In theory, I knew that a casserole version of French toast was possible, but I’d never tried it. With a can of pumpkin puree hanging about my cabinet, I stumbled upon a recipe that claimed to be both easy and pumpkin pie-flavored. I decided to give it a go.
Because I’m lactose-intolerant, I never order French toast when I’m eating out. Between any real milk and the butter used, it’s just too much for my little Lactaid pills to handle, and when it comes to breakfast foods, I tend to want scrambled eggs and hashbrowns more often. And when it comes to making it at home, I’m usually too lazy to stand there dipping and cooking and flipping each slice of bread. At least pancakes cook in just a couple minutes, you know? The idea of a “throw it together, then forget about it” casserole version appealed to me.
The original recipe at Minimalist Baker called for letting the casserole refrigerate overnight, or at least 8-10 hours ahead of when one planned to bake it. It also recommended a crusty bread over spongier sandwich bread. I thought I might assemble it in the morning, let it sit, and we’d have breakfast for dinner.
So of course, I didn’t get up early enough and only had sandwich bread, and it sat in the fridge for a mere four hours. I thought, Oh, what difference does it make?
Turns out, quite a lot of difference. The egg-pumpkin mixture did not have a lot of time to really soak into the bread, and the spongy texture of the bread I used (though it was whole wheat) ended up making the end product look okay, but taste … well, half-baked. Edible, but not great.
Still, my family and I ate some anyway, and I put the leftovers in the fridge for the next day. That additional time ended up significantly improving the texture of the casserole, but I still believe that drier, crustier bread would have been a better ingredient. Here is how I would make it next time:
Pumpkin French Toast Bake
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- Enough bread cubes to fill a 9×13 inch baking pan (Either cut the bread into 1-inch cubes, or tear each piece to approx. the same size)
- 7 large eggs
- 2 cups milk (I used lactose-free skim, but I think vanilla almond milk would be really good too.)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (I bought this in my local bulk bin, but it’s basically a mixture of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.)
- ½ cup pumpkin puree
- ½ cup+ chopped nuts (I used pecans, which were fantastic, but walnuts would work too.)
- 3-4 tablespoons brown sugar for topping
- Lightly grease or spray a 9×13 baking pan and fill with the bread cubes.
- In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla, nuts*, pumpkin puree, and pie spice until well-combined. Pour over the bread cubes and stir to make sure all bread cubes are soaked. After stirring, make sure all the ingredients are on the same level – you want a reasonably flat surface so everything cooks evenly.
- Cover the dish and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.
- When you’re ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Uncover dish and top with brown sugar and a sprinkle of additional pumpkin pie spice. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until golden brown and no longer wet.
- Serve with maple syrup or whatever similar topping you’d like. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for a couple days and can be reheated at the same temperature and time.
*The original recipe calls for using the nuts as a topping, but I preferred them mixed in. Either way works.
Though I ended up with mixed results, the faults were entirely on my end and not the recipe’s. As long as you do not skimp on the soaking time and use good bread, the results should be tasty. Give it a whirl, and let me know how you like it.