Thursday, November 29, 2012

Baked Strawberry French Toast

If you ask my husband to name his favorite part of Christmas he'll tell you it's Christmas morning breakfast.  I love that his family had a tradition of making a special breakfast, and I have carried that on into our family's holidays.  However, I can't seem to juggle both a breakfast and dinner for a crowd on that day, so I've grown to love breakfast casseroles, or stratas, of all sorts.  There are both sweet and savory varieties, and because they're made the night before, it’s possible to make one of each to satisfy everyone the next day.  Doing the prep and cleanup the night before frees up my morning to start the Holiday dinner. 
By definition, a strata is "one of a series of layers, levels, or gradations in an ordered system".  The three basic ingredients in a breakfast strata are eggs, cheese, and bread.  Your dish could be as simple as that, or toss in some vegetables, meat or herbs, and make it as elaborate as you want.  The first known mention of a breakfast strata is a simple recipe for Cheese Strata printed in the 1902 edition of the Handbook of Household Science   By Juniata L. Shepperd.

The strata is layers of various kinds of bread, cheese, eggs and can include milk or creams, as well as different vegetables, herbs or meats.  It is then refrigerated overnight, which allows the liquid to be absorbed by the bread and the other flavors to meld.  Feel free to invent your own combinations.  Often I have to sub cream for milk, swiss for cheddar, or ham for bacon.  It all works.  I just try to have fun with them... and clean out the fridge at the same time! 
Below is one of my family’s favorite sweet breakfast stratas; a baked strawberry French toast that was created during a camping trip.  I had neglected to pack the frozen cherries for a similar recipe I wanted to make, and the nearest town’s only option was a small tub of sweetened strawberries from a chest freezer that also held ice cream treats.  My makeshift breakfast was a hit then, but over the years I have perfected the recipe even more.   You can serve this with maple syrup, but making a batch of homemade strawberry syrup takes just a few minutes, and it really does make this dish shine.

1 loaf bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (buttermilk or potato recommended)
4 cups strawberries, quartered (fresh or frozen)
1 (4  ounce) package cream cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
7 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup half-and-half cream
2 teaspoons almond extract
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 loaf French bread, sliced into 1-inch thick slices
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1 cup pecans, chopped

1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup water
16 ounces frozen strawberries, thawed and quartered
1 tablespoon butter or 1 tablespoon margarine

Spray a 13x9 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.  Sprinkle bread cubes over bottom of dish.  Sprinkle berries over bread cubes.  Sprinkle cream cheese over berries.  In large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, half & half, almond extract, nutmeg & cinnamon.  Arrange French bread slices over the surface of the berries and cream cheese, creating a flat surface of bread rounds and getting in as many as possible without them popping up.  Pour egg and milk mixture over French bread slices.  Mix melted butter, brown sugar, corn syrup & pecans and spread over French bread slices.  Cover tightly & refrigerate overnight.  Remove from refrigerator and let stand 20-30 minutes before baking.  Preheat oven to 350°.  Bake uncovered 50-60 minutes.  Let sit 10 minutes before slicing.  For Syrup (can be made fresh or in advance, refrigerated, and reheated for serving):  In a saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch; add water.  Bring to boil over medium heat and boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.  Stir in strawberries and reduce heat.  Simmer for 8-10 minutes or until thickened.  Stir in butter and serve over French toast.


  1. French toast is one of my favorite things; I can just imagine what a make ahead would mean for any morning you have guests or just a Special breakfast; as you can see I came back to my blog/
    Great recipe Tink!

  2. I know I'm not going to be alone in saying welcome back to the blogging world! :)


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