Mark and I have been going to one of our favorite breakfasts spots for about 3 years now, The Cup Cafe. It’s attached to The Historic Hotel Congress, where the famous John Dillinger was arrested. We don’t go out to breakfast too often, but when we do, it always seems so perfect that they seat us at the same table every time. It also happens to be the very same table we were seated at the day after our wedding, when Mark and I decided to get a light breakfast as Mr. and Mrs. before we flew off into the horizon for our honeymoon. Now every time we go to the Cup Cafe, it makes it extra special when we get seated at “our” table. Brings us back to the morning after our special day, it’s a pretty serendipitous feeling.
The inspiration for this French toast came from The Cup Cafe. They have this dish that I get every time, called “Every Day is a Challah Day.” It’s thick slices of challah bread french toast, and it’s so darn good. And typical me, I wanted, needed, to emulate this in my kitchen. At first I was going to do a traditional style French toast using challah, then remembered my Mother-in-Law’s tried and true overnight French toast. It’s usually made with French bread, but switching it to challah bread brought out some extra sweetness. Challah is slightly sweet and airy, which worked perfectly in soaking up all the liquid in this recipe. I thought for my next batch I might sprinkle raisins over the casserole before baking. Or maybe even adding a dash of cinnamon or orange zest. One thing is for sure, if you’re on a time crunch, this is something you can prep overnight in less than five minutes, then bake it in the morning.
Ingredients – UPDATE: If you tend to like a more dry french toast, I would slice your bread a bit thicker, maybe 2 inches. If you like it custard-like, then stick to the original recipe. Also, any bread can be used in this recipe (cinnamon raisin, multi-grain, French bread, whatever tickles your fancy). And, if you find yourself with extra bread, do what I did and make two pans worth. They make great leftovers.
1 loaf of challah bread, cut into 1 inch slices (depending on size of loaf, you might only need half a loaf)
3 cups of milk (I used 1%)
4 tablespoons sugar (I ran out of my regular sugar, so I replaced it with turbinado sugar – came out great)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Butter a large glass baking pan. Fill in with slices of bread (you might want to cut smaller pieces to fit all the nooks and crannies).
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla. Pour in milk and mix well.
Pour liquid over the bread in the pan, making sure to coat every slice of bread. Cover pan with foil and refrigerate for 4-36 hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Before baking, cut some slivers of butter and drop them on the top of the casserole. Bake casserole for 45 minutes to an hour. It will puff up gorgeously when it gets closer to being done (When the liquid in the cracks doesn’t giggle anymore, then you know it’s done).
Serve with pure maple syrup and swoon over the goodness!