Any meal that can be made in advance is a keeper in my book. They make life and cleanup easy and are great for busy nights or mornings.
Breakfast casserole is my go-to for weekend brunch or holidays. Sweet or savory, they are completed quickly the night before and are oven ready when you wake up, giving you time to relax with the family instead of bustling away in the kitchen.
A favorite of mine is this blueberry breakfast bake, which is basically French toast casserole with blueberries and a crumb topping.
It hits the notes perfectly in texture and taste – tender and fluffy on the inside and golden and crisp on top, with the sweet juicy bites of blueberries alongside bright hints of lemon balancing out the richness of the custard.
The dish starts by layering cubes of bread with fresh blueberries. A custard mixture made with cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice and zest, vanilla, cinnamon, milk, half and half and eggs is then poured over the bread and berries and gently pressed down to make sure it’s all absorbed.
The casserole is then covered and refrigerated, and just before baking, a scrumptious blend of butter, brown sugar, flour, oats and cinnamon is sprinkled on top along with a handful more of blueberries.
It puffs up and bakes to a beautiful golden brown and is slightly cooled before cutting.
We serve it with a dusting of powdered sugar and a drizzle of maple syrup, though a scoop of vanilla ice cream would be absolutely decadent on it.
When it comes to the bread, brioche, challah, French or Texas toast would be the best options as they can soak up the custard without collapsing.
And if fresh blueberries are nowhere to be found, frozen will work fine. Just add them while they’re still frozen to help prevent them from coloring the casserole.
Overnight Blueberry Breakfast Bake
1 loaf bread (brioche, challah, French or Texas toast), cut into 1-inch cubes (about 10-12 cups)
2 cups fresh blueberries, divided
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
⅔ cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon vanilla
½ teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1 cup milk
1 cup half and half
½ stick unsalted butter, softened
¾ cups light brown sugar
¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ cups quick-cooking rolled oats
1½ tablespoons canola oil
¾ teaspoons cinnamon
Pinch of salt
Butter or nonstick spray a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
Spread half of the bread cubes in the baking dish and top with 1 cup of the blueberries. Top with the remaining bread cubes and all but ¼ cup of blueberries (these will be sprinkled over the crumb topping before baking).
In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth and fluffy. Add in the sugar and beat until combined. Then add in the remaining ingredients and beat until blended. Pour the mixture over the bread cubes, pressing down gently to make sure the egg mixture is absorbed, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.
For the topping, add all the ingredients into a medium bowl. With a pastry blender or your fingers, combine until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Just before baking, evenly sprinkle the topping over the casserole, followed by reserved blueberries, and bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until golden and puffed.
Let the casserole cool for 10 minutes before cutting. Serve dusted with powdered sugar and/or syrup.
Audrey Alfaro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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