People always love this dish and want to know what makes it so light. It’s Wonderbread! Wonderfully wan, it becomes one with the custard. Don’t settle for anything milder than extra-sharp cheddar.
1 quart half and half
1 dozen eggs
1 teaspoon salt and several freshly ground black pepper
12 to 14 slices cheap fluffy white bread, such as Wonder Bread
12 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated (about 3 cups)
1/2 cup thin-sliced scallions (about 3 medium)
Whisk half and half, eggs, and salt and pepper to taste until smooth.
Spray a 13-by 9-inch Pyrex or ceramic baking dish with vegetable cooking spray. Line pan bottom with 6 slices of bread, fitting in additional bread, cut into strips, to form a tight fit, which keeps the strata from puffing dramatically, and then sprinkle with half the scallions and cheese. Pour 1 cup of egg mixture over the topped bread. Make another layer with remaining bread –-adding extra strips of bread if necessary–scallions and cheese. Slowly pour remaining egg mixture over bread. Cover with plastic wrap, then weight the casserole with 3 one-pound cans for at least 15 minutes.
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Bake until custard is just set, about 50 minutes. Without adjusting oven rack, turn on broiler; broil until strata is spotty brown and puffy, about 5 minutes longer.
Remove from oven, let stand for 8 to 10 minutes, and then serve immediately.