Let me emphasize a major point here: I detest soggy bread. I mean, really detest it. Which is why I have always been turned off by those breakfast casseroles that start with a layer of bread and move up to soggying the bread with loads of eggs and milk. Major ick. And it is also why you don’t see a lot of recipes on here that require the production of mushy bread of any sort. I’m kind of gagging just thinking about it. Even French toast is a stretch for me. I know. Seriously. Who am I?
Anyhow, a few months ago, I was asked to bring a breakfast casserole to a brunch and I just didn’t know if I could do it. Ethically, I’ve always been against breakfast casseroles for the soggy bread factor. But I sucked it up (kind of) and went searching for a recipe I knew I could trust.
I really am not exaggerating when I say I was sufficiently humbled when I made this recipe and actually got the guts up to try it (I didn’t want to hurl in a public gathering of friends if I started gagging on soggy bread…issues, people, I have issues). This is one truly amazing breakfast bake! I don’t know if it is the weights, the overnight soak or what, but this recipe, and this recipe alone, has taken my hatred of breakfast casseroles and turned it upside down. Abhorrence has become love. And that’s big, my friends, big. The bread after being baked is tender and soft but not soggy. And don’t even get me started on the other simple but stellar flavors going on: hearty pork sausage, creamy sharp cheddar and just a pop of flavor with a bit of hot sauce. I never thought I’d see the day when I would be adding a breakfast casserole to my Best Recipe repertoire.
Just to show you that I really have overcome my prejudices, I’ve since made this three other times and enjoyed it just as much. I’ll never get over my detestation of soggy bread but thankfully, I don’t have to worry about that with this divine breakfast bake and you have no idea how happy that makes me (plus I love that this is made the night before so you can pop it in the oven for a stress-free, hearty breakfast).
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- 1 (14-inch) loaf Italian bread, ends trimmed
- 1 1/2 pounds bulk pork sausage
- 1 small onion, chopped fine
- 3 cups shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
- 12 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 4 cups 1% milk
- 1 ½ teaspoons table salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 tablespoon hot sauce
- Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Slice bread in half lengthwise then slice each half into ½ inch-thick slices. Spread the bread in single layers on two rimmed baking sheets and bake until golden, 10-15 minutes, flipping bread and switching and rotating sheets halfway through (or bake one sheet pan at a time). Take care not to let the bread burn - it should be golden brown and toasted. Let the bread cool for 15 minutes.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the sausage and onion until the pork is no longer pink, breaking the meat into bite-sized pieces as it cooks.
- Lightly coat a 9X13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Shingle half of the bread in the prepared pan so that the edges overlap slightly (a couple of times when I've made this, my slices weren't long enough to shingle so I just placed the bread in a single layer and it worked fine). Top with half of the sausage mixture and 1 cup cheese. Repeat with remaining bread, remaining sausage mixture, and remaining cheese.
- In a large bowl, whisk eggs, milk, salt, pepper, and hot sauce together. Pour evenly over the assembled casserole. Place the casserole on a rimmed baking sheet and wrap the casserole with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap lightly on the top of the casserole. Fill another 9X13-inch dish with cans of food (beans, fruit, whatever) and nest the weighted dish on top of the assembled casserole. You'll be glad you placed the assembled casserole on a rimmed baking sheet at this point as there may be a bit of spillage over the sides as the casserole compacts. This will help the bread soak up the egg mixture. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.
- When ready to bake, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees F. Let casserole stand at room temperature while the oven is heating. Remove weights, unwrap casserole, and bake until the edges and center have puffed and the top is golden brown, about 1 hour. Let it cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Recipe Source: adapted slightly from Cook’s Country