Making Strata (egg bake) when you have company is a cinch — and everyone loves it. This is one of those “make ahead” dishes that will save you from running all around the kitchen in the morning, and you can enjoy coffee with your guests while smelling it bake in the oven. The basics are bread, cheese, eggs & milk, either by itself or with anything you want (or may have on hand) mixed-in.
For a savory strata, I might sauté onions & garlic and mix-in leftover asparagus or other green vegetable (and/or mushrooms). I have used ham & cheese for another flavor combo — use your imagination.
For a sweet strata, I like to make one that emulates french toast. You add cinnamon and brown sugar to the egg & milk mixture, and make a streusel topping (flour, brown sugar, white sugar, cold butter) which browns-up really nicely. Here is my French Toast Strata recipe.
One ingredient I like to incorporate is cream cheese in almost every strata I make. Just get an 8oz. brick of cream cheese, and drop small pieces in with the bread & cheese mixture layers. It gives a creamy texture to every other bite.
I keep any leftover bread I may have in the freezer to make strata. I will wrap in plastic and then in foil to keep the bread as fresh as possible in the freezer. Then, when you need it, just unwrap and cut (or break up) into pieces to make your strata. Leftover bread is great — the drier the better — because it will better soak up the egg & milk custard.
Today, I used a combination of leftover bagels, english muffins, and Italian loaf bread I had in my freezer. This is not very scientific, but you will need enough bread to fill the size of baking dish you are using. I used a high-sided lasagna pan, slightly bigger than a 9×13, and I used enough bread & cheese to fill the pan almost to the top.
Begin by buttering your baking dish liberally, on the bottom and all the way up the sides. Sprinkle about 1/3 of the bread pieces — enough to cover the bottom of the pan completely. Top with half of your grated cheese and half of the brick of cream cheese, torn into dime-size bits. Add another 1/3 of your bread and then the other half of your cheeses. Top with the final 1/3 of the bread and then pour your egg mixture over the contents of your baking dish. I like for the cheeses to be in between the layers, in this fashion, so that you don’t have cheese right on the top — it makes for a nice brown crunchy top (and bottom), with the creamy goodness right under the surface.
When you pour your egg mixture over the bread in the pan, it may only come about 2/3 of the way up the baking dish, so you will need to press down gently on the top to make sure each piece of bread comes in contact with the liquid. Cover with plastic wrap, and store in the refrigerator overnight.
The next morning, bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes covered, then uncover and bake for another 20-30 minutes until the top (and bottom & sides) is browned and the center is cooked all the way through.
Remove from oven, and allow this to cool-down for about 10 minutes before trying to serve, so that everything will firm-up. Enjoy!
- Enough cubed bread pieces to fill a 10x14x3 baking dish
- 6 oz. cheddar cheese, grated
- 6 oz. monterrey jack cheese, grated
- 8 oz. cream cheese, cubed into dime-sized pieces
- 12 eggs
- 4 1/2 cups milk
- 1 tsp. dry mustard
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
Whenever I am making an egg custard mixture like this, I use a blender. You can break in the eggs, then add the milk & spices (use the guide on the side of the blender to measure milk). For me, it’s easier than whisking the eggs & milk in a bowl — and convenient to pour this mixture over the prepared bread in the baking dish.
OPTIONAL: you can add small pieces of butter over the top (about 4 Tbsp butter total), before baking, to make this even more rich and delicious!