My mom found this recipe in a recent issue of Southern Living and tried it out on us while we were in California for Thanksgiving. Brett and I are known for eating breakfast for dinner, but this is one of those breakfasts that could easily pass as a dessert, so that's what I did! I also halved the recipe for just the two of us because the whole recipe makes a ton.
First I cubed up half a loaf of french bread and put half of the cubes in a greased casserole dish.
Then I melted 1/2 a cup of seedless blackberry jam over medium heat for a couple of minutes.
Then I cubed up half a block of Neufchatel cheese (you could use 1/3 less fat cream cheese) and sprinkled them on top of the bread cubes. I made sure to make really small cubes. The one improvement I wanted to make over my mom's was to have less overwhelmingly "cream cheesy" bites.
Then I poured the melted jam over that and topped it with the rest of the bread cubes.
In a separate bowl I whisked together 2 eggs, 1 cup of milk (the recipe calls for half and half), 1/2 a tsp of vanilla, and 1 tsp of cinnamon. Oops! It was supposed to be 1/2 a tsp of cinnamon (I forgot to half it) so i tried to get a little out before starting to whisk. I love cinnamon and I don't think it hurt the dish at all.
I poured the liquid evenly over the bread cubes making sure to get every single one wet. (I didn't want a crunchy crouton layer on top after it had baked.) Then I sprinkled 1/4 cup of brown sugar over the whole thing. I covered it up and let it sit in the refrigerator for almost 24 hours. The recipe recommends 8-24 hours, so it's a great dish to throw together the night before, whether you're having breakfast or dessert the following day.
The next day I baked it with a lid on for 20 minutes at 325 degrees, then took the lid off and baked it for 10 more minutes.
It was delicious...again! As a dessert I might call it blackberry bread pudding instead of french toast because it has the same texture and similar flavors (except for the cream cheese.) Also, even though I made smaller cubes of cream cheese there were still some distinct cream cheese bites. I wonder if it would work to melt the cream cheese with the jam so that I could pour it evenly over the bread cubes? I may just try that next time.