Wednesday, March 4, 2009

End of Winter Indulgence #3: French Toast

Drowned in maple syrup from the laughably small jar...

Preemptive Disclaimer Regarding the Nature of the Beast's French Toast:

This post will have nothing to do with the intense and yet worthwhile variances that indulge in making French Toast into a veritable art-form and / or somewhat culturally appropriate endeavor by using Texas Toast or actual French Bread. It will also avoid the, in my humble opinion, generally less pleasant dabbling with such things as breakfast casseroles including French toast, as these things tend to be far too Paula Deen (and I do my best NOT to go there), and actually kinda nasty in their usually grizzly, fattening, over-baked form.

Eek. Overcooked grizzly breakfast casserole!

This post just deals with good old, simple French toast. If you can handle that, then read on, partner.

* * *

One of my favorite winter-time breakfasts, as I have mentioned before, is French Toast. It is wintery because of the rich, syrup-slathered nature of the beast. It is breakfast-appropriate because it involves three of the all-time-western-breakfast-greats: milk, eggs, and toast.

There are few things in this world that strike greater terror into me than the idea of eating buttery, syrupy French Toast on a hot summer morning. The image and idea are both suffocating and unappealing (almost moreso than being force-fed hot chocolate while in a sauna wearing a wool turtle-neck sweater, but not quite).

This is why my End of Winter Indulgence #3 is French Toast.

* * *

I almost never used to make French Toast because it can be deceptively time consuming and usually does not carry the kind of wow-factor-punch that really delicious pancakes or scones or other sweet breakfasts do. I felt this way in particular because as a child I had watched my own mother struggle with French Toast. Though I always liked the taste, the bread more often than not was usually broken in half on my plate. It seemed impossible to properly soak the bread in the milky mixture without over-saturating it and causing a train wreck on the way to the pan. And to avoid that train wreck my mother often did not properly soak the bread, resulting in a dry, less than appealing piece of God-knows-what.

But that hesitance brought on by traumatic gastronomic memories was all but annihilated about two years ago in my tiny Earl's Court kitchen when I, accidentally, discovered that French Toast - far from being hum-drum - too likes to live life dangerously. But only if you make it with TOAST, not plain old, out-of-the-fridge sliced bread, like the common folk (read: me) used to do.

I'm not sure when, why, or how, but I would assume we had company, otherwise I would not have been attempting to make French Toast. I was, half-asleep, wandering around my miniature Central London kitchen, fumbling with the new thick-sliced loaf of Hovis (best of both, because I love whole wheat goodness with the indulgence of white!) bread we'd gotten at the Tesco across the street.

Somewhere between rubbing my eyes, beating the egg in the milk mixture and trying to bring the butter to room temperature, I threw the bread into the toaster. Not sure why I did it. In fact, to this day I believe it was some kind of divine intervention that led to this happy accident. By the time I'd realize I was toasting the bread, I'd already toasted over half of it. Screw it, I thought. They'll have to deal. What followed was an epiphany of the first-order, and has changed my breakfast-time rituals every since.

* * *

Really, Ridiculously Yummy French Toast
soggy enough to be legitimate, but toasty enough to live up to its name

Serves 2-3

Eggy-Toasted-French Toast

One of my favorite things about French toast is that it combines savory and sweet. If made correctly, it will have a soft, chewy inside with a crispy, egg-covered outside. My favorite is when you can actually see the fried egg on the surface of the bread swirled with lovely cinnamon and nutmeg and syrup. I think adding vanilla to the mix gives it a little bit of a French touch, a certain sense of je ne sais quoi. Matt is not as big of a fan, and if you're not either, then simply leave the extract out.

I also prefer it when the bread is not falling apart, which is why I maintain it is vital to TOAST and cool your bread first. It takes a little longer than just plopping the bread into the mix straight out of the bag, but it's worth it when the integrity of the slices is not compromised in the dipping and frying steps.

6-8 slices of regular bread, toasted
3 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon, and more for sprinkling
1/4 tsp nutmeg, if you're cheeky
butter, for frying


1. Mix all ingredients in a shallow bowl until the eggs are well-broken up and evenly spread throughout the mixture.

2. Using a non-stick pan, melt a pad of butter over medium to medium-high heat, making sure not to let the butter brown or burn.

3. Meanwhile, dip your first slice of bread into the milk mixture. Allow the bread to soak in just enough milk to make it somewhat heavy, but not enough to let it break when you lift it. Ensure you have some eggs on your piece of bread too.

4. Quickly transfer soaked bread to the hot pan and leave to sear for 30-45 seconds. While it is cooking, sprinkle the exposed side with more cinnamon. The bread should not stick to the pan, and when ready it will be a lovely brown color. Flip to the second side and repeat.

Keep warm under a loose piece of foil. Serve with maple syrup (and more butter if you like)!
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  1. I love diving interventions in the kitchen! I can't wait to try your version!

  2. Love the toasting first trick...I can imagine its perfect for the Hovis type bread. I've gotten Hovis loaves from Tesco's myself from time to time.

  3. French toast are second only to pancakes as my favorite breakfast treat. Toasting the bread is indeed an inspired idea - begone, soggy slices! I look forward to trying your technique.