This post was written in partnership with America’s milk brands and farm families.
Halloween, once again, falls on a school day this year. I can remember the disappointment I felt going to school when I should’ve been planning my evening’s candy-gathering route, so I’ve taken to easing my kiddos disappointment by surprising them with a special recipe to kick-start their spooky day.
Chocolate Milk was my beverage of choice as a child, and French toast (also a favorite) was the breakfast I’d only get on special occasions.
So this year I'm combining the two into this Slow Cooker Chocolate Milk French Toast: semi-sweet chocolate with plump cubes of challah bread, which have soaked overnight in a rich chocolate milk-based custard. Halloween or not, who wouldn't be thrilled to wake up to this?
What is the “best” bread for French toast?
Use any high-quality, enriched bread you can find (and afford) -- one that is made with both eggs and butter. This type of bread has a density that holds up better when soaked, so it's a clear choice here.
The flavor of a bread like challah, with its buttery undertones, combines with velvetiness from the chocolate milk custard exceptionally well. Other enriched breads like brioche or sweet Hawaiian bread would be great substitutes as well.
I tend to shy away from using lean French/Italian breads if I can. They’re more susceptible to sogginess even after toasting.
How long does it take to cook?
Slow cookers are a gift for busy families, especially when school is in session. Case in point: this casserole only needs 2 1/2 hours (on high) to fully cook after its overnight soak.
My preferred schedule when making this dish is to prep everything the day before I intend to serve it, then I toast the bread cubes in the early evening. Just before heading off to bed, I put the bread cubes into the slow cooker’s ceramic insert, mix up the chocolate milk custard, then put the covered dish into the fridge.
In the morning, after letting the insert warm a little on the countertop (to keep it from shattering when it’s heated), I pop it into the slow cooker and leave it to do its thing.
How to serve the Chocolate Milk French Toast Casserole
This casserole needs absolutely no toppings. Shocking, I know, but you can save the maple syrup and powdered sugar for something else; this doesn’t need a hype-man. Among the mild sweetness of both the challah and the chocolate milk, the added semi-sweet chocolate chunks make this dish sweet enough to enjoy solo, or even better, enjoy with a glass of real milk!
Reheating the leftovers
Leftovers -- if you have any -- taste just as good reheated in the microwave for about a minute and a half.
Not only is this casserole easy to assemble and cook, it’s freezer-friendly, too! Let the leftovers cool completely before transferring them to a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to two months. When you’re ready to eat it, just allow it to thaw and reheat it in the microwave or a 350°F oven until warmed through!
Slow Cooker Chocolate Milk French Toast
- 1 pound challah, brioche, or sweet Hawaiian bread, cut into 1 to 1 1/2 inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons orange zest (from one small naval orange)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 5 large eggs
- 2 cups whole chocolate milk
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
- 4 ounces (110 grams) semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (or chocolate chips), divided
Toast the challah
Preheat your oven to 300°F. Arrange the cubes of challah in a single layer on a half sheet pan.
Toast the bread for 15 minutes, tossing once half-way through the toasting time. Remove the pan from the oven and let the bread cool while you prepare the chocolate milk custard.
Mix the custard
In a large mixing bowl, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, orange zest, salt, and eggs. Whisk the ingredients together until smooth.
Combine the chocolate milk and heavy cream and add them to the egg mixture. Whisk until the custard is no longer clumpy.
Assemble the casserole
Grease the ceramic insert of your slow cooker with the butter.
Add half of the bread cubes to the insert and top with a quarter of the chocolate pieces.
Add the remaining bread cubes and sprinkle on another quarter of the chocolate chunks. Reserve the rest of the chocolate for sprinkling on the finished casserole.
Soak the casserole
Pour all of the chocolate milk custard over the bread. Use a large spoon to toss the bread in the custard before covering with the lid and refrigerating for at least 2 or up to 24 hours.
Warm the ceramic insert:
Before cooking the casserole, set the ceramic insert on the countertop for 30 minutes to take some of the chill off of it. This will keep it from shattering when it’s heated.
Cook the casserole
Place the insert into the slow cooker and cook the casserole on high for 2 1/2 hours. The internal temperature of the fully-cooked casserole should be 160-165°F
Cool and serve:
Once the casserole is cooked, sprinkle the remaining chocolate chunks over the casserole. Cool briefly, then spoon the casserole into individual plates and serve.