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French Toast Casserole

One loaf Italian bread, cut into cubes (3/4”)
1 cup raisins, simmered in apple juice, rum or water until plump
½ cup butter, at room temperature
8 ounces Philadelphia cream cheese, at room temperature
½ cup pancake syrup
12 large eggs
3 cups half and half
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Grease 2 large baking dishes.  Fill each dish half full with bread cubes and evenly divide raisins between the dishes.

In bowl, beat butter and cream cheese until mostly smooth (a few lumps are OK), add syrup and beat until well mixed.  Spoon this mixture over bread cubes and distribute evenly to edges of dish.

In large bowl, beat eggs, half & half, vanilla, sugar and cinnamon.  Pour over bread and raisins.  Cover and store overnight in refrigerator.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 55 to 60 minutes.  The casserole is done when center is raised and firm and the top is golden brown.

Cut into slices, top with sliced fruit and nuts, if desired.  Dust with powdered sugar and serve with syrup.

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