Christmas morning around my house always starts with one kid. Usually it is my youngest daughter. She sneaks out from under the warmth of her blankets in the wee morning hours and tip toes down the hall to the living room where the lights on the tree still twinkle in the darkness.
There she will find gifts nestled together under the branches and perhaps a candy cane or two peeking out from her stocking. Before she approaches, however, she’ll slip into her brothers’ bedroom, shaking them by the shoulder and whispering for them to “get out of bed already” obviously annoyed by their ability to sleep through the magic.
My husband and I will meanwhile pull the comforter up a bit more, turn over and pretend we don’t hear the giggling and squeals until the kids come bounding into the bedroom, climbing onto our bed and insisting that it’s morning.
At some point, after the gifts have been unwrapped and the kids are examining their new books and pajamas, they’ll suddenly realize their stomachs growling. This is where the beauty of a Christmas breakfast comes in.
This breakfast bake is easy to prepare the night before and tossed in the oven while you get ready in the morning. It also freezes well. It’s a wonderful brunch dish, easy to make ahead and serve without a lot of fuss and hassle. It smells lovely as it bakes, too, warm and comforting, and works perfectly for holiday morning gift opening.
Cinnamon Roll French Toast Breakfast Bake
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
1 tablespoon butter or oil
5 cups dry, day-old bread of your choice*
1 cup whole milk
5 large eggs
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons softened butter
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Lightly grease a 2-quart casserole dish or an 8×8″ pan.
Cut the bread into 2″ pieces and arrange in the greased pan, trying to fill all available holes and cracks.
In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon, and the nutmeg. Pour the mixture over the bread. Press lightly on the bread so that all pieces soak up the milk and the bread is evenly moistened.
Mix together the brown sugar, softened butter, and the chopped walnuts. Spread over the top of the moistened bread. (At this point the pan can be covered and left in the refrigerator to rest overnight.)
Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the french toast is cooked through and the top is crisp.
Allow to cool slightly before serving. Serve with maple syrup or cream.
Makes 4-5 servings, and is easily doubled and tripled to accommodate a large group.
*We use all types of bread for this bake. I’ll save the ends of sandwich bread loaves, old dinner rolls, crusty french bread chunks that were left out too long and seem to have no life left in them. It is also a wonderful candidate for day old bagels and cinnamon rolls from the local bakery or even from your own oven, giving them new life. So, if you find yourself with loads of leftover bread, save them up for an early morning treat.