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As a lactose-sensitive person and both the primary cook and grocery shopper in the house, we haven’t kept milk on hand for the last 14 or so years. Little bits of dairy, or low-lactose foods like cheese, butter, and yogurt with live cultures are no problem, but I’ve had to find alternatives to a bowl of ice cream or milk in my granola. With the abundance of milk alternatives these days, going dairy-lite has been pretty easy. I’ve made the rounds with rice milk, soy milk, hemp milk, and almond milk easily substituting any of these for the real thing in plenty of recipes.

What I hadn’t played around with was any recipe calling for heavy cream. Then I found a link to a baked version of french toast that not only looked delicious, but could be prepared the night ahead so the next morning all you had to do was pop it into the oven. But it called for heavy cream. As I regularly make french toast with almond milk, I was confident in that substitution, but if I just omitted the cream would I lose the proper mouth-feel of this version? Maybe someone made a non-dairy heavy cream or even whipped cream alternative; after all, non-dairy “nogs” show up around the holidays.

A visit to the grocer turned up empty for a direct heavy cream alternative, but gave me an idea to try yogurt. It’s thicker texture might just be the thing. For the bread, I bought a day-old wheat french bread (just 89¢ compared to $6 for challah which was what the original recipe used) and used half of that plus two dinner rolls I had left over. In the end, all the substitutions yielded a success. The amended recipe turned out beautifully, and the leftovers were just as delicious reheated the next morning. I’ll be adding this one to my breakfast repertoire. And while I’m no nutritionist, I suspect that this version is a bit more low-fat and calorie than the original.

Dairy-Lite French Toast Casserole

Makes approximately 4 servings

Casserole ingredients:

  • Approximately 1/2 loaf day-old bread [use more or less to taste]
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1/4 cup vanilla yogurt
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup sugar [I would omit this next time as with the streusel topping and a bit of maple syrup it is a bit sweet for my taste]

Cinnamon streusel topping:

  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 stick cold butter, cubed

Instructions

  1. Grease a 24 cm  glass pie plate
  2. Tear the bread into chunks and place them in the greased pan
  3. Mix together eggs, almond milk, yogurt, vanilla, and sugar if using; pour the mixture evenly over the bread, then cover and refrigerate overnight
  4. In a separate bowl prepare the cinnamon streusel topping; mixing together the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt.
  5. Add the butter and mix until crumbly [This is made much easier with a food processor, but if you don’t have one like me, it can be done with a hand mixer– it’s a bit messy though so use a big bowl]; refrigerate separately from the casserole
  6. The next morning, preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  7. Sprinkle the streusel mixture evenly over the casserole
  8. Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on your preference for how firm you prefer your french toast [I don’t like mine soggy, so I went the full hour]
  9. Serve warm with real maple syrup

Recipe adapted from Lovin’ From the Oven

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