On Friday evenings at sundown, my family and I celebrate Shabbat and welcome the Jewish day of rest. Typical Shabbat foods include challah (a braided egg bread) and wine, which are both blessed before the meal begins. It’s become our tradition to make French toast the following morning with our leftover challah and the kids absolutely love it.
I love making this easy baked French toast recipe for the holidays or whenever I’m hosting a group!
ABOUT THE RECIPE
Leading up to the holidays (or any family get-together!), my three sisters and I have multiple brainstorming sessions over the phone to discuss what we’re going to make when we are all reunited. While we enjoy cooking, we’re always looking for shortcuts to minimize our time in the kitchen and maximize our time eating and catching up.
This Challah French Toast Casserole quickly became a family favorite. It’s a spin on the traditional challah French toast I make for Amado and Valentina, but can be prepared in advance and baked right before serving, all in the same dish for easy cleanup. It’s perfect for holiday brunches or any time I’m hosting a group of friends and family for breakfast.
WHAT IS CHALLAH?
Challah is a semi-sweet egg bread we enjoy on Friday evenings for Shabbat and other Jewish holidays. It is made from leavened yeast dough and is reminiscent of the famous pan de Acámbaro I grew up eating as a child.
IS BRIOCHE OR CHALLAH BETTER FOR FRENCH TOAST?
Brioche and challah are both rich, eggy breads that are excellent for French toast, but for this recipe, I prefer using challah because it is more dense than brioche and can hold up to the creamy milk and egg batter that soaks into the bread overnight. Also, it’s the perfect way to use up any leftover challah from our Shabbat dinners!
Challah bread soaks up the creamy egg and milk mixture overnight and when baked, you get flavorful French toast that is crispy on the outside and moist on the inside with hints of cinnamon and vanilla.
LIST OF INGREDIENTS
Homemade challah and high quality ingredients make this dish feel extra celebratory, so I highly recommend reaching for Nellie’s Free Range Eggs and Grass-Fed Butter. From hens and cows raised with love under humane standards, these baking essentials will give your finished casserole a creamy, custard-like texture perfect for any special occasion brunch!
- 1 pound challah bread torn into 4” x 4” pieces
- 4 tablespoons Nellie’s Free Range Unsalted Butter (½ stick), thinly sliced
- ⅓ cup golden raisins
- 6 Nellie’s Free Range Eggs
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ⅓ cup ground piloncillo or brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup chopped pecans (optional)
- Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting
- Maple or agave syrup, for serving
- Fresh berries, for serving
HOW TO MAKE AND SERVE
This is the perfect dish for entertaining because it is best to prepare it the night before for best results. Here are a few quick prep and serving tips:
- Tear challah bread into large chunks (about 4 x 4 inches in size) and allow to dry for 1 to 3 hours on a baking sheet. If you’re short on time, at a minimum, allow the bread to dry while preparing the other ingredients.
- While the bread dries, prepare the egg and milk mixture that will get soaked into it.
- Arrange bread in an oven-safe baking dish and distribute raisins evenly between chunks of bread and then evenly distribute butter on top before coating with the egg mixture, covering, and refrigerating overnight.
- Bake about an hour before serving and allow at least 10 minutes to set and cool. Check after about 30 minutes to make sure it’s not getting dark too quickly. If so, either tent with foil or lower to 325 for the remainder of the cook time.
- To serve, use a sifter and sprinkle the entire casserole with a light coating of powdered sugar. Allow guests to add their own maple syrup and berries to avoid soggy French toast.
Top with pure maple syrup, fresh berries, and powdered sugar.
What pairs well with challah, you ask? While this dish is quite filling on its own, if you want to go all out and offer a full brunch spread, here are some ideas of what to serve alongside my challah French toast to really wow the masses:
Bacon or chicken applewood sausage
Freshly squeezed orange juice or agua fresca + champagne
Café de olla (Mexican cinnamon coffee)
Fresh berries and fruit or biónicos
LOOKING FOR MORE BREAKFAST INSPIRATION?
Check out these ideas for more brunch and breakfast ideas:
OVERNIGHT CHALLAH FRENCH TOAST CASSEROLE RECIPE
PREP TIME: 15 MINUTES COOK TIME: 45 – 60 MINUTES SERVES: 8-10
1 pound challah bread torn into large pieces
⅓ cup golden raisins
4 tablespoons Nellie’s Free Range Unsalted Butter (½ stick), thinly sliced
6 Nellie’s Free Range Eggs
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
⅓ cup ground piloncillo or brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
⅛ teaspoon salt
¼ cup chopped pecans (optional)
Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting
Maple or agave syrup, for serving
Fresh berries, for serving
TOOLS, SUPPLIES, AND EQUIPMENT
Baking sheet for drying challah
Large mixing bowl
Baking dish (9” x 18”)
Butter a 9” x 13” baking dish. Arrange the torn challah to cover the baking dish completely, leaving no gaps in between the bread. Nestle the sliced butter and raisins in between the bread.
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, cream, ground piloncillo, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt until well combined. Using a ladle, pour the milk mixture over the bread to coat each piece very well. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
About an hour before serving, remove cover and sprinkle the pecans evenly over the top. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until golden and puffed, about 45 to 60 minutes. Let stand for about 10 minutes before serving.
Dust with powdered sugar and cut into squares before serving with maple syrup and fresh berries.
Many thanks to Nellie’s Free Range Eggs for sponsoring this post. As always, the recipe and opinions shared about these products are my own.
To view the full lineup of Nellie’s Free Range products, egg recipes, or to view a store locator, visit nelliesfreerange.com.
Photography + Styling: Cacey McReavy
Lola Wiarco Dweck
Lola is a Mexican-American recipe developer, writer, and cooking instructor who loves sharing her culture with the world. Growing up in California and spending summers in Mexico, Lola celebrates her family’s Mexican recipes and vibrant culture through Lola’s Cocina.