I got the beginnings of the idea for this recipe from a Boy Scout camping dutch oven cookbook. That recipe has just bread, cream cheese, eggs and cinnamon. You combine them in a cast iron dutch oven and then heat it with charcoal all around the pot. I’ve made it out in the wilderness before and it’s a great hot breakfast on a cool morning at the campsite. My recipe, however, is better suited to cooking at home and adds a little more to it, but is still relatively simple and very tasty.
First you need to start with a good loaf of bread. You can use any bread you like, but of course I like homemade challah. If you don’t have one you like already, here is the challah recipe I make every week. I like to tear the challah into pieces, but if your challah is sliced you can cut the slices into small squares and that will work, too.
I put a layer of cream cheese and jam in the middle of this challah-and-egg mixture to add something special when you scoop it out onto the plate. Everything is nice and soft and gooey and sweet. When putting it together, just don’t use too much of the cheese and jam or it will get overly rich and sweet.
This recipe makes a whole lot, probably enough for at least six to eight people. But my family of four can easily polish off the whole thing in one meal if we’re hungry; it’s so delicious, we just can’t help it. So if you have a big group, you either need some extras on the side, or you had better make two of these.
Challah French Toast Bake
- 1 loaf challah torn into small pieces
- 8 eggs
- ½ cup half and half
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 ounces cream cheese
- About ½ cup of your favorite jam (I like to use strawberry)
- Butter to grease the baking dish
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and grease the baking dish with some butter. Tear the challah into pieces and put about half of them in the dish. Cut up the cream cheese into small pieces, about ½ tsp or so each, and drop them on top of the bread. Drop small spoons of your favorite jam in around the cream cheese. Then spread the remainder of the bread on top.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, half and half, cinnamon, and vanilla. Pour this mixture over the top of the bread. Try to pour over all of the bread so the egg mixture soaks in evenly throughout the bread. You can press down on the top just a bit to help make sure it soaks in.
Cover the top of the baking dish with foil and bake for one hour. Pour some maple syrup over each serving and sprinkle on a little confectioner’s sugar. You can make this more of a dessert dish by topping with whip cream and strawberries. Enjoy!