Okay, okay. Don’t go getting yourself all in a dither. I know French toast isn’t at the top of the gastronomic scale, but my goal is to bring recipes that are worth your time, flavorful, and if easy fits in there then so be it! Honestly, I’m trying to cover some of the basics in my, ahem, repertoire that are no-brainers for me so that I can still have some time to research and test recipes for this here blog while my kids are on Spring break.
So when my friend emailed me with a French toast question, I knew there was at least one person out there who would benefit from my arm over her shoulder as I led her down the path of French toast wisdom. How much can you possibly say about French toast (and does the word ‘French’ really need to be capitalized), you ask? I think I can find something.
I’ve been making French Toast since I was a teenager and my approach has changed significantly over the years. I’ve always used the usual ingredients, but quite a few years ago I started using brioche and challah bread instead of the sandwich bread of my past. What a difference it made. I also tweaked the recipe a little here and there to arrive at what my kids claim is the best French Toast they’ve ever had (either that or they’ve mastered the art of shamelessly ingratiating their mother).
Gather up your ingredients.
Slice the bread in 3/4 inch slices. Resist the temptation to slather a slice with butter and eat it when no one is looking. Bread + butter = weakness, one of my many…
And let it sit out so the bread can dry a bit.
Meanwhile, get your eggs cracked and add the milk. Beat eggs and milk together.
Add the vanilla.
Grate a little nutmeg in the mixture. You can use ground nutmeg, but the flavor is so much better when you grate it yourself.
You have to have cinnamon. It just wouldn’t be the same without it.
And here is the star of the show. Adding in a little grated orange zest takes your French Toast from ordinary to extraordinary. Don’t go crazy. You don’t want the orange to over-power the flavor. Now if you use a Mircoplane grater, flip it over and move the grater back and forth so the zest pools up rather than spills onto your cutting board. Makes your life a little easier, and I’m all about that.
Scrape along the back of the Mircoplane and fill up a 1/2 teaspoon of zest (unlike my photo which needed more).
Mix everything together.
Heat a heavy skillet and coat the bottom of the pan with vegetable oil.
Add some butter to the oil. The combination of the two provide different things besides keeping the bread from sticking. The butter adds flavor and the oil keeps the butter from burning. Don’t fret about the calories. It’ll be okay…
Set yourself up right next to your hot skillet so you can easily move from the egg mixture to the skillet.
Place the bread slice into the mixture pushing it down slightly. Flip it over and do the other size and then put it right into the skillet. You don’t want the bread to be too soggy or too dry.
When I push into the bread slice, there is no pooling of the egg mixture. This tells me the bread isn’t going to be gooey or mushy inside.
Flip the bread and cook the other side. I know this isn’t rocket science.
I set my oven to 250 degrees before I begin so that I can put each batch of the French Toast slices (and a little bacon) in there to keep it warm. I do it this way because I was tired of being the last one to the table after everyone else ate before me.
You need to use real maple syrup. Not the corn syrup doctored up with maple flavoring.
Warm maple-buttery spicy-orange goodness! My kids may be onto something.
Serves 4 to 6
1 loaf of brioche or challah bread
6 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg (or ground nutmeg)
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon (most days I lean toward the 1/2 teaspoon side)
1/2 slightly heaping teaspoon grated orange zest
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
Slice brioche or challah in 3/4-inch-thick slices and set aside. In a large shallow bowl, beat eggs, milk, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon and orange zest. Soak the bread in the egg mixture for no more than a minute on each side, turning only once.
Heat 1 tablespoon canola oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a very large skillet over medium heat. (You may need to add more butter and oil as you go along.) Add the soaked bread and cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side until golden brown. Place the cooked French toast onto the sheet pan and keep it warm in the oven while you continue cooking up the remaining slices. Serve hot with maple syrup.
(This recipe is loosely adapted from one by Ina Garten.)