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?
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.
- 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
- 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.
- If using an electric griddle: Preheat to 350 degrees.
If using a frying pan (preferably nonstick): Place it on medium heat on your stovetop.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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 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).
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!
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Easy Corned Beef Hash
Baking Powder Biscuits
Ham, Bacon, and Cheddar Frittata
Red Pepper and Onion Frittata