I’m leaning into my millennial tendencies today when I proclaim to the Internet that I love brunch. Perhaps it is partly a millennial thing, partly a “I -was-raised-in-NJ-diner-capital-of-the-universe” thing, but I truly love nothing more than a cup of black (gross) coffee coupled with a stack of fluffy pancakes or French toast. But here’s the thing I have long struggled with in plant-based cooking: vegan French toast is difficult! Every time I attempt to make it, it sticks to the pan and creates a bready, goopy mess. Earlier this spring, I published a recipe for vegan challah bread (which I also subsequently turned into challah cinnamon rolls) and no matter how many attempts I made, I could not turn it into successful French toast. But digging back into my Christmas morning memory banks, a recipe came to me: Vegan French Toast Casserole.
I have said it before, and I’ll say it again: I have a mother that does not like to cook. While she’s very good at it, she has always looked for the best shortcuts and ways to make the culinary process as simple as possible. The best example of this was at the holiday breakfast table. There was no way my mother was going to wake up on Christmas morning slave over a stove when there were presents to
make fun of open and admire. But who doesn’t love a leisurely Christmas brunch full of one’s brunch favorites? French toast casserole was my mother’s solution to this yuletide conundrum. Day old bread plus a bunch of ingredients poured into a casserole dish and left overnight in the fridge, only to quickly pop it in the oven in the morning? Right up my mom’s alley.
It’s certainly also up my alley because my kitchen is not big enough for me to be able to stand at the stove for extended periods of time without feeling exceedingly cramped. So the less time spent not being able to turn around without accidentally smacking my husband in the head or stepping on my dog’s feet, the better.
And yes, I am very aware that it is July and not Christmas. But Christmas in July is totally a thing, right? You know what? We are still sheltering at home and I want the things that bring me comfort and joy. That means Christmas in July and vegan French toast casserole. Let me have this.
Vegan French Toast Casserole: Why It’s Better
Like I said, French toast casserole does not require an inordinate amount of standing over the stove! You can take day old bread (or lightly toasted bread chunks, if you’re in a hurry or don’t have day old bread), preferably some kind of challah or brioche, put it in a large baking dish with a custard mixture to soak overnight. In the morning, once the bread has had ample time to soak up the sweet custard, bake and serve warm. That is it. Most of the work is done in the refrigerator while you’re sleeping, dreaming of sugarplums and presents. Or, if it isn’t the holidays, dreaming of your impending brunch and bottomless mimosas. Or, if you don’t drink, dreaming of the work at the stove you won’t have to do. There we go.
But What About Eggs?
Yes, I do keep talking about a custard filling. Traditionally, custards are made with eggs, but in a recipe like this, we can replace the eggs with silken tofu. This is a phenomenal egg substitute when making something with a custard-like or thick texture because when blended, silken tofu is creamy and soft. Don’t use regular firm tofu for this!
For this brunch delight, you will need:
- silken tofu
- raw cashew
- brown sugar
- kosher salt
- challah bread or other day-old brioche
- optional: pecans for praline topping, or other nut of your choosing
Cube your bread and spread in a glass baking dish.
Blend all of the custard ingredients together in a high-speed blender.
Pour the custard over the bread, cover the whole thing in plastic wrap and leave in the refrigerator overnight.
Some people say you can leave a casserole like this for just an hour and then bake it, to which I say the following: what is even the point if you are just going to get up early and do this? That defeats the whole purpose! What are you doing with your life? Do this the night before and go back to bed!
The next morning (I’m not negotiating with y’all here), top with nuts (I’ll share the recipe I use for my pecan praline topping below!) and bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the top pieces of bread begin to turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve while it’s still warm. If you want, top with a sugary glaze (I share a great one in my challah cinnamon roll recipe.)
For this recipe, I did draw some inspiration from this recipe, complements of Food Network, but predominantly picked my family’s brain in regards to what they remember of Christmas brunches past.
Instead of sweating over a piece of French toast that will not get crispy no matter how much you try, you can just sit back and let the smell of this bad boy waft through your kitchen. And it’ll seem like you put in tons of effort when really, you just went to bed.
Pretty perfect, right?
Vegan Challah French Toast Casserole
- High speed blender
- 9×13" glass baking dish
For The French Toast Casserole
- 1, 1-lb loaf challah bread day old, slightly dried out
- 1 ½ cups silken tofu
- 2 ½ cups soymilk unsweetened
- 1 cup raw cashews
- ¼ cup brown sugar packed
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- pinch nutmeg
For The Pecan Praline Topping (Optional)
- 2 tablespoons vegan butter softened
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ cup pecans roughly chopped
- Cube the challah bread and lay in an even layer in your glass baking dish. No need to grease or prepare the baking dish in any way.
- Place the remaining french toast casserole ingredients into a high speed blender and blend until a smooth custard forms, approximately 3 minutes.
- Pour the custard over the cubed bread and cover the casserole with plastic wrap. Place in the fridge overnight until ready to bake.
- When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350.°
- While the oven is preheating, prepare the praline topping (if using): in a small dish, mash all of the praline ingredients together with a fork until roughly combined.
- Remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the praline topping over the casserole.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the topmost pieces of bread begin to turn golden brown.
- If desired, drizzle the casserole in sugar glaze before serving*
So there you have it, my friends. A vegan brunch recipe that is minimal effort and maximum flavor.