) and fruit (fruit salad or smoothie). You get extra credit if you remember to include hash browns.
With the Fourth of July behind us, many of us are left with at least a few stray hamburger and hot dogs buns that didn’t get eaten on the big day. This to-die-for baked French toast casserole is the perfect way to use up all those carbs languishing in the bread box.
A word of warning: This casserole is decadent and delicious and will be life-changing in the same way that sitting in those reclining leather seats at the theater for the first time is life-changing: You can never go back to the way it used to be after you’ve tried it.
It’s not enough that the cubes of bread are drenched in eggs, milk and half-and-half; there is granulated and brown sugar mixed in there, as well, ensconcing every little bread morsel in a blanket of sweet, creamy custard. The whole thing is taken to the next level by sprinkling on a crumb mixture of butter, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Now, of course, this casserole doesn’t have to be used for a lazy (but delicious!) cop-out dinner. You can do what normal people do and actually eat it for breakfast. In that case, feel free to do the usual song and dance of prepping it the night before and then baking it in the morning.
But it also will work beautifully if you throw it together an hour before meal time and bake it up right away. From one weary chef to another, I promise: This baked French toast casserole is just what you need to make dinner great again.
Baked French Toast Casserole
Adapted from thepioneerwoman.com.
For the French toast:
8-10 leftover hamburger or hot dog buns (or 1 loaf French bread)
2 cups milk
½ cup half-and-half
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
For the topping:
½ cup flour
½ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 stick cold butter, cut into pieces
Maple syrup, for serving (optional)
Blueberries, for serving (optional)
Spray the bottom and sides of a 9x13 pan with cooking spray. Cut or tear the bread into 2-inch cubes and spread into an even layer in the pan.
In a large bowl, crack the eggs and whisk together with the milk, half-and-half, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla. Pour evenly over the bread. Cover the pan with foil and store in the refrigerator overnight, or put the topping on and bake it right away.
For the topping, mix the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Add the butter and use a pastry cutter to mix everything together until the butter is in pea-sized pieces. Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator if not using right away.
When ready to bake the casserole, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle the butter topping all over the casserole and bake, uncovered, for 45-50 minutes.
Scoop out individual portions and top with maple syrup and blueberries, if desired.
Julia Ditto can be reached at email@example.com.
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