Baked French Toast Casserole

I made this delicious and decadent breakfast/brunch dish back on Christmas morning for not only The Husband and me, but also for my whole family. This easy and mostly make-ahead Paula Deen recipe (ALERT: NOT HEALTHY) is perfect for a large group of people or to make for your sweetie on Valentine's Day - with lots of leftovers!

I put this casserole together fairly quickly on Christmas Eve and prepped the topping, leaving me only to complete the topping in the morning and pop the dish in the oven. This dish is a crowd pleaser, making it a great choice when hosting a breakfast or brunch. 

No doubt about it, this dish is sweet. Hello morning sugar high!  The recipe calls for serving the casserole with Maple Syrup, but none of us felt it was really necessary.

I followed this recipe pretty much to a T, except for the fact that I used 2 long skinny loaves of French Bread instead of a thick French Bread Loaf.  Therefore, I used more than 20 slices the recipes calls for.  But, I actually think the smaller loaf is a better way to go. The bread chunks are more bite size and I think it allows for it to cook a little faster and crunch up a little more, protecting it from getting too soggy. I also substituted Light Half & Half for the full fat kind.

We really enjoyed this breakfast casserole. It was a nice change of pace, a special treat if you will. Perfect for a special occasion like Christmas, Thanksgiving or Valentine's Day!

Baked French Toast Casserole

1 loaf French bread (13 to 16 ounces) (I used 2 thin French Bread loaves)
8 large eggs
2 cups half-and-half  (I used light)
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Dash salt
Praline Topping, recipe follows
Maple syrup
Slice French bread into 20 slices, 1-inch each. (Use any extra bread for garlic toast or bread crumbs). Arrange slices in a generously buttered 9 by 13-inch flat baking dish in 2 rows, overlapping the slices. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, half-and-half, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and beat with a rotary beater or whisk until blended but not too bubbly. Pour mixture over the bread slices, making sure all are covered evenly with the milk-egg mixture. Spoon some of the mixture in between the slices. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread Praline Topping evenly over the bread and bake for 40 minutes, until puffed and lightly golden. Serve with maple syrup.

Praline Topping:

1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and blend well.