Few foods cross cultural boundaries quite the way bread does. Maybe that’s why everyone seems to love it so much. As good as these starches tastes on their own, baking bread into a casserole with a rich custard turns it into something otherworldly. Taste for yourself with these seven comforting recipes.
1. Baked Croissant French Toast with Orange Syrup
When you start with great ingredients, cooking can be shockingly easy. Take this croissant French toast from Food Network, for example. With just eight ingredients and some patience, you’ll be able to pull off one of the most delicious breakfasts you’ve ever tasted. This recipe also works just as well for dessert, particularly when there’s vanilla ice cream involved.
- 3 large eggs
- ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
- 1 cup milk
- Grated zest of 1 orange
- 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 4 croissants
- ½ cup orange marmalade
Directions: Whisk eggs, ¼ cup sugar, milk, orange zest, orange juice, and vanilla in a large bowl. Put croissants in an 8-inch square baking dish, squeezing to fit in a single layer. Pour egg mixture over top and weight down with a plate. Let soak in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove plate from croissants, cover dish with foil, and bake until set, about 40 minutes. Remove from oven and switch on the broiler. Uncover dish and sprinkle remaining sugar over top. Broil until sugar bubbles, about 2 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix marmalade and ¼ cup water in a small, microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 1 to 2 minutes, or until warm. Serve syrup with French toast.
2. Savory Bread Pudding with Kale and Mushrooms
Though many casseroles constructed with bread and custard tend to be heavy, The New York Time’s mushroom and kale version manages to keep things both satisfying and healthy. While this dish is a great option for entertaining, it’s also an easy way to make breakfast during the week a complete cinch.
- 1 bunch kale, stemmed and washed
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ pound mushrooms, sliced
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, coarsely chopped
- 1 to 2 garlic cloves (optional)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- ¼ pound stale bread, preferably whole-grain, sliced into 1-inch-thick slices
- 2 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
- 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups low-fat milk
Directions: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt generously. Add kale and cook 2 to 3 minutes, or until tender, but still bright green. Transfer to a bowl of cold water, drain, and squeeze out excess water. Chop and set aside.
If using garlic, cut one clove in half and rub the cut side all over the bread. Mince all garlic and cut bread into 1-inch squares.
Heat oil over medium-high heat in a heavy, wide skillet and add mushrooms. Cook, stirring often, until beginning to soften. Add thyme and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook for another minute or two, until mushrooms are tender and fragrant. Stir in kale, toss to combine, and remove from heat.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 2-quart baking dish. In a large bowl, combine bread, mushroom and kale mixture, and cheeses. Toss to combine. Transfer to prepared baking dish.
Beat eggs and milk together and season with salt and pepper. Pour egg mixture over casserole and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until puffed and brown. Remove from oven and serve hot or warm.
3. Everything Bagel Savory French Toast Casserole
Unless you’re lucky enough to live next to a fantastic bakery, most of the bagels you’ll encounter are pretty lackluster. Though they might not taste great on their own, even the saddest specimens become something delicious when baked into The Cookie Rookie’s savory breakfast casserole. Topping with maple syrup is optional, but don’t skip it if you love a bit of sweetness with savory foods.
- 6 everything bagels
- 6 ounces breakfast sausage
- 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 8 eggs
- 2 cups milk
- ½ cup cream
- 1 tablespoon dried chives
- Salt and pepper
- Maple syrup (optional)
Directions: Grease a casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and cook sausage, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until no pink remains. Remove from skillet to a paper towel-lined plate.
Cut bagels into bite-size pieces and arrange in prepared baking dish. Sprinkle sausage over top.
Whisk eggs, milk, cream, and chives in a bowl to combine. Season with salt and pepper, then pour over bagels and sausage. Cut cream cheese into tablespoon portions and dollop over top of casserole. Top with cheddar cheese, cover, and refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake casserole, covered with foil, for 40 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake until set and top has browned, about 20 to 25 minutes. Serve with syrup, if desired.
4. Bananas Foster French Toast
In 1951, chef Paul Blangé of Brennan’s in New Orleans was tasked with creating a new dish highlighting bananas for the restaurant. The result was the now iconic bananas Foster, a concoction that involves the fruit along with plenty of butter, brown sugar, and booze. The dessert world has never been the same since.
As much as we all love the traditional treat, it’s a shame to reserve such a great flavor combination for the end of the day. With Taste of Home’s rich French toast, you don’t have to. Though this recipe is delicious as written, a splash of rum is a great addition.
- ½ cup unsalted butter, cubed
- ⅔ cup packed brown sugar
- ½ cup cream
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon allspice
- ¼ cup chopped pecans (optional)
- 3 large bananas, sliced
- 12 slices challah or other egg bread
- 1½ cups 2% milk
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions: Place butter in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave, covered, until melted, about 30 to 45 seconds. Stir in brown sugar, cream, cinnamon, allspice, and pecans, if using. Add bananas and toss to coat.
Transfer to a greased 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Arrange bread slices over top, trimming to fit. Combine all remaining ingredients in a blender and process until well combined. Pour over bread, cover, and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove French toast from refrigerator. When oven is ready, bake, uncovered, for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Let cool 5 to 10 minutes. Invert onto a large platter and serve.
5. Savory Sausage and Cheddar Bread Pudding
Like many casseroles, this sausage and cheese bake from Once Upon a Chef is more of a method than a hard-and-fast recipe. It could just as easily be bacon and blue cheese or ham and Swiss. You can even go vegetarian by adding some mushrooms, broccoli, or roasted red peppers. And since you can make the unbaked casserole in advance, it can be a quick weeknight meal just as easily as a lazy brunch.
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 1 pound sweet or spicy pork sausage, casings removed
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 1 regular loaf white sandwich bread, crusts removed and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2½ cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
- ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
- 6 large eggs
- 2 cups half-and-half
- Scant 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
Directions: Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with butter or nonstick cooking spray. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon butter. Add sausage and cook, breaking apart with a wooden spoon, until browned and no pink remains, about 10 minutes. Transfer to large mixing bowl and reserve drippings in skillet.
Reduce heat to medium, then add 1 tablespoon butter and add onions to same skillet. Cook, stirring, until onions have softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer to bowl with sausage. Add bread, cheese, and parsley to bowl with sausage. Toss to combine, then transfer to prepared baking dish, spreading into an even layer.
Whisk eggs and half-and-half to combine in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper, then pour over bread mixture in casserole dish. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Transfer casserole to oven and bake until golden and puffed, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from oven, let cool briefly, and serve.
6. Leek Bread Pudding
Like a sweeter, more mellow onion, leeks deserve more of a starring role in your kitchen. Start by making chef Hugh Acheson’s luxurious bread pudding, which he shared with Saveur. You’ll begin by crisping the bread in the oven while you slowly cook the leeks to bring out their sweetness. Combine the two with the rest of the custard ingredients, then bake the dish until the top becomes golden. The only hard part is waiting for it to cool off before digging in.
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, divided
- 2 teaspoons minced thyme, divided
- 1 (1-pound) sourdough boule, cut into ½-inch pieces
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 large leeks, whites and pale green parts only, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise into ½-inch thick half moons
- 1⅓ cups cream
- 1⅓ cups milk
- 2 eggs plus 5 egg yolks
- ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss 4 tablespoons butter, 1 teaspoon thyme, and bread on a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Bake until slightly crisp, about 20 minutes. Let cool and reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Heat remaining butter in an ovenproof 6-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook leeks until golden, 7 to 8 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low and stir in remaining thyme along with 2 tablespoons water. Cover and cook until leeks are tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
Whisk cream, milk, eggs, yolks, and half of cheese in a large bowl until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Fold in bread and leeks. Return to same saucepan and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake until golden brown and set, about 45 minutes. Serve.
7. Chocolate Bread Pudding with Walnuts and Chocolate Chips
There’s nothing worse for a chocolate lover than tasting a dessert that doesn’t deliver much of the rich, fudgy flavor. If you’ve even fallen victim to these sad chocolate desserts, it’s time to rectify the situation with chef Carolynn Angle’s chocolate bread pudding, featured on Epicurious. With melted chocolate, cocoa powder, and chocolate chips, it more than lives up to its namesake ingredient.
- 4 cups 1-inch cubes egg bread with crust
- 1¼ cups semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips, divided
- ½ cup walnuts, toasted, and chopped into ½-inch pieces
- 1 cup cream, divided
- 1 cup half-and-half, divided
- 5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 4 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- ½ cup sugar
- Lightly sweetened whipped cream
Directions: Toss bread, ½ cup chocolate chips, and nuts in a large bowl to combine.
In a medium saucepan, whisk ½ cup cream, ½ cup half-and-half, and cocoa powder to combine. Add remaining chocolate chips. Set over low heat and cook, stirring, until melted and smooth. Gradually whisk in remaining cream and half-and-half.
Whisk eggs, yolk, and sugar in a medium bowl to combine. Whisk in chocolate mixture, then stir into bread mixture. Let stand for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter six 1- to 1¼-cup ramekins. Divide pudding mixture evenly among ramekins and bake until set, about 40 minutes. Serve with whipped cream.