Thursday, August 23, 2012

French Toast

A few weeks back, I made the most amazing, delicious, scrumptious, wonderful batch of impromptu French toast out of stale Panera bagels.

I went to eat a bagel, discovered it was rock-hard, and decided that, instead of throwing it away, I would try to make French toast.

I didn't have a recipe or a plan, just some eggs and milk and stale bagels and cinnamon and it turned out perfectly.

Fast forward to Saturday. I wanted French toast. We had some bread that wasn't quite stale, per say, but you never really know, in Tulsa, if bread will go stale or moldy, and we were unlikely to eat it before it went whichever way it decided to go.

Anyway. I had this stack of bread, which the DDH obligingly dried out a bit in the toaster, and I panicked. "I can't remember what I did for the bagels. Those turned out so well. I don't want to mess up this bread. I wish I had written down the bagel-process. I need a recipe!"

The DDH rolled his eyes. "You don't need a recipe to make French toast. It's just French toast."

"That's what you say now," I said, "but you won't be so certain if I ruin it all and you have nothing to eat."

The DDH decided not to argue and went back to doing...whatever it was he was doing in the other room.

I looked up a recipe for French toast and promptly did almost nothing it said to do. Because that's how I roll.

And it turned out just fine.

This recipe is for all of you who don't really need a recipe for French toast, but want one anyway. Feel free to ignore everything it says. It's hard to go too terribly wrong with eggy bread.

French Toast
Adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman.

This recipe makes enough batter for eight slices of commercial sandwich bread, made moderately soggy. If you use more, thicker, or drier bread (or bagels!) you may need more batter; if you prefer less-soaked toast, you may use less.

BUT. Unless you are short on eggs, you should make more batter than you think you'll need, because everyone should at least once have the experience of eating leftover batter cooked into oddly-seasoned scrambled eggs. Your tastebuds won't know what to do with themselves.

Eight slices o' bread.
 Crack four eggs into a large bowl.

Use a whisk or fork to beat up the eggs, as you would for scrambled eggs.

Add two cups of milk:

Whisk together until well combined.

See the yellow flecks suspended in the milk? That's what
happens if you add the milk before beating up the eggs.
Add approximately 1 tsp. vanilla and spices to taste. Cinnamon is a must-have. My personal Secret Ingredient is ginger. Other popular spices are nutmeg, cloves...any of those warm spices that belong in pumpkin pies. I don't recommend using all of those in one batch, though, unless you want pumpkin pie flavored French toast. Which, now there's an idea....

Add about 1 heaping tsp. of each to taste.

The usual suspects.

Whisk to combine.
Spicy batter.

 Add in a good shake or three of salt.

There are two schools of thought on French toast preparation: the Dipping School and the Soaking School. I belong to the latter. I want toast that's as much egg as bread. I want it crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside and completely its own delicious thing.

Other people like plain toast with a little egg glaze on it. De gustibus non est disputandum, as my dad always says.

Anyway, so if you're a Dipper, you want to heat your skillet, then dip your bread to your liking into the batter and toss it on the skillet right away.

If you're a Soaker (congratulations on your good taste), pile some bread in there and leave it to soak while you heat the skillet.

Soaking toast.

The only problem with this method is that the first few slices you soak might soak up all your batter, leaving the last couple slices dry and sad. Sometimes this is acceptable or even desirable, if, say, you have some weirdos in your house who like less eggy French toast. But for best results, only soak two to three pieces at a time, and don't leave them in too long. Admonish them to leave some batter for the other toastlets. Alternatively, split the batter between two bowls so you can soak all the bread at once.

Meanwhile, heat a scant tablespoon butter or oil (a neutral flavored oil like coconut or canola, not olive oil, unless you want some really weird-tasting toast) in a large skillet.

Oiled pan.

Put the battered bread in the hot skillet.

Cook for about two minutes on each side or until browned. You'll have to keep adjusting this time as your pan gets warmer, the same way you do when making pancakes. Luckily, you can keep flipping toast back and forth until it's nicely browned on both sides without making a bit mess.

Remember that this is egg soaked bread, so you do want the egg to cook all the way through.

Nicely browned.

This is what happens if you're not firm with your bread and you let it hog all the batter: it gets really mushy and floppy.

There's nothing wrong with that, technically. They will cook fine and actually be the most delicious of all the bread pieces.


Unfortunately, it means that the rest of the bread will not have much batter to soak in:

And will be drier and less flavorful than the rest of the batch.

Which, honestly, is nothing a little honey can't remedy.

See how it doesn't brown evenly because there's not as much
batter on the outside of the toasts.

 Regardless, in the end, you will have a glorious pile of eggy bread:

Eggy bread.
Serve plain or topped with butter, sugar, jam, maple syrup, and/or my favorite: honey.

French toast with Michigan cherry butter.


  1. I LOVE the pumpkin french toast idea. I've been thinking about it since I read your post (in the middle-ish of last night?). Now that I'm stocked with all the necessary ingredients, I think that's going to HAVE to be breakfast tomorrow (or lunch or whatever...):-).

    1. Me too! You'll have to let me know what you do and how it turns out. I'm not going to have a chance to tackle it for a month or so probably. But it sounds so. good. ^_^



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