Wow oh wow oh wow! I made THE best breakfast last night. It was so delicious this morning I had to make myself leave the table. I've always heard people raving about the overnight french toast casseroles, but I've never had one until I experimented with my own version featuring apricots and cream cheese a few weeks ago. It wasn't my favorite because the bottom was too done, so I tweaked my recipe a bit and tried again last night. Oh my goodness was it delicious!
Unfortunately, we've had a house of sickies this week. I have one with the flu (who had a flu shot, btw) and the littlest one had a UTI (aren't those fun while potty training?). And, with all that fun, we've been staying home the past few days. So, last night I whipped up a french toast casserole from scratch to have this morning. I had just ran to the store yesterday, so I had fresh strawberries and cream cheese to add to it.
French Toast Casserole with Strawberries & Cream Cheese
1 stick of butter, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 1/2 cups milk or 1 1/2 cups half&half and 2 cup of milk
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp vanilla
3-4 tbs maple syrup
1 pkg of Pepperidge Farm Sourdough bread cut into large cubes (about 12 pieces of bread)
16 oz (2 pkgs) of softened cream cheese
1 pint or about 2 cups of fruit such as sliced strawberries mixed with 1 tbs of sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
First, slice up your strawberries and add about 1-2 tbs of sugar. Mix well, then put in the fridge for a couple hours. This will pull the water out of the strawberries and create a delicious syrupy-ness to it. If you don't have time for that - no worries.
Take your softened butter and mix with 1/4 cup of brown sugar. Then smear it all over the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish.
Next, cube your bread. I love sourdough bread, and I love how wonderfully thick and delicious this Pepperidge Farm bread is, but plain ol' sandwich bread will do in a pinch for this recipe too. I cut mine into large cubes about 2 x 2 inches in size. Place half the bread in the dish.
Take your cream cheese and microwave it for about 20-30 seconds. This will turn it very smooth and a little runny and easy to smear on the bottom layer of bread. Smear away! Then, add your fruit.
Mix up the eggs, milk, cinnamon, maple syrup and vanilla. Pour half the mixture onto the bottom half of the casserole. Next, add the rest of the bread. Pour the rest of the milk/egg mixture onto it. Make sure you pour it so everything is evenly soaked.
Take the 1/4 cup brown sugar and sprinkle it all around the top of the dish.
Cover with foil and put in the fridge til morning. Or let it sit for at least an hour before baking.
Remove from fridge. I like to put mine on top of the oven as it warms up. Preheat oven 375. Bake for 45 minutes. Then, remove the foil for the last 15 minutes or so. Check to make sure it's not soupy in the middle. A knife should come out clean when inserted in the middle. Sometimes mine needs an extra 10 minutes. It will still be a bit mushy when done because of the cream cheese.
Let it sit for about 5-10 minutes before serving.
This is also wonderful to make ahead and bake, and then serve it for breakfast on school days.
I made an earlier version with apricots and apricot preserves with the cream cheese. It was delicious just needed something on the bottom of the pan to stop it from overcooking down there. That's why I added the butter and sugar -- which was PERFECT this time around.
However, if you'd like to use apricots, here is what I did:
I used about 1/2 cup of apricot preserves that I smeared on top of the cream cheese. Then I took a can of apricot halves, smashed them, and added those on top of the preserves. The tanginess mixed with the cream cheese was so yummy!! I'm definitely going to make that version again.