Got bread, milk, eggs, butter, and a skillet? Then you have what it takes to make the best French toast. Ever. Yes, it's that easy. If you know what you're doing.
Pictured: French Toast I
Once you've got the basic technique down, you can branch out into all kinds of variations using different breads, flavorings, cooking methods, and toppings. But first, let's cover the essentials.
What Goes Into Making French Toast
Use any kind of bread you like—fresh or a little stale, sliced thick or thin, plain or swirled with cinnamon and raisins. (You can even use croissants or banana bread.) Classic choices include thickly sliced eggy breads such as brioche and challah. In France, where this dish is known as pain perdu (lost bread), day-old dry bread is found again when it's given new life in this way. In fact, many cooks prefer to use stale bread because it soaks up the custard without falling apart the way fresh bread can. What a delicious way to cut down on food waste.
Eggs and milk are whipped together into a smooth mixture in which you dip the bread before cooking. Half-and-half or cream will make a richer custard than whole or skim milk. You can also use non-dairy milks such as almond and coconut. Go one step further and flavor your basic milk-and-egg custard with vanilla extract, cinnamon, or cardamom; sweeten it with sugar or syrup, or even add juice or liqueur to the mix.
Basic Recipe for French Toast
Based on French Toast I
6 thick slices bread
2/3 cup whole milk or half-and-half
1 pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
1) Prepare the custard. Whisk together the eggs, milk, and flavorings until completely blended. Use a large bowl wide enough to dip the bread in. You can also pour the whipped custard into a baking dish for easy dipping.
2) Heat a skillet or griddle over medium heat. You want it to be hot enough to form a crust when the custard-coated bread hits the pan, but not so hot that the crust burns before the custard that's soaked into the bread has a chance to cook.
3) Dip the bread in the custard, turning it to coat completely on both sides. The dryer or sturdier your bread, the longer it can soak. Melt 1 or 2 tablespoons butter in the hot skillet. Depending on how large your skillet is, place one or two slices in the hot butter. Cook until golden brown, then turn over to cook on the other side. You can keep the slices warm on a rack in a 350º F oven until the rest of the toast is cooked.
VIDEO: How to Make French Toast
Fried and baked. This 2-step cooking method is the secret to restaurant-quality French toast. The bread is saturated with custard and pan-fried until crisp and brown on both sides. After that, it's baked for a few minutes to allow the custard to finish cooking and make the bread puff up beautifully. Watch the video and try Chef John's French Toast.
Baked. A casserole approach to French toast that makes a great breakfast for a crowd. Even better, you can prep it the night before and bake it in the morning. It's more like bread pudding than classic French toast, but let's not quibble over something you can layer and top with all kinds of tasty bits. Watch Best Oven Baked French Toast, and try these recipes:
- Overnight Blueberry French Toast is enriched with cream cheese and blueberries. You can substitute strawberries, peaches, or any juicy fruit.
- Orange Pecan French Toast is so indulgent, it might as well be dessert.
- More French toast casserole recipes.
Stuffed. A surprise in every bite. You can either fill the bread with stuff, as in Marscarpone-Stuffed French Toast with Peaches (swoon), or sandwich the stuff between two slices of bread, as in Raspberry Cheesecake Stuffed French Toast. Try these next:
Spiked. Just a bit boozy for those especially lazy mornings. Irish Toast has whiskey and Irish cream in the mix. Hazelnut French Toast includes a shot of hazelnut liqueur. Pain Perdu II rolls in from New Orleans with a nip of orange brandy stashed in its coat.
More Ways to Make French Toast
- Vegan French Toast for the no-eggs-no-dairy crowd.
- Simple French Toast in a Cup for a crazy quick snack.
- Amazing Slow Cooker French Toast because you can.