After attending an amazing brunch spread at Letty Gochberg’s home, I requested her Challah French Toast casserole. This recipe is my version inspired by hers.

It’s a make-ahead dish — best done the night before serving — that just needs baking before company arrives. I served it at book group one evening along with some addictive Maple-Glazed Bacon. 

I recommend for brunch or a light evening meal.

Challah French Toast Casserole
Butter for greasing the dish
One 1-pound loaf challah, crust on, cut into 1-inch pieces
6 large eggs
3 cups half-and-half
1 cup milk
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons butter, melted
Optional garnishes: maple syrup or confectioner’s sugar and fresh berries

Butter a 9- x 13-inch baking dish. Spread challah pieces evenly in the pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, milk, brown sugar, vanilla, salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour the egg mixture over the bread. Turn bread to be sure all pieces are coated. Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

When ready to bake, remove the casserole from the refrigerator. Discard the plastic wrap. Toss cubes to be sure all are coated. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Stir together the granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Drizzle the melted butter evenly over the top of the dish, then sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar on top. Bake until puffed and deep golden brown, 35 to 45 minutes.

Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Divide onto plates and serve with maple syrup or confectioner’s sugar and fresh berries.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Maple-Glazed Bacon

12 ounces applewood smoked bacon (or any bacon)
2 tablespoons real maple syrup

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

On a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet, arrange bacon in a single layer. Bake 15 to 20 minutes until the fat is rendered and bacon begins browning.

Carefully remove from oven — as there will be hot grease in the pan! — and brush with pure maple syrup. Bake until bacon for another 3 to 5 minutes. With tongs, transfer to a wire rack set the rack on a baking sheet and let bacon drain. Serve warm.

Makes 6 to 8 servings