I am the former, though I haven’t always been. I was raised by someone who will eat cold anything out of a Tupperware while checking phone messages, and that grosses me out completely. I am wary of leftover spaghetti to this day. But I love leftovers that can be repurposed: roast chicken or vegetables, a spare slice of cooked bacon, some extra marinara. I can use those to make soup or quiche or lasagna! It’s like hitting the kitchen lottery.
Imagine my surprise when I was gifted two artisan loaves of bread last week, one challah, one a rustic country bread. They were given to me at a ritual Friday night dinner by my friend, Phil, who, ironically, doesn’t eat gluten. He had stopped at a nearby bakery and coffee shop to get a little pick-me-up on the way to dinner. They were about to close for the night and were trying to get rid of any loaves they hadn’t sold that day. Being the great friend he is, he grabbed two and gave them to me 😊
By the time I got home from dinner Friday night, I had already decided to make some baked french toast. It’s a simple, sweet brunch dish that’s absolutely perfect for a crowd. Instead of flipping individual pieces, all the bread is placed in a baking dish and soaked with custard for several hours. All that’s left to do is bake it up, slice, and serve with maple syrup. And while that is great by itself, why not turn up the flavor a little by stuffing it all with a cheesecake filling and raspberries?!
If you’ve ever made baked french toast, you know that day-old bread is the way to go. Since it’s all dried out, it soaks up a ton of custard, and after a good half-day or so, bakes up to be absolutely divine.
This recipe requires one whole loaf of day-old challah. Italian or French bread would work, too; use something that has a tight structure and isn’t too crusty. Don’t go for regular sliced bread though–it will get too soft and goopy from soaking. Slice the bread in 3/4″ slices, and lay half of them in a buttered baking dish. Fill in any gaps by cutting other slices into smaller pieces and squishing them into the empty spaces. The bottom of the dish doesn’t have to be completely covered, but you shouldn’t have any large gaps. Cover that layer of bread with a simple custard mixture of eggs, whole milk, vanilla, granulated and brown sugars, cinnamon, and salt.
Then comes the best part: the cheesecake filling and raspberries! To make the cheesecake mixture, cream an 8-ounce brick of softened cream cheese with an egg yolk. Mix in a little confectioner’s sugar and vanilla, and you’re ready to spread! Spoon the filling over the top of the soaking bread, and use a silicone spatula or offset knife to spread it all the way to the edges of the dish. Top that with a cup of raspberries–fresh or frozen work just fine. Then top the filling with another layer of bread slices and the rest of the custard. Wrap the pan tightly with plastic wrap and foil, pressing down to encourage the bread to soak up the custard.
Then just stick the pan in the refrigerator for 8-24 hours. The longer it sits, the better it gets. The french toast pictured was refrigerated for 20 hours, and was super smooth and rich 😊 Assemble it the night before you want to serve it, and it’ll be ready to go by morning!
When it’s time to bake, take the pan out of the fridge to warm up a bit. While the oven is preheating, make a quick streusel. Mix together some flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt, and then use a pastry blender or two forks to cut in four tablespoons of cold butter. Sprinkle the streusel over the top of the bread, and put it all in the oven for 30-35 minutes, until it starts to puff and is golden brown. Let it sit ten minutes before serving with maple syrup, a dusting of confectioner’s sugar, and more raspberries!
This Overnight Raspberry Cheesecake-Stuffed French Toast Bake is a divine sweet brunch. The streusel gets golden and crunchy, the french toast itself is super rich and soft, and the center is bursting with raspberries and cheesecake! The tang of the cream cheese and the tartness of the berries contrasts beautifully with the creamy, cinnamon-scented layers of french toast. And best of all, it’s easy! Make this baked french toast for your next big weekend brunch!
8-ounces full-fat brick-style cream cheese
1 large egg yolk, room temperature
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
butter, for greasing the pan
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 loaf day-old challah, French, or Italian bread, sliced in 3/4″-1″ slices
1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup light or dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, very cold
Make the cheesecake filling. In a medium mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat cream cheese until fluffy, about one minute. Beat in egg yolk, followed by confectioner’s sugar and vanilla. Set aside.
Grease a 9×9″ inch pan with butter. Set aside.
Make the custard. In a small mixing bowl, whisk the eggs until combined and a bit frothy. Whisk in milk, followed by vanilla. Stir in sugars until well-distributed. Whisk in cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
Place slices of bread in the bottom of the prepared pan. Fill in any gaps by using small pieces. Pour half the custard mixture over the slices, coaxing it with a spoon so there aren’t any large dry spots. Drop spoonfuls of the cheesecake filling over the soaking bread. Spread it to the edges of the pan, covering the bread completely. Scatter raspberries over the cheesecake layer. Top with the rest of the sliced bread, and fill in the gaps accordingly. Pour the remainder of the custard mixture over the top layer of bread, using a spoon to make sure everything is saturated. Press plastic wrap onto the top layer of bread, followed by a layer of aluminum foil. Set an empty pan of the same size (or slightly smaller) on top of the foil. Press down lightly. Place filled, covered pan (with the second pan on top), in the refrigerator for 8-24 hours to chill.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Remove the pan from the refrigerator, and uncover it.
Make the streusel. Stir together the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Use a pastry blender, two forks, or clean, cool fingertips to cut the cold butter into the flour mixture, until the largest pieces are the size of small peas. Scatter the streusel over the top of the French toast. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden and starting to puff up.
Let cool for ten minutes before slicing and serving with maple syrup, confectioner’s sugar, and additional raspberries, if desired.