I made this for a birthday brunch for my dad today and was thrilled with the result. Since I assembled the casserole the night before, all I needed to do was bake and serve it this morning. So I could spend the time relaxing with family. Anyway, I loved the texture, the sweet richness, and the ease of preparation. By the way, this casserole is plenty sweet without any syrup, but you could sprinkle with powdered sugar or use maple or buttermilk syrup (see recipe on this blog) if you prefer additional sweetness. This recipe is adapted from allrecipes.com.
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 loaf crusty French bread, cut into bite-size pieces (the original recipe calls for an eight-ounce loaf, which seems way too small to me. I used nearly a full 32-ounce loaf and I thought that was perfect)
2 cups milk (I used half and half or light cream instead because it I had it on hand, and it added to the richness)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 pinch ground cinnamon, or to taste
3 tablespoons brown sugar (this is at least double what the original recipe called for)
Spray a 9 x 12-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Stir 1 cup brown sugar and butter together in a saucepan over medium-low heat until butter melts and sugar dissolves into butter, about 2 to 4 minutes. Pour into prepared baking dish and spread bread pieces over the top. Beat milk, eggs, and vanilla extract together in a bowl; pour milk mixture over bread into the baking dish and ensure all bread is absorbing liquid. Sprinkle cinnamon over the top. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate, 8 hours to overnight. The next day, preheat oven to 450 degrees. Remove plastic wrap from baking dish and sprinkle remaining brown sugar over the top of the bread mixture. Bake in the preheated oven until browned and bubbling, about 30 minutes.