One the world’s most beloved and a well-known breakfast food is French toast. With recipes dating back to the 4th or 5th century, it actually did not start in France, but was noted in a Latin cookbook. Today, there are millions of recipes throughout the world, using a wide range of ingredients, but the most important are basic in every recipe: eggs and/or milk and bread, although the selection of bread is also wide ranging. This guide on how to make French toast will give you some of those recipes, tips to making perfect French toast and of course, how to select your bread.
Selecting the Bread
Bread is a key factor, of course, as it is toast. There are such a wide variety of breads that can be used, that we think it is important to discuss some of the more popular breads, and then tips on selecting which bread is right for your tastes and what you want to achieve.
The first thing you need to remember, the reason that French toast was created was that it was a way to stretch bread over a longer period of time. Back in the days when it was first created, bread was made almost on a daily basis. With no preservatives to be added, homemade bread tended to go stale after a day or two, which is why we have “day old bread”. It is this stiffness, or, for lack of a better tern, staleness that allows the bread to soak up the batter without falling apart.
So, when you’re looking at bread, you want it to be a little thicker (like when you cut bread by hand) and a little bit stiffer or staler than regular white/wheat bread you purchase at any super market. Here are some popular breads that are often used after a day or two:
- Brioche: This light bread is rich in eggs and butter. When first baked, it is extremely soft and pliable, but after a day, it becomes a little stiffer, making it a perfect option for French toast.
- Challah: This Jewish festival bread is a great choice a day or so after baking. A braided bread, many cultures throughout the world have some sort of version of this bread.
- French bread: Okay, you probably have never thought of using this bread, but when it is plain and a little bit older, this bread is a perfect option for French toast. When it is slightly stale, if becomes quite stiff which means more of the batter can be soaked up to give you that perfect brownness and crunch that French toast is known for.
- Italian Bread: For the same reasons that French bread is a good choice, the Italian bread is also slightly stiffer.
- Croissants: This light and fluffy pastry is often used to breakfast sandwiches, however, when they become slightly stale, no need to worry, they are the perfect option for making French toast with a slight variation.
These are not all of the bread options and really you can use just about any bread you want. While there is no “best bread”, the most important part is that it is a stiffer, thicker piece of bread so that it doesn’t fall apart when cooking, but soaks up the batter and cooks to heavenly perfection.
French Toast Batters
Along with the bread selection, another important factor is the batter creation. Using a combination of eggs, milk or cream, this is one the most crucial steps in learning how to make French toast. Here are a few things to consider when making the perfect batch:
- Make sure you don’t have too much milk to egg ratio. The milk will make the bread over soggy, giving you an uneven browning and won’t crunch up the side like it should be. A good rule of thumb is 2 Tbs of milk or cream per egg.
- You don’t want to over egg your batter either. This can create bread that over browns. You should use 1 egg per 2 slices of bread. Now, you may need to adjust this according to the thickness and size of the bread. Smaller sized bread will need less, while larger slices will need more.
- Make sure you beat the eggs thoroughly. Unbeaten eggs will create spots of just white, which will not give the characteristic brown appearance, and can cause uneven heating.
Now that you have learned about dipping the bread
How To Dip The Bread Into The Batter
Most people don’t realize it, but you can over or under dip/soak your bread. One of the most important features on how to make French toast is learning what is correct in this step, so that your bread won’t be overly soggy or overly dry. These pointers will help you to determine how long to soak your bread:
- You should soak the bread for at least 1 minute per side. This allows the egg to soak completely through the bread.
- If you are using a rather stiff, but never hard, bread, you can place your slices into the bowl, making sure both sides are covered in the egg batter and then place into the refrigerator for 20- 30 minutes.
- You can also make this a head of time and leave overnight if you wish, just make sure that your bread is rather stiff so that it doesn’t totally fall apart.
As you can see, it is the basic ingredients that determine how your basic French toast will turn out. Understanding the basic ingredients, selecting the right bread type, making sure the bread is older and stiff rather than fresh, the right milk to egg ratio, the right amount of eggs, how you prepare the batter are all just part of the equation.
When learning how to make French toast, it is these key basics that are going to determine how well it turns out. Some experimentation will be required, and in fact, most cooks always do a trial and error to learn what is ideal for them.
Next, we will discuss the actual pan heating and cooking.
Tips For Heating
As with all good recipes and food, it is the heating and cooking that can make a difference. When it comes to French toast, you don’t want your batch to be undercooked, looking pale and soggy or overcooked, looking dark brown or almost burnt, but that perfect medium brown appearance with the edges having a slight crunch and the bread dry on the outside, but moist on the inside. Here are a few other tips that are necessary to know in the how to make French toast guidelines.
- Don’t overheat the pan. Making the pan too hot will cause the sugars in the batter to caramelize, causing a scorched appearance. It’s not a steak or any other type of meat, so searing is not desired.
- Don’t cook on too low of heat. The longer it takes, the more likely the bread will not appear evenly cooked, the edges won’t be slightly crunchy and the inside will dry out.
- Preheat your pan. This makes sure the pan is evenly hot and allows for a more even cooking
- Use little bit of butter. This helps prevent the bread from stick to the pan, which results in very ugly French toast. If you don’t want to use butter, cooking spray is okay too.
- Turn the pan down. After you have preheated the pan on medium high, turn your pan down to about medium. This allows for the bread to be cooked properly.
- Cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side. Don’t keep peeking at it because that will cause uneven cooking. You can check every couple of minutes or so to see how it’s doing, but once you have a feel for what is right, you will know when to check.
So, now that we have the simple basics in how to make French toast, let’s talk about some ingredients that you can add to the batter to make it even more decadent and to your tastes.
Additional Batter Ingredients
So, now you have the basics. It’s time to put a twist on it. Many cooks and chefs often add their own special ingredients to make their French toast truly original. However, there are several common batter additions that add flavor intensity. These include:
Vanilla: One of the more traditional flavorings, vanilla is one that works well with French toast. One thing to remember, you don’t want too much vanilla as it can overpower everything else, which is something you don’t want. A good rule of thumb is about 1 teaspoon of vanilla for every two eggs. You can work with this, finding the right amount of vanilla for your tastes.
French Vanilla Creamer: This may sound weird, but you get the smoothness and flavor of French vanilla and the creamer replaces the milk, making it a great addition.
Cinnamon: This is perhaps the most common additional ingredient, combining the cinnamon toast flavor in a French toast. However, cinnamon can quickly overpower other tastes and works well in conjunction with vanilla or powdered sugar. You want to use about 1 tsp per 2 eggs. But again, as tastes vary, you will want to adjust the amount according to your tastes.
Sugars: There are a wide variety of sweeteners you can use. However, when it comes to this, be sure to consider what you are using for toppings. If you add to much sugar and then add syrups, powdered sugar or jams, you’re French toast can become overly sticky, so you may want to cut down the amount of sugar in the batter.
Pumpkin: At first, it may sound a little weird, but truly pumpkin French toast is rather tasty. In this case, you would use pumpkin bread, then add all spice and cinnamon, to give it that pumpkin pie flavor we all love.
Salt: You can add a pinch of salt, especially when using other spices or flavorings. This again will be personal taste.
Half-half: Alton Brown uses half and half instead of milk or cream for his recipes. It adds richness without a lot of extra fat found in cream
These are just some of the wide variations and ingredients that you can add to make your French toast to your way. As with anything, experimentation is often the mother of invention, so get creative. You can think it in your French toast you can add it and make it truly a one of kind recipe.
Variations On An Old Recipe
There are a wide variety of variations, instead of just slices of breads. These can take some time to make, but certainly are worth the time.
- Making A Crème Brulee: There are literally dozens of recipes that come in the style of crème brulee. This adds the richness of caramel to the flavors and textures inherent to French toast.
- Vegan Options: Vegans like French toast but not the egg and cow dairy basic recipes call for. In this case, bananas are used in place of the eggs (mashed of course) and soy milk.
- Overnight Casserole: Okay, when you think of French toast, this is not what comes to mind. But made ahead of time, layering the bread and custard mixture, plus a couple of other ingredients, refrigerated overnight and baking in the morning is a nice change of pace, giving you that French toast taste without all the fuss.
- Blueberry Casserole: This is another twist, giving you the taste of blueberry muffins combined in a French toast. A truly pleasurable experience.
- Banana Foster French toast: Do you like bananas, caramel and French toast? This is a wonderful way to combine all three into one absolutely delicious breakfast dish that can even be served as dessert.
Extra Helpful Hints
Okay, so you’ve got the basic ingredients, you’ve got the basic cooking ideas and some of additions. Now for just a few of extra hints to help your French toast turn out perfect.
- Bread Freshness: Okay, you don’t want that soft loaf that you buy in the grocery store, because it will be too soggy. But if you do have fresh bread that’s too soft, here’s a couple of ideas to make it stiffer: Dry it out a little in the microwave. Don’t over dry it if you want to cook it soon. You can also put the bag in the refrigerator overnight or leave a few pieces out for a couple of hours.
- Testing the egg mixture: When you’re beating your eggs with the milk, you want to make sure that it is all blended thoroughly. By looking to see if there is any yolks not completely blended or clear areas of the white that are still visible, you will know it’s not completely blended. You want a nice, even pale to golden yellow color.
- If you are soaking for a longer period of time, using a baking dish, pouring some the batter in the bottom and some over the top will help to make sure both sides are battered and soaking. Covering with plastic wrap will ensure that the batter doesn’t dry out also.
- If you’re using a griddle instead of a pan, you want your heat setting around 350o. Allow for the griddle to heat completely before beginning to cook your French toast.
French toast is one of the most beloved breakfast foods around the world. From the basic recipe to the absolutely decadent, slices of breads to a French toast stick, there are more recipes that can be found than there are slices of bread in a package. This simple how to make French toast guide, with it’s helpful hints and ideas will soon have you on the way to making perfect fluffy slice of this treasured treat.