Like I've said before, I kind of have a thing for pumpkin stuff. When I came across this gem on pinterest, I knew it was a go. I didn't want to wait until next weekend though for a leisurely Saturday morning brunch with the fam. I also knew that a rushed, cram-down-your-food-before-the-bus-gets-here, school morning breakfast would not be proper introduction to the family. What's a girl to do but make it for dinner! It was definitely a winner. The whole thing was devoured and I'm quite confident that an entire second pan would have been eaten if had made one. Everybody also voted that I make this for Christmas morning breakfast. Watch out cinnamon rolls, there's a new favorite in the house! I found the original recipe on Minimalist Baker but I've tweaked it and those changes are worked in below.
5 1/2 - 7 1/2 cups 1-inch bread cubes*
7 large eggs
2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup pumpkin BUTTER (recipe here) or 1/2 cup pumpkin puree**
8 oz block of cream cheese
3-4 tablespoons brown sugar for topping
nuts, like pecan or walnuts (optional - BUT I SAY IT'S MANDATORY)
1.Cut any kind of bread into 1-inch cubes - I recommend a crusty, whole grain variety (homemade is the best), but store bought sandwich bread will work too. Just use enough slice to fill a lightly greased 9x13 baking dish quite full.
2.Cut the cream cheese into cubes and tuck in among the bread cubes. If you want less of a cream cheese flavor, you don't have to use the whole block.
3.In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla, pumpkin butter and pie spice until well combined. Pour over bread and push down with a spoon or your hands until it's all soaked and mostly covered. Cover with saran wrap or lid and refrigerate overnight.
4.In the morning, preheat oven to 350 degrees, uncover and top with brown sugar, additional pumpkin pie spice and nuts (optional). Bake for 35-45 minutes or golden brown and no longer wet.
5.Top with maple syrup and serve immediately. Store leftovers in the refrigerator covered for up to a couple days.
* For the bread cubes, just use as much bread as it takes to fill the bottom of your dish generously, plus up about 1 to 1.5 inches. If you've added too much to soak up the liquid, just remove some. And if it looks too wet, add some more bread.
** I HIGHLY recommend using pumpkin butter as it has a concentrated pumpkin flavor and is much sweeter than puree. But if using puree instead of butter, it's important to compensate the flavor by adding a bit more puree, pumpkin pie spice, and a little agave nectar, brown sugar or maple syrup to the batter. Otherwise, it will lack that delicious fall, pumpkin flavor you're going for.