A minor change can elevate a tried-and-true recipe to new heights. So here’s a new French toast recipe that will knock your socks off and some pointers to ensure excellent results every time.
I’m a big fan of French toast. I’d rather have those golden-brown slices than pancakes or waffles any day. And you won’t find me snubbing variations on the concept. For a baby shower brunch, I cooked stuffed French toast with sweetened cream cheese and fruit, an overnight French toast casserole for Christmas morning, and sheet pan French toast when I was short on time. I’ve even made a passable version at a vacation rental with what I had on hand: sliced sandwich bread and pumpkin pie spice.
In my opinion, the best French toast dish is traditional, in which thick slices of challah bread or brioche are dipped in an eggy, cinnamon-scented custard and fried in a buttered skillet till golden brown on the surface and pillowy soft on the inside. Unfortunately, there was little way to improve on this.
I was mistaken.
This recipe for Classic French Toast stays within my ideal, but it does include one slight touch that made me sigh. When I initially cooked it, I ate three slices with my fingers, the final one cold, as I was packing away the leftovers. I may have returned to the kitchen later in the day for another.
French toast appears to be a simple thing, but it may go wrong in various ways. Use these strategies to get it right every time, and remember the twist.
The best bread for French toast
Every Friday night when I was growing up, my mother cooked challah for Shabbat. My father was in charge of the weekend breakfast meals and made the most of those breads. As a result, our Sunday morning French toast was always accompanied by thick pieces of slightly stale bread. These characteristics are critical.
- Leave out the sliced bread. The bagged white bread I used on vacation was too thin and spongy for very nice French toast. Because of the eggs in the dough, both challah and brioche bread have a richness; brioche takes that richness further by adding butter. I also enjoy sourdough for French toast since the crumb is firmer and has a beautiful tang.
- Allow it to dry. Whatever bread you use should be stale enough to soak up the egg mixture. If yours is overly fluffy, dry it in the oven for 10 minutes before immersing.
- Thicker is preferable. A stale slice of bread will result in a disappointing French toast. Instead, use one-inch thick slices of bread or Texas toast, which is substantial and dry.
Making the egg mixture
The custardy interior of French toast comes from, well, a custard. That’s the cookery name for a combination of eggs, milk, and something sweet. Aim for a milk-to-egg ratio of around 1/3 cup for each large egg when making a French toast custard.
To avoid globs of egg white that refuse to mingle with the milk, beat the eggs well before using – raise your whisk out of the bowl now and then and inspect the texture of what drips into the bowl. Continue to beat them until you no longer see long strings of white hanging off your whisk. Another option, which results in a slightly more decadent custard, is to use only the yolks.
You have choices when it comes to milk. Heavy cream makes a luscious custard, but be cautious if you’re concerned about your heart health: Per cup, it contains an astounding 55 grams of saturated fat. Whole milk adds body to the custard while having far less lousy fat. Half and half is a good compromise because it contains equal parts heavy cream and whole milk.
After you’ve gathered your eggs and milk, it’s time to discuss flavoring. A teaspoon of vanilla extract and ground cinnamon are required, while nutmeg, while optional, provides a little zing. This recipe includes granulated sugar for the hint of sweetness that makes French toast so appealing – it contributes to the twist I promised you. In the past, I’ve used pure maple syrup or a teaspoon of brown sugar to add a more profound richness.
Dipping the bread
Dip bread slices into the egg-milk-spice mixture in a shallow dish, such as a pie plate or cake pan. The length of time the bread spends in that delightful bath is determined by how dry it is. If your bread is still relatively fresh, soaking it too long may cause it to fall apart. Bread that has dried out enough to create a noise when tapped, on the other hand, can soak up custard for several minutes.
How to cook French toast
The moistened bread slices must touch a flat cooking surface and spread out in a single layer to get that burnished, crispy exterior. Consider using a large nonstick skillet or a cast-iron griddle. Set your pan over medium heat – a high flame will cause the outside to burn before the custardy interior can set.
You’ll need a few teaspoons of butter to cook all of your French toast. I prefer to add a small amount of vegetable oil to protect the dairy solids in the butter from burning. Next, add a few slices of moistened bread to the bottom of your skillet once it’s slicked and heated. If you overcrowd the pan, you’ll lose those crispy edges.
Step 4 in the recipe is when the twist occurs: Sprinkle a little sugar on top of each slice in the pan. When you flip them, the sugar will caramelize on the toast’s surface. It provides a bit of crunch and a flash of sweetness as soon as it touches your tongue. Because of this culinary feat, I ate cold slices of French toast when no one was watching.
Cook the slices for 3-4 minutes, or until the bottoms turn golden brown, then flip and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Place the French toast on a baking pan in a warm oven.
If your skillet has browned portions, wipe it clean and start over with fresh butter before repeating the procedures with any remaining slices.
Favorite ways to serve French toast
While you prepare your fixings, keep the baked French toast warm in the oven:
- Of course, maple syrup is the original. But, I beg you, use the real thing – yeah, it’s more expensive, but the flavor is so strong that you won’t need as much as you would with the stuff in a plastic squeeze bottle.
- Fresh fruit complements French toast perfectly. But, unfortunately, some richness is cut through by a hint of acidity. So my family frequently chooses blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, sliced bananas, citrus sections, or a tropical combination of mango, papaya, and pineapple.
- I like to make flavored syrup with maple syrup and fruit. In a small skillet, I’ll heat fresh or frozen berries or apple slices with maple syrup and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice until the fruit softens and releases its flavors. This recipe’s spiced cranberry syrup also makes a great Christmas morning topping. Serve warm for optimal comfort.
- Do you want to go all out? Add a spoonful or two of whipped cream to your French toast.
What to do with French toast leftovers
My three-person family frequently has leftover French toast. I’ve even been known to make a second batch on Sunday for quick breakfasts throughout the week. To preserve: Place the cooked slices in an airtight container and place them in the refrigerator. If you can’t finish it in three or four days, freeze the pieces in a single layer on a cutting board. Transfer to a freezer bag once solid.
There are various ways to reheat leftover French toast:
- The microwave is the quickest way to heat frozen slices. It tastes excellent, but you must be okay with some limpness. After that, those crusty edges will vanish.
- A skillet approaches the original texture. Melt some butter in a skillet over medium-low heat, then add a slice of French toast. Allow one or two minutes per side or until heated and crispy. This procedure will not work with frozen pieces; you must first thaw them.
- An air fryer delivers excellent results, but, like a pan, it can only reheat one or two slices at a time. Place the slices in the basket and air-fry at 400° F for 3 to 4 minutes if fresh, 5 to 6 minutes if frozen. Halfway through, flip the slices.
- If you’re reheating a significant quantity, use the oven. Arrange the slices on a rack inside a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes at 400° F. If using a frozen pan, cover with foil until defrosted, then uncover to crisp up.