Egg bakes, also called breakfast souffles, are an easy make-ahead individual egg dish perfect for hosting weekend brunch. Credit: Courtesy of Sandy Oliver

Easier to assemble than you might think, these elegant little individual egg dishes make a pretty great start to breakfast or brunch.

The ingredients are the same used for all kinds of breakfast casseroles: bread, cheese, your choice of bacon, sausage, or ham, or if you prefer a vegetable version, sauteed onions, peppers or mushrooms. A custard made of egg and milk — or if you want something a little richer, half and half or light cream — binds the ingredients. Set them up the night before and bake them off in the morning.

The recipe comes from the menu of a bed and breakfast inn where I worked years ago. The family who ran the inn called them egg bakes, and often served them for holiday breakfasts. At the inn, though, they thought that “egg bakes” wasn’t quite the image they wanted to project so they renamed them grandly as breakfast souffles.

They do puff up beautifully while baking then instantly collapse out of the oven. That doesn’t harm the savoriness one bit though. And you can make them out of scraps of ingredients, like a mere tablespoon of cooked sausage or chopped ham, and a big pinch of cheese.

I used glass custard cups that contain one-third of a cup each. You might have ramekins. The souffles are a little too sticky to bake in a popover pan — they will all go to mush when you try to scoop them out — but maybe you wouldn’t care. I don’t own any of the individual silicone muffin cups available these days but they might work, though I don’t think they quite meet the standard of elegance a glass or ceramic cup does.

The bread you choose to line the cup ought to be fairly malleable, maybe not white bunny bread exactly, while soft enough to tolerate being pushed around. I took off the crust and trimmed away the bread that stuck above the rim of the cup because it would burn while baking.

The only proportion that matters here is at least one egg for every cup of milk or cream that you use, though you can raise the proportion to one small egg for every half-cup. Depending on the size of your cups, about a half-cup of egg and milk mixture each will do.

Remember that you have to set these up to soak in the fridge overnight or for a few hours at least. That’s actually kind of handy because the cook can socialize (or sleep in) and just pull them out to bake for 45 minutes before serving.  

With a fruit or green salad alongside, maybe coffee cake or breakfast bread, these little souffles make for a company-worthy breakfast or brunch or special occasion for the whole family. Serve orange juice, mimosas or Bloody Marys. Live it up a little.

Breakfast Souffle

All ingredients below are for one person servings

1 slice of semi-firm bread

1 tablespoon of cooked breakfast sausage, crumbled bacon or chopped ham

1-2 tablespoons shredded cheddar or jack cheese

½ cup milk

1 small egg

Lightly grease the inside of your custard cup with butter, and press the bread into the cup, trimming excess off the top of the cup rim.

Add your choice of meat to the cup, top it with the shredded cheese.

Beat together the egg and milk and pour it over the meat and cheese until it shows through. It may soak up a little and need just topping off.

Cover and put into the fridge overnight or for a few hours.

When you are ready to bake them, heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Put the cups into a shallow baking pan or on a baking sheet in case they bubble over.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until puffed and golden brown on top.

Serve immediately.

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Sandy Oliver, Taste Buds

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working...