I remember waking up to the smell of egg and cinnamon drifting through the air. It must be Saturday. I’d think to myself. Mom always cooks french toast on Saturdays.
The problem with growing up is having to do all your own cooking. Not that I don’t like doing it, but new recipes never quite live up to childhood nostalgia. More often than not it came out soggy, or bitter, or dull. Most often all three.
You would think French Toast would be easy for a college grad. Bread plus egg plus mixings and that’s about it. Or so I thought. In reality it’s simply complex.
1. The Bread
Without a doubt, this makes the dish. Forget everything you knew about french toast bread. White, Whole Wheat, Potato, all of them are now off limits. Aside from those, the possibilities are endless. I’ve seen people use banana bread, hawaiian bread, challah, brioche, or even babka. Just about anything sliced thick that isn’t a sandwich loaf. My personal favorite? Greenlees Cinnamon Bread. So good I consider it cheating.
Choosing one is only half the story though. What we want is firm bread. The French have another term for this meal, seeing as it wasn’t always named for their country, “pain perdue“. Literally, lost bread. See before the time of excess, people had to actually use their leftovers. As it turns out, day old bread is one of the secrets to preventing soggy toast. Now I don’t expect readers air dry bread on the counter, but at least do a light bake in the oven.
2. The Custard
Most people throw a couple eggs in and mix with whatever milk they have. This is wrong. The goal isn’t wet bread, rather, coated bread. It helps to use a heavy cream, or at a minimum whole milk when making the custard to limit water content. A good rule is 1 extra yolk for every 2 eggs used. You don’t actually have to go the whole way and make a legitimate custard, but at least aim for the “thicker” ingredients mentioned above.
3. The Mixings
There is constant debate over what ingredients make the perfect soak. You would think cinnamon would be a given but in fact many recipes don’t even call for it. Options include vanilla, nutmeg, allspice, bourbon, Grand Marnier, maple syrup, brown sugar, the list goes on. I’ll let you decide, but be reckless about it.
Now to the easy part! Don’t kid yourself. Once it’s rich and soaked, cooking is the last thing between greatness and garbage. Cook too long and it’ll become dark and bitter, too little and you’ll be back to Soggy Town. This takes patience, but baking your masterpiece (after a slight brown in the pan) will yield a vastly superior product. The finished consistency should be golden around the crust with a soft give in the center. Top with a little powdered sugar, fruit, or syrup and you just finished the best French Toast you’ve ever made.
Eat up and be good to each other.