Instant breakfast: three ways to stay out of the kitchen Christmas morning.

Ah, Christmas! The day so many of us have been preparing for lo, these many weeks. Now, believe it or not, it’s just 7 days away.

Do YOU have your Christmas breakfast strategy planned yet?

I mean, we’re talking a Big Issue here: how to enjoy Christmas with your family – the tree, the music, the kids’ explosive excitement – and still ensure everyone gets something yummy in the tummy before happy turns to cranky (as it’s wont to do, when breakfast is late).

Cornflakes? Too commonplace. An elaborate sitdown? Itchy kids can’t sit.

The solution? Make ahead, bake in the morning.

OK, time out. Before I go any further here, I want to tell you that for the moment, I’m separating the religious holiday from the secular celebration. I know that there are some of you feeling the need to challenge me for A) mentioning Christmas, thereby being too religious; or B) not focusing on the religious aspects of the Christmas celebration.

Personally, I’m a Catholic and I celebrate Christmas at church. Also with Santa Claus and his elves. And family and friends. I celebrate Christmas on many levels, all of them important.

Here’s my take on it: religion is personal. I’d no more try to influence how you celebrate (or not celebrate) Christmas than I’d tell you whom to marry, or give you advice on raising your kids. To each his own.

That said, I WOULD advise you on this: breakfast. I can tell you what’s tasty, warm, upscale enough for a celebration, and EASY.

Praline French Toast.

Sausage Cheese Biscuits.

Cinnamon-Streusel Coffeecake.

Want my advice? Read on…

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What’s your favorite flavor? We have 21 of these Lorann extra-strong flavors online, ranging from apple to vanilla-butternut, with plenty of interesting choices in between. (Let’s hear it for blackberry, and peach, and pistachio, and creamy hazelnut, and… root beer?)

If you don’t have a particular favorite for French toast – ours are shown above – just use vanilla instead.

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REAL Vermont maple syrup lends wonderful flavor. Especially extra-strong Grade B, great for baking.

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Now, pick what bread you’d like to use. Leftover/stale bread works well here; kids may prefer softer, sandwich-type bread, which will make softer, smoother French toast. Adults seem to prefer denser bread, bread with more body. Like the loaf above: No-Knead Crusty White Bread.

You’ll want to slice the bread 1/2” thick. It helps if all the pieces are the same thickness, so slice carefully. Cut enough slices to snugly line the bottom of a 9” x 13” pan. Set them aside while you make the syrup and custard.

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OK, let’s dive in. Hopefully NOT into this hot syrup. As always, when working with hot sugar, please do so without kids, cats, dogs, or anything else underfoot.

Melt 1/2 cup butter in a saucepan, and stir in 1 cup brown sugar and 2 tablespoons honey, maple syrup, or corn syrup. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, cooking until the sugar melts.

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Pour the glaze into your lightly greased 9” x 13” pan, spreading it to the corners. I’m using stoneware here; it makes a nicer presentation at the breakfast table.

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Lay the slices of bread in the pan, atop the glaze.

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Use a fat loaf of Italian bread for larger servings…

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…or baguettes for smaller servings.

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See how these slices are all the same height? “Measure twice, cut once,” right?

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To make the custard, whisk together 1 1/2 cups whipping cream, half and half, or milk; and 5 large eggs.

Add 1/2 teaspoon flavor: pralines & cream, eggnog, vanilla-butternut, Amaretto, or your choice; OR 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.

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Whisk thoroughly.

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Pour it over the bread in the pan…

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…pressing the bread down into the custard.

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Within minutes, the bread will start to absorb the custard.

Cover the pan with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

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Next morning, the bread will be soaked, and the custard level way down; that’s fine.

When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F.

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Make the topping by stirring together 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Sprinkle it evenly over the bread.

This makes a very sweet French toast. Cut the amount of topping in half, if you like. Or sprinkle with simple cinnamon-sugar. Or even just cinnamon; leaving the bread naked is kind of gloomy looking, so DO sprinkle it with something, OK?

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Like this.

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Bake the French toast for 40 to 45 minutes.

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The filling will be bubbly, and the top very lightly browned.

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See that syrup underneath?

Let it rest for about 15 minutes before serving, to give the syrup a chance to thicken a bit.

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If you’re totally on the ball, you will have made your bacon as the French toast was baking. I like to lay bacon on parchment on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake it right along with the French toast, in the oven. Bacon bakes beautifully: flat, golden brown, and straight. And the parchment makes cleanup a snap.

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Baked French toast, bacon… easy, tasty, FAST.

The slice above wasn’t flipped over, but simply had some of the syrup in the pan spooned over the top.

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And here’s what it looks like in a different incarnation: with the bread diced, instead of sliced (as though you were making bread pudding) and served right side up, without flipping to reveal the syrup.

Now, if French toast doesn’t float your boat…

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…how about taking a break from sweets, and enjoying something savory? Our Sausage Cheese Biscuits are easily made ahead…

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…and frozen.

When you’re ready for breakfast, remove the biscuits from the freezer, put them on a pan…

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…brush with cream…

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…and bake, fresh and hot for your early-morning Christmas breakfast. Being frozen, the biscuits will need several additional minutes of baking time beyond what the recipe indicates.

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The siren song of melting cheeeeeese… who can resist?

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And finally, for you coffeecake fans – our Guaranteed Cinnamon Streusel Coffeecake translates very nicely to “make now, bake later.”

Prepare it for baking the night before, cover with plastic, and refrigerate. I’ve baked it in two 9” round pans, rather than a 9” x 13”, because I wanted to serve it in a bit fancier form than the usual slab o’ cake.

So, take your biscuit cutter, cut a round…

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…and lift it out. It’ll probably come with the cutter, though you should support the bottom with your fingers so it doesn’t fall onto the counter in an explosion of crumbs.

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Leftover crumbs? Baker’s treat!

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Awwww, isn’t that cute?

Merry Christmas to all. And to all…

…a good bite!

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It is best to allow the bread to rest overnight. Otherwise, it will not have the creamy texture that we attained with an overnight soaking. Jon@KAF

  1. Michele Russomanno

    Do you think I could line a tin foil pan with parchment and it would work for these recipes? Just don’t want to forget my pans at a friends house. Much easier if I could use a throw away pan especially for the bacon. I was thinking of a sterno pan or the foil cookie sheet.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Michele, I don’t see why that wouldn’t work. How nice of you to bake bacon for frineds – most of us seem to want to bake at home and keep it ALL FOR OURSELVES. 🙂 PJH

  2. jettavwdrvr

    I usually make fresh toast for breakfast on Christmas morning. After reading this blog, I am going to make this version. I plan on using delicious pain de mie (thank you Pullman pan!) and real maple syrup. My question is…can I use real Amaretto for the flavoring? If so, how much? (Thank you to King Arthur Flour for all the year-round tips and tricks. I use your products exclusively and always have fantastic results!)
    Amaretto would be fine, what a way to start the day. Try about 2 tablespoons and then adjust to taste. Enjoy! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  3. LOU!

    This was absolutely delicious and so easy when it’s prepared the night before. I’m excited about using eggnog come holiday time! I did make some changes: I cut down the amount of brown sugar in the glaze to 3/4 cup – maybe a bit more next time? Also I used Fiori di Silicia for the custard flavoring (YUM!). The volume of custard seemed like a lot, so I may cut that amount down a bit next time, too? In the morning, about an hour before baking, I flipped each slice over. This made gave sides the yummy carmel-ness without adding any more sugar! I used about week-old sourdough bread, sliced and totally dried out, and the French toast baked up beautifully. (I keep sliced “old” sourdough in the freezer for uses just like this! Thanks for ANOTHER wonderful KAF recipe!

    Reply
  4. charlottelynn321

    I made the french toast for breakfast, and it’s simply delicious! I used vanilla for the flavoring, and maple syrup — it tasted SO maple-y with just those 2 Tablespoons. We all loved it, and think it’s far better and easier than regular french toast!

    Glad to hear your this easy French toast was successful for you, Charlotte – a tasty new recipe for your breakfast files! Cheers- PJH

    Reply
  5. Marty Daniels

    This sounds incredible!!! I don’t want to wait until Christmas 2010 to try it! My wives birthday is in August … I think this can be her breakfast … and then we’ll enjoy it again for Christmas.

    Reply
  6. Diana

    Oh, WOW! I’ve just discovered this blog, and am so glad I did !
    The Holidays are over, but our Anniversary is coming up. Since my husband is diabetic, I cannot make your yummy-sounding french toast—but WILL give the sausage cheese biscuits a try.
    Do you think I can bake turkey bacon in the oven, since it is so lean?
    Coating bacon with flour sounds fabulous!!

    Happiest of New Year to all of you lovely folks at KAF

    And happy new year to you too, Diana – welcome! Yes, I don’t see why you couldn’t cook turkey bacon in the oven. And you’re right, I want to try the “coating with flour” technique – extra crunch! PJH

    Reply
  7. Moira

    I have been making strata for Christmas morning for years. It is very similar to the french toast above, but savory rather than sweet. I figure we have cookies and other sweet things around at Christmas, so it’s good to get a more filling meal in. The way to do the Christmas morning unwrapping without tears is pretty simple. I would get up before the little kids (we would keep them up a bit the night before, decorating the tree — we always save the decorating for Christmas Eve and leave the tree up until Epiphany. Before the gang wakes up, I would steal into the kitchen and take the strata (bread soaking in egg custard with onion, green peppers, sausage and cheese) out of the fridge. Put it in an already greased pan. While the oven warms, I would decorate the top. A Christmas tree is very easy with slices of green pepper and some diced red pepper ornaments. Santa puts a tangerine, or clementine in the bottom of each stocking. In the morning I get the strata in the oven before anyone starts on their stocking. The strata bakes as everyone is emptying the stocking and playing with the games, etc.. that are in there. When everyone has gotten to the the fruit at the bottom the strata is usually done. Everyone takes their fruit to the table, and we have breakfast before opening the presents under the tree! Christmas morning with no tears, no low blood sugar problems.
    Moira: it sounds like your Christmas was just like the ones at our house! We were allowed to go through our stockings while Mom got things going in the kitchen, and we always had an orange or a clementine at the bottom of ours, too. I had to explain the tradition of the citrus as a Christmas treat to one of my nieces; the idea of not having fresh fruit available in the winter except on very special occasions had never occurred to her! Thanks for sharing your memories and invoking a few of my own. Susan Reid

    Reply

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