A make-ahead recipe that is perfectly moist and subtly eggnog-y, with a sweet and spicy gingersnap cookie topping.
First of all, MERRY CHRISTMAS EVE! Or if you don’t celebrate, happy December 24th. Either way, here’s something delicious to add to your table over the next couple days!
But first, some real talk: I really struggled with naming this dish.
There were two fairly obvious options, but each carried very clear social expectations. Some people might ask what’s in a name, but I’ve found that what you call a food is incredibly important in determining how you intend to interact with it. Context, people. It’s real.
Would you rather try a Patagonian toothfish or a Chilean sea bass? Regardless of your answer, you probably have two very different images in your head based on each name. (For me, the first image is rather terrifying.) And since you already know where this story is headed, you know those must be the same fish. (Context again!)
And even without giving things unusual names, all labels create expectations. You know when someone offers you dessert, and then brings out a plate of fruit, and you’re super disappointed because fruit is most definitely not dessert but a health food you avoid at all costs? (Just me?)
So what were the names I was considering?
One is at the top of this post: eggnog French toast casserole.
The second, reluctantly rejected option? Eggnog bread pudding.
YOU SEE MY DILEMMA!
Is this breakfast or dessert?? It’s both!! I considered compromising and calling it eggnog French toast bread pudding, but that just sounds like I have an affliction causing me to yell out random words.
Ultimately, I did go with a breakfast-y name, because (1) it’s morning here and I want to eat this, and (2) the blog has more dessert recipes than breakfast recipes already. There ya go. Arbitrary, yet now it will be your first instinct to eat this in the morning, and only your second instinct to eat it after dinner. (Unless you eat this as breakfast-for-dinner and then eat it after dinner for dessert. Problem solved.)
But the important thing to know is that neither instinct is wrong. Because whatever you call it, this dish is goooooood. I keep sneaking bites out of the fridge, no matter the time of day. It’s perfectly moist without being squishy. And the streusel? Unbelievable. It’s the same streusel I used on my pumpkin spice muffins with cream cheese filling, but instead of using chopped pecans, I went crazy and used gingersnaps. Here was my thought process: “I feel like I need something to really take this over the top. What goes with eggnog? Duh, cookies. Hahaha don’t be silly, I can’t have a French toast casserole with a side of cookies….”
OR CAN I?
So, so good.
I do want to clarify one thing before you try this recipe. It doesn’t taste like drinking a glass of eggnog. The flavor is subtle. I would wager that even people who don’t like eggnog would like this casserole. But because I personally love eggnog, I went through some test runs to make this dish as flavorful as possible.
In my first attempt, I used a slightly more premium brand of eggnog. It was delicious to drink, but its flavor in the casserole was a bit…blah. I realized I would have to pump things up a little bit. Obvious solution? Eggnog taste test.
In my second attempt, instead of the premium eggnog, I tried a generic store brand. It was okay, but the flavor wasn’t quite there.
Next I tried a generic store brand “vanilla flavor” eggnog. It was delicious — like drinking melted vanilla ice cream — but not noggy enough.
Finally, I tried a low-fat store brand eggnog. And this, shockingly, was my winner. Let’s consider: to make something lower in fat yet still tasty, companies tend to add things like sugar, spices, and extra flavorings to a product. In this case, that’s what we want. The lower fat content is still very rich and plenty thick enough for French toast. And the additives, including “artificial flavorings,” as much as it may hurt to embrace them…well, for this purpose, embrace them.
In my final attempt at this dish, I used the winning eggnog, and I also eliminated an egg and vanilla from the recipe. The extra egg wasn’t necessary, and it would dilute the eggnog flavor a tiny bit. It was hard for me to take out the vanilla, since I think it makes so many dishes so much better, but here? Turns out it wasn’t needed. In fact, it was better without it.
Since you also have bread and egg in this casserole, a bite of it is not going to be like drinking a glass of eggnog. But the low-fat generic eggnog (!) will give you the biggest bang for your buck.
Ermahgerd, I can’t believe I’ve written this much and I haven’t even discussed that this is a make-ahead recipe. SO MUCH HAPPENING HERE! So, final note…it’s a make-ahead recipe. You’re welcome. (Note that the twenty minute prep in the recipe below does not include the overnight chilling. Obviously.)
So eat it for breakfast. Eat it for dessert. Eat it for lunch. I recommend adding a tiny swirl of maple syrup and serving it warm. Make it ahead, pop it in the oven Christmas morning, and relax, and enjoy.
- Approximately 9 cups of challah bread, cut into one inch cubes
- 2½ cups eggnog
- 7 eggs
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated if possible
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- ⅔ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup gingersnap crumbs, pulsed in food processor
- 6 tablespoons melted butter
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- Place your bread cubes in a large mixing bowl.
- In a separate bowl, or stand mixer, add the eggnog, eggs, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and beat with an electric mixer or stand mixer until well combined.
- Pour the eggnog mixture over the bread and stir gently until the bread is evenly coated. Cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least three hours, preferably overnight.
- In the morning, preheat the oven to 350.
- As the oven heats, prepare the streusel. Add all streusel ingredients to a medium sized bowl and mix together with a fork until combined.
- Spray a 9 x 13 dish with nonstick cooking spray. Stir the bread mixture, then pour into the dish. Top with streusel.
- Bake uncovered for approximately 35-45 minutes. To check if the casserole is done, use a knife to gently cut into the middle and look under the streusel. The bread should still be moist, but without any liquid pooling.
- Let rest a few minutes, then serve and enjoy.
For best results, use a generic low-fat eggnog.
Leftovers will keep covered in the fridge for a few days, and it is delicious cold or warm.