Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Perfect French Toast

As I'm getting back to cooking more, one of the things I'm doing is perfecting some dishes I like to make. You see, most of the time, I improvise. So when I'm adding a little of this, or more of that, it's hard to remember just how I did it. That's how my soups tend to come out.

But it's nice to be able to have a way you like to do something, and do it that way each time. I know how I like certain cocktails, for example. And, lately, I've been perfecting French Toast.

Monday night I ate out, and I brought back some bread I knew would make good French Toast. So I let it dry out on the counter yesterday, and this morning I whipped it up. Here's my recipe:

Four good slices of bread, cut thick if possible (you can make more slices if they are thinner; your preference)
Two large or extra-large eggs; if in doubt, add an egg
A little less milk than egg -- judge by appearance
A 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla, maybe a little less
Maple syrup

Cooking utensils:

A wide, flat bowl
A good frying pan
A small bowl or measuring cup or glass that can go in the microwave.

1. Crack your eggs into a bowl and add milk and vanilla; whisk up nicely. It doesn't have to be perfectly blended, but I like to get the whites broken up fairly well.

2. Set bread slices into this mixture. This is the key: you want to be sure your bread is completely soaked through with the milk and egg. Better to have too much egg-milk mixture than to have it all get absorbed with the bread wanting more. 

3. When your slices are well soaked, add a good amount of butter to the frying pan you'll use, and heat it to medium or medium low -- whatever setting will make the pan hot, but not so hot as to burn the butter. (I've never tried using clarified butter, but that would avoid this problem. In my experience, keeping the temp from going too high makes for very nice toast.)

4. When the pan and butter are nicely hot, add slices of toast. If any liquid remains, you can do two things with it:

a) Use a fork and jab the pieces in the pan. You can try pouring a bit more over the bread, and it may absorb. Not too much -- because, if you did your job right beforehand, the bread won't be able to take much more. If you pour too much, that leads to...

b) Pouring the remaining mixture into the pan anyway; it cooks sort of like a crepe, and is tasty by itself, although not as tasty as the French Toast.

5. Sprinkle as much cinnamon over the toast as you like. (Note: you also could add the cinnamon to the milk-and-egg, but I like the cinnamon on the surface of my toast. It doesn't bother me that it's only on one side. Any suggestions?)

6. Fry the bread till it's got a good color on one side, then flip; finish other side. Since the temperature isn't high, this isn't a rush. And it smells delicious!

7. When your toast is about finished, take some butter -- whatever amount you'd usually spread on the toast -- and some Maple Syrup, and add these to the cup or bowl you've got ready. Pop in microwave for about 20-30 seconds. Keep an eye on this, it can boil up very fast. All you want to do is melt the butter and have the syrup-butter mix be good and hot.

8. Plate your toast and when the buttery syrup is ready, pour over the top.

It should look something like this:

This was my breakfast this morning. You can see I had a bit of the egg mixture left over.

So, how was it?

Good, but I was much more successful the last time with getting the eggy goodness all through the bread. That makes a huge difference. When the bread is really soaked, the result is just wonderful. In fact, one night last week, I decided to make French Toast for dessert. This morning, I was hungry and rushed it. Still good, but not awesome.

Now, if you want to be even fancier with this, you can heat your plate ahead of time. One way is to set it in the oven for awhile. Another is to put a little water on the plate and nuke it in the microwave. Is that bad? It's quick at least.

A lot of folks would like this with sausage or bacon, which is always good, but I just wanted the toasty goodness -- plus it's Lent. While French Toast seems pretty luxurious, it's really pretty simple.

Other than soaking it well, it's also critical, I think, to use good ingredients. Fake "Maple" syrup? Are you crazy? Margarine? Bah. Even using oil in the pan -- nothing wrong with oil, but it won't add as much flavor as the butter, which always gives nice color.

And if you want a "healthy" version of this, I think you end up with an empty plate. If you have a different experience, by all means share it. And please feel free to offer any refinements you know of. I'm still perfecting this.


Lem said...

Sent out a tweet of this post to my followers.

Thanks for posting.

Hoser said...

French bread is best.

Chip Ahoy said...

I caught that tweet.

The thing is, I realized this on my own at age twenty, at my house. All I had was stale bread and that turned out to be the best pain perdu I ever tasted. Becuase the bread was so dry, lost as bread, it soaked the egg like a sponge. The bread became hardly manageable at all. Without a spatula that covers the entire piece of bread and careful lifting onto the pan, the whole thing is loaded, so fragile, it falls apart as you move it. Once heated the egg holds its shape and it can be flipped.

It is the exact same thing as soufflé, the exact same ingredients, except in different form, bread instead of sauce, the bread and milk become the sauce, and the egg is whipped as far as you took it. A flattened soufflé if you like.

This item fits in the category of brilliant things that French do with stale bread. Their bread lasts only a day, so stale bread is used 1,000 inspiring ways.

Eileen Krauss said...

Dear Fr. I think you made it perfectly. Dad & mom would approve. You are right about the syrup, the only kind to buy is real maple. In fact if you look at all the other syrups they can't be called maple syrup anymore because they don't even have essence of maple in them. Do you remember we asked dad for mrs. butterworth syrup? He said no way. I'll have to come up for breakfast some time:). Take care, Eileen

Fr Martin Fox said...

Chip -- did it ever occur to you, the close likeness between French bread and bread pudding? The other night, when I achieved perfect French-toastiness, I realized it was a millimeter away from bread pudding.

I am going to experiment with this.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Eileen -- I really love maple syrup. There is no other flavor like it. Not honey, not cane sugar, not caramel -- all good flavors. Does everyone love it that much -- like bacon?

Eileen Krauss said...

Yes I do too.

Jennifer said...

That sounds really good. :)

rcg said...

This is a great and simple recipe. I do this camping and it is a big hit.

Two things: (1) let the bread slices dry out for a day our two before using to make the toast. This also makes the uptake of the egg mixture better and more consistent. (2) put the maple syrup and butter in a large coffe mug in your over on low as the very first step you do. Put the cup on a plate in the oven on low setting. The butter will melt, the syrup will warm as will the plate. When you are ready to serve the toast pull the plate and syrup fron oven using a hot pad and plate the toaste and pour the syrup to taste. If you are making several toasted for friends you can put the slices on the plate in the oven and cover with a tea towel until ready to serve.

Jennifer said...

I once had Mexican corn bread made as French toast, topped with salsa and sour cream. It was a nice variation!

Fr Martin Fox said...

Jennifer --

Interesting! I'll try that! (I have to make cornbread first...)

John F. Kennedy said...

...I like certain cocktails."

Such as? A post on how to mix the perfect ____. Would be fun.

I'm a bit of a mixologist. I prefer the Tiki style drinks

My favorite being the Zombie.

Fr Martin Fox said...


Noted; maybe after Lent...