This strawberry French toast bake could hardly be easier to prepare and is deliciously comforting. It’s easy to adapt and perfect for when you want an easy morning (when do you not?!) This recipe was created in partnership with the dairy farm families of New England.
Despite how early I am woken up on a daily basis by my little people, I have to say I am still not a morning person. True, I know many other people get up a lot earlier than me, but I have always been, and I imagine always will be, more of a night owl.
So for me, breakfast needs to be a little bit on auto-pilot or involve next to no work. As a child, I often just ate a banana, but these days I am much better at setting us up for the day. During the week, we typically have banana oatmeal and at the weekend it might be waffles or pancakes, like my individual Dutch baby pancakes.
Sometimes, though, I change things up at least for us. That does sometimes mean having breakfast later so I have time for the coffee to kick in, or other times I prepare ahead. If we’re thinking savory, it might be my overnight breakfast bake or breakfast strata, or if a bit sweeter then an overnight French toast bake is perfect.
A French toast bake or casserole, as they are often called in the US, are perfect for when you are entertaining for breakfast/brunch as they are wonderfully hands off. You just need a few minutes to prepare them the night before then simply take it out and put it in the oven in the morning.
What if I forget the night before?
Don’t worry! You can still easily make this in the morning, it just won’t have as long to soak but even just the time it takes for the oven to heat is fine. You will need to toss the pieces of bread a little more, so just take care you don’t break them too much as you do so.
Whether overnight or as you prepare, you want the bread to soak up all the deliciousness of the kind of custard base. I make it with eggs, milk, cream, and a touch of vanilla and cinnamon for flavor. The result is rich, creamy and comforting.
As you may have seen me mention before (like in my Persian-style marinated fish), I love the flavor and texture dairy can give dishes and that’s certainly true here. Plus, as I mentioned in my obatzda (German beer cheese dip) recipe, dairy is something that is always in season and is a consistently local product.
And what better way to be thankful to the hardworking dairy farmers, who don’t get a break for Holidays, than by using their products in dishes like this with our own families.
What bread is best for French toast?
There are lots of different opinions on this and some of it is down to taste. In general, a white bread that has a medium-tight crumb is best. Personally I really like a challah or brioche as I love the flavor and texture.
Many people use a French loaf, although I would say this is best if you are making it the night before rather than in the morning as the crust is better with more soaking time.
You can also add a bit of a twist with a cinnamon bread, cinnamon raisin bread or leftover croissants.
Ways to change up this strawberry French toast bake
I used strawberries here for a pretty burst of color and tasty flavor, but you can easily adapt it and add your own twist. Some ideas include:
- Add other berries or some stone fruit such as peaches.
- Mix in some spoonfuls of cream cheese for extra creaminess.
- Add dried fruit (as I did in my cranberry French toast muffins).
- Top it with frosting, maple syrup or jam after baking.
- Give it a crunchier topping with chopped nuts such as pecans.
This strawberry French toast bake is easy to make, easy to adapt and definitely easy to enjoy. Soft inside with a gently crisped top, it’s perfect brunch comfort food.
Strawberry French toast bake
- 1 tsp butter (a small knob)
- 4 oz challah 115g, or other similar bread eg brioche
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup milk 120ml
- 1/4 cup heavy cream 60ml double cream
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 2 oz strawberries 55g, or more to taste
- 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
- Rub a baking dish approx 8in x 4in (20cm x 10cm) with butter to lightly grease it.
- Chop bread into small chunks and put them in the dish. (You can also use bigger chunks, if you prefer.)
- Mix together the eggs, milk, cream, vanilla and cinnamon and pour over the bread. Toss any pieces that aren't covered in the custard so all can absorb some. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Alternatively, make it up shortly before baking - you may need to toss a little more to ensure all are covered, just take care not to break the bread up too much.
- When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400F/200C.
- Remove the top from the strawberries and cut into quarters. Tuck the slices in between the bread. Sprinkle the sugar over the top.
- Bake for around 25 minutes until it's lightly brown and crisp on the top and soft but cooked underneath.
Remember to pin for later!