I know some of you have been done with shopping, decorating and menu planning for weeks…But on the off chance you still need an idea for a festive Christmas breakfast…how about Overnight Eggnog French Toast?
So, really…are you ready? I must confess that I am less ready than I have ever been for the holidays. And, we like to be ahead of the game on everything. (Commence deep breathing exercises :)
Years ago, we found that we were always racing to get the decorations up before Christmas. Then, we decided to put them all up Thanksgiving weekend so that we could enjoy them for the full month of December.
Between hosting Thanksgiving and a birthday party that weekend, let’s just say we didn’t get the decorating done.
The only thing that usually challenges us is getting the wrapping done. But, we conquered that last year, when my husband and I marveled how nice it was not to be up until the wee hours on Christmas Eve still wrapping gifts. Of course, this year, we don’t even have our shopping done. Eek!
Everyone finds their own short cuts to relieving stress during the holidays. In the past few years, I’ve simplified Christmas morning.
With breakfast being one of my favorite meals to prepare, you can only imagine some of the meals I’ve planned in years past.
I used to get up early and make recipes that required yeast and rising time…but after all of the hustle and bustle of the weeks before, why make that morning a huge challenge as well?
These days, I’ve moved to make ahead and simple prep items. I’ll generally bake something festive the day before. Something like a scone or muffin or some type of pastry or quick bread. That will be the “fun and festive” part of the meal.
Then, the whole family chips in and makes eggs, bacon/sausage, hash browns. So, we get a little sweet with some baked good and we get savory with everything else.
We can do that now that the kids are older. Making breakfast together as a family has become part of the morning festivities.
But, that can’t happen if I’m making something complicated and time consuming. Then, it’s just me in the kitchen, alone, while everyone else is hanging out near the tree.
This Overnight Eggnog French Toast fits nicely into a simplified plan. And really, it’s easier to make than pancakes or muffins or coffee cake.
There’s a reason I love an overnight French toast. It’s basically bread pudding for breakfast!
Now there’s lots of different opinions on how people like these types of casseroles. Unlike bread pudding, I don’t like to make my French toast custard overly sweet.
Whenever I can give the option to increase sweetness at serving time, I try to offer it. Some like really sweet, some don’t. I like to start with lightly sweetened and then let everyone else take it from there.
For me, the bread needs to be moist and custardy. I hate bread puddings that are too dry, but I don’t like them mushy and wet either. The bread is a critical part of getting the right texture.
The bread needs to be able to stand up to the custard. Choose a nice sturdy bread. I used a loaf of Italian bread. It was 2 day old bread by the time I cut into it. This is good. Older, drier bread soaks up more custard.
Slice the bread thick. I like 1″ slices. Again, this gives the bread some sturdiness for an overnight soak.
For the custard, I used 2 cups of eggnog and 1 cup of whole milk. You can use all eggnog, but I wanted to reduce the fat some. Don’t get me wrong, this is no diet dish, but I thought I’d add a dose of moderation.
As far as other flavors, I added nutmeg, cinnamon, and cardamom. Then, just to give it a hint of citrus, I added just a few scrapes of orange zest. If you go overboard, it will drown out the delicate eggnog flavor.
The thickly sliced bread gets layered into a buttered baking dish. Then, pour the custard sloooowly over the bread.
I try to cover and soak every surface of exposed bread. The bottom of the bread will be sitting in the custard, but the top needs time to absorb the custard.
Once I’ve finished pouring, I’ll give the soaking process a hand. After covering the bread with plastic wrap, I’ll take a smaller baking dish and press down on the whole top surface to force the custard up and over the top of the bread.
I’ll do this a few times until I’m satisfied that all of the bread has had a chance to drink up as much liquid as it can.
Then, just pop it into the fridge overnight.
The next morning, I’ll take it out of the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature just while I preheat the oven. I’ll press it again with the smaller pan to “baste” the top. Then, take the plastic wrap off.
Before baking, I like to sprinkle it generously with raw sugar. This will help give it a crunchy topping. That additional texture is a nice counterpoint to the creamy custard.
It will take about 30 minutes or so to bake. For me, that’s plenty of time to get the rest of breakfast whipped up and on the table.
Right before I take it out of the oven, I broil the top just for a couple of minutes to brown it. (I’ve said it before…never walk away from the oven while you’re broiling. You’ll go from nicely browned to burnt in a heartbeat.)
What comes out is a gorgeous golden brown pan of Overnight Eggnog French Toast!
The sugar will be sparkly and crunchy on top. The bread itself creamy and custardy.
Depending on your level of sweetness, you can serve it as is, or add a dusting of powdered sugar or a nice drizzle of maple syrup. Or, top with a dollop of whipped cream, if moderation isn’t your thing ;)
I LOVE freshly grated nutmeg, so I finish mine off with a few gratings of that before I add anything else.
So basically, all you have to do is slice up some bread and whisk up the custard. Pour it over and bake it the next day.
It’s as simple as can be, but still a special, fun and festive breakfast. That works for me! Now, if you’ll excuse me…
I’ve got some presents that need to be wrapped!
Overnight Eggnog French Toast
For the french toast:
- 3 Tablespoons melted salted butter
- 1 loaf sturdy bread I used a crusty Italian loaf
- 1/4 cup sugar see notes
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg I use freshly grated
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest
- 6 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 cups egg nog I used full fat
- 1 cup milk I used whole
For the topping:
- raw turbinado sugar
Pour the melted butter into a 13 X 9 baking dish and use a pastry brush to coat the sides and bottom of the dish. Set aside. (If you don't have a pastry brush, you can use a piece of waxed paper or your hands to spread the butter around.)
Cut the very ends of the loaf off and set them aside for another use. Then, slice the loaf into 1" thick slices. Layer them in buttered baking dish. Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk the sugar, spices, salt and orange zest together until well combined.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla until yolks are broken and well combined with the whites. Whisk in the sugar/spice mixture until combined. Then, whisk in the eggnog and milk.
Pour the custard mixture very slowly over the bread slices layered in the pan making sure you cover all exposed surfaces. You don't want any unsoaked areas.
Place a piece of plastic wrap loosely over the soaking bread slices. Take a smaller baking dish (or your hands) and push down firmly on the slices, making the custard squeeze up and over the bread. This will help insure all areas are well soaked. Repeat this step a few times, making sure your custard doesn't rise up over the edges of your baking dish.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
The next morning, remove the dish from the refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Give the bread one more press so that the top of the bread gets a final bathing in the custard.
Remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the top generously with raw turbinado sugar or other coarse sugar. I used about 3 Tablespoons.
Bake for 30-35 minutes on the middle rack or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Move the dish to an upper rack and broil for a minute or two, just until the top gets golden brown.
Serve plain, or with syrup, powdered sugar, whipped cream, fresh fruit or other desired toppings.
*Insure that you use a baking pan that can go from the refrigerator to the oven without breaking. I used a glass pyrex dish.
*For the bread, I used a crusty loaf of Italian bread and sliced it myself. I got about 13 good 1" slices out of mine. A sturdy bread is important, one that can soak up liquid and keep its shape. If you use a softer bread, expect a different texture. Also, a softer bread might not hold up to being compressed in the dish, so you might want to skip that step. The bread I used bounced back after being compressed.
*Adjust sweetness to your preference. You can omit the 1/4 cup sugar used in the custard or increase it to 1/2 cup. I wouldn't omit the raw sugar topping because it adds a great texture.
*You can adjust the eggnog/milk ratio, using more eggnog or less eggnog as long as you use three cups total. This means you can also use a non-dairy egg nog or your favorite milk. Just remember, more fat gives this a creamier, richer taste. Less fat will be less creamy, less rich. For this special occasion, I went with a full fat egg nog and whole milk.
*Leftovers can be stored covered in the refrigerator. You can reheat in the microwave, though the top will no longer be crisp. You can briefly broil the top to bring back some crispness. Just be careful not to over cook.
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