French toast assistance

I’m a pretty good cook, and I can make pancakes that will make you weep. But we very seldom make French toast and it never seems to come out right, for some reason. I’ve tried different breads, dried, fresh, whatever; but we never seem to get that ideal combination of crispy, puffy exterior and melty interior. This morning’s abortive attempt was using challah that I dried overnight on the counter. Soaked it for 20 minutes in a mixture of buttermilk, eggs, sugar; fried in butter at about medium to medium high. Even after a 20 minute soak, the mixture didn’t penetrate all the way into the challah, which I think is too dense for this dish. The result, while it tasted fine, was just not the consistency one hopes for in French toast.

Gimme your tried, true, and never-fail recipes and methods, please. I’ll be your friend.

I think you’re soaking the bread waaaay too long. Less than a minute per side.

Here’s a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen-- they test the hell out of everything:


1        large egg
2        tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for frying
3/4     cup milk
2         teaspoons vanilla extract
2        tablespoons granulated sugar
1/3      cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4      teaspoon table salt
4 - 5   slices day-old challah bread (3/4-inch-thick) or 6 to 8 slices day-old sandwich bread


1. Heat 10- to 12-inch skillet (preferably cast-iron) over medium heat for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, beat egg lightly in shallow pan or pie plate; whisk in butter, then milk and vanilla, and finally sugar, flour, and salt, continuing to whisk until smooth. Soak bread without oversaturating, about 40 seconds per side for challah or 30 seconds per side for sandwich bread. Pick up bread and allow excess batter to drip off; repeat with remaining slices.

2. Swirl 1 tablespoon butter in hot skillet. Transfer prepared bread to skillet; cook until golden brown, about 1 minute 45 seconds on first side and 1 minute on the second. Serve immediately. Continue, adding 1 tablespoon butter to skillet for each new batch.

::Keeps careful watch over the thread, heart fluttering, stomach growling::

Glossy magazine pictures of inch-thick french toast aside, I think thinner is better. I usually use sandwich bread and wouldn’t use anything more than 3/4" thick. You want the batter to penetrate, then you want it to cook fairly quickly.

Of course, we don’t know that you like my french toast, do we?

I think I make pretty good french toast. I use stale french bread rounds about 1 inch thick. For 6 slices I use 4 large eggs, whole milk (about 1/2c) vanilla and a couple tbls sugar.

I think soaking time is crucial and push down on the pieces like a sponge soaking up water until they no longer float. Hot butter to cook them in so they crisp quickly on the outside and stay slightly runny on the inside. If you like your eggs “done” you might not care for it but it works in my house…

They usually come off puffed up but try adding a splash of water into the mix. I always do that with my omelets and they are super fluffy…

Buttermilk being a cultured product, might it be a little thicker than milk? If so, that might affect soak-ability.

I know I have to use more of it for the right consistency when subbing out for milk in pancakes ( With leavener adjustments for the acidity).

ps I can vouch for America’s Test Kitchen version, excellent results. Just separate the yolks to work the melted butter into them first so it incorporates throughout the batter. (Cinnamon or nutmeg too if you use them so they don’t get stranded floating at the top of the batter.)

Yeah, much thicker, which is why the long soak time. I almost added a bit of milk to it because it looked too thick, but followed the recipe instead. It still didn’t penetrate well enough. Can you send that recipe: it’s a paid website.

Post #2 WAS the America’s Test Kitchen version.

I kinda agree with Rowanchilde’s response, but my take on it is in that one might need to weight the bread (to keep it submerged.)

Selective blindness. :smack:

Wow, complicated FT! We beat the eggs, add milk until it’s the “right” color, then a dash of vanilla. Dip the day-old ordinary white sandwich bread in the mixture, cook in butter. I never heard of soaking the bread for even a minute, let alone twenty.

I don’t bother with milk or butter. Just beat the egg, dip in the bread, let it soak for a bit and fry in a non-stick pan. Use crumpets instead of bread for extra luxury.

That’s the same way I’ve always done it, although I’m not a huge French toast fan. I just checked Joy of Cooking and How to Cook Everything, and they don’t specify any soaking time, just basically a dip into the egg-milk mixture (2 eggs, one cup milk, some sweetener and maybe spices like cinnamon–I use much less milk than that typically, myself.) Twenty minutes seems really long to me, but I’ve never tried to compare a short dunk enough to wet each side vs. an extended soak.

I have no doubt other recipes deliver good results. After trying many, I just found ATK’s hit the spot for me.

I prefer the French toast egg mixture without any sugar or vanilla or spices in it. Just egg beaten with some water to thin it some (I think the general rule is 1 Tbl liquid per egg), dip, saute.

I usually stab the bread all over with a fork while it’s soaking.

Here’s my recipe.

French bread (6 slices, 3/4" thick, cut on diagonal)
2 Eggs
1 Tbsp Milk (cream or half and half gives more richness if you want it).
1/2 Tsp Vanilla (optional)
Vegetable Oil

Take french bread from last night (which you bought fresh last afternoon, right?). Leave it in the paper bag it came from, but don’t do anything special to dry it out. Do NOT let it go stale. If it came in a plastic bag, you’re using the wrong bread; it’ll still be edible, but not ideal.

Whisk the eggs and milk together in a plate.
Soak the bread for 2 minutes at a time, twice on each side (so total of 8 minutes of soaking). I turn the bread with a fork, and stabbing the bread is a feature, not a bug. If the bread is particularly dense, stab it more, but I think the best breads have a pretty light and open crumb.

Put the vegetable oil in your pan - just enough to fully cover the bottom. We’re pan frying, not deep frying. Preheat to about 350-375; I don’t really measure the temp, but I want it hot and not smoking.

Fry about 3-4 minutes per side until crisp and brown.

BUTTERMILK, people. Please sharpen your reading skills.

I’ll have to try it with buttermilk next time. Love the stuff, though I’ve never used it in French toast. It’s interesting, though, as the first two google hits I found on it suggested soak times of 20 minutes to 1 hour (!) The next few had the more typical “dip till wet” or for one minute instructions, and then are interspersed with 20-minute-plus soak recipes. Maybe buttermilk French toast is different. I would try the normal short soak method and see if that improves it.

If I do it again, I’ll cut it with milk. It was way too thick to penetrate the bread