Wednesday, May 9, 2012

French Toast

French Toast on Plate with Maple Syrup and Strawberry Garnish

Perfect for Brunch

Mother’s Day is this weekend — which means it’s time for a festive brunch! 

And no brunch munch seems more special than French Toast.  It’s rich and satisfying, yet not over-the-top heavy or filling.  It also pairs exceptionally well with fresh berries, which are in season right now.  Add some powdered sugar, maple syrup, or whipped cream, and you’ve got a dish that’s long on both flavor and eye appeal.

Best of all?  It’s a snap to make!  So what are you waiting for?

French Toast Rounds with Garnish of Powdered Sugar, Strawberries, and Whipped Cream


Recipe:  French Toast

French Toast is only as good as the bread you use.  You want something with a soft crust and good crumb texture.  White bread is traditional, and it's easier if you buy a loaf that is already sliced.  I like to use a good Italian, Challah (egg), or Sourdough bread.  If you want to be extra fancy, you can cut the bread slices into rounds with a cutter (the kind you use for biscuits,cookies, or doughnuts).

It’s best to use stale or day-old bread (I usually leave it out on the kitchen counter overnight).  If the bread is too fresh, it may disintegrate as you dip it in the egg batter. 

Do you have an electric griddle?  Now is a good time to use it — it’s ideal when cooking for a crowd.  No griddle?  No worries.  Just use a frying pan. 

I figure a serving is 2 pieces of bread, so this recipe serves 4.  But many people want more than that. so you can easily double or triple the recipe.  Preparation time is about 10 minutes (more if you have limited griddle capacity).  Leftover French Toast is never as good as fresh, but you can keep it covered in plastic wrap in the refrigerator for a couple of days. My recipe is adapted from The Joy of Cooking

Ingredients
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup half-and-half (or half cream and half milk; or just milk)
  • salt to taste (usually ½ teaspoon)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla or 1 tablespoon dark rum or 1 tablespoon bourbon (optional, but tasty)
  • 8 slices of bread (white bread with good texture and a soft crust is best)
  • butter (for frying surface; amount will vary)
  • maple syrup, powdered sugar, fresh berries, whipped cream, or Homemade Strawberry Sauce for garnish
Procedure
  1. If you need to keep the French Toast warm until you’ve cooked enough to feed everyone, preheat your oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.  Cover a baking sheet (preferably rimmed) with parchment paper.  As you cook the French Toast, you can place it on the parchment paper (in a single layer) and put it in the oven to stay warm while you cook the next batch.  I usually drape a piece of aluminum foil over the top of the French Toast, although this isn’t necessary.
  2. If using an electric griddle:  Preheat to 350 degrees. 
    If using a frying pan (preferably nonstick):  Place it on medium heat on your stovetop.
  3. Crack eggs and place contents in a bowl.  Add half-and-half, salt, and vanilla, rum, or bourbon (if using).  Mix together with a fork or whisk.  Transfer contents to a flattish container that
    is big enough to allow you to dunk toast pieces into the batter — I generally use a Pyrex casserole.
  4. When your cooking surface is warm, add a pat (about a teaspoon) of butter for each slice of bread you expect to fry in the first batch (for most frying pans, that would be 2 slices of
    bread).  While the butter melts, dunk the bread, a piece at a time, into the batter.  Submerse it, turn it over and submerse the other side.  Then put it on the cooking surface (griddle or frying pan).  Dunk the 2nd piece of bread (and additional slices if you’re using a cooking surface big enough to accommodate more) and place it/them on the griddle.
  5. Cook on the first side until the toast pieces are nicely brown — usually about 3 minutes.  Start checking at 2 minutes (use a spatula to lift the edge of one piece of bread to see how well the toast is browning — if your cooking surface is hot, it may cook faster). 
  6. When the first side is brown and firm, flip toast with the spatula.  The second side takes less time to cook (about 2 minutes) and usually won’t be as nicely or evenly brown as the first side.
  7. If necessary, put the toast in the oven to stay warm.  Wipe the cooking surface with a paper towel if necessary, and continue cooking until you have used all the bread.  (You may not need additional butter for cooking; but see second Note.)
  8. When done, plate pieces of  toast with the nicer side up )2 per plate, or whatever you choose) and garnish with maple syrup, powdered sugar, or whatever.
French Toast on Plate with Maple Syrup and Strawberry Garnish, Overhead View
Notes
  • French Toast should be firm, not soggy.  If you’ve flipped the toast too soon, the surface may be slightly soggy (even if it’s nicely brown).  But no problem.  After the second side is cooked, just flip again and cook the first side for a few seconds until it’s nice and firm.
  • If you’re using a nonstick surface for French Toast, you probably will need little or no butter for the second and subsequent batches.  In fact, you might not even need it for the first batch.  But using butter does promote browning and adds extra flavor.
  • I often make French Toast batter without vanilla, rum, or bourbon.  But many people like the additional flavor.
  • If you run out of batter before all the bread slices are fried, it’s easy enough to whip up another batch, or even a half batch.
  • Restaurants often use extra thick bread for French Toast.  If you can find this (supermarkets sometimes stock it around Mother’s Day), it’s a great choice for this dish.
  • The garnish possibilities for French Toast are wide and varied.  In addition to the ones I suggest, you can use just about any fresh fruit (although berries are classic).  Powdered cinnamon could replace powdered sugar.  You might flavor the whipped cream with chocolate.  And you probably have some ideas of your own.
  • Freshly cooked bacon or sausage is a great accompaniment to French Toast.  Lox is another good choice (if you haven’t tasted it neat — sans bagel and cream cheese — you have a treat in store).
French Toast on Plate with Maple Syrup and Strawberry Garnish

Other Menu Suggestions for Mother’s Day 

If you’re serving brunch but French Toast doesn’t strike your fancy, Pancakes are another classic choice. Or maybe Corned Beef Hash, perhaps garnished with a Fried Egg. If you top the fried egg with a dab of Hollandaise Sauce, you’ve got mock Eggs Benedict going. You might also want to try some fresh, hot Baking Powder Biscuits.

Having lunch or dinner instead of brunch? And you want something on the lighter side? It’s hard to go wrong with a main-dish salad like Salade Niçoise. Or for something informal, Chef’s Salad.

Want something more substantial and elegant? Then you might like Poached Scallops on Artichoke Scoops. Or maybe Fettuccine Alfredo. For a light first course, perhaps a nice salad — say, Spinach Salad with Parmesan. There’s lots of fresh spinach in the markets now, so that would be ideal.

For something even more substantial, it’s hard to beat a succulent Pork Roast. Perhaps accompanied by Gratin Dauphinois? (That’s just French for fancy scalloped potatoes.) And maybe Roast Asparagus? (Hollandaise would be tasty with this too.) And Roast Cauliflower is a great dish (even people who “don’t like” cauliflower will probably like this).

For dessert, Homemade Meringues are delicious and festive. Top them with strawberries and ice cream. Or whip up a classic Zabaglione, which also goes well with strawberries. If you want something a bit heavier, Bread Pudding is always a crowd pleaser.

The beverage? Mimosas are terrific for brunch. I owe you that recipe, but essentially a Mimosa is just equal parts of orange juice and Champagne, served in a Champagne flute (you can alter the proportions of OJ and Champagne to suit your taste). For lunch or dinner, you probably want to serve wine or champagne. But a super apéritif is the Negroni Cocktail (it’s an excellent warm-weather drink). Or if you want something less alcoholic, Pimm’s Cup would be perfect. And you can never go wrong with the Classic Champagne Cocktail.

Me? I’ll be hosting brunch, and serving French Toast. Accompanied by Mimosas. And because my mother reads this blog — hi, mom! — I guess it won’t be a surprise. But that’s OK. We’ll still have a swell time.

Happy Mother’s Day!

You may also enjoy reading about:
Strawberry Sauce
Pancakes
Fried Eggs
Easy Corned Beef Hash
Hollandaise Sauce
Baking Powder Biscuits
Ham, Bacon, and Cheddar Frittata
Red Pepper and Onion Frittata
Hard-Boiled Eggs

38 comments:

  1. This looks utterly delicious. Love it.

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    1. Hi Kim, it's great stuff! I'm looking forward to having more this weekend. Thanks for your comment.

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  2. We eat a lot of French Toast in this house. In fact, we had some this morning! I used sourdough bread and added a little bit of blackstrap molasses to the egg batter which is almost the same as your delicious recipe! I love your rounds of French toast! They make a beautiful presentation! Great kitchen notes!

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    1. Hi mjskit, I'll bet it was delicious! Blackstrap molasses sounds like an interesting addition - I'll have to try that. Thanks for stopping by.

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  3. Your french toast looks utterly perfect - whenever I have tried it, unfortunately it has always been soggy but with your tips and recipe, nothing can go wrong :D
    Thank you!

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

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    1. Hi Choc Chip Uru, well, let's hope nothing can go wrong! French Toast does tend to be a bit soggy, but frying it a bit longer should help. Thanks for your comment.

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  4. I haven't made French toast in forever. Thanks for reminding me about it!

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    1. Hi Kimberly, it's one of those dishes that wanes and waxes in popularity in our house, too. At the moment it's really popular! One of those great, classic dishes. Thanks for taking time to comment.

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  5. I was searching inspiration for dinner recipes, but now want to have breakfast instead... French toast is indeed the ultimate breakfast treat. I make mine on very special occasion with cinnamon ice cream :)

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    1. Hi Gourmantine, cinnamon ice cream sounds terrific! I really like that idea. Cinnamon goes well with French Toast, and ice cream — well, ice cream goes well with anything! Thanks for your comment.

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  6. Love your notes about French Toast! I can't stand soggy French toast... This looks so good. My kids love French toast but I don't have time to make on weekdays so I occasionally prepare on weekends alternating waffle and pancakes etc. Next time I will make with half and half instead of milk. I love your delicious pictures... :-)

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    1. Hi Nami, soggy French Toast is a bummer. And almost always it's because it hasn't been cooked enough (it's "done" but the texture just isn't ideal). The half-and-half version is delicious - I hope you'll like it. Thanks for the kind words, and your comment.

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  7. What I love about this post is that I just want a huge plate of French Toast NOW. And with all the fresh fruit coming into season! I just baked two loaves of Daniel Leader's ciabatta bread. . . I now have the perfect breakfast for them. Well, at least for one of them. (Yes, you can make French Toast vegan-style, however, it never, ever has the same "taste". I've tried.) Will be attempting again this weekend. Lovely photos, yummy post!

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    1. Hi Kelly, it's really a great time of the year for French Toast! All the fresh fruit is just a nice combo. Vegan French Toast would be a challenge - but covered with all that fruit, I'm sure the difference is taste isn't a big deal! Thanks for the nice words, and for commenting.

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  8. I'm adding another wow...looks mouthwatery..:)
    Tasty Appetite

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    1. Hi Jay, thanks for your wow! ;-) And, of course, your comment.

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  9. I should not have looked at this before having breakfast. I'm starving now. The round cut pieces look great!

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    1. Hi Lisa, sorry about that starving thing. ;-) The round pieces were fun to do - I have a set of pastry/cookie cutters in all sizes, so it took only a minute to make them (I made croutons out of the scraps). thanks for your comment.

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  10. I love French toast! I had some this morning from some day old homemade bread. Soaked it in the custard and then cooked gently til cooked to perfection. Were you peeking over my shoulder??

    I love this post!!

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    1. Hi Maureen, it's a great dish, isn't it? And I'll be having it again Sunday! Can't wait. Thanks for commenting.

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  11. Hey John, great blog you have here! Your French toast looks fabulous... just the right golden brown and crispness. Love that you paired it with fresh whipped cream and fruit, too. There's nothing better!

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    1. Hi Georgia, it was delicious! Glad to meet you. Thanks for the kind words, and your comment.

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  12. My oldest brother would often make this for breakfast on the weekends. It was always a treat. Day-old bread never tasted so good! ;)

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    1. Hi Carolyn, nice story! And indeed, it's a great use of day-old bread. Thanks for your comment.

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  13. Your french toast looks sinfully delicious! I also love my french toast made with challah and I can't stand the soggy toast. I don't make this often at home but when I do make it I like to fully load it with whatever ingredients I can find in my fridge :) Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Hi Yi, challah is wonderful in French Toast - such great flavor! I like to load up my French Toast, too - it's the little kid in me! Thanks for your comment.

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  14. I love your idea of French Toast rounds. Why have I never thought of that? It transforms your toasts into something quite lovely. Happy Mother's Day to your mom, and hope you had a great day too!

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    1. Hi Beth, aren't the rounds pretty? At the least, it's an interesting change. Thanks for the good wishes! And, of course, the comment.

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  15. What a beautiful presentation! Looks incredible!

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    1. Hi Asmita, thank you! And thanks for taking time to comment.

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  16. I seriously could lick the screen! Your photos of these french toast(s) are just absolutely beautiful! Well done.

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    1. Hi Tia, licking your screen is always encouraged! Thanks for the kind words, and the comment.

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  17. Love how you plated it! I think french toast is perfect for lunch, and dinner, too :)

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    1. Hi Patty, French Toast is good anytime, I agree. Even dessert! Thanks for your comment.

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  18. I like french toasts with fruits, it's a summer meal for me :) yours look delicious!

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    1. Hi Marta, French Toast + almost any kind of fruit = delicious! Thanks for your comment.

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  19. this recipe looks great. i will try it. great job

    http://cookingwithoutlimits.wordpress.com/


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    1. Hi Gabriela, it's good stuff. I hope you like it. I'll definitely check out your blog. Thanks for your comment.

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