Love French toast but hate standing over a stove for an hour flipping it? French toast bake will be your new best friend. Just mix, soak, and bake! The classic combination of chocolate and chili elevates the dish from a simple, tasty brunch to a knock-your-socks-off meal.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you are well aware that I cannot bypass French toast if it’s on a brunch menu. I’m addicted. I eat it for breakfast half a dozen times a month, and I’ve mastered the art of the crisp exterior and fluffy interior. I think it’s safe to say that I am the French toast queen. At least, that’s what my family tells me!
French toast was one of the very first dishes I learned how to make. As a child, I used to beg my mom to make it for us on weekend mornings. I think it was the amount of cinnamon she would put in it for me. Knowing full well that I would never be satisfied with just a dash, she would shake that spice jar until the custard turned brown and hardly even resembled custard anymore. The toast that landed on my plate was basically cinnamon bread with a hint of eggy milk mixture. But I loved it. By the time I was old enough to make my own breakfasts, French toast was the first on my list to learn.
Over the years, I’ve experimented with different flavours of French toast. I’ve had successes in the form of gingerbread, maple pecan, and a very spectacular banana bread, but I’ve also had failures such as the ill-designed savory parmesan toast of 2009. (It sounded much better in my head.) But the one thing that always annoyed me was the flipping process. When you’re making French toast for a crowd larger than yourself, it can get very tiring to labour over a stove for an hour dunking, cooking, flipping, and reheating a large batch of it. Not to mention it can be hanger inducing to smell cinnamon wafting from the pan, teasing and taunting you with every flip.
The day I discovered French toast casserole was a happy day indeed. No more would I have to dunk an entire loaf of bread! No more would I have to flip sixteen individual slices! No more would I have to wait and smell that deliciousness floating…oh, wait, no, that still happens. But at least I can walk away if it gets unbearable! Bonus points for being able to make this the night before and simply popping it in the oven when you’re ready to eat the following morning. Could brunch get any easier?!
Seeing as it’s been very cold lately, I decided a French toast bake was necessary. This version features one of my new favourite combinations: chocolate and chili. I’m a little late jumping on this train (I like my chocolate pure, thank you), but now that I’ve tried it I can see why everyone has been crazy for it. A hint of spicy chili powder balances out the bittersweet of the chocolate perfectly!
I don’t overload on the custard mixture in this recipe. I find recipes that use an excessive custard to bread ratio often end up soggy, and I don’t get that outer edge crunch that I love from stove-top French toast. My recipe uses about two thirds the usual amount of custard, which allows the toast to crisp on the outside while staying beautifully moist and fluffy in the centre.
I hope you enjoy this delicious breakfast casserole and that it helps warm you up this winter season!
- ¾ loaf stale, dense sandwich bread (about 14 slices)
- 2½ tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2½ tbsp raw cane sugar
- 3 tbsp boiling water
- ⅛ – ¼ tsp chili powder (I used ⅛ for a hint of chili, but feel free to use more)
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 5 eggs
- 1¼ cups milk
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- Lightly coat an 8 x 8 baking dish with cooking spray. Line the dish with the sandwich bread on an angle, overlapping the slices slightly. Make sure the entirety of the pan is covered. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, sugar, and boiling water until a smooth, semi-thick paste forms. Mix in the chili powder, cinnamon, and vanilla until combined. Add the eggs, two at a time, and whisk until everything is smooth. Pour in the milk and heavy cream and whisk well. Evenly distribute the custard mixture over the bread slices, taking care to saturate each piece. Push down firmly on the casserole with your hands to fully submerge the bread into the custard. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes – overnight to allow the bread enough time to soak up the liquid.
- When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F). Bake the casserole for 21–23 minutes, or until all the custard has cooked and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to rest in the pan for 5 minutes before dusting with confectioner's sugar. Serve with a dollop of maple whipped cream (see below).
- This bake is best served the day it is made. Leftovers will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.