Embrace the laid-back mood of a Sunday morning meal and your guests will feel it too. Homey, delicious comfort food that can be made mostly in advance is how you, the host, can also enjoy the chill day. All you have to worry about the morning of is putting up a pot of coffee and mixing bubbly drinks.
Make-ahead casseroles are a great tool here, like this crazy-good Make-Ahead Lemon Ricotta French Toast Bake. You prep the entire thing on Saturday, then just pop it in the oven about half an hour before guests are due to arrive. That way, it will be warmed and puffed when everyone sits down.
The lemon curd gives it a springy pop that makes this bake a bright star at Easter brunch. It also gives the dish its sweetness without adding much additional sugar (just half a cup in a casserole that serves up to 12).
Though make no mistake: It's a decadent dish.
The secret that makes this French Toast Bake so meltingly good is the butter, which tempers the sweetness of the lemon curd and adds a silky, savory richness that will bring people back for seconds. We even topped the Bake with both warm maple syrup and a little melted butter. Which we may start doing that to all our brunchy favorites.
Make-Ahead Lemon Ricotta French Toast Bake
For the lemon crumble topping:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) Land O Lakes® Salted Full Stick Butter, chilled and cubed
For the lemon ricotta filling:
2 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese
3/4 cup lemon curd
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
For the French toast:
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) Land O Lakes® Salted Full Stick Butter, melted and cooled, divided
10 large eggs
1 1/4 cups half-and-half
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 (1-pound) loaf challah bread, cut into 1-inch cubes and dried (see Recipe Notes)
Make the lemon ricotta filling: Whisk the ricotta cheese, lemon curd and kosher salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.
Assemble the French toast bake: Brush the bottom and sides of an 9 by 13-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter; set aside.
Whisk the remaining 5 tablespoons of melted butter, eggs, half-and-half, lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla, and salt together in a large bowl. Add the bread and toss gently with your fingers until the custard has been absorbed.
Transfer half of the soaked bread to the prepared baking dish and arrange into a single layer. Spoon the lemon ricotta filling onto the bread and spread evenly. Top with the remaining soaked bread. Sprinkle with the lemon crumble, if using. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours.
Bake: Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350oF. Uncover the French toast bake. Bake until puffed and golden brown, 40 to 50 minutes. Top with fresh berries and/or bananas, or drizzle with melted butter and/or warm maple syrup.
- Bread drying: Dry the bread by spreading the bread cubes in an even layer on 2 wire racks set over baking sheets and leaving them at room temperature for at least 2 hours. Alternatively, bake in a 275oF oven for 10 minutes until the bread is dry but not browned. The bread can be dried the day before assembling the bake and stored at room temperature in an airtight container.
- Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- For a bacon-y twist: Cook and crumble 6 slices of bacon, and stir it in with the bread bread cubes before layering in the casserole.
This post is sponsored by Land O Lakes and was created by the Kitchn Creative Studio.
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