My Take: Blueberry Almond French Toast Bake

French Toast Casserole with Blackberries and Almonds

Weekend mornings are a bit of a conundrum for me. I enjoy making a slightly more involved breakfast that takes more than the five minutes I have in the kitchen on week days and that my family can linger over at the table. It gives us another meal together to reconnect when we’re fresh and well rested. I also like to sleep in at least one day on Sunday and can be a little slow getting out of bed, so breakfast can become brunch or even lunch if I’m not careful. In my quest to have it all, I’ve been collecting make-ahead recipes for weekend breakfasts that have the “I spent the morning in the kitchen” feel and the “I slept in” reality.

French toast is a family favorite dish and it’s a great way to use up leftover bread from earlier in the week or from my freezer stash. When I griddle up individual pieces I’m in the kitchen for a while and I’m looking at a 30-45 minute process. French toast casserole however, is mostly hands-off once it’s in the oven. I can sit on the couch and get caught up on news or blog posts while it cooks, giving me the lounging feeling I’m looking for on the weekend.

I’ve tried a variety of French toast casserole recipes, but many of them were overly sweet and had more calories than I’m interested in consuming at any sitting because of the rich egg custards. After much searching and testing, I found Ellie Krieger’s Blueberry Almond French Toast recipe and it’s become a family favorite. It uses a combination of eggs and egg whites to reduce the calorie load, along with healthy dose of fruit and nuts to improve the overall nutritional value of the dish.

  • Cooking Time
    • Stated in the Recipe — 50 minutes cooking time (no prep time listed)
    • My experience – 30 minutes to prep and 45-50 minutes to cook
  • My Modifications
    • I usually make the recipe with skim milk to reduce the calories even further and it’s because I have it on hand.
    • My favorite griddled French toast recipe is Ina Garten’s Challa French Toast and inspired by that I add 1 Tbsp. orange zest to Ellie’s custard recipe along with some freshly-grated nutmeg.
    • The recipe halves beautifully. I weigh the bread cubes so I don’t end up with more bread than I want or need.
    • I often change up the fruit and nuts in the dish with whatever I have on hand or what’s in season. In my favorite version, I use slivered, blanched almonds with blackberries.
  • Tips and Tricks
    • This dish isn’t particularly sweet, with only a couple of teaspoons of maple syrup and a dash of brown sugar per serving, but I can live with that. A quick sprinkle of powdered sugar or some extra maple syrup on individual servings lets each person at the table make it a sweet (or not) as they would like.
    • To be sure the bread is evenly soaked I mix the custard in a large mixing bowl, dump the bread into it, and mix it with the custard thoroughly before I pour it into the baking dish and top it.
    • Leftovers reheat well. Just pop them in the microwave for 30 seconds or so and you’ll have a warm serving of French toast in no time flast.

This recipe is perfect for holiday entertaining when you have a crowd in the house to feed for breakfast or brunch. It always makes at least one appearance on my holiday menus during the fall and winter holidays. Try it for Christmas morning so you can concentrate on opening gifts while the casserole bakes. It goes particularly well with blood orange mimosas.



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