Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sweet Breakfast Strata

aka Bread Pudding, Baked French Toast Bits, Breakfast Custard Casserole, ...

If ever there was a way to guarantee a smiling start to a morning, this might be it. It worked for us on Monday. Some sort of culinary magic occurred in the oven when a few ordinary ingredients were transformed into decadent morsels of sheer delight. Magic? how else could the last few slices of French bread, a few eggs, some vanilla with cinnamon and sugar plus a handful of cranberries turn into something SO INCREDIBLY TASTY?! Do I sound enthusiastic? Oh yes, this is the new alternative to my usual fruit, yogurt and granola breakfast.

RL reported he much preferred this dish to a typical French toast, in fact "...don't bother making the regular kind again." I was captivated by the contrast between a crunchy crust and the creamy, custardy center. Sweet but not too sweet, the flavor pleased both of us, though a drizzle of warm maple syrup was a welcome addition. 

Photo: Note the crunchy browned crust... yum!
The word strata implies layers of some sort, and that works well when you have a lengthier list of ingredients added to the bread cubes. I took license with the idea and tossed everything together in a mixing bowl, ignoring the whole layering thing. It worked just fine. This strata comes together quickly, and that's a bonus on any morning. Better yet, the dish actually benefits from being prepared the night before and baked the next morning. Add cooked sausage or bacon and some savory elements, substitute other flavorings for the vanilla and leave out the sugar and presto! you have a savory strata. This is a dish that invites experimentation.  


    *Try using a wider, flatter dish or even muffin tins to increase the ratio of crunchy to creamy.
    *It's important to use bread that is several days old and a bit dried out, or to lightly toast the cubes before adding the egg mixture.
    *Let the prepared dish sit a bit (or even overnight) before baking to allow the bread to soak up the flavored liquid, and rest a few minutes after baking to firm up any loose custard.

Sweet Breakfast Strata
Serves 2

2 cups small bread cubes, day old, or I suppose even stuffing mix works
     (I used sliced French bread, left from dinner last night)
3 large eggs
1/4 cup milk or cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup dried fruit (I used orange-flavored cranberries)
butter to grease the baking dish

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F .
  2. Grease the bottom and sides of a 4-cup baking dish with butter.
  3. Whisk together the eggs, milk and seasonings until well blended and frothy. Add the bread cubes and gently mix with a rubber spatula until all sides of the bread cubes are coated. Add the cranberries; toss to mix.
  4. Turn the mixture into the buttered baking dish, pressing down firmly with the rubber spatula (but don't smoosh it out too flat!).
  5. Rest for 20-30 minutes so the bread absorbs much of the liquid, then bake in a preheated 350 F oven for 30 minutes or so, until the top is golden brown and crunchy.
  6. Remove from the oven and let the dish sit for 5 minutes to firm up the custard. 
  7. Serve plain, or accompanied by heated syrup or a scoop of honey-flavored yogurt. (Certain unnamed relatives would say it requires a scoop or two of ice cream alongside.)


  1. Hi Dee, Good to hear from you. I've been thinking of you since I heard rumors about fall coming. Does that mean you have to come in from your adventures? How long to you keep the boat out?
    This strata looks delicious. Any excuse for bread pudding for breakfast and I'm in!

    1. We're in port now, readying the boat for winter moorage, but a recent stretch of good weather tempts us to keep cruising!


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