Orange Cream Cheese Strata with Cranberries and Walnuts

orange cream strataServes 12

12 ounces cream cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest and 1/4 cup juice from a large orange
9 large eggs
3 cups half and half
2 tablespoons, plus another 2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup dried cranberries
12 to 13 slices cheap fluffy white bread, such as Wonder
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup orange marmalade

With a hand mixer, beat cream cheese and orange zest in a medium bowl, adding 1 egg at a time, to form a lumpy batter. Beat in half and half, sugar, and vanilla (Batter should still be lumpy).

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 unevenly. Pour 1 cup of the egg mixture over the bread, then sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the cranberries. Make another layer with remaining bread (and strips, if necessary). Slowly pour remaining egg mixture over bread. Cover with plastic wrap, then lightly weight the casserole (or lightly press on it with your hand a few times) until bread has almost completely absorbed the milk mixture. Let stand 15 minutes. (Casserole can be refrigerated overnight.)

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Before setting the casserole in the oven sprinkle with walnuts and remaining cranberries, lightly pressing them into the bread. Bake until casserole is firm and puffy, 35 to 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, warm marmalade and orange juice in a small saucepan.

Remove strata from oven, let stand for 8 to 10 minutes. Cut into 12 to 15 portions and serve immediately with orange sauce.

8 Comments

  1. Elizabeth says

    I hope you subscribe to the notion there is not ever such a thing as a dumb question, because I feel like the possibility exists you will gasp at what an idiot I am…

    Is there a “rule” about when it is ok to substitute lower fat/ lower calorie products? Would it be a sin to use l/f cream cheese or f/f half and half?

  2. Pam says

    Elizabeth,

    Not a dumb question at all. I don’t think there are any hard rules about low-fat substitutions, but from my experience you can pretty much substitute low-fat mayo, cream cheese, sour cream and most cheeses for full fat. I’d avoid fat-free, however. They’re just too different from the the original.
    You could definitely use low-fat cream cheese in this strata, and evaporated milk in place of the half and half. Good luck!

  3. susan Hickok says

    I was so glad you posted this recipe because i needed to take a dish to a brunch the other day. It was DELICIOUS! Of course, I brought home a completely empty pan and many requests for the recipe. I will definitely make this strata for Christmas this year — who would think it could be so easy to make (the night before) and get all the raves! Thanks Pam!

  4. says

    Fat-free half & half has no thickening properties so isn’t a good choice for a strata, custard, creme brulee, etc.

    I’m curious: this looks like a dessert more than a morning choice, yes?

  5. Pam says

    Hi Alanna,

    I supposed you could serve it as a bread pudding-style dessert, but as you can see except for the marmalade “syrup” for drizzling, it’s not that sweet.

  6. Karen says

    I do have a question about the sugar….the recipe calls for 2 T. sugar plus another 2 T. Are all 4 T. added at once or are they added at two separate times? If at 2 separate times, the recipe doesn’t indicate at what point the other 2 T. are used.

    • says

      Karen, the second 2 tablespoons of sugar is optional. You can sprinkle it on with the walnuts and cranberries before you pop the strata in the oven… or not!

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