First of all, today is cause for celebration. It’s December 21st and the world didn’t come to an end. Take that Mayans.
christmas morning memories
Right about this time every year we start getting emails and Facebook requests asking us what we serve in our own homes on Christmas morning. At my house growing up and now with my own little family it’s always been an “overnight meal.” Everything is made the day before so all that needs to be done on Christmas morning is popping things into the oven. I have vivid memories of being a kid and running downstairs to see what Santa had delivered.
After opening a few gifts after that, the oh-so-familiar smell of our traditional Christmas dishes started wafting through the house. As soon as we could smell it, we knew it was time to take a break from presents and run to the table. Without exception, we have this Overnight Sausage and Egg Casserole. It’s usually accompanied by Almond Poppyseed Bread, fresh fruit, and the Overnight Sticky Buns from our first cook book. Another go-to breakfast dish is this overnight Baked French Toast. It has all of the sweet and savory flavors of traditional french toast, but in an easy-to-make and serve casserole form.
let’s make it!
Start by cracking a bunch of eggs in a large mixing bowl and whisking in some half and half and some milk. I use 2 parts half and half to one part milk (whatever I have on hand) but you could also use all whole milk if you’ve got that around. Or 1 part cream 2 parts milk…you’ve got options. Just don’t use all skim milk for the liquid, you need to have the fat in there to get a nice creamy custard.
Once that’s smooth, add in a little flavor. I keep it nice and simple so you can go crazy with the toppings. Flavor the egg mixture with a little brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt.
And also a generous spoonful of vanilla.
You can use a number of different breads in this. A loaf of french bread works great; that’s what I usually use, but feel free to use something like brioche, challah, or any other good french-toasty bread. You can buy it a day or two ahead of time because slightly dry bread absorbs the liquid really well. Don’t fret if you have fresh bread though, I often don’t dry out my bread and it works great; I actually like it extra soft like that. If you’d like to dry out your bread, you can pop it (already chopped) into a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes.
Instead of slicing the bread, I like to cut them into large chunks. Place them all in a buttered casserole dish and then pour the egg mixture evenly over the top. Use a spatula to very gently toss the bread a little bit, moving the bread from the bottom to the top, and making sure the pieces on top all get dunked. If your bread is fresh, it will quickly fall apart so be gentle.
I know what you’re thinking. This looks like bread pudding. When I was plating this batch to photograph, our friend stopped by. I served him up a plate and he said, “This looks like bread pudding, why are you calling it french toast?” My response: “Because if you put syrup on it and call it french toast, then it becomes a perfectly acceptable breakfast food.” I’m all about justification when it comes to eating dessert for breakfast.
Alright, cover the baking dish and pop it in the fridge overnight. We’re also going to mix up a little topping- I just put it in a dish and leave it in the fridge as well and sprinkle it over the dish right before baking in the morning. It’s brown and white sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a little butter. When it bakes, it creates a nice crunchy-sweet topping and kind of slips in between the cracks of bread.
You can serve this a million and one ways. It’s great with crumbled bacon and maple syrup, or fresh fruit and whipped cream, or really whatever you feel like dumping on top.
My favorite is a drizzle of melted butter, a drizzle of pure maple syrup, and fresh berries.
Since fresh berries are pricey this time of year, frozen work well too. Just thaw them (and drain if you want) and mix them with a little sugar before serving since frozen berries tend to be tart.
The sweet juicy berries combined with melted butter and syrup is perfect with the warm, soft bread.
Oh, and whipped cream. Yeah, put some of that on there too.
And you shall have a very merry Christmas indeed!
Overnight Baked French Toast
This overnight baked French Toast with crunchy brown sugar topping comes together in just a few minutes the night before, then bakes in the morning for an easy, festive breakfast treat!
2 (1 pint) cups half and half
1 cup milk (whatever kind you have on hand)
6 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (a little less if using table salt)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 lb. loaf of French bread
softened butter for greasing baking dish (2-3 tablespoons)
4 tablespoons packed brown sugar
4 tablespoons white sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons cold butter
Crack eggs into large mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Whisk in half and half and milk. Add brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and vanilla. Set aside.
Use softened butter to butter bottom and sides of a 9×13 baking dish. Cut bread into 1 inch chunks and place in dish. Whisk egg mixture one more time and then pour evenly over bread. Use a rubber spatula to very gently toss bread, moving bread on bottom to top, and making sure all of the piece on top get dipped in egg mixture. Spread out evenly, cover dish, and place in fridge overnight.
To make topping, place brown sugar, white sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl and stir to combine. Cut cold butter into very small pieces and add to bowl. Use clean hands to break up butter and combine mixture until crumbly. Cover and place in fridge until morning.
When ready to bake preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove plastic from dish and sprinkle topping evenly over top. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until top is golden brown. You can stick a knife or skewer in the casserole to make sure the egg mixture is set on the bottom. *Note I have left a generous baking time window because it varies on ovens and the size of your bread cubes. I used to cook this closer to 60 minutes at my old house, but in my new convection ovens it’s done closer to 45. Keep an eye on it and let me know how long yours takes to bake!
Let cool for 5-10 minutes before cutting into squares. Drizzle with melted butter and syrup, top with berries, whipped cream and a sprinkle of powdered sugar if desired.
Has anyone tried this type of dish with almond or coconut milk? I have one child that can have zero dairy and would love to make this…I have been using rice milk for french toast but the recipe you need the milk fats…any thoughts?
I havent but I have made many custards with rice milk, etc. I think some thick coconut milk from a can would be super yummy!
Coconut milk would be delish, I’d go with that one!
Thanks! I keep canned coconut milk around for coconut rice 🙂 I will use that with rice milk and let you know how it turns out!
Made it. Loved it. Filing it under “holiday and overnight guest go-to breakfast!” I baked it in my convection oven for 50 minutes and it was perfect. Thank you for yet another hit! I also made the pear pomegranate salad for Christmas dinner–was the perfect complement to a Prime Rib dinner.
Hi Sherrie, did you adjust the temp when baking in your convection oven or keep it as written? I’ve made this several times in a traditional oven but wanted to use the convection oven in our rv this time. Thanks!
I made this for Christmas brunch and it was delicious. I did add extra cinnamon to the liquid and I used fresh ground nutmeg. Also, I didn’t soak it overnight, just made it the morning of and let the bread soak up most of the liquid (about 15 mins) and then popped it in the oven. I baked it as instructed and it was delicious!
I made an unsweetened raspberry puree which I served as a condiment with it. We all ended up drizzling some of the puree on it before adding maple syrup and the contrast of the tart raspberries with the sweetness of the maple syrup was definitely perfect! Thanks, this is going to be a new Christmas tradition!
Update: I made it again but soaked it overnight and I actually liked the texture of the first batch, which I made after only soaking for 15 minutes, more than the batch I soaked overnight. Both were good but baked same day wins for me.
Oh my gosh – this French Toast was amazing! I followed the recipe exactly, even the choice of toppings. Everyone loved it! This will be a family Christmas Eve tradition, as well as your oven-baked Cranberry Sauce (not together of course…well, maybe!). Thank you for sharing your stories and recipes with all of us!
We made this as well, and it was A-MAZING! Thank you for the great recipe!
This is not a comment on the post, but just wanted to say my husband bought me your new cookbook for Christmas. I was so excited I just had to hug him! I’m excited to get cooking! I love your blog and am now the proud owner of my first Best Bites cookbook. I’m going to love it, I’m sure.
this was delicious! Baked French toast has become a Christmas morning tradition for us, and this was the best recipe ever. I added some crusty whole grain bread to the mix and gave it a nice hearty texture. Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe!
Thanks for sharing this recipe. I made it for Christmas morning. We all loved it, and I ate the leftovers for breakfast today! Thanks for your hard work on this blog and sharing the delicious recipes with everyone. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas!
SO yum! I took this to our Christmas brunch and my father in law ate half the pan! It took 45 mins,and I agree- this is bread pudding and not French toast. Still scrumptious, especially with berries and syrup. Hope you had a Merry Christmas!
Made this along with the Overnight Sausage & Egg Casserole (which the girls call “egg cake” and is always always a big hit) and cooked it for about 65 minutes (after I started checking around 50 minutes) and it was delightful. I ended up running out of time the night before making the topping, so in the morning I just sprinkled on some Cinnamon Sugar and nutmeg and dotted with cold butter and it turned out great, especially with fruit syrups (My husband loved that it wasn’t overtly sweet unlike cinnamon rolls). Anyway! We loved it and will add to our Christmas and special morning treats. Thanks for the great recipe.
We usually have some kind of breakfast casserole Christmas morning so decided to go crazy and try this one for the first time. Baked it nearly an hour, could have done 5 min less but it was fine. Loved the crunchy topping. All the fresh berries were sold out on Christmas eve so I bought a frozen triple berry blend, thawed overnight in the fridge and let them come to room temp in the morning. I drained the juice and thickened it slightly with cornstarch and stirred back into the fruit. Topped casserole with fruit and fresh whipped cream. Everyone enjoyed.
A homerun on Christmas morning! Thanks for a great recipe, and Merry Christmas!
Thanks for the wonderful recipe. It worked perfectly as written for us (baked for 45 minutes) and my family loved it, especially the wonderful cinnamon sugar crunch of the topping.
I baked mine for almost an hour and a half and it was still soggy on the bottom. 🙁 Going to try it again with less milk.
This was a hit! I used the Very Cherry Berry frozen mix from Trader Joe’s mixed with a little sugar and it was perfect! Took about an hour in the oven. Thanks!
So I really hope that you guys get this even though it is xmas eve – I was wanting to make this for breakfast tomorrow but I currently can’t have dairy. I have a good butter substitute so no problem there and I have lot of substitutes for the milk, my only thing is the half and half. Could I just use more milk in place of the half and half and call it good or would that not work?
Yumm-o! Looks fabulous! You and Kate have a very Merry Christmas! 🙂
Question!!! I have made overnight french toast only one other time. I was SOO excited at the possibility of throwing it together the night before. I was truly disappointed when the middle was GOOEY! As in, not done. Now. I have never had bread pudding. I am not sure if it’s supposed to be that gooey or if my pan was not large enough or if it wasn’t baked long enough? If I baked it any longer, the top would have been hard. The outside parts were delicious, but the majority of the inside was inedible. Any suggestions? I REALLY WANNA MAKE THIS FOR CHRISTMAS MORNING! 😉
Could have been your recipe, your pan, under-baking, I can’t tell ya. All I can tell you is properly cooked and with the right recipe, it shouldn’t and won’t be gooey, soggy or undercooked.
I was never a big fan of the traditional French toast but I have to say this type appeals to me and yours looks great. Can’t wait to make it for someone!!
This recipe looks so good! =)
Im a big French Toast fan!
Thank you! My family is gathering for brunch at my parents on Christmas day. I have not been able to decide what I wanted to take, until seeing your post. This looks amazing! Thanks, again and Merry Christmas!
Oh this looks amazing! I should make this for Christmas morning!
How far in advance can this be put together? Do you think it could be made on Sunday to be baked Tuesday morning??
I’ve made this in the crock pot and I”m wondering does this come out soft and gooey or more dry. The one in the crock pot comes out super soft – just like a bread pudding and no one in the family would eat it
It’s like French Toast 🙂 A crock pot would trap a ton of moisture in the pan, oven baking creates kind of a crisp top and tender center without being mushy.
Thanks for sharing! Overnight french toast is one of my favorites, I’m going to try your recipe this Christmas eve/morning.
Growing up, we always had an overnight egg casserole with ham, onions, green onions, and lots of cheese inside! I think I know the recipe by heart… it was given to my mom by her best girl friend’s mom 🙂 & then we had cinnamon rolls or fresh danishes from my dad’s bakery. So fun to see and hear what other people do… this looks yummy. May make it for Christmas Eve breakfast. Have a wonderful Christmas!
Love your new backsplash, Sara! Looks great! I’m partial to it because we have the same tile as our backsplash too (but ours is brown/cream). Love the blue-grey!
I have the brown/cream one in my bathroom- great minds think alike!
I’m not commenting on this dish; but I wanted to say that last night I made the Peppermint Chocolate Fudge Cupcake jars (from the Savoring hte Season’s cookbook)for Christmas gifts AND WOW! They are fantastic! I will definitely be making the chocoalte ganache again just for an ice cream topping too. I used the tip that was given in the book and actually filled the cupcakes with the homemade buttercream frosting and then spread the chocolate ganache on top. Then, I garnished with crushed candy canes and I finished off the gift with a ribbon around the jar. So cute! I’m so happy that I checked this cookbook out from my library and found this website! Thanks and have a Merry Christmas!
I’m so happy you loved those- one of my favorite recipes!
I love a good overnight French toast. This is fabulous!
Have a very merry Christmas!