(Image credit: Lauren Volo)
When it comes time to host brunch this holiday season, use this recipe that can feed a crowd. It also offers a fancy (yet super-easy!) upgrade to the classic ham and cheese breakfast casserole, starting with cubes of day-old sourdough soaked in a velvety custard that’s laced with rich caramelized onions, bits of ham, and sharp provolone cheese. Better yet, we’re making this casserole in a springform pan so it bakes into an elegant round that you can slice into hearty portions for brunch — or perhaps even dinner.
A Space-Saving Way to Soak the Bread Overnight
Often the trickiest part of make-ahead casseroles (or any recipe that calls for a sizable dish or pan), is finding ample storage space in an already-full fridge. It usually calls for some expert-level Tetris skills. This make-ahead breakfast for a crowd takes a different approach.
Before the bread pudding hits the oven, the cubed sourdough must be soaked in a savory custard for at least a few hours, although if you have the time, I recommend an overnight soak. Instead of the usual baking dish, this recipe relies on a large resealable bag to soak the bread cubes in the custard. Not only is a bag easier to arrange in the fridge, but the sourdough will also more readily take in the liquid since you can flip it a few times whenever you pop into the fridge.
Caramelized Onion, Ham, and Provolone Breakfast Bread Pudding
1 (1-pound) day-old sourdough boule, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 large eggs
3 1/2 cups whole milk, or any combination of milk and cream
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cooking spray or butter
1 cup caramelized onions
1 1/2 cups shredded provolone cheese, divided
8 ounces thick-cut ham, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh chives, for garnish
Beat the eggs in a large bowl, and whisk in the milk (and cream, if using), nutmeg, salt, and pepper.
Add the bread cubes to a gallon-sized resealable bag, then pour in the custard. Press out any air and seal the bag. Rotate the bag a few times so the bread begins to soak up the custard. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to overnight, turning the bag periodically so the bread evenly soaks up the custard.
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 375°F. Generously coat a 9-inch springform pan with butter or cooking spray.
Pour the bread mixture into a large bowl. Add the onions, 1 cup of the cheese, and ham and stir to combine. Transfer to the prepared baking pan. Use your fingers to press down and lightly compress the bread. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
Bake uncovered until the center is set and the top is golden-brown, 50 to 55 minutes. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Top with the chives and serve warm or at room temperature.
- Make ahead: The caramelized onions can be prepared on the stovetop or in the slow cooker up to a week in advance and stored in the refrigerator. They can also be stored in the freezer for a few months. The bread can be soaked in the custard mixture up to 1 day in advance.
- Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.