Baked Challah French Toast: easy breakfast for a crowd

By Charleen - December 30, 2019

Challah French toast is an elegant, delicious and carefree breakfast to prepare for overnight guests. A light spread of apricot or peach jam perfectly complements the rich vanilla custard that plumps up each slice, and it is easy to dress up with powdered sugar and blackberries. Baked in sheet pans, this dish can even be assembled the night before. 

Reminiscent of a good rich bread pudding dessert, a few slices of French toast is like eating dessert for breakfast. French toast can even be made into fancy grilled breakfast sandwiches, but is often messy and time consuming to cook on the stove. That is why this recipe from Molly Gilbert's Sheet Pan Suppers cookbook is so fantastic! This book also has some great one pan dishes combining salmon with bright vegetables, or fish cooked on little potato galette rafts. 

Although a few of the recipes are not terribly creative, simply using the sheet pan as a baking sheet, there are enough gems in here to justifying buying two sheet pans. They stack nicely, and are useful for oven roasting tomatoes or root vegetables or honey glazed bacon for a crowd. Be sure to get the matching racks that set inside. They work great for cooling cookies and serve admirably to eliminate paper towel waste in draining deep fried items, allowing them to crisp up beautifully.

The sheet pan French toast recipe uses thick slices of challah bread as a starting point. This rich bread is springy, eggy and slightly sweet on the inside with a beautifully glossy tan outside. It has a buttery mouthfeel not unlike brioche, but is made without dairy products using eggs, flour, water, sugar, yeast and salt. The elongated loaves of braided bread is easy to slice, and adds a rich texture and appearance to the egg-milk-vanilla custard. 
The slices of bread are spread with a thin layer of a orangey fruit jam -- we have tried it with apricot and peach jams and with orange marmalade.  All three are excellent.  I use the delicious challah from Loafers Bread, a small Pittsburgh area bakery and cafe that grows their own wheat on the family farm and mills it fresh in the back of the shop. That freshness really comes across in the most amazing whole grain and white flour breads, scones, rolls and muffins. The housemade granola, sandwiches, salads and soups are also delicious.
I usually forget to add the turbinado sugar, as the dish looks and smells so good when I take it out of the oven, and believe it is not really necessary. On the other hand, it is worth the small effort to include freshly grated orange zest. A shake of powdered sugar and some handfuls of fresh blackberries or blueberries really rounds out a delectable and impressive breakfast!

Click here for gluten-free or low-carb sheet pan breakfast tips.


Tips: 
🐾 It is awkward to use 1.5 loaves of challah, so I generally just add a smaller pan, and an extra egg and cup of milk to use up both loaves. The recipe is also easily doubled as below. It is also easy to omit the stone fruit jam for a few slices in case some of your guests are not wild about fruit.

🍃 You might have noticed the drying red cups at the edge of the breakfast prep photo above.When we have too many people visiting to use our glassware or mugs, we cut down on plastic waste by having them write their names on disposable cups. These are then washed and reused for the duration of their visit (or even saved for future visits). From hosting Thanksgiving for over 30 people since 2002, I got really tired of throwing away opened drink cans that had only a few sips taken out of it by an anonymous person. By using large water coolers of lemonade or iced tea, we cut down further on waste by banning anything smaller than a two liter bottle. While this is not perfect, it does help to reduce plastic usage at our larger gatherings. 


DID YOU TRY THIS RECIPE or HAVE OTHER GREAT BREAKFAST IDEAS for a crowd?
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