You’re going to love this crazy delicious overnight Cinnamon Apple French Toast Casserole. Prep it the night before and in the morning, breakfast is easy peasy!
Did you ever notice that sometimes life’s sweetest memories evolve from difficult circumstances? Back in early March, our lives were turned upside down, without warning, and Scott and I felt like we landed in the middle of a whirlwind! We had just arrived in London, excited about a visit with our daughter and her family. Within 24 hours of our arrival, we received a call that Scott’s dad had been rushed to the hospital with severe respiratory distress. A few days later, his mom (Nanny) passed away, very unexpectedly. In less than a week, we had returned from London, planned a funeral, packed up Nanny and Pop’s apartment, located a different care facility and set up a new home for Pops. Whew, like I said it was a whirlwind; and it’s taken a while to pick up all the pieces.
It’s been almost two months and we’re beginning to feel like we can take a deep breath and spend a bit of time reflecting. You know what comes to mind above all else when I think about those days/weeks? Not the craziness, jet lag, stress, fatigue, grief, sleeplessness. No, none of that. It’s the wonderful family and friends who enveloped us with a warm cloak of care, concern and comfort during those difficult days. There were calls, cards, emails, flowers, plants, and incredibly selfless acts of love.
One of the kindnesses extended to us really sticks out in my mind. The day of Nanny’s memorial service, sweet friends planned and implemented a lovely meal and gathering time for family and friends. They put it all together from beginning to end with every detail carefully and lovingly orchestrated. Food came in from all over the place and was arranged in a beautiful buffet. There was Honey Baked Ham, homemade pimento cheese, baked Brie, potato casseroles, green bean casseroles, salads and good old Hawaiian rolls. For dessert there was pie and (I’m quite certain), the best cheesecake on the face of the earth.
I don’t think I had eaten much earlier that day so that dinner tasted like the “finest of fine” to me. I’m sure it was the love and care poured into the meal that made it so delicious. I had to laugh; my two nieces from New York City couldn’t seem to get enough. They went crazy over what they called “Southern food”.
There were lots of leftovers, which was wonderful, as we had family staying with us from out of town. After everyone left that evening, I was thinking about what to serve for breakfast the next day (Yup, a perpetual foodie!). I spied an unused package of Hawaiian rolls and decided to put together a French toast casserole that I could just pop in the oven in the morning. I cut up the sweet dinner rolls and poured a mixture of milk, eggs and sugar over the top.
In the morning, I added a crumbly topping and it wasn’t long before a wonderful aroma filled the house to draw the sleepy heads out of bed. Everyone loved this easy breakfast casserole.
I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit over the last few weeks, adding diced apples and cinnamon and adjusting the ingredient ratios and baking time. I served the French toast casserole again for an Easter brunch and it was super well received with lots of second helpings.
With all the brunch-y, breakfast-y occasions coming up, i.e., Mother’s Day, graduations, showers, etc. I thought this make-ahead Cinnamon Apple French Toast Casserole might come in handy for you too. Just throw it all together the night before and all that’s left to do is to bake it in the morning.
I like to serve this dish with slices of smokey, glazed ham, but bacon or sausage would also be wonderful. A pretty dish of fresh fruit completes the easy, but elegant meal. You can serve the French toast with just a sprinkle of powdered sugar or indulge with a drizzle of pure maple syrup – or both!. No matter which way you decide, you’ll be sure to receive rave reviews!
Thanks again sweet friends, for loving on us through a trying time. And whoever brought those Hawaiian rolls, thanks for the inspiration for this Cinnamon Apple French Toast Casserole!
What I used to make and serve this Cinnamon Apple French Toast Casserole:
- soft butter for greasing pan
- 1 14-ounce package Hawaiian Sweet Rolls
- 1 large golden delicious apple peeled, cored, and diced
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 6 large eggs
- 2 cups half and half
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup all purpose flour
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 5 tablespoons soft butter
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- Generously grease a 2-quart casserole dish* with soft butter. Place cubed Hawaiian rolls in pan.
- Combine diced apples with 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Toss to coat apples with sugar mixture. Sprinkle apples on top of bread.
- Combine eggs and remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar. Whisk together to combine, then add half and half and vanilla. Pour mixture evenly over bread. Cover with plastic wrap. If bread extends slightly over the top of the pan, don’t try to squish it down. Just covered it loosely and then seal at the edges. Refrigerate at least 6 hours or as long as 12.
- To make the crumble, combine flour, brown sugar and cinnamon in a medium size bowl. Stir well. Add the softened butter and mix with a fork until large crumbs form. If mixture is too moist to form crumbs, add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring well after each addition, until crumbs form. (You shouldn’t need more than 2 tablespoons of flour.) Cover crumbs with plastic wrap and refrigerate until just before baking French toast.
- In the morning (or at least 6 hours later), remove casserole and crumble mixture from refrigerator. Preheat oven to 350˚F.
- Place casserole on a sheet pan** and sprinkle crumble mixture evening over the top. Bake (on sheet pan**) for 30 minutes, then cover loosely with foil and bake another 15-20 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or serve with maple syrup - or both!
*You can also use a 9x13-inch baking pan. **Baking it on a sheet pan will prevent the bottom of the French toast from getting too brown.