This year, my family felt like switching up some of our holiday traditions - just a few tweaks to keep things interesting. One such update is to swap our typical Christmas breakfast of ham and cheese strata for a pleasantly unexpected banana version. This banana strata trades in sharp cheddar for rich and creamy mascarpone cheese, flecked with vanilla bean. While reminiscent of bread pudding, its more subtle sweetness makes it decidedly breakfast fare.
Present opening starts early in our house, taking turns one-by-one, from youngest to oldest. We take an intermission between the kids and adults to stretch our legs and fuel up. As you can imagine, no one wants to miss out on the festivities to cook or clean up breakfast. Fortunately, the banana strata is assembled the night before and thanks to spraying the baking dish with PAM Original Cooking Spray, clean up is fast. Since PAM leaves *99% less residue than leading brands of margarine or bargain-brand cooking sprays, there's 99% more time to spend with my family.
And what a delicious interlude it is. The bread soaks up the vanilla custard while the top of the strata gets crispy and golden, the bananas become sweeter as they cook, and toasted walnuts serve as a satisfying garnish. Also, I have it on good authority the cold leftovers are an equally worthy holiday snack.
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
1 vanilla bean, scraped
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons sugar
1 3/4 cup whole milk
16 ounces white bread, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 9 cups)
PAM Original Cooking Spray
Toast walnuts, for serving (optional)
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, mascarpone, vanilla bean, vanilla extract, and sugar until smooth. Whisk in the milk until incorporated. Slice two of the bananas into the mixture, add the bread pieces, and stir to coat.
Spray a 2-quart baking dish with PAM Original Cooking Spray and pour the bread and egg mixture into the dish, using the back of a spoon to gently press into the dish. Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight.
The next morning, preheat the oven to 350°F. Uncover the strata and bake until the top just begins to brown and the liquid is thick but not yet firm, 30-40 minutes. Wait fifteen minutes before topping with the last banana, sliced, and serving warm with walnuts if desired.
- If you don't have vanilla bean, omit it and increase the vanilla extract to 1 tablespoon.
- For a sweeter, more bread pudding-like strata, increase the sugar to 1/3 cup.
* Versus leading cooking sprays (except olive oil), after spraying on glass bakeware, baking at 400°F for 30 min, cooling, and then washing in standard home dishwasher with detergent and repeating 4 times