This Overnight French Toast Casserole is a quick and easy recipe you can make ahead and bake in the morning!
This easy Baked French Toast Casserole is infused with wonderfully sweet caramel-like dulce de leche, is decadently delicious and all prepared in advance! It is ideal for busy mornings, special occasions breakfast (hello Mother’s Day!) and crowds. This Overnight French Toast Casserole recipe is delicious plain or top with syrup, ice cream and/or berries for a make ahead dessert. Whatever you do, don’t skip the Brown Sugar Pecan Topping – its out of this world!
French Toast Casserole
With Mother’s Day just around the corner, I thought it would be fun to celebrate with an easy, simple breakfast that anyone can make – hello easy French Toast Casserole recipe! Seriously, just hand this French Toast Casserole recipe over to your husband, son, daughter etc. to treat you right or you can assemble it the night before – then all you have to do the next morning is pop it in the oven for a stress free, hands off breakfast dessert that everyone goes crazy for!
I got the idea for this dulce de leche infused custard-like Overnight French Toast Casserole after making my Million Dollar Cookie Pie (from Oh Sweet Basil). I hadn’t baked much with silky, wonderfully sweet dulce de leche before but after spooning it straight from the can into my mouth, I knew it had to be used again. soon. now. for breakfast! And because I’m slightly obsessed with French Toast (you can see my many variations HERE), I knew what had to be done.
Where Does French Toast Casserole Come From?
The earliest version of French toast can be dated back to the Roman Empire and not France – who knew?!
French Toast in France most closely resembles our Americanized French Toast. It is called “pain perdu,” meaning lost bread, or bread that has lost its freshness, and is stale. The name “French Toast” actually came from England in the 17th century and the early settlers brought it when they immigrated.
It is difficult to pinpoint an exact starting point of French Toast in France, but the 4th or 5th century writings describe Aliter Dulcia (another sweet dish) as a slice of thin white bread with removed crust, broken into large pieces then soaked in milk and a beaten egg, then fried in oil and covered with honey to serve – the delicious making of our current French toast which in turn has turned into French Toast Casserole. It is crazy to think how old of a recipe French toast really is!
Arme Ritter (poor knights) is a 14th century German dish of the same making as is Tostees Dorees which is the 15th century Italian version by chef Martino da Como.
In Hong Kong, they combine multiple slices of bread with fruit jams and peanut butter, then dip them in beaten egg and deep-fry them and serve with butter and honey. So, rest easy that whatever corner of the world you find yourself in you can find “French Toast.”
What Bread is Best for French Toast Casserole Recipe?
I chose French Bread for this French Bread Casserole because every grocery store carries French bread and it’s the most economical. The general consensus, however, is there are three winners for the BEST bread to use for French Toast Casserole: French Baguette, Brioche, and Challah. If you want an instant upgrade to your dish, I suggest you try Brioche or Challah, – you will thank me.
To make this Overnight French Toast Casserole, you are going to want 2 day old bread – which ever you choose- so that your casserole is the delectable consistency of toasted on the outside and tender on the inside – and not mushy.
If you want to make this French Toast Casserole ASAP or don’t plan ahead for 2 days, no fear, just simply spread your bread cubes on a baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes to get them nice and dried out.
Ingredients For French Toast Casserole
This easy overnight French Toast Casserole recipe uses pantry friendly ingredients so it’s easy to throw together. The only ingredient you will probably have to purchase is bread. You will need:
- dulce de leche
- half and half
- brown sugar
- vanilla extract
- round cinnamon
The only ingredient you might not be familiar with is dule de leche so let me acquaint you with this incredibly rich and decadent sauce that tastes somewhere between caramel & butterscotch with a strong milky flavor behind its sweetness.
Dulce de leche is traditionally made with milk and sugar that are slowly simmered together for hours, creating the Maillard reaction in which the sugar caramelizes, changing the color and flavor of the milk into the thick, caramelized creamy sauce known as dulce de leche or quite literally, “candy [made] of milk” or “sweet [made] of milk.” Or quite literally, yum.
How to Make French Toast Casserole
Baked French Toast Casserole is SO EASY, it is going to blow your mind. To make:
- Prepare pan. Lightly spray a 9×13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
- Add bread. Add French bread cubes to our casserole dish in an even layer and its time for our easy, intensely delicious dulce de leche concoction!
- Make custard. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, dulce de leche, half and half, brown sugar, vanilla extract, ground cinnamon and salt.
- Pour custard over bread. Pour egg custard over French bread cubes. Gently stir bread to evenly coat.
- Refrigerate French Toast. Cover the French Toast Casserole and refrigerate overnight for the bread to drink up all the caramel-like complex sweetness. Hello delicious on the inside and out.
- Make Topping. Meanwhile, we make our Brown Sugar Pecan Topping that is the second half of this tastes-like-heaven equation. Seriously, don’t skip this! The Brown Sugar Pecan Topping is a simple mixing of pecans, brown sugar, butter, vanilla, flour and cinnamon in your food processor. You can make the Topping the night before when you make your French Toast Casserole and refrigerate separately.
- Bake. The next relaxed, stress free morning, top your Dulce de Leche French Toast Casserole and sit back as the the brown sugar melts, coats and crystallizes the toasting pecans to golden perfection and seeps into the dulce de leche infused French toast casserole for perfectly tender, sweet inside, toasted outside and crunchy all over topping.
RECIPE TIPS FOR EASY FRENCH TOAST CASSEROLE
- I cut my bread into cubes when I first buy it, then let the bread dry out on my counter that day then make my French Toast Casserole the following night. If you don’t have time for day old bread, you can buy fresh bread, cube it, spread it out on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F for about 20 minutes.
- The Brown Sugar Pecan Crumble can be made the same time as the French Toast then refrigerated or prepared the morning of baking the casserole.
- If you don’t have a food processor, add ingredients to a mixing bowl and cut butter into brown sugar with pastry cutter, 2 forks, etc.
- Use half and half or for extra decadence, use heavy cream. I don’t recommend any milk less than whole milk or the mixture will be too runny and result in soggy French Toast Casserole.
- Use a high quality vanilla extract, not a baking extract. Vanilla makes all the flavors shine.
What should I serve with Baked French Toast Casserole?
You can either drizzle your Overnight Baked French Toast Casserole with more dulce de leche, maple syrup or powdered sugar, or even top it with ice cream and caramel for a full fledged, guilty pleasure for breakfast- or dessert – but I always recommend berries. Berries add a depth of tangy sweet freshness that enlivens the rich sweet caramel-y deliciousness.
But any way you serve it, this Overnight Dulce De Leche French Toast Casserole is a taste of heaven on earth. And you mothers and mother-hearts out there deserve a slice.
HOW DO I MAKE GLUTEN-FREE FRENCH TOAST CASSEROLE?
You can make Gluten-Free French Toast Casserole by swapping out the bread for your favorite thick gluten-free bread. Its as easy as that!
CAN YOU MAKE FRENCH TOAST CASSEROLE WITHOUT SITTING OVERNIGHT?
There is a reason most French Toast Casseroles call to be refrigerated overnight – it gives the custard time to permeate and really soak into the bread crevices. This, in turn, results in sublime flavor and texture through and through. So, for best results, plan on OVERNIGHT French Toast preparation.
If you want to make this French Toast Casserole ASAP or don’t plan for 2 days of bread drying out, you can still make this breakfast casserole -just adjust your expectations as the casserole won’t be as fluffy and may be runnier as the custard won’t have as much time to soak in.
To skip overnight chilling, start with bread that isn’t quite as stale. If toasting your bread, spread the bread cubes on a baking sheet then, bake for about 10-15 minutes to dry out the bread, but not as dry as you normally would because the bread won’t have as much time to soak up the egg mixture.
Prepare recipe the same, adding egg mixture to dried out bread and let it soak for as long as you have time for – the longer the bread soaks, the more flavor and less crunchy it will be. Make sure you press the bread down so it is fully submerged in the custard mixture.
You can let the casserole sit at room temperature for up to 60 minutes to expedite the soaking process, but it will need to be refrigerated if longer than that.
How long Is Overnight French Toast Casserole Good For?
French Toast Casserole should be tightly covered or stored in an aright container. When properly stored, French Toast Casserole is good for up to 5 days.
HOW TO REHEAT FRENCH TOAST CASSEROLE?
You can reheat leftover baked French Toast Casserole two ways:
- Microwave: The microwave is good for instant pleasure and individual pieces but you will loose some of the structural integrity of the French Toast. To microwave, add individual slices to a microwave safe plate and microwave for one minute. Continue to microwave at 30 second intervals if needed to heat through.
- Oven. Reheating leftover French Toast Casserole in the oven will will yield the best results. Cover casserole with foil and bake at 325 degrees F for 20 minutes or until warmed through.
WHAT WENT WRONG IF MY CASSEROLE IS SOGGY?
If your French Toast Casserole is soggy, there could be a few culprits:
- you did not use enough bread
- the bread was too soft to absorb the egg custard
- you used milk so the custard was runny
- the casserole sat too long
To prevent unappetizing soggy casserole:
- make sure your bread is STALE like croutons by either waiting until it is stale or toasting the cubes in the oven.
- only use half and half or heavy cream along with the dulce de leche
- before you bake your French Toast Casserole, inspect to see if most of the custard is absorbed, if not, pour off all but about half a cup or so.
HOW TO FREEZE FRENCH BREAD CASSEROLE
You can freeze your French Toast Casserole before or after baking. Both options work great, and adds to the easiness and flexibility of this tasty recipe.
To Freeze BEFORE baking:
- Assemble your French Toast Casserole in a freezer safe dish but do not add topping.
- Tightly wrap casserole in plastic wrap a couple times followed by foil.
- Make the topping and transfer it to a freezer bag to freeze.
- Freeze French Toast Casserole and topping separably for up to 2 months.
- When ready to cook, thaw casserole and topping completely in the refrigerator, this may take up to 48 hours.
- Bake per recipe instructions.
To Freeze AFTER baking:
- Allow casserole to cool completely.
- Tightly wrap casserole in plastic wrap a couple times followed by foil.
- Freeze French Toast Casserole for up to 3 months
- When ready to cook, thaw overnight casserole completely in the refrigerator, this may take up to 48 hours.
- Bake per recipe instructions.
And because I had a pink French beret:
Happy Mother’s Day!
Looking for more Breakfast Recipes?
- Blueberry Muffin Cake
- Egg Nog French Toast Casserole
- Peaches and Cream French Toast Muffins
- Eggs Benedict Casserole
- Banana Cream Cheese Stuffed Coffee Cake
- Creme Brulee French Toast
- California Breakfast Burritos
- Pecan Praline French Toast
- Cream Cheese Stuffed Strawberry Coffee Cake
- Strawberries and Cream Coffee Cake
- Maple Bacon Monkey Bread
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