A few years ago, when my two oldest grandchildren were still toddlers and were visiting for a few days, they asked for French Toast for breakfast.
Unfortunately it was Passover.
I told them “there’s no French Toast during Passover,” but they were too young to understand. And although they were thrilled with the matzo brei I cooked, they were a little disappointed.
That’s because I am the French Toast Grandma. The one who always has a giant homemade challah, so giant that there is always enough left over for French Toast the next morning.
Challah is so dense that it soaks up enough eggs to make a hen feel proud. It makes really splendid French Toast, don’t you think?
Good bread is the key to good French Toast. Challah may be wonderful, but I do branch out! Like when I have company for brunch and make my adult French Toast, complete with brandy or dark rum. For this I switch to French bread. I’ve also used white bread, ciabatta, raisin bread and more.
Basically, what you need is bread that won’t fall apart after an egg soak (no soft packaged white). And bread that’s mild rather than, say, pumpernickel or ones with nuts and seeds (like multi-grain) whose flavor or texture could be distracting.
Bread thickness is important too. We like the insides oozy and moist, so I cut the slices at least an inch thick (1/2-inch to 3/4-inch for drier pieces). The egg soak is simple: beaten eggs alone are fine but I always add milk, cream or juice – whatever I have -- because its helps break up the eggs, making it easier for the bread to absorb the liquid.
For extra flavor? My kids like it with vanilla extract. But for my French brunch version I mix in freshly grated orange or lemon peel. You can try cinnamon, fresh ginger, almond extract, whatever suits your fancy).
I soak the bread for a long time, until every molecule of egg has been absorbed (turning it several times). And I fry it quickly so it’s still kind of billowy in the very middle, but crispy on the surface. For those who like it well-done, I cook the pieces a bit longer on a lower flame.
I have cooked too many versions of French Toast to count. Cheese-filled, almond crusted and so on. But let’s leave those for another day. I actually prefer the basic recipes. Here are my favorites: the classic, my brunch French Toast recipe, plus a dairy-free version I have used on numerous occasions.