Treat yourself or somebody special with this easy french toast breakfast! Indulge in crispy golden slices with custard-like centers. This recipe lightly toasts the bread to prevent them from getting soggy when dipping.
How to make French toast from scratch
Be the breakfast hero! Serving up thick slices of warm French toast covered with powdered sugar, swimming in maple syrup will bring instant smiles. It’s a clever way to turn boring slices of bread into a stunning gourmet breakfast. The custardy coating is what makes each slice irresistible. It’s perfect for those laid back weekend mornings or holiday times with family.
The technique for how to make French toast is straightforward. All you need are common pantry items like eggs, milk, brown sugar, spices, and vanilla then you’re ready to dip! Toast the bread, soak in the custard, and fry until crisp and puffy. You can now enjoy a homemade bistro-style dish without having to change out of your pajamas.
Thick slices of white bread or brioche are my top choices. White bread has a neutral flavor and infuses the vanilla and spices with ease. Brioche has a richer dough made of eggs and sugar which makes it dense and slightly sweeter. Wheat bread is another option that adds a nutty flavor and hearty bite due to the bran.
To ensure that the bread can support the heavy custard, make sure to use slices 2/3 to ¾-inch thick. Most pre-sliced loaves from the market are thinner, so scour the aisle for a wide-cut variety or cut at home for more control.
A tasty way to use leftover bread
A classic French toast recipe uses stale bread or in France, it’s called lost bread or “pain perdu”. Fresh homemade baked loaves naturally start to dry out within a few days, unlike the store-bought products which contain special preservatives to keep the crumb moist and can take weeks to dry out.
Toast the bread when it’s too soft
If your bread is still soft but you want to make this recipe, here’s an easy solution for you. Toast the bread in a low-heated oven for several minutes, just like making croutons. The hot air will dry the surface and make it easier to absorb the custard. If you begin the process with soft moist bread, it will become too soggy and make it hard to handle. For an even quicker method, pop the slices in the toaster until lightly golden and crunchy but not charred.
Making the custard
I find that combining 1 cup of milk, 2 eggs, and 2 yolks is the perfect ratio for the custard coating. Using whole eggs plus extra yolks ensures that the custard sets properly and has creamy centers. Too much egg whites create a rubbery texture from the albumin protein that solidifies when cooked.
Adding brown sugar and vanilla extract gives a hint of sweetness. A generous amount of cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg creates enticing baked aromas when fried in the pan.
How long to soak the bread?
Add the custard to a shallow dish then dip the bread in the egg mixture for 20 seconds on each side max. It’s not going for a long swim, just a brief soak to wet the surface. As it sits, waiting to be fried, the moisture will gradually move towards the middle on its own. Letting it soak too long will turn the bread completely soggy.
Pan-frying the bread
I like to use a nonstick pan to make it really easy to flip or a cast iron skillet to fry the bread. The latter retains heat well in between batches and creates a nice crisp crust. This pan only works well if you add more butter in between batches to prevent sticking.
Use medium-low heat to cook each side. In just a few minutes, the custard sets and the eggs will no longer be raw. The surface dries and takes on a beautiful golden hue. If the heat is too high, the outside will cook too fast and the inside will taste too wet. I recommend only cooking two slices at a time to limit steam from forming, moisture is the enemy and prevents color and texture development.
French toast toppings
You can’t go wrong with a dusting of powdered sugar and serving of pure maple syrup. Freshly sliced bananas, strawberries, your favorite jam or marmalade, or blueberries are nice fruit additions. For a more dessert twist, drizzle on some homemade caramel sauce or chocolate, a dollop of whipped cream, or chopped nuts.
Use butter for a flavorful frying oil
Butter is the fat of choice to fry the french toast. As it heats up, the milk solids lightly toast, creating a toffee-like flavor and aroma, just like making browned butter. Make sure to wipe the pan clean in between batches to prevent those lovely solids from burning. More neutral vegetable oil works as well, and you will achieve a crisp surface, but it won’t be as deep in flavor.
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- Set the oven rack to the middle position. Preheat to 300ºF (149ºC). Place the bread on a wire rack set inside of a baking sheet.
- Toast the bread for 14 minutes, flipping halfway through cook time. It should be dry to the touch but not browned. After removing from the oven, the bread will become drier as it cools at room temperature.
- In a large shallow bowl thoroughly whisk together the milk, eggs, egg yolks, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
- Soak each slice of bread for 15 to 20 seconds on each side. Use a spatula to transfer to a separate baking sheet. Whisk the custard as needed in between batches to keep the ingredients mixed. Sprinkle more cinnamon on top if desired.
- Heat a 12-inch nonstick pan or cast iron skillet over medium-low heat. Melt ½ tablespoon of butter in the pan until it bubbles.
- Add two pieces of bread at a time. Cook until the first side is golden brown, dry to the touch, and lightly crisp, about 3 to 5 minutes. Flip the bread over and cook the other side until golden, about 3 to 4 minutes.
- Wipe out the pan and add fresh butter, repeat the cooking process with the remaining dipped bread.
- Right before serving sprinkle powdered sugar on top of the warm French toast. Serve with maple syrup.
- Serving Size: 1 bread slice
- Keeping the french toast warm: If making a big batch of french toast, place the fried pieces inside a 200ºF (93ºC) oven. This keeps them warm as the other pieces are being cooked and until ready to serve.
- Drying bread in a toaster: Toast each bread slice on the lowest setting. Repeat as needed until the surface is dry but not browned.
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