Christmas morning in our house is filled with activity, sharing time with loved ones while opening presents. And with two grandchildren visiting from California, I am transported to the time when my children were little and all the wonderment and magic of Christmas morning. It is a happy time for me. Before our excitement is over, my son arrives with his family, and two more grandchildren join the merriment.
The last place I want to be is in the kitchen making breakfast. So each year, I make a head breakfast casserole that I put together the night before and pop in the oven on Christmas morning. Over the years, I’ve created an array of Breakfast Casserole recipes, and my family anxiously awakes my new creation.
I added a holiday touch to my Baked French Toast with fresh cranberries. At Christmas time, I am obsessed with these little fruit jewels. Cranberries are tart, and adding them to a sweet breakfast casserole balances the taste. And the sweetened cream cheese rounds out the flavor.
Baked French Toast with Cream Cheese and Fresh Cranberries
1 loaf of Italian bread
1 cup fresh cranberries
1 8 ounces package of cream cheese, softened to room temperature
2 Tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
3 teaspoons (pure vanilla extract, divided
8 large eggs
2 and 1/4 cups whole milk
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 Tablespoons (unsalted butter, cold, and cube
Grease a 9×13 inch or any 3-4 quart oven-safe dish with nonstick spray. Slice, then cut the bread into cubes about 1 inch in size. Toss with fresh cranberries. Spread half of the cubes into the prepared baking pan.
Use an electric mixer, and beat the cream cheese on medium-high speed until completely smooth. Add in the confectioners’ sugar and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract until combined. Drop random spoonfuls of cream cheese mixture on top of the bread. Layer the remaining bread cubes on top of the cream cheese. Set aside.
Mix together the eggs, milk, cinnamon, brown sugar, and remaining vanilla. Pour evenly over the bread. Cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours and up to 24 hours. Overnight is best.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Remove the pan from the refrigerator.
Prepare the crumb topping: Whisk the brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon together in a medium bowl. Cut in the cold cubed butter with a pastry blender or two forks. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the soaked bread.
Bake uncovered for 45-55 minutes or until golden brown on top. Drizzle with optional maple syrup or dust with confectioners’ sugar. Serve warm.