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cardamom and tea french toast casserole

Ingredients

  • 1 lb challah, cut into 1-inch cubes (450g)
  • 1 3/4 cups whole milk (400g)*
  • 6 black tea bags
  • One 16-oz container ricotta (450g)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (100g)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom (+ a tiny pinch more if you really love cardamom)**
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (3g)
  • 3 large eggs (150g)
  • Butter, for greasing the pan
  • Cardamom-scented powdered sugar (½ cup powdered sugar + 1 pinch cardamom)
  • Maple syrup, for the table

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Spread the challah out in a single layer on a sheet pan, and bake for about 20 minutes, until they’ve dried out quite a bit, and have started to lightly brown (leave the oven on afterwards).
  2. While you’re waiting on the bread to toast: Bring the milk to a simmer on the stove or in the microwave. As soon as it starts rapidly simmering, remove from heat, add the tea bags, and let them steep for 7-10 minutes. Once they’ve steeped, remove the tea bags one by one, wringing each one out on the side of the bowl with the back of a spoon. Whisk in the ricotta, sugar, cardamom, and salt. Once combined, whisk in the eggs. Grease a 9×13” casserole dish.
  3. Once the challah is dried out, place it evenly in the casserole dish, and then slowly pour the wet ingredients over the bread, making sure some liquid hits every piece of bread. Let it rest for 15 minutes before baking. Bake the casserole for about 35 minutes, until it’s set and hot in the center (insert a knife to check), and golden brown in spots.
  4. Dust with powdered sugar and serve with maple syrup at the table.

Notes

* You can use half-and-half in place of all or some of the whole milk if you’re feeling like something extra-decadent.

** Cardamom should always be used with restraint, but feel free to use a little more if you really love its flavor. Just be careful not to go overboard (you can always sprinkle a little more in with the powdered sugar at the end).

To make ahead and store: The best way to make this ahead of time is to prep the two components, and then bring them together at the last moment. Combine the wet ingredients and store in the fridge for a day or two. Toast the bread cubes, and keep at room temperature in a sealed container (or the casserole dish, covered) for a day or two. When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven, spread the bread cubes in a greased casserole dish, top with the wet ingredients, let it sit for 15 minutes, and proceed with the recipe.