How to Make Amazing French Toast
A small tweak can send a classic recipe into the stratosphere. Here’s a new French toast recipe that’ll knock your socks off, plus tips to ensure perfection every time.
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Classic French Toast; recipe and photo by Dude That Cookz
I’m a bit of a French toast fanatic. I’ll choose those golden-brown slices over pancakes and waffles any day. And you won’t find me turning up my nose at variations on the theme. I’ve made stuffed French toast filled with sweetened cream cheese and fruit for a baby shower brunch, overnight French toast casserole for Christmas morning, and sheet pan French toast when I’m pressed for time. I’ve even thrown together a decent version at a vacation rental using what I had available: sliced sandwich bread and pumpkin pie spice.
But in my opinion, the best French toast recipe is the classic, the one in which you dip thick slices of challah bread or brioche in an eggy, cinnamon-scented custard and fry them up in a buttered skillet until they’re golden brown on the outside, pillowy soft on the inside. I didn’t think it was possible to improve on this.
I was wrong.
This recipe for Classic French Toast doesn’t deviate far from my ideal, but it adds one tiny twist that made me swoon. The first time I made it, I ate three slices — the last one cold, with my fingers, as I was packing up the leftovers. And I may have snuck back into the kitchen later in the day for another.
It seems like such a simple thing, French toast, but it can go wrong in a number of ways. Use these tips to make it perfect, every time — and don’t forget about that twist.
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The best bread for French toast
When I was growing up, my mom baked challah for Shabbat every Friday night. My dad handled weekend breakfast recipes, and he made the most of those loaves. Our Sunday morning French toast always started with hearty slices of slightly stale bread. Those attributes are key.
Skip the sliced bread. You want a substantial loaf — the bagged white bread I used on vacation was both too thin and too squishy for really good French toast. Challah and brioche bread both have a richness to them, thanks to eggs in the dough — brioche takes that richness a step further by adding butter, too. I also like sourdough for French toast, since the crumb tends to be on the sturdy side and it has a nice tang to it.
Dry it out. Whichever bread you choose, it should be on the stale side to soak up the egg mixture. If yours feels too fluffy, dry out the slices in a low oven for about 10 minutes before dunking.
Thicker is better. A flimsy slice of bread will cook up into an unsatisfying French toast. Cut your slices of bread around one inch thick — or use Texas toast, which is both substantial and dry.
Making the egg mixture
Photograph by Dude That Cookz
French toast gets its custardy interior from, well, a custard. That’s the cooking term for a mixture of eggs, milk, and a little something sweet. For a French toast custard, aim for a ratio around 1/3 cup milk for each large egg.
Speaking of eggs, to avoid having globs of egg white that refuse to combine with the milk, beat the eggs well before using — lift your whisk out of the bowl every so often and look at the texture of what drips into the bowl. Keep beating them until you don’t see long strings of white hanging off your whisk. Another option, which also makes for a slightly richer custard: Use only the yolks.
As far as the milk goes, you have options. Heavy cream makes a luxurious custard, but watch out if you’re at all concerned about heart health: It has a whopping 55 grams of saturated fat per cup. Whole milk still gives the custard some heft, but with much, much less of that unhealthy fat. Half and half offers a nice compromise, since it combines equal amounts of heavy cream and whole milk.
Once you’ve got your eggs and milk, it’s time to talk flavoring. A teaspoon vanilla extract and some ground cinnamon are standard, and nutmeg, while optional, adds a little extra oomph. For the hint of sweetness that makes French toast so irresistible, this recipe uses granulated sugar — it factors into the twist I promised you. In the past I’ve also used pure maple syrup or a spoonful of brown sugar, both of which provide a deeper sweetness.
Dipping the bread
Photograph by Dude That Cookz
Put your egg-milk-spice mixture into a shallow dish like a pie plate or cake pan, and dip bread slices into it. The amount of time the bread spends in that luscious bath depends on how dried out it is. If your bread is quite fresh, too long of a soak could lead to it falling apart. On the other hand, bread that’s dried out enough to make a noise when you tap it can soak up custard for several minutes.
How to cook French toast
To get that burnished, crispy outside, the slices of soaked bread need to be in contact with a flat cooking surface, spread out in a single layer. Think large nonstick skillet or cast-iron griddle. Set your pan over medium heat — too high a flame, and the outside will start to burn before the custardy interior gets a chance to set.
You’ll need a few tablespoons butter to get all your French toast cooked. I like to add a bit of vegetable oil, which helps keep the dairy solids in the butter from burning. Once the bottom of your skillet is slicked and hot, add a few slices of soaked bread. Don’t crowd the pan, or you’ll lose those crispy edges.
Here’s where the twist happens, step 4 in the recipe: Sprinkle the top of each slice in the pan with a little sugar. When you flip them, that sugar will caramelize on the surface of the toast. It adds a hint of crunch and a burst of sweetness as soon as it hits your tongue. This bit of culinary wizardry is why I found myself eating cold slices of French toast when nobody was looking.
Cook the slices until the bottom of each turns golden brown, around 3-4 minutes, then flip and cook another 3-4 minutes. Transfer the French toast to a baking sheet and pop it into the oven set on Warm.
If there are browned bits in your pan, wipe the pan out and start with fresh butter before repeating the steps with any remaining slices.
Favorite ways to serve French toast
Keep the cooked French toast warm in the oven while you get your fixings ready:
Maple syrup is the OG, of course. I beg of you, use the real thing — yes, it costs more, but the flavor is so pronounced you won’t need as much as you would of the stuff that comes in a plastic squeeze bottle.
Fresh fruit goes beautifully with French toast. The hint of acidity cuts through some of the richness. In my family we often opt for blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries, sliced banana, citrus sections, or a tropical combo like mango, papaya, and pineapple.
I like to combine maple syrup and fruit into a flavored syrup. I’ll simmer fresh or frozen berries or apple slices in a small saucepan with maple syrup and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, until the fruit softens and releases its flavors. Or the spiced cranberry syrup from this recipe makes a lovely Christmas morning topping. Serve these warm for maximum coziness.
Want to go for full indulgence? Top your French toast with a dollop or two of whipped cream.
What to do with French toast leftovers
In my family of three, we often have leftover French toast. I’ve even been known to cook up a double-batch on Sunday for easy breakfasts during the week. To store, transfer the cooked slices to an airtight container and stow it in the fridge. If you can’t eat it all within three or four days, place the slices in a single layer on a cutting board and freeze. When solid, transfer to a freezer bag.
Reheat leftover French toast in several ways:
The microwave heats fastest and works with frozen slices. It still tastes good, but you’ll have to be OK with a certain amount of limpness. Those crispy edges will be gone.
A skillet gets you close to the original texture. Add a bit of butter to your skillet over medium-low heat and add a slice of French toast. Give it one or two minutes on each side, until hot and crispy. This method won’t work with frozen slices — you’ll need to thaw those first.
An air fryer produces great results, but like a skillet you can only reheat a slice or two at a time. Put the slices into the basket and air-fry at 400° F for 3 to 4 minutes from the fridge, 5 to 6 minutes from the freezer. Flip the slices halfway through.
Use the oven if you’re reheating a larger amount. Set a rack inside a rimmed baking sheet and lay out the slices. Bake at 400° F for 5 to 10 minutes. If you’re going from the freezer, cover the pan with foil until defrosted, then uncover to crisp up.
Get the recipe: Classic French Toast
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