Cinnamon Raisin Baked French Toast

Every Sunday I like to fix up something special for a morning brunch. Since my family doesn't have enough time on weekday mornings to make something extravagant (and, really, who does?), we save up all our cheesy, buttery, maple syrup drenched breakfast dishes for our lazy Sunday mornings.

Last night, I set out to make a baked French toast dish. Though French toast is a regular on our brunch menu, I'm usually too last minute to think far enough ahead to assemble the French toast dish the night before. It seems a bit silly to say, but baked French toast is something that has eluded me for years. By the time I realize I want to eat it, it's already Sunday morning. It's too late to make the baked French toast I've been craving.

This week I finally thought ahead. About time, self!

When looking for recipes online, I've noticed that so many recipes for Cinnamon Raisin French Toast require a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread. I don't know about you, but this isn't something I normally keep in the house. When it's late Saturday night and I'm wondering what to make for Sunday brunch, the very last thing I want to do is head to the grocery store. So, in order to fix this little problem, I decided to come up with my own recipe to suit the ingredients I already had in my home. Chances are you'll already have these ingredients in your pantry too (and isn't that a wonderful, wonderful thing?).

After eating well over 1/4 of this dish on my own, I can assure you this Cinnamon Raisin Baked French Toast is the perfect brunch dish. This French toast dish does have to set in the refrigerator overnight, so you will have to think ahead. The time it spends in the refrigerator really melds together the flavors of the dish and brings out a fantastic custard-like texture.

Or, in other words, this is definitely worth the wait.

This Cinnamon Raisin Baked French toast is absolutely saturated with cinnamon and raisinsโ€”there is no skimping on flavor here. The French toast itself rests on a layer of butter and brown sugar. When it bakes up, the butter and sugar caramelize. This caramel sauce is then absorbed by the bread, giving an added (and delicious) dimension to the French toast. The raisins also absorb some of the liquid in the French toast, making them plump and bursting with raisin-y goodness. If I didn't know any better, I would imagine this was a decadent bread pudding. Now tell me, who wouldn't want to eat that for brunch?

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Cinnamon Raisin Baked French Toast

Yields 4 to 6 servings

1/2 cup brown sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1 loaf (1 pound) French bread, cut into 1" cubes
1/2 cup raisins
6 large eggs
2 cups milk (I used 2%, but whole milk or even half and half would work)
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a 9 x 13 inch baking dish, mix together the brown sugar and melted butter, coating the bottom of the dish evenly. Layer on 1/2 of the cubed bread and sprinkle on 1/2 of the raisins. Repeat layering.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, cinnamon, and vanilla extract until well blended. Pour the mixture evenly over the bread, making sure each piece is coated. Cover the pan and let sit in the refrigerator overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Bake uncovered for 40-45 minutes, or until lightly browned and souffle-like in appearance. Serve hot with powdered sugar and maple syrup!