French Toast Casserole
Breakfast and Brunch
1 large loaf good-quality French loaf, sourdough, ciabatta, or challah
1/2 cup chopped pecans
5 large eggs
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Zest from one medium orange
1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 375F . Place an oven rack in the center position. Slice the bread into 1-inch slices and then cut them into 1-inch cubes. You can also tear the bread apart with your hands. Leave the crusts on.
Lightly grease a 2-quart or 3-quart baking dish with cooking spray or butter. Add enough bread cubes to cover the bottom. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of pecans on top. Continue layering the bread chunks and pecans.
In a small bowl, whisk the eggs together. Add the milk, sugar, orange zest, and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and mix well. Pour the egg and milk mixture evenly over all the bread chunks. At this point, the casserole can be baked right away, or covered and refrigerated overnight.
In another bowl, mix the melted butter with the brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Using a spoon, drizzle the mixture evenly over all the bread chunks. Bake the casserole for 35 to 45 minutes. I baked mine for about 38 minutes. Leave the casserole in the oven longer if you want the chunks of bread on the top to be more brown and crunchier. Remove the casserole from the oven and let it cool for about 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle dried cranberries and dust powdered sugar on top, if you like. Serve with maple syrup at the table.