What’s quicker than quiche, sturdier than a soufflé, and combines the best qualities of both? The answer is strata, a layered casserole that in its most basic form comprises bread, eggs, cheese, and milk or cream. Layered among them are flavorful fillings that provide both substance and character, and the result is, in essence, a golden brown, puffed, hearty, savory bread pudding.
But even after we were happy with the flavors of the strata—we settled on spinach and Gruyere—we were having problems with dry pockets of bread. To get the custard to fully saturate the bread, we topped the two components with a fairly heavy weight before baking. This gave us bread that was coated but not mushy—and made for a strata that was truly out of this world.
Below are the key assembly steps before chilling the strata (at least 1 hour or up to overnight), letting it stand at room temperature, topping it with more cheese, and then sliding the dish into the oven. Full recipe available after the photos.
ASSEMBLING THE STRATA
1. Layer the bread and filling in the baking dish and top with the cheese.
2. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the layers.
3. Cover the surface flush with plastic wrap and place a large zipper-lock bag filled with 2 pounds of sugar on top of the wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Our Cook’s Illustrated recipe for Breakfast Strata with Spinach and Gruyere will be free to access until September 6th.