The simplest recipes can be the most demanding. Take French toast. It’s just old bread soaked in eggs, right? Actually, making perfect French toast is an art.
I learned this fact firsthand. Back in college, I wanted to impress my boyfriend with a special homemade breakfast. His request? You guessed it-French toast. He told me it was a comfort food his mother always served when he was growing up. So, no pressure.
I soaked the bread, slapped some butter into a pan and crossed my fingers, hoping the toast would live up to his high expectations. I wanted French toast perfection. A beautiful masterpiece on a plate. Bread that was crispy and brown on the outside and custard-like in the middle. Instead, I slumped soggy, half-burnt squares onto our plates. We got a laugh out of it, but it’s safe to say the dish didn’t rival Mom’s (but these recipes certainly do).
Since then, I’ve made it my mission to learn how to make the perfect French toast. No more soggy bread for this gal! With help from Food Editor Peggy Woodward, I’ve uncovered the biggest mistakes people make when cooking this seemingly simple dish. Ready? Let’s dive in.
5 Mistakes People Make with French Toast
Mistake #1: Using fresh bread
When it comes to French toast, fresher doesn’t always mean better. In fact, the French call this dish pain perdu, which translates to “lost bread.” Use day-old bread that’s sturdy and slightly stale. This way it’ll soak up the custard without becoming a soggy mess.
Mistake #2: Forgetting to grease the griddle
Giving the griddle a light layer of fat will help the toast develop its signature golden-brown crunch without getting stuck. Spritz a little cooking spray or add a pat of butter (if you can spare the calories) onto the cooking surface before adding the bread.
Mistake #3: Not cleaning the griddle after each slice
Once you’ve finished the first round of toast, be sure to wipe down the griddle before starting the next batch. Leftover residue (burnt butter or charred pieces of toast) can stick to-and ruin-the next slice.
Mistake #4: Walking away from the stove
Keep careful watch over your toast as it cooks. If the griddle gets too hot, the toast may burn before the inside has time to cook. Just like pancakes or grilled cheese, the outside crust can turn from golden brown to black in seconds.
Mistake #5: Forgetting to add toppings
Much like waffles and their outrageous toppings, French toast can be the foundation for your wildest creations. At a minimum, crown each slice with a pat of butter. But there’s no need to stop there. Stuff it with fried chicken or smother it in marshmallow fluff-the possibilities are endless. Personally, I keep it simple with a handful of berries and a dusting of confectioners’ sugar.
Now that you know the mistakes to avoid, it’s time to make a culinary masterpiece. With help from our Test Kitchen team, we’re teaching you how to make fantastic French toast.
How to Make French Toast
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (optional)
1/8 teaspoon salt
12 slices day-old sandwich bread
Maple syrup or cinnamon sugar
- You can use any type of milk you have on hand-even heavy cream. Avoiding dairy? Almond, soy, coconut and cashew milk are all good substitutes.
- To mix up the flavor, swap out sugar for honey or maple syrup.
- Experiment with different types of extract, like almond, coconut or orange.
Step 1: Mix ingredients in a shallow bowl
Begin by constructing a French toast assembly line. Take out your bread and set it aside. Then, grab a shallow bowl that can fit one or two slices. To make a milky custard, whisk together the eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla and salt. Be sure the eggs are entirely whisked, with no sign of separate whites or yolks.
Preheat a greased griddle over medium heat.
Test Kitchen tip: For extra flavor, sprinkle seasonings like cinnamon or nutmeg on top of the custard before you dip the bread.
Step 2: Soak the bread
Dip the bread into its eggy bath, using one hand to immerse it. Allow for it to soak for around a half a minute on each side. This is what gives the toast its creamy middle. Let any excess drip off.
Step 3: Cook until golden brown
It’s time to get cooking! Place the soaked bread on a well-greased griddle and cook until the bottom turns golden brown. (You can lift a corner to take a peek.) Then flip the toast and repeat. Once both sides are cooked to your liking, your pièce de résistance is ready to serve.
Finish it off with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar and a drizzle of maple syrup.
Test Kitchen tip: Need to make a big batch? Set the oven to its lowest setting and house the toast inside. This’ll keep it warm as you prepare the rest.
How to Make it Your Own
- Go savory. Don’t like sweets for breakfast? Make your French toast savory instead. Omit the sugar and extract, then serve it with a few sausage patties and scrambled eggs. Better yet, get some inspiration from this bacon-packed recipe.
- Play with spice. I love adding spice to the egg mixture. Ground cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves are classics, but you can get creative with lemon zest, anise, cardamom or whatever else your spice cabinet has to spare.
- Add some crunch. Create more texture by topping your toast with crunchy add-ons. This Nutty French Toast recipe bakes on chopped walnuts, but just about any other nut would work well, too.
- Use a different type of bread. With this basic recipe, you can make French toast with any type of bread. Go for whole wheat, sourdough or a crusty artisan loaf. This creative recipe goes above and beyond, creating French toast from premade blueberry muffins. Yum!
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