Brunch has always been one of my favorite meals, second only to dinner. Being honest, I usually skip breakfast and I always skip lunch. When I worked in corporate America I worked through lunch 100% of the time. It was an easy way to get some intermittent fasting in, and I picked up an hour of productivity each day. My coworkers would really get on my case about it though and one time, upon being pressed, I may have jokingly uttered the words, “Lunch is for pansies.” Don’t you know, that made the ribbing even worse! It was all in good fun though, and I do still think that lunch is for pansies. But brunch, now that’s a different story. Brunch is for champions. And this Cream Cheese-Stuffed Challah French Toast is the mother of all brunch items.
Challah makes the best French toast
Not only because it’s challah, and truly, if you’re going to have French toast, challah is the only way to go. I think if I could only choose one bread to eat for the rest of my life, it would have to be challah. It’s soft and eggy and spongy all at the same time. It’s as great in sweet preparations as it is in savory ones. But you don’t even need to do anything with it. Just a simple slice of challah slathered in butter or jam is heaven on a plate. It is the way to go for great French toast. And because it doesn’t need much to make it amazing, there’s really not much added.
A little cinnamon and sugar in the custard would be perfect if you were making this French toast in a skillet. But I love the way it looks when it’s baked, so figured why not stuff the whole loaf with cream cheese? Yes please. The way this Cream Cheese-Stuffed Challah French Toast smells when it’s baking is the smell I want to wake up to every morning. Add to it the smell of the bacon that you’ll be frying up while it bakes and it’s total sensory overload – the good kind. The sweet French toast with smooth cream cheese contrasted with the crispy, salty bacon gives you that savory-sweet combo that really hits the spot.
A little time goes a long way
When you’re baking French toast, it’s nice to treat it a bit like bread pudding by assembling it and then letting it rest in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. This gives the custard a chance to really soak into the bread. It’s a great thing to make when you’ve got guests staying with you for the weekend or for a special holiday brunch.
You can do it the day before and then pop it in the oven in the morning without having to dirty your kitchen. But some of us don’t have the time or the preparedness (raising my hand) to think that far ahead, so you can skip this step if you just have 30 or so minutes to let it rest. You do want to give the custard a chance to soak in, so give it however much time you have and don’t stress about it.
Prepping the loaf
So for the prep, you’re going to literally hasselback the challah. Yep, that’s what I said. Slice the loaf down to the last half inch but don’t slice all the way through. It makes it easier to stuff it with the cream cheese and you won’t have to worry about the cream cheese falling through the slices. Then roll up your sleeves and prepare to get your hands a little dirty.
You’ll need to turn the challah over a few times in order to make sure the entire loaf is soaked. I actually pour the custard back out of the baking dish and back in a few times just to make sure it gets into all the little crevices. Make sure it’s good and saturated before you stuff it with the cream cheese. And then, depending on how crispy you like your French toast, you’ll bake this Cream Cheese-Stuffed Challah French Toast anywhere from 30-45 minutes. I personally like a good crust but a little softness on the inside, so I bake it for 30 minutes. But that’s personal preference.
This Cream-Cheese Stuffed Challah French Toast is so indulgent and delicious. It hits the sweet and the salty cravings that you can never decide between. It’s truly the definition of happy brunching, so pour the mimosas and enjoy!
- 1 loaf of challah bread
- 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
- 6 eggs
- 1 cup milk
- 1 Tbsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 6-8 strips of thick cut bacon
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, cinnamon and sugar. Make 1-inch thick slices in the challah but don’t slice all the way through. Leave about 1/2 inch unsliced at the bottom. Using your hands, spread the slices apart without breaking them off of the loaf. Place the challah in a 9×13 baking dish.
Pour the egg mixture over the challah, making sure it gets in between the slices. Pour the mixture back out of the baking dish and pour it back in. Repeat this process several times until the entire loaf is saturated. Place small spoonfuls of cream cheese in between the slices, evenly distributing.
Cover with plastic wrap and weigh down with a baking sheet or another baking dish. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 30-45 minutes, until golden in color and insides are set. During baking, fry the strips of bacon in a skillet and dice into small pieces. Sprinkle bacon over top the French toast before serving.