In all my Christmas memories, one stands clear and bright. I can still see the tinsel on our tree, all the shiny paper packages, and the warm glow the lights cast before I went to bed on Christmas Eve. I was four that year, and this was the last Christmas before my brother was born. Thinking back now, I am sure that had a lot to do with all the presents.
The next morning was filled with excitement. Santa had definitely been there and I must have been extra good because there in our living room, a miniature kitchen had been set up around the tree. There was a little stove and oven, a refrigerator, and even a small sink that I was more than a little disturbed to find out didn’t actually work. In spite of that, I was still overjoyed because even as a little girl, my very own kitchen was what I wanted most. That Christmas was so magical and special, so filled with wonder in every way, that even now just thinking of it warms my heart. It was many years ago, but I can still close my eyes and feel the joy.
We are jingling to the finish line and it won’t be long now. It will soon be the night before Christmas, and if past years have been any indication, it will be chaotic as usual. There’s a nice family dinner and then everyone gets busy finishing their cards, wrapping gifts, and tending to all of those last minute details that seem to keep us up way past our bedtime.
What could be better than a make-ahead breakfast you can prep the night ahead so that everyone, including you, can sleep in? This Eggnog Overnight French Toast is a one-dish breakfast that’s filled with all the flavor of the festive beverage. The custard-soaked bread lands somewhere between a delectable bread pudding and flan, and the eggnog-spiced caramelized crust makes it extra delicious. Served with a side of crispy bacon or some breakfast sausages, you can pop it in the oven in the morning and enjoy the day with your dear ones.
Breakfast casseroles are the best way to feed everyone with just one dish – especially when you’re still waking up and there’s all that excitement. You can do all the work the night before, and refrigerate it overnight. Pull it out in the morning, top with the sugar and spices and you’re ready to go. This smells heavenly while it bakes, warming your whole house and filling it with the wonderful aroma of Christmas.
To avoid a soggy casserole, don’t slice your bread too thin (aim for 1/2-inch) and use drier bread. Ideally, your bread should be slightly stale so that it will soak up all the custard. You can leave the wrapper open the day before you make this, or dry your bread slices in a 275º F oven for 10 minutes before you soak them in the custard. Be sure to thoroughly coat all of the bread with the custard. I used a spoon to go around and be sure that every slice was well-soaked.
I used a 12-ounce can of evaporated milk mixed with 4 ounces of half-and-half to reduce the fat in this just a bit. You can make this gluten-free by using gluten-free bread and dairy-free by using a non-dairy nog (oat, soy, coconut or almond). Some overnight casserole recipes say to take the casserole out of your refrigerator and let it sit on your counter to warm up a bit while the oven heats. I didn’t want to risk having my dish break in the hot oven, so I let it sit about 10 minutes on the counter and then put the cold dish into a cold oven, set it to 350º F, and let them come up to temperature together.
This French toast is so delicious you can eat it just as is, but offering maple syrup, whipped cream, or a light dusting of confectioners’ sugar is especially nice. Add a cinnamon stick to your maple syrup as it’s warming to give it a touch of holiday spice. Or spike your syrup with a few tablespoons of bourbon or rum, or whatever it is you like to have with your eggnog, as long as you keep some without the spirits for the children. Refrigerated leftovers will keep up to three days and can be reheated in individual servings in the microwave for a super-fast breakfast in the days to follow.
If you are still looking for a last minute gift, nothing is more precious or priceless than the gift of time. Give it to anyone you love. Bake with your grandkids, read with your children, walk with your spouse, or visit a friend. You’ll make some wonderful memories.
Wishing you a most magical Christmas. May Santa be extra good to you this year and may all your Christmas wishes come true.
Eggnog Overnight French Toast with Maple Bourbon Syrup
- 8 eggs
- 2 cups half-and-half (or evaporated milk)
- 1 cup eggnog
- 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 Tablespoons packed light brown sugar
- 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg, divided
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 loaf challah bread (about 15 ounces), sliced 1/2-inch thick
- 3 Tablespoons turbinado sugar
- confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Bourbon Maple Syrup
- 3/4 cup maple syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 Tablespoons bourbon, rum or other (optional)
- whipped cream, for serving (optional)
Whisk eggs in a large bowl, then whisk in half-and-half (or evaporated milk), eggnog, granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, 1 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and salt. Arrange the challah slices in 2 lengthwise rows in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, shingling the slices. Pour the egg mixture all over the challah and gently press down. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Combine turbinado sugar and remaining 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in a small bowl. Cover and set aside for morning.
Uncover casserole and sprinkle with sugar and spice mixture. Transfer to oven and set to 350º F. Bake until browned and puffed, about 35 to 40 minutes.
While casserole bakes, combine maple syrup, vanilla extract and bourbon in a small saucepan set over low heat. Stir often, until warmed through, about 2 minutes. Remove casserole from oven and dust with confectioners’ sugar. Serve with warm maple syrup and whipped cream.