I’m not a big breakfast person but come the weekend… bring it on. Monday through Friday my breakfast is rather monotonous and uninspiring. While I prepare the dog’s food, my husband and son have been known to walk by and elicit an excited, “Oooo! Is that for us?” ha, and no, I pop half of an Ezekiel brand english muffin into the oven and, after it’s well-toasted, I smear 1/4 of a small, Haas avocado on top. I finish with half an apple or orange or a bit of watermelon. Whatever fruit I have on hand will do. Yawn. Same ol’ same ol’. But Saturday or Sunday morning breakfast is a most different story. Sweet berry and cream cheese breakfast bake is an overnight casserole, not that I haven’t baked it off after having let it sit only a few hours, and an overnight bake which takes only minutes to assemble. Friday or Saturday evening I throw it together, cover it with plastic wrap, balance it in the fridge and the following day, voila, brunch is almost ready. Man, is it good!
The egg, milk and bread transform into a creamy, silky sort of custard, luxuriously rich and satisfying. Cream cheese gives the custard not only heft but also a smooth, mild savoriness. This breakfast bake is bursting with fresh berries; whatever combination you desire works and works well. These beautiful berries cut through the lush, full-flavored cream cheese custard with a volley of flavors, from the raspberries to the blackberries and strawberries, all the fruit explodes with juice and flavor brought out by the heat of the oven. Any type of milk may be used such as whole, 2% or skim. I’ve also used almond milk, Elmhurst brand is splendid. It’s a little costly but it’s thick, unsweetened and and is made with only TWO, two ingredients: almonds and water. So if you find it on sale, try it. And no, I’m not getting paid to push Elmhurst, it’s just that good. The best bread I’ve found is a cheap loaf of Italian bread from your grocery store’s bakery. I don’t even worry if it’s not yet stale because it will provide the perfect consistency for this kind of bake. The bread in the photos cost me a total of $1.99. Nice, huh? I always buy organic eggs and with the corona virus on us, I’m finding all kinds of farmers with lovely, pastel-hued organic eggs. I guess that’s one good thing that has come out of this pandemic, along with many other blessings. I think we’ve all had the time at some point to look around and truly see how dang fortunate we are. I’m talking from appreciating the kitchen being cleaned every night by my spouse because I prepared dinner, to taking a long, laser sharp, unemotional, impersonal look at that man and marveling that, when all is said and done, we have a pretty strong marriage after 31 years. These are some strange days, y’all. Strange indeed. Hence, I for one, will continue Monday through Friday on the straight and narrow, completing my 4-mile workout everyday, enjoying endless yard work and gardening and keeping our diets low-fat and seriously plant-based. Again, that’s Monday through Friday. When the weekend finally rolls around, I look forward to that nocturnal moment when my head hits the pillow and I’m pleased and content in the knowledge that tucked deep within the chilly hollow of my refrigerator I have the morrow’s brunch done. Boom.
Sweet Berry & Cream Cheese Breakfast Bake
- 6 cups cubed bread, cut in 1 1/2-inch cubes
- 6 ounces raspberries
- 6 ounces blackberries
- 1 pint blueberries
- 1 1/2 cups hulled, cored and sliced strawberries
- 2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs
- 3 cups milk
- Lightly cover a 9×13-inch or 3-quart casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
- Evenly scatter half of the bread cubes in the baking dish.
- Evenly scatter half of the berries over the bread.
- Repeat with remaining bread and berries, ending with the fruit.
- In a large bowl, using a hand mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar until completely smooth.
- Add vanilla extract and eggs and mix well.
- Slowly add milk while continually mixing until all ingredients are fully blended. Make certain to mix in all the cream cheese from the bottom of the bowl.
- Pour egg-cheese custard over fruit and bread evenly.
- Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Gently press down on the top of the casserole with the palms of your hands so all bread cubes are immersed in the custard.
- Store in refrigerator overnight.
- Pre-heat oven to 350°. Remove plastic wrap and lightly cover tin foil with non-stick cooking spray. Cover casserole tightly.
- Bake 45 minutes, remove tin foil cover and bake 15-20 more minutes or until golden and bubbly on top.
- Cool 15 minutes before serving.
- Refrigerate leftovers. Reheat in a warm oven or serve cold. It’s amazing cold!