1poundloaf day-old brioche bread (or challah), cut into 1" cubes
18 ouncepackage cream cheese, cut into 1/2" cubes
To Serve (Optional)
pure maple syrup
sweetened whipped cream
Prepare the Pumpkin Custard
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, brown sugar, Pumpkin Spice Blend, lemon zest, and salt.
Add the eggs and vanilla extract to the bowl and whisk until smooth. Finally, add the half-and-half and 1 tablespoon of the melted butter to the bowl and whisk everything together until smooth.
Assemble and Soak the Pumpkin Cream Cheese French Toast Casserole
Grease the slow cooker's ceramic insert with the rest of the melted butter- alternatively, if you plan to bake this casserole- grease a 9"x13"x3" casserole dish. Add half of the cubed brioche and half of the cream cheese chunks to the dish. Cover with the remaining bread and the rest of the cream cheese.
Pour the pumpkin custard over the bread and cream cheese. Use a large spoon to stir the casserole before covering the dish and refrigerating the casserole for 8 hours (or a minimum of 4 hours).
Cook the Casserole
After soaking, bring the ceramic dish to a warmer temperature by allowing it to sit on the counter for a half-hour. This important step reduces the chance of that ceramic insert shattering due to a drastic change in temperature.
Spoon the casserole onto individual plates or bowls, and sprinkle with a generous amount of powdered sugar, a drizzle of maple syrup, or a combination of the two.Enjoy soon after serving. Store leftovers in a container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or frozen for up to 2 months.
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup dried cranberries
12 oz white or dark chocolate chips
add the stir-ins when layering the bread and cream cheeseWhen baking this Pumpkin Cream Cheese French Toast casserole in the oven:
place your baking dish into the oven before preheating. Allowing the dish to heat slowly- while the oven is coming up to baking temperature- will prevent the shattering of ceramic (or glass) baking dishes
bake the casserole at 350°F for 45 minutes- covered in aluminum foil. Uncover and bake and additional 15 minutes
the internal temperature of your baked casserole should be 165°F
To serve refrigerated leftovers: reheat in the microwave until warmed through.For the frozen leftovers: thaw completely under refrigeration before reheating thoroughly in the microwave.