For the first time in 13 years, my break the fast was at a different home this year. While I spend most Jewish holidays with Matt and Karina, I typically go to my NYC aunt and uncle’s place for this one. It’s tradition. But COVID doesn’t care about “typical” things so my aunt and uncle have decamped to the Hamptons and my plans changed. Of course I can’t show up empty handed so I decided to bring French toast casserole, which I remembered being a standard dish from Matt’s mom, my Aunt Sally, at our Savannah break the fast. A nice little taste of home.
Though I associate this dish with my Aunt Sal, the recipe comes from my sis in law (big shout out to Allison). I’m warning you now: It’s going to look like way too much liquid in the first step, but trust the recipe. I was very tempted to only use half when I started to see it slosh around in there, but Allison swore it would all get soaked up. She was right. (Note: one guest at our socially distanced backyard break the fast is allergic to nuts so I omitted the pecans.)
Slice a loaf of challah and cram the slices into a 9×12 baking dish in 2 layers (you may not end up using the entire loaf). Next, mix 6 eggs, 1 1/2 c. milk, 1 1/2 c. half and half, 2 tsp cinnamon, and 1 tsp cardamom. (Cardamom wasn’t part of the original recipe, but ever since Karina first made me French toast with cardamom one Christmas morning, I love including it. Pour over the bread and let it soak overnight. (This is where I was talking about it looking like too much.) Cut to the next day and it’s time to combine 1 c. light brown sugar, 1/2 c. melted butter, 1 tsp cinnamon, 2 tbsp dark Karo syrup, and 1 c. chopped pecans. (Again, I omitted the nuts to avoid sending someone to the hospital.) Pour this second mixture over the bread and bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Note: some of the mixture may bubble over and could start burning if it drips out, so a deeper baking dish is ideal.
The smell is incredible, fyi.
On the left: before refrigerating; on the right: just after baking.
The top and sides that get coated with that second mixture are particularly dreamy.
It reheats very well so it’s great to bring to potluck meals. And can’t you just imagine waking up to this on Christmas or Thanksgiving? Heaven. Feel free to top with a bit of syrup like you would for french toast to ensure that even the insides of this casserole get a jolt of sweetness. My beau ate with a scoop of ice cream, which is certainly another way to go with this. I didn’t top mine with anything so I can tell you it’s perfectly lovely as is. The texture is different, but the flavor is very similar to a traditional monkey bread. It may technically take longer (since it has to sit overnight) but has very little hands-on time and doesn’t require you to flip anything out of a bundt pan so it’s a good recipe to have on hand if you want that monkey bread flavor with very little effort.