Frugally Fantastic, Fantastically Frugal French Toast Casserole (or: How to Make Stale Bread Taste Good Again)

Today is National Caviar Day, the epitome of haute-cuisine and food snobbery, so naturally I planned to write about one of the least sophisticated recipes you could possibly imagine. French Toast is what happens when old food and stinginess come together in one kitchen. Sure, you can get fancied up versions at some of the most upscale brunch venues, but deep down, you know what French Toast is. It’s stale bread made edible with some cheaper still ingredients – eggs and milk. Who would have thought that stubbornness to not waste old food could lead to such a delicious meal? 

It all started last Friday night when we pulled half a loaf of homemade challah (yes, I am holding out on the recipe – I’m still trying to tweak it to get it just right) out of the freezer from 2 weeks before, since all of this internship prep work has left little time for experiments in the kitchen. After one bite, I wrinkled my nose and shook my head – the freezer had not been kind to these slices of once-delicious, eggy bread. There was only one solution: quickly swap out the old challah for a fresher (though not homemade) loaf of bread, and transform the stale bread into French Toast for a leisurely, frugal Saturday morning breakfast the next day.
I found a quick recipe on Eliza Domestica for overnight French toast casserole, which seemed the perfect way to ensure that the challah became fully saturated with the liquid in the recipe, and changed it slightly in the hopes of making a more exotic dish. Within about five minutes I had the casserole in the fridge, ready for the next day. I dirtied 1 liquid measuring cup and about 2 measuring spoons, plus the dish that I baked the casserole in the next morning. If I ever were to have a big group of people over to stay, or for a mid-morning brunch, this is the recipe I would turn to. No questions asked.

It was supposed to be tropical: coconut-almond milk, rum extract, you know. Fancy French Toast. My mom swears she tastes the coconut, but L and I are convinced that she’s just one of those super tasters. You can’t get anything past her. To us, it just tasted like French toast. Delicious French toast, but definitely not Fancy French Toast.  L says he prefers his mom’s, but I think the fact that it came in casserole form and didn’t look like regular French toast weirded him out a little bit; I got a little upset but didn’t let it stop me from enjoying several slices. It’s not overly sweet on its own – but a drizzle of syrup or a pile of fresh fruit (try pineapple chunks and shredded coconut to bring out the tropical flavors I was going for!) is all it needs to make it complete. And once you bite into it, I don’t think you’ll care that deep down, this French toast is more frugal than fancy. 

Two Years Ago: Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Tropical-Or-Not French Toast Casserole
The flavors in this recipe are subtle, and mostly result in a pretty standard French toast with just an added oomph of je ne sais quoi. It’s easy and fuss-free, too, making it the perfect crowd pleaser for your next breakfast or brunch gathering!

Yield: 4-6 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes plus 8-12 hours
Cook Time: 45 minutes – 1 hour

The Ingredients
½ loaf challah bread, torn into chunks
2 eggs
6 tablespoons egg whites
1 ½ cups coconut-almond milk
2-3 drops liquid stevia
small pinch salt
1-2 teaspoons rum extract
1-2 teaspoons chia seeds
1 banana, sliced or chopped

The Method
Butter an 8x8 inch glass baking dish and fill it with the torn challah. In a large liquid measuring cup, mix together the eggs, egg whites, milk, stevia, salt, and rum extract; whisk well to fully break up the eggs. Pour the egg mixture over the challah and toss around the contents of the dish until the bread is fully and evenly coated. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and place in the refrigerator for 8-12 hours (overnight).

In the morning, preheat the oven to 375˚ Fahrenheit. Before baking, sprinkle the banana pieces evenly over the top of the casserole and recover with the foil. Place in the oven and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, removing the foil for the final 5 minutes. The casserole will puff up and the liquid between the chunks of bread will stop jiggling when agitated when it is ready to come out. Slice into quarters or sixths and serve alongside maple syrup, fresh fruit, sliced nuts – whatever you like!

Source, adapted: Eliza Domestica

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