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Best French Toast Ever

I've promised a friend that I will make her the best french toast ever. I'm not looking for anything fancy -- nothing stuffed, just a very custardy french toast. I'm assuming the secret is to leave the bread (challah, I suppose) in the egg/milk bath for a long time (overnight?). Comments? Suggestions?

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  1. While I agree that a bread pudding or breakfast strata might be best left in the refrigerator overnight, I don't like soggy french toast so I simply dip it lightly immediately prior to placing it in the pan. I like to use a variety of flavorings and spices when mixing the batter, and my batter uses a ratio of five eggs to 3/4 cup of whole milk, 1/4 cup fresh cream or sour cream.
    Flavorings include, among others, vanilla extract, coconut extract, orange extract, maple, sugar, cardamon, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg.

    1. I use a sturdy Italian loaf, thickly sliced, and let it sit in the custard for 10 minutes per side. (Don't try this with sandwich bread!)

      1. Here are my thoughts:

        1. Use a good hearty slightly stale bread, challah is good as is Texas Toast.
        2. Add some cream or buttermilk (or even eggnog) to your egg batter
        3. Don't soak overnight.
        4. Use a cast iron skillet (if you've got one)
        5. Use bacon fat to fry the toast.

        1. a longish soak, but not over night. i like the 10 minutes per side suggestion. i zap my egg mixture in the blender to make sure i get rid of the long stands of egg white. i also tend to treat the cooking process as if dealing with custard rather than frying. think medium-low heat so you end up with a custard-like offering, set at the center, rather than fried bread.

          for the above reasons i really think french toast lends itself beautifully to a baked treatment. although, i guess it's no longer "french toast."

          and just out of sheer curiousity how did it come about that you promised your friend something that's not actually in your repertoire? sometimes the back story is as interesting as the question.

          6 Replies
          1. re: appycamper

            Well, you could brown it on the stove top, then finish cooking it in the oven. Seems like a great way to do French Toast for a crowd.

            (BTW, appy, do you camp with your Apaloossa, or does your moniker mean something else?)

            1. re: pikawicca

              lol! yes, when i started using the name i was spending most of my time with my appaloosa. and i having a rather disgustingly sunny disposition and it's also a play on the term "happy camper." are you a fussy wiccan?

              good idea on finishing in the oven, btw. i do it all the time with meat dishes but hadn't thought it for french toast.

              1. re: pikawicca

                Alton Brown did this on Good Eats.

                You've got some great advice here. Use stale challah or brioche, half-and-half, and vanilla. Also try adding a splash of your favourite liquor (orange and almond flavours work well). Baking results in a more custardy texture.

              2. re: appycamper

                Tell, me about baking the french toast -- that sounds custardy. Back story --my friend is navigating a rather serious physical disability and had talked about how much she loves a good custardy french toast. I'm spending the night as a caretaker Friday night, so I thought I could make french toast for breakfast. I thought I would take her out for dinner Friday night, but she wants to stay home and have "comfort food" so another dilema has presented itself. ...ideas for quick and easy comfort? She mentioned meatloaf. I probably won't be able to start dinner before 6, and I can't start ahead tonight....I'll see if she considers tuna noodle casserole comforting. By the way, I can make french toast, it just isn't life altering.

                1. re: hungry100

                  it's a nice thing you're doing. i like the longer soak rather than a quick dip for the bread. you get something more like bread pudding or creme brulee than fried bread. so mix 2 eggs and 1/2 - 3/4 cup milk or half and half and a teaspoon of vanilla extract and pick another flavoring if you want (cinnamon, orange, rum whatever) i don't use sugar in it unless i add cinnamon then maybe a tablespoon of sugar. others have suggested good bread choices: brioche, challah, italian something with some texture.

                  soak for at least 5 minutes each side. you'll probably need to use a spatula to move it into the pan. cook on med/low until lightly browned. then slip into a greased baking dish. when you have all your pieces in the dish. bake in a 325 oven until the centers are set.

                  or just grab a bread pudding recipe and do it all in the oven.

                  i like to melt some apple jelly into the hot syrup.

                  make supper easy on yourself. i know it's heresy but take the help that's out there. i suggest a family size stouffers mac and cheese. when it's cooked enough that you can stir it mix in some shredded ham and thawed frozen peas and put it back in to finish and brown. easy and gives you time to visit.

                  1. re: hungry100

                    if you want to do meatloaf, maybe do individual mini meatloaves to speed up cooking time, just shape them and bake on a sheet pan... while they bake, mash up some spuds and roast some green beans with garlic and sliced almonds if you like. serve with strawberry shortcake (buy angel food cake or the little yellow cakes (comfort food to me, esp if you pour a little milk on the cake to make them soft and custardy!), some whipped cream, some strawberries and you're good to go!)... you're doing a good thing, and i'm sure she'll appreciate whatever you do!

                2. The best I ever made was with sliced brioche, which i bought at Trader Joe's, and dipped in an egg and heavy cream mixture, scented with a little vanilla extract and a little almond extract. very simple, didn't let it soak much, the brioche picked it up pretty quickly. What came out was the lightest, most custardy and fluffy french toast I'd ever had.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: mariacarmen

                    mariacarmen, this sounds like heaven on a plate to me!

                  2. For something really decadent, I love to use that thick-sliced cinnamon swirl bread sold at costco. Of course, I can't remember the brand name, I can only tell you that the slices are about an inch thick and very cinnamon-y. In the custard, I like orange zest, vanilla and honey.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: jencounter

                      pretty sure they also have this bread at Trader Joe's... i know they certainly have a good one there!

                      1. re: Emme

                        I use the TJ thick cut cinnamon bread, it comes out great. I add orange liquer to the custard, along with cinnamon, and vanilla.

                    2. I like to use French or Italian bread, which lends itself perfectly for stuffed french toast, by the way..it doesn't fall apart like plain sandwich bread. Also, try potato bread..it's really good in french toast....

                      I like to use 1/2 & 1/2 or heavy cream, cinnamon, vanilla extract or beans are even better and egg; personally, I think soaking the bread for longer than a couple of minutes makes it soggy..

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Cherylptw

                        I like French or Italian bread also. Last week I had a loaf of bread-maker yeasted dates and nuts bread which I cut medium-thick. The dip was milk, egg, vanilla extract and a jot of almond extract. (Cinnamon would have been great, too.) I don't like to soak the bread longer than a couple of minutes myself. I served this with an organic maple syrup. Heavenly.

                      2. To get that custardy texture use stale bread Challah works very well, leave it out for a couple of days and then soak it till it absorbs the egg into the bread and cook.

                        Stale bread readily accepts the egg into it and when cooked you will have a very custardy egg toast.

                        1. Apparently I'm in the minority here, but I like the long soak - yes, Challah as you said works very well, sliced fairly thick. I soak it in an egg-milk-cream-cinnamon mixture until the bread is really soaked, so that you have to be careful putting it in the pan, because it's falling apart. Don't worry, it'll firm up as it cooks, though you will have to cook it longer than you would with a less robustly soaked piece of bread. And at a lower temperature, so it doesn't burn. If you want very custardy, this is the way to go, IMO.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Bat Guano

                            Oh, one more thing: fry in bacon grease. Seriously.

                            1. re: Bat Guano

                              I'm with you, Bat Guano! I like the overnight soak. I make the custard tasty with vanilla/cinnamon/maple syrup/orange zest, put the bread slices in my trusty large pyrex glass dish (rectangular), cover with Saran and put in the fridge overnight. IN the morning I lift out the slices with a spatula (custard is all in the slices), put them on a buttered cookie sheet, pop it in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes, then flip the slices when they're brown on the bottom and give it 10 more minutes. So easy and so good!

                            2. I make FT for my kids once a week. I have to be quick so I can get them to school. I believe I have a good and easy recipe:

                              I egg per each piece of bread
                              splash of vanilla
                              tsp of real maple syrup.

                              I whisk or use a hand mixer to belend the ingredients. I try to place the bread in a container that will conform to the shape of the bread, so when I poor the mixture over the bread, it is nearly covered. I poor out the mixture into a bowl, and flip the bread and poor the mixture all over it again and let it sit a few minutes.

                              I spray a pan with PAM or use butter, and cook over medium heat for a few minutes, I try to flip it only once.

                              1. This is my favorite I don't have ingr. amounts I just make it as I go and adjust for amount of people. I also do different variations some stuffed, sometimes just coated in the crust, sometimes use orange zest, a splash of hvy cream. Challah bread slice 1.5"
                                crushed cornflakes
                                eggs beaten
                                pinch of cinn.
                                cream cheese
                                your favorite preserves
                                powdered sugar
                                mix all liquids above, add cinn, slice bread down the middle, but keep one edge in tact. Spread cream cheese on one side, preserves on the other, dip bread in batter, then into crushed corn flakes. Fry in butter until golden on each side. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and server.

                                1. I always thought simple was best

                                  Thick slices of challah
                                  egg & cream (or whole milk)
                                  a splash of vanilla extract
                                  real butter

                                  serve with powdered sugar or real maple syrup.


                                  1. A couple years ago, I was halfway into making french toast when we realized the gas had been shut off due to some construction in the neighborhood. We ended up baking it on buttered sheets in the toaster oven, and it came out even better than pan-fried. Give it a test run this week and see which method you like the best! Good luck!

                                    1. In a recent issue, Cook's Illustrated found that the best French Toast is made using only egg yolks, no egg whites.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Norm Man

                                        I use the CI recipe, but with only egg yolks and a very short soak (20 seconds per side) this is definitely the "fried bread" version of French toast. They also suggest grinding a couple of slices with cinnamon into bread crumbs and spreading on the bread before grilling. Almost like a streusel. It's a nice touch, and concentrates the flavor of the cinnamon.

                                      2. Don't know if this qualifies as "Best French Toast Ever" but I've been a big fan of almond French toast since I started making it several months ago. Just a little almond extract and almonds on top make it a little different. Serving it with candied bacon puts it right over the top! Photo here:

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: kattyeyes

                                          Yum - how do you make the candied bacon?

                                          1. re: michele cindy

                                            :) I learned here on CH! Simply dredge the bacon in brown sugar and cook as usual. My favorite way to do it (also learned here) is in the oven on foil (or parchment). Just about 10-12 minutes per side at 350 degrees F will do the trick. IMPORTANT--resist the temptation to blot or rest the bacon on a paper towel no matter how you cook it 'cause it will stick!

                                            1. re: kattyeyes

                                              I add a few teaspoons of maple syrup to the egg mixture to give the toast a nice carmelization.

                                              1. re: millygirl

                                                Yep, and I add sugar to do the same thing. :) Specifically, turbinado. Fun stuff, isn't it?!

                                          2. CInnamon Challah French Toast - soaked, pan, oven and then serve buttered with a drizzle of honey and generous hot syrup or fresh raspberry jam.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. love dipping it into cornflake crumbs and/or rice krispies after the egg-milk-vanilla-cinnamon bath and before frying them up - love the added crunch.

                                              1. I like using reasonably stale sliced French or Italian bread, and then soaking it in the egg/milk mixture until saturated.

                                                I suspect that overnight would give you dissolved bread more than French toast, though.

                                                1. Breakfast today. Left over cinnamon raisin loaf that is on the stale side of freshness. Soaked it in a simple milk, egg, brown sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, and cinnamon mixture. Cooked in left over bacon fat. No syrup in the fridge so topped with butter (danish salted) and sprinkled brown sugar. Broiled for a few minutes until the butter and sugar melted.

                                                  1. We prefer stale Challah or brioche for French toast, and like to let it soak for 20 minutes or so in the egg mixture. A bit of really good vanilla in your batter (we use Nielsen-Massey Bourbon Madagascar) will "kick it up a notch!" ;) and/or a bit of orange zest.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: ChefJune

                                                      a good dose of great vanilla improves almost any dish... i find that stellar vanilla, and more than a "recipe" calls for, is often my "secret ingredient" that makes people say, "wow! what is in this?!"

                                                    2. Has anyone tried Molly Wizenberg's vegetable oil trick? Sounded a little weird to me, but she swears by it in her book.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: Memily_G

                                                        I was just about to suggest this. I tried it and it was absolutely the best french toast I've ever had. Oil is definitely the way to go - the crust is unbelievable, and the inside is incredibly custardy.

                                                        1. re: rafjel

                                                          In the book it sounded like she nearly deep fried it - she put that you needed like 1/2 inch of oil. Could you get away with more like just coating the pan thinly with the oil?

                                                          1. re: Memily_G

                                                            I think it should come up the sides of the bread, but just a little. I couldn't bring myself to "pour" it as she says to. I made sure the bottom of my cast-iron pan was coated thoroughly, with no tilting...it definitely wasn't 1/2 an inch - maybe a quarter. I think a huge glug would just be a waste of oil, as the bread doesn't absorb too much if the oil is hot enough.

                                                      2. Because I'm usually using relatively fresh bread (bread doesn't get to stale around here very often), I don't soak for more than 10 seconds per side. I use nutmeg as well as cinnamon, plus a bit of water in the egg.

                                                        1. Day old Challah
                                                          a good bit of Cointreau
                                                          cooked in duck fat

                                                          1. If you want custardy, try this recipe from Square One Dining in Hollywood, CA.. I think you will be pleased. It's more involved than most other French toast recipes but it's worth it.


                                                            1. We really like the French Toast recipe from the Cook's Illustrated America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. It's somewhat crispy on the outside and moist on the inside.

                                                              **** Paraphrased Recipe ****

                                                              French Toast

                                                              From America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, page 235

                                                              Serves: 4
                                                              Prep Time: 5 minutes
                                                              Total Time: 45 minutes

                                                              In addition to white sandwich bread, other types of bread
                                                              may be used in this recipe, such as challah or cinnamon-raisin
                                                              bread. You may double this recipe and speed up cooking by
                                                              using two skillets or a griddle and preparing two batches
                                                              of the batter.

                                                              French toast is often soggy inside and out. This recipe
                                                              uses flour in the batter to produce a crisp on the outside
                                                              moist on the inside French toast that cannot be produced
                                                              with just eggs and milk. America's Test Kitchen tried a
                                                              number of techniques to create a French toast with this texture.

                                                              8 slices high-quality white sandwich bread
                                                              6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
                                                              1 cup milk
                                                              1 large egg
                                                              2 tablespoons sugar
                                                              2 teaspoons vanilla extract
                                                              3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
                                                              1/4 teaspoon salt
                                                              1/2 cup all-purpose flour

                                                              1. Preheat oven to 200-F degrees and place a rack in
                                                              the middle position. Place bread in a single layer
                                                              on a wire rack over a baking sheet. Bake until the
                                                              bread is slightly dry. About 15 minutes.

                                                              2. While bread is drying, whisk together the milk, egg, sugar
                                                              vanilla, cinnamon and salt. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and
                                                              whisk it into the milk mixture. Whisk in the flour slowly.
                                                              Whisk until batter is smooth. Pour batter into shallow dish.

                                                              3. Soak 2 pieces of bread in the batter for about 30 seconds per
                                                              side. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in 12 inch non-stick skillet over medium
                                                              heat until it begins to brown. Swirl butter to coat skillet.
                                                              Take bread out of batter and allow excess to drip back into dish.
                                                              Place 2 pieces of battered bread in skillet. Cook until French toast
                                                              is golden brown on both sides. About 2-1/2 minutes per side. To keep
                                                              cooked French toast warm, transfer to wire rack in oven. Repeat
                                                              with remaining ingredients, 2 slices at a time.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: Antilope

                                                                This sounds yummy and a good way to eke out eggs. I love the simple type of French toast and always with bacon.