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Jan 3, 2011 09:00 AM

French Toast, a procedure poll

On Saturday, I watched "French Cooking at Home," or I think that's the name of the show. I also discovered that the Food Network (or was it the Cooking Channel?) has a lot of great shows on Saturday that I'd prefer to see mor often during the week!

Anyway, the host of the show -- I forget her name -- made a savory French toast. But her method for making it was unlike any I've seen or heard of before. She cut a baguet in nice thick slices, then she soaked the bread in milk, THEN dipped it in a beaten egg and from there, into the frying pan with melted butter.

I've been making French toast for at least a gazillion years, but I have always made a custard of milk and eggs, a touch of sugar to promote browning, and a pinch of salt to dip the bread in before frying. And that's the same method everyone i've ever talked about making French toast with uses. This different method is interesting, and I do plan on giving it a try to see if I like it more than my own method, but I am also very curious whether I have lived my life with my head buried in the sand. What method do you guys use? I'm really curious! Thanks!

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  1. I make it the same way you do, sometimes adding cream if I feel like it. I always fry in clarified butter to avoid burning and that does make for a slightly different flavor. (A few years ago I was working in a kitchen store and I happened to say something about milk and French toast to this young woman, and she said "You use milk?" Turns out she'd been taught to just beat the egg, dip the bread in that and fry in vegetable oil. So she thought the milk idea was great, and when I mentioned maple syrup she was in ecstasy!)

    1 Reply
    1. re: escondido123

      My mother always made hers without milk. She'd dip the bread in egg, fry in oil, then sprinkle with sugar and sometimes cinnamon. It was years before I knew people used milk and eggs, and put syrup or jam on it.

    2. Strictly with you on the method, with a good jolt of vanilla added. I don't see the advantage of the egg going on the outside - I want it inside, so the bread soufflés a little.

        1. re: ipsedixit

          Thanks, Ipse, but now tell us how YOU make French toast! '-)

          1. re: Caroline1

            I do it your way.

            I think Laura just did in a two step process because they had filler air-time to fill.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              TV Lady (Laura) was using the French technique for "pain perdu" - not filling air time. It makes for a lighter - not necessarily better - insides.

              1. re: boredough

                That's really interesting. Years ago, I had three French girlfriends, one from Paris, one from Provence, and one from Quebec. They all three made fun of the other two's accents when speaking French, but they all three made French toast the way I do. Very curious! Or maybe they just didn't want to dirty two bowls? It was before dishwashers were a standard household item. Thanks!

                1. re: Caroline1

                  Yes, that is interesting. I was only giving an explanation from the Larousse Gastronomique (the French Gastronomic Encyclopedia). It defines 'pain perdu' (what we call French Toast) as stale or leftover bread soaked first in a milk/sugar/vanilla mixture, then dipped in beaten eggs (mixed with a little sugar) and then sautéed in butter. It is the classic recipe.

                  1. re: boredough

                    I looked in my Larousse and couldn't find the recipe. What year is your edition? I looked under pain perdu, perdu pain, and French toast... Nothing! I have the 1961 translation. Maybe that's the problem?

                    1. re: Caroline1

                      I couldn't find it in my LG from the same era either.

                      In Spain torrijas are made the same way, though the soaking liquid might be sweetened wine. It is more likely to be deep fried.

                      1. re: Caroline1

                        even stranger! Mine is the 1988 English version of the 1984 (French) compilation, listed as both 'pain perdu' and 'French Toast". Furthermore, the 2000 English translation of Escoffier's 1903 Guide Culinaire shows the same classic version of pain perdu. Go figure.

                    2. re: Caroline1

                      I just checked a 1965 edition of 'Je sais cuisiner' (the French equivalent of 'Joy of Cooking'), and her method is to combine milk, sugar and eggs (400g stale bread, 1/2 liter milk, 150g sugar, 2 eggs). Fry in 125g butter, finish with powdered sugar and optionally cinnamon. She did not know about maple syrup I guess.

                    3. re: boredough

                      Can you explain how dipping it in milk then eggs makes for a lighter inside?

                      I'd imagine the type of bread used would have more effect on the inner/outer texture contrast.

                      Laura was using a baguette, which by it's very nature will be crusty on the outside and more airy or lighter on the inside.

                      If I was using, say, day-old Texas toast I'm not sure how this 2-step method would make a difference.

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        One thing I know for sure, Texas Toast aside, I sure wouldn't want to try this method with gummy white bread (Wonder Bread et al) or I'd end up making French toast crumblettes!

                        1. re: Caroline1

                          I save all my Wonder Bread for PB&J.

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              Years ago, my husband and I drove past a Wonder Bread factory. I was genuinely surprised that it actually smelled like yeast. Even as a child, I was sure it had some type of air-puffed textile, such as cotton, in it. My brothers and I would have contests to see who could get their bread mashed into the smallest cube.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            If the bread is left to soak in a custard mixture, then once you heat the concoction, the eggs will set "inside" the bread - not just outside. That would make it heavier than just soaking the bread in milk. OTOH dipping the bread in beaten eggs will provide an eggier outside than that same custard would. In the end, it's just a matter of personal taste preference.

                            1. re: boredough

                              That was my impression - that the outside was eggier.

                            2. re: ipsedixit

                              It makes a more custardy, softer inside. It's what I grew up on, the way my dad made it and later, I did, adding vanilla to it. The result isn't dependent upon the type of bread, more like the length of soak. But challah was always best, followed by that yellow potato bread.

                              1. re: mcf

                                I am with you on the Challah, although I also like a good raisin bread. We usually eat a whole grain, but this is a disaster in french toast. I also like a splash of vanilla and a dash of nutmeg or cinnamon, but I've never used sugar in the egg mix. But I also prefer it sprinkled with powdered sugar instead of syrup.

                              2. re: ipsedixit

                                i assume that if the bread absorbs the milk, it will keep the eggs on the outside, ie not absorbed, as that sponge is full. thus the inside will not firm as much as if it was full of cooked eggs

                              3. re: boredough

                                Also, a quick Google search for "pain perdu" recipes turns up no such 2-step process.

                                Two examples:



                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  I don't dispute the existence nor criticize the value of the one-step recipe that was used by my mother and many others to this day (obviously). My first comment was only an attempt to explain Laura's version, which goes as far back as Escoffier.

                                  1. re: boredough

                                    kinda makes you want to sit Escoffier down with a plate of thick French toast swimming in maple syrup, doesn't it?

                                    Wonder if he'd change his mind...

                                    (I make mine with the eggs and milk and sometimes cream mixed together, too)

                        2. I'm with you, Caroline . . . curious to hear what advantage the other method would give . . . .


                          1. I tried this method, and was happy with the results. I don't know if it is best with crusty bread like a baguet, or would work just as well with a softer American.

                            After several slices, milk was getting mixed in with the egg.