The best French toast is golden brown on the outside with an inside that’s soft and tender, moist but not wet. The flavor should enhance the bread you decide to use. Any spices or added flavoring should be subtle yet noticeable. French toast should be a welcoming platform for syrup or other toppings, as if to say, “Hello maple syrup. I’ve been waiting for you. I’m your soul mate.”
The following article should give you everything you need to know to make successful French toast every time.
Selecting A Bread:
The easiest way to make exceptional French toast is to use exceptional bread. Regular white sandwich bread will work fine, but if you can get a nice loaf of French bread, Challah bread or an interesting cinnamon swirl bread, your French toast will be several degrees better before you even begin.
The best place to get bread: You’re local bakery or grocer’s day-old bread bin. If your slices of bread are slightly dry, they absorb more custard (eggs, milk, etc.) and make a more succulent and moist French toast.
A Note About Whole Grain Breads: These kinds of bread will work, but consider if the health benefits of whole grains is worth the trade-off for great taste. Whole grain breads usually taste healthy. That’s great for toast and tomatoes, but not ideal for French toast. I find that I end up using more syrup to mask the whole grain flavors. Does the increase in sugar negate the benefits of fiber and whole grains? That’s something you’ll need to decide.
Breads You Should Try: Croissants, Cinnamon, French, Sourdough, Brioche, Pannetone.
If you’re bread isn’t already sliced, cut the loaf into pieces about 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch thick. That’s the ideal thickness so that the inside will cook as the outside browns. You can certainly try thinner or thicker slices, but if your bread is more than 1-inch thick, consider finishing it off in a medium oven so that the inside isn’t gooey.
Eggs For French Toast:
When it comes to French toast, eggs are eggs. If you’re making sunny-side-up eggs, you want the freshest eggs you can get so the yolks are big and vibrant. For hard-boiled eggs, the best eggs are those nearing their expiration date (they’re easier to peel). For French toast, any eggs will do as long as they’re still good. Just be sure to use large, extra-large or medium eggs as the recipe you’re using dictates.
Making The Custard:
The egg and milk mixture that you’ll dredge your bread through is called the custard. This mixture can be simply eggs and milk, but for the best flavor you’ll want to add a couple things. First, a pinch of salt helps bring all your flavors together. A little bit of sugar is a great addition if you’re bread isn’t already sweet. I use just a teaspoon of sugar per cup of milk. Remember, you’re likely going be pouring sweet syrup over your final result so you don’t want a lot of sugar. If you’re bread is already sweet, as in the case of a cinnamon loaf, skip the additional sugar. Finally, spices and flavorings are used as you see fit. Try not to overpower your custard with added flavors. I like to use just a couple pinches of cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla. Less is more when it comes to spices. Your French toast is going to get a another huge burst of flavor when you add your toppings.
Other Flavor Additions To Try: Nutmeg, orange zest, lemon zest, all-spice, ground cloves, pumpkin pie spice, ginger.
A Note About Cinnamon: When you beat cinnamon into your eggs and milk, it may have a tendency to float and clump and not get absorbed by the mixture. The custard will still work fine as the cinnamon will stick to the bread.
A Note About Milk: I usually use a 1% or 2% low-fat milk. You could use whole milk or even half-and-half, but the resulting French toast won’t be significantly different from using low-fat milk. I avoid using heavy cream. It creates a thicker custard and the bread has a harder time absorbing the mixture.
You’re about to make make your French toast, but before you do, this is the point where you want to make sure your toppings are ready. Slice any fruit that you want. Get your bacon frying. Above all else, make sure you have some softened butter and warm maple syrup ready.
When it comes to warming maple syrup, the best method is to submerge your syrup container partially into a bowl or pan of hot water. As long as the syrup reaches room temperature or higher, you’re good to go.
Soaking The Bread:
Most breads only need a few seconds in the custard. Once fully coated on the bottom, flip the slices let them sit for about 10 seconds. Have a spatula standing by. You can usually transfer from the custard bowl to the frying pan using your hands. But sometimes, the bread will want to disintegrate as you lift it. If that happens, just transfer with a spatula.
If your bread is dense and/or thick, you’ll want to let it soak longer. Look for the point where the bread wants to break apart as you lift it from the mixture. Use a spatula to transfer slices to the griddle.
A Note About The Bowl You Use: A larger shallow bowl will make it easier for you to reach in and grab the wet slices. A large bowl will allow you to soak multiple slices at one time. You can also pour your custard mixture into a casserole dish or pie plate, so you can soak several pieces of bread at one time.
Frying French Toast:
Set a large frying pan or griddle over medium-high heat. My burners go up to 6 and I set it on 4. Place as many slices as will comfortably fit in the pan.
You don’t need an awful lot of butter to fry French toast. I use just about 1 and 1/2 Tablespoons of butter per batch of 4 or 5 slices – just enough to coat the bottom of the pan or griddle. You can use oils or non-stick cooking spray, but you miss out on a lot of flavor. Do yourself a flavor-favor and use butter – just don’t overdo it.
Before frying, decide which way you like your French toast best. If you drag your bread directly from the custard to the heat, you’ll get a bit of an eggy exterior. If you don’t like that eggy layer on the outside, place the wet pieces of bread on a plate and let them set just a minute before frying.
The cooking time isn’t set in stone. The pieces you see above cooked for 5 minutes before I flipped them. Let the slices cook for a couple minutes and then gently lift the edge of one slice with a spatula. Let the color of your French toast tell you when to flip. When mostly golden brown, flip and then cook the other side until browned.
If you’re working in multiple batches and want to keep everything warm so it can be served at the same time, just place the slices on a cookie sheet in an oven set to 200 degrees. I believe this step actually makes the French toast better, giving the inside a few extra minutes to cook through.
Serving French Toast:
Place slices of French toast on a platter so they overlap slightly. If desired, dust the top lightly with powdered sugar. Be sure to have plenty of warm syrup and softened butter within reach. Dig in and enjoy!
Basic French Toast Recipe:
- 10 to 12 slices of bread
- 1 cup milk
- 4 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
- 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
- butter – for frying
In a large shallow bowl, beat the eggs and milk together. Add salt, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla and whisk to combine.
Place bread slices in egg mixture – flipping once – until fully coated and mostly soaked through.
Melt 1 to 2 Tablespoons of butter in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Fry bread slices until golden brown on both sides – about 4 minutes for the first side and 3 minutes for the other side.
Add more butter as necessary between batches.
Serve hot with your favorite toppings.
Makes 4 servings.
The recipe above is a slightly modified version of a very popular and well-reviewed French Toast recipe on MrBreakfast.com.
For over 170 more French Toast Recipes, visit the French Toast Home Page of MrBreakfast.com.
Special Serving Suggestions:
If I’m making French Toast for brunch or any sort of special breakfast, I like to take things one step further. For me, that usually means homemade whipped cream. It’s the easiest thing in the word, but your guests will think you really put in some extra effort.
All you do: Beat 1 cup of heavy cream with a handheld electric beater until soft peaks form. Then, add 1 teaspoon of powder sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of flavor extract. I love using coconut, almond or maple extract. You could also replace the extract with a Tablespoon of an interesting liqueur like Amaretto, Cointreau of Frangelico. After you add the flavoring, just continue to beat until you get a whipped cream consistency. How easy is that?
Other Ways To Make Basic French Toast A Little More Impressive:
- Serve with a small scoop of quality ice cream
- Serve with a selection of sliced bananas and berries
- Top with almond slivers or other chopped nuts
- Top with crushed granola
For a longer list of alternative toppings, check out the article Maple Shwaple! Other Pancake (And French Toast) Toppings.