This breakfast casserole will appeal to those who prefer sweet French toast with syrup and fruit over savory hash and eggs for breakfast. Cubes of French bread are mixed into a custard made with buttermilk, apple cider, vanilla seeds, and cinnamon and left to soak overnight. The next morning, the bread mixture is layered with apples and dulce de leche, then baked, for a simple, rich breakfast casserole. Or you could save it for dessert.
Game plan: The bread-custard mixture needs to soak overnight, so plan accordingly.
10 large eggs
2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup unfiltered apple juice or apple cider
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped, seeds reserved
1Place the eggs in a large, nonreactive bowl and whisk to break them up. Add the buttermilk, cream, apple juice or cider, sugar, vanilla seeds, cinnamon, and salt and whisk until the mixture is evenly combined. Add the bread and stir to combine. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
2When ready to bake the casserole, heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Place a large piece of aluminum foil on the rack to catch any juices that may overflow while baking.
3Meanwhile, remove the bread mixture from the refrigerator, stir, and let it sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Generously coat a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with butter and set aside.
4When the bread mixture is ready, peel, core, and cut the apples into medium dice. Add them to the bread mixture and stir to combine.
5Transfer half of the mixture to the prepared baking dish and spread it into an even layer. Drop half of the dulce de leche in tablespoon-sized dollops evenly over the mixture.
6Pour the remaining bread mixture over the dulce de leche, spreading it into an even layer. Drop the remaining dulce de leche in tablespoon-sized dollops evenly over the top.
7Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil, place it on the foil in the oven, and bake until the custard around the outer inch is set, about 1 hour. Remove the foil covering the dish and continue to bake until the surface of the casserole is browned in some spots and the center is just set, about 45 minutes more. Remove to a wire rack and let cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.