A plate of perfect French toast is crispy around the edges, custard-like in the center, and capped off with an amber drizzle of maple syrup!
The simple creation of bread, eggs, and milk dates back to medieval times, when the battering process was used to make stale loaves more edible. French toast is known in France as pain perdu, which translates to “lost bread,” because it makes use of old or leftover bread.
Do your French bread slices turn out dry or soggy, burned in some spots and undercooked in others? It isn’t that difficult to make French toast with a crisp exterior and creamy interior. Let me show you how.
Challah, brioche, or other egg bread will give you creamy insides. French bread sliced on the diagonal makes a nice, chewy version. Tightly crumbed, country-style breads also work. Avoid generic white sandwich bread and rustic breads with large holes and thick crusts.
Using thin sliced bread is just asking for disaster. The bread needs some mass to hold up to a longer soak in the custard, or else it will start to disintegrate before it even gets to the pan. A one-inch thick slice helps keep the bread from becoming too soggy while promoting a creamy interior.
Ideally, the bread should be slightly stale. A drier bread will soak up all the custard. Bread can be left out with the wrapper open the day before cooking. If you find yourself in a pinch, dry your bread slices in a 275°F oven for 10 minutes before soaking them in the custard.
Milk and Eggs
A basic rule of thumb is ¼ cup of milk and one egg per 2-slice serving. If you really want to avoid that scrambled taste, use only the yolks of some of the eggs. The sulfur compounds in the whites give eggs their unique “egg” taste. Always choose whole milk or half-and-half for its richness. When whisking the eggs and milk for the custard, be sure the egg is completely whisked into the liquid and there are no bits of white or yolk – any un-whisked bits of egg will separate and cook up hard.
Let the bread soak for 15-20 minutes in the liquid or until the bread has absorbed it for a custard-like center. Be sure to let the excess custard drip off the bread before you place it in the pan to avoid a custard puddle forming beneath the bread as it cooks.
It’s how you season the custard that will give your French toast a distinctive flavor. A pinch of cinnamon and a teaspoon of vanilla extract are standard upgrades as well as a little sugar. Consider this when choosing a sweetener: powdered sugar will dissolve well, leaving you a smooth custard, while brown sugar will create a lovely caramel flavor as it cooks. Get creative with spices such as allspice, apple pie, nutmeg, or pumpkin pie. Alternatively, try adding a dash of flavored extract such as almond, orange, rum, etc.
If the pan isn’t hot enough when you put your first slice in, the custard spreads out, forming a “foot” on the bottom of the French toast. If you cook it on too low a temperature, the bread will dry out, and you won’t have a soft center. If the heat is too high, sugar in the custard will caramelize and quickly burn.
Oil and Butter
Give the pan a light coating of neutral oil and butter. This will help prevent the butter from burning. In addition, make sure to wipe out the pan after every batch, and then use a fresh combination of oil and butter.
Top your homemade French toast with pure maple syrup, fresh fruit, a dollop of jam, or a fruit sauce like chokecherry syrup or a simple fresh raspberry purée.
Most of the time, French toast is served as a sweet dish; however, it also makes a delicious savory meal. Leave out the sugar in the custard and serve it topped with savory items like sautéed spinach, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, or other vegetables, bacon, ham, chicken, Parmesan cheese, yogurt, etc.
Leftover French toast can be refrigerated and frozen in an airtight container. Simply reheat it in the oven or toaster oven to keep the outside crispy.
If you want amazing French toast, give this restaurant method a try! The French toast is browned slightly in a pan, and then it is baked. The baking cooks the custard inside the bread and gives it a magnificent texture. The outside will be crispy and golden. The extra step of baking is sooo worth it! When you bite into this, I’m sure you’ll agree. Enjoy!