This easy Baked Cinnamon French Toast is a delicious and decadent spin on the classic breakfast! Made with buttery brioche, cinnamon, pecans and finished with a streusel topping, this cinnamon casserole is easy enough for lazy breakfasts with the family or elegant enough for serving a crowd on Christmas morning!
Course: Breakfast, Brunch, entree
Keyword: bake, breakfast casserole, Casserole, cinnamon, French Toast, pecan
1(14-ounce) Loaf Brioche Bread (Challah or French Bread) – cut into 1-inch cubes
1 ¾CupPecans- halves or chopped
½CupHalf-and-Half- can substitute heavy cream
¼CupLight Brown Sugar- packed
¼CupPure Maple Syrup(SEE NOTES)
½tspEACH: Sea Salt & Ground Cinnamon
½CupAll Purpose Flour
½CupLight Brown Sugar- packed
½tspEACH: Ground Cinnamon & Kosher Salt
½CupCold Unsalted Butter – cubed
For serving: Cream Cheese Icing (recipe below), Powdered Sugar or Cinnamon Sugar, Maple Syrup, Fresh Fruit (Bananas are really good!)
Spray a 9x13-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.Prepare the French toast casserole: Place half of the cubed bread into the baking dish. Sprinkle 1 cup of pecans evenly over the bread. Repeat with remaining bread and pecans. Set aside.
Prepare the custard: In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining French toast casserole ingredients (the eggs through nutmeg).
Pour custard over bread: Pour the prepared custard (egg and milk mixture) over the bread. Cover the baking dish with plastic wrap. Use your hands to gently press down on the bread so that all the cubes are soaking in the custard. Chill - Optional, but recommended: Refrigerate overnight or set aside in the refrigerator to chill while you prepare the streusel. (SEE NOTES)
Prepare the streusel: In a medium bowl or food processor, whisk (or pulse) together the flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Add in the butter and using your fingertips, fork or pastry cutter, mix the ingredients together until the butter resembles small crumbs. Stir in the pecans. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.*
Remove the casserole from the refrigerator and let sit on the counter to remove the chill while oven preheats.Preheat oven: Position rack in the center of the oven and preheatoven to 350 degrees F.
Add Streusel & Bake: Uncover the baking dish and sprinkle the prepared streusel mixture evenly over the casserole. Transfer the casserole to the oven and place a large sheet pan on the rack below the baking dish (SEE NOTES). Bake for 50 minutes – 65 minutes, or until the casserole is set and no longer jiggly in the center. (Tip: If the top of the casserole starts to brown too quickly near the end of baking, lightly tent the casserole with aluminum foil and continue baking. Note: The precise length of time your casserole needs to bake will depend upon the depth of your casserole dish! I used a 2 1/2-inch deep baking dish, so my French toast took around 62 minutes to bake.)
Serve: Remove the casserole and place it on a wire rack to cool for 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and cinnamon or drizzle with icing. Slice, serve and enjoy!
Maple Syrup: Pure maple syrup is not the same thing as pancake syrup! I do not recommend substituting pancake syrup for real maple syrup in this recipe. Pure maple syrup is made from the sap of maple trees. The sap is then boiled down to remove most of the water and concentrate the flavor. Pancake syrup is simply high-fructose corn syrup with flavorings. They are not interchangeable.
Overnight Chill: While this French toast casserole tastes best if allowed to sit overnight in the refrigerator before baking, it is not absolutely necessary. For best result, allow the casserole to sit in the refrigerator for 4 or more hours. If you are in a rush, you can bake it right away, however the casserole won’t have its signature custard texture.
Baking: The casserole will puff up considerably as it bakes. I recommend placing a large sheet pan or cookie pan on the oven rack directly under the baking dish to catch any crumbs that could possibly overflow the sides of the dish.
To make this gluten free: Replace brioche bread with gluten-free bread and substitute gluten-free flour for all purpose flour.
How to serve: This baked cinnamon french toast is delicious served plain, drizzled with maple syrup, sprinkled with powdered sugar, or you can go all out and drizzle it with a homemade cream cheese icing - Recipe below!
Homemade cream cheese icing:5 TBS Confectioners’ Sugar3 ounces Cream Cheese - softened2 TBS Milk¼ teaspoon vanilla extractPinch of Kosher SaltWhisk everything together in a small bowl and drizzle over French toast casseroleYield is 8-10 servings. Nutritional information is an approximation based upon 8 servings. Exact information will depend upon the brands of ingredients and precise measurements used.