Nothing says brunch to me quite like French Toast and this cozy cool weather version is a warm hug in a pan, I tell ya. Pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, pecans - praise hands! I'll be honest and share that I add a little extra of everything: extra pumpkin, extra spice, and definitely extra pecans. When I was shopping for this recipe I got lucky and stumbled on one last loaf of brioche so I snatched it up to mix with the baguettes I already had in my cart. That eggy brioche makes it that much more decadent. If you expect to refrigerate leftovers, I would stick to french baguette or a similar hearty bread as the brioche can get a bit too wet when refrigerated after baking. I like to make my own pumpkin pie spice because I already have all of the spices anyway and it seems a waste for me to buy pumpkin pie spice. Plus I love to grate my own nutmeg as it's one of those spices that loses its punch fairly quickly if it sits on a shelf too long. There's really no comparison to buying it off the shelf and grating it yourself. But if you don't have all of the spices in the recipe, pumpkin pie spice is perfectly fine!
Pumpkin French Toast Casserole
(adapted from Little Spice Jar)
1 day old French, brioche, or challah bread, diced (see Note)
2 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup granulated sugar
6 large eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
2 tablespoons vanilla
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice (recipe below)
1/2 - 3/4 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup cold salted butter, diced
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons pumpkin spice (recipe below)
1/2 - 3/4 cup whole pecans
Generously spritz a 9x13 dish with nonstick cooking spray. Add diced bread to baking dish, sprinkle with chopped pecans; set aside.
In medium bowl, whisk together milk, cream, sugar, eggs, pumpkin, vanilla, and pie spice. Pour the prepared custard over the bread in the baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 3-4 hours and preferably overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350.
Streusal Topping: combine light brown sugar, butter, flour, and pie spice in a small bowl. Using your fingertips, quickly mix together until the butter breaks down into smaller pieces. Press the whole pecans onto the casserole and sprinkle the topping over the top.
Bake for 45-55 minutes or until thoroughly cooked. If the streusal topping starts to brown too much, tent with a piece of aluminum foil. Let cool for a few minutes before serving. Serve with syrup of your choice, butter, and powdered sugar.
Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix
3 tablespoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
Whisk all in a small bowl and store in resealable container.
*We used a 50/50 mix of French + brioche breads. It is important that the bread not be fresh so it will stand up to the custard. To accelerate the process: cube or tear bread into chunks, spread on baking sheet and allow to sit out on counter for several hours. Every hour, toss the cubes to expose them to more air. When bread starts feeling dry to the touch, ready to use.
It's nutty and delicious and smells amazing when you take it out of the oven.