Panera Bread recently paid us a visit for a seminar on bread and bread pairings, and like most seminars of this nature, there was delicious food to go along with it! Tom Gumpel, Panera's VP of Bakery Development (pictured here), not only entertained us with bread-related stories from his youth, but also showed us how to make an amazing Asiago Cheese Strata from just 6 ingredients (not counting salt or pepper).

The strata had to be one of the best things I've ever put in my mouth, and I immediately wanted to share it with our readers. The recipe is below, and I hear that it may be featured in an upcoming video from our Studio, along with an interview with Tom about how to pair bread with various foods.

I'm planning to make it for our houseguests this weekend (and may experiment with adding bacon and mushrooms), but the plain version is a scene-stealer on its own. Try it for brunch, or as a dinner side.

Asiago Cheese Strata
developed by Tom Gumpel, VP of Bakery Development at Panera Bread
Serves: 6-8 people
Assembly time: 10-15 minutes
Bake time: 35-45 minutes

2 tablespoons sweetened/salted butter (soft)
1-1/2 cup milk
1 cup cream
3 whole eggs
pinch of salt
pinch of cracked black pepper
1 loaf (18 ounces) Asiago bread
1 cup Asiago cheese, shredded (or other cheese shredded)

Preparation:Preheat oven to 325◦F. Brush the sides and bottom of 8” baking dish or casserole dish with softened butter.
Custard:In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the milk, cream, eggs, salt and pepper and set aside.

Cut the Asiago bread across the loaf in thin, even slices, approximately 1/4-inch thick. Start assembly of the strata by placing bread slices on the bottom of the dish until bottom is completely covered. Sprinkle shredded Asiago cheese as necessary on the bread slices to cover completely. Cover with another layer of bread slices and sprinkle cheese on top, again covering bread slices completely.

Continue to build the strata for as many layers as dish allows, then pour custard mixture over top of strata.

Cover the strata and refrigerate for 15 minutes, allowing the bread slices to soak in custard mixture.

Place the strata pan on a cookie sheet to catch any dripping of the custard. Set the strata in the center of the preheated oven and allow to bake for approximately 35- 45 minutes. The custard should gain a rich dark color and rise slightly from the pan (it will settle after removal from the oven). Carefully remove from the oven and set aside to cool for 15 minutes before unmolding.

Carefully invert the strata by placing a 10-inch plate over the top of the pan and slowly flip the plate and pan over together. Place on the counter and allow the strata to fall from the pan onto the plate. If the strata does not release from the pan, cut around the sides of the pan and try to invert again.

Serve hot or warm as an accompaniment with meat and vegetables to fill out the meal.