I absolutely love French toast, but it’s not practical when cooking for one or for a crowd. Here’s the tasty solution you’ve been looking for!
The “technical” term for this dish is a strata, so if you decide to surf for more recipes that’s the term you want to look for. There are as many variations as your imagination can come up with.
There are a few things I really love about this dish. One is that it’s easy to put together. The other is that it can be made ahead. Perfect for gatherings with sleep over guests or holiday breakfasts because you can make it the day before and stick it in the fridge, then just put it in the oven when you wake up.
This is also great for “breakfast for dinner” item since you can just make it ahead and pop it in the oven when you get home from work. By the time you’re settled in and caught up, dinner is ready!
The other bonus is cooking for one. Remember that you don’t have to live alone to want to cook in single portions. This makes for a great traveling breakfast to eat at the office, for the kids to fix themselves when you want to sleep in, etc.
For the strata that you’re seeing here, I used:
- 1 lb breakfast sausage, cooked & crumbled (mild, spicy, maple – your choice)
- 1 medium apple, diced
- 1 handful of dried cranberries
- 6 seedless, crusty rolls, cubed (these were the size of kaiser rolls)
- 1 dozen eggs
- 1-1/2 c milk
- 1-1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
- 1/2 c brown sugar
- 1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
- Cinnamon sugar to sprinkle on top
What you’re seeing is a one pound roll of breakfast sausage that I cooked up, then tossed in diced apples and craisins. Blueberries are a wonderful addition as well. Again, the sky’s the limit!
I got a beautiful bag of crusty rolls that were marked down (frugal!) French toast is always better with sturdier breads or stale bread. When I made this for Thanksgiving breakfast I found a couple of beautiful sourdough loaves that were just wonderful.
I love this dish for holidays. You do so much cooking on the holiday that it’s not a good day to skip breakfast but you don’t want to cook anymore than you have to. I made this the night before, covered it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge. When we got up that morning, I put it in the oven and started my prep. By the time breakfast was ready, it was time for a break anyway!
If you’ve never had fresh ground nutmeg, you’re truly missing a treat. What you’re seeing is a whole nutmeg. They last pretty much forever and only don’t lose potency when they’re kept whole. What you buy pre-ground at the store, isn’t nearly as flavorful or aromatic as fresh. If you’re interested in getting one, Amazon has got a great selection to choose from.
After I cubed the bread, I tossed it in with the sausage/fruit mixture. In the blender I put the eggs, milk and everything else. You’ll want to have soapy water in the sink to wash your hands when you’re done, truly the best way to mix this is with two hands so you can toss it well without mashing the bread.
You’ll want to mix/toss this a couple of times while letting it rest a few minutes in between so that the egg mixture can be completely absorbed by the bread.
I used a 13×9″ glass baking pan and sprayed it with non-stick cooking spray before putting the mixture into the pan. Then I gave it a quick spritz over the top and gave it a light sprinkle of cinnamon sugar before baking it at 350°F for an hour.
Once it was completely cooled, I cut it into 12 pieces and put them in the freezer on a cookie sheet so that they weren’t touching. Once they were firm and I knew they wouldn’t stick together, I put them all in a Ziploc bag and back in the freezer. When I want a piece for breakfast, I take one out and put it in the microwave for a few minutes.
Everyone’s microwave is different, so play around with the times to see what works best in yours. When you figure it out, write it on the bag. If you find you’re getting hard spots when you reheat it, you can prevent that by putting a cup of water in the microwave along with the slice of casserole that you’re reheating.
As I said, your only limit is your imagination. The only “rule” for a strata is the egg/milk mixture, the bread and how it’s baked. You can make it sweet or savory. Consider things like ham, swiss and spinach or bacon, turkey, broccoli and cheddar cheese.
Remember that you can make this as frugal as you want also! This is a great use for leftover veggies or fruits, leftover meats, etc. along with bread store and mark down rack finds!
And don’t forget, it takes virtually the same time to make two as it does one. So make two and have one for dinner and portion the other one for easy meals on the go!
I’d love to hear what you think of this recipe when you try it and let me know what variations you come up with so please post a comment!