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French Toast Strata


8 cups French bread cut into small cubes - no crust (approx one loaf)
1 - 8 oz pkg. cream cheese
8 large eggs
2½ cups half and half
5 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
¼ cup maple syrup ( honey or various fruit syrups)
1 tablespoon vanilla

Slice French bread and cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Layer half of the bread cubes into a greased 13 by 9 inch baking dish. Cut cream cheese into 1/4 inch cubes and spread evenly over bread layer. Add remaining bread cubes. Combine half and half, eggs, melted butter and syrup until thoroughly mixed; pour evenly over bread and cheese cubes. Press surface with a spatula to thoroughly saturate all bread cubes. You can prepare this the evening before. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake on the middle rack for 35 to 45 minutes or until the center is raised and set and the top is golden. Remove from the oven and cut into 6 to 8 portions to serve. Serve with warm maple syrup or mix a can of pie filling with a bottle of fruit syrup or develop your own topping. It's wonderful.