toast gets a twist from Swedish limpa bread, chopped
pecans, maple syrup-infused whipped cream and a dash
were finishing plates of oven-baked French toast when
someone cautioned, "You need to be careful when you eat
that?" someone else asked.
it’s so comforting it makes you want to go back to
bed," the person said with a laugh.
stayed awake long enough to talk about the dish, which is
"in season" now that a chill is in the air and
families gather for the holidays. French toast dates to
ancient Rome and has been on the menus of many cultures,
under various names. For reasons lost in the mists of
culinary time, it was dubbed "French" toast in
1600s England, and arrived here via 19th century settlers.
French call it "pain purdu" — lost (or wasted)
bread. "Lost" in the sense that stale bread is
usually thrown out and replaced with fresh bread. However,
someone figured out it can be resuscitated by dipping it
into an egg-milk batter and frying it. It also happens that
day-old or 2-day-old bread is still preferred for French
toast because it stands up to the wet batter, called
"custard," whereas fresh bread can get
over-saturated and dissolve.
I took on a French Toast Project, hoping to push the
boundaries of a breakfast classic that’s more
multidimensional than pancakes and waffles. I got a few cues
from, oh, 60 or so recipes, but added a few tweaks to create
one that’s … well, if not unique, then different. A lot
of "quick and easy" French toast recipes are out
there, but who wants those? In this case, trade in the old
"less is more" approach for a newer model: More is
experimental phase involved much hunting and gathering and
hours in the kitchen. Ingredients were many, measurements
and ratios were tested, concepts were tried and abandoned.
At day’s end, the aroma of browned butter permeated the
house so thoroughly that the windows and doors had to be
opened. Along the way I learned a lot.
French toast template is simple in concept: Soak bread in a
custard of egg and milk, then saute it. However, its real
motto is: "Anything goes." Yes, you can cook
French toast on the stove top, but also in the oven as a
casserole, in a toaster (yep!), in a toaster oven, in a
microwave oven, and even in the backyard over hardwood coals
in a kettle cooker (messy, but the smoky flavor is
into sticks, turn it into cupcakes or muffins, or add ham
and cheese for a croque monsieur. One recipe even transforms
the slices into link sausage-filled roll-ups, a la pigs in
blankets, while another tells how to make it into a cannoli.
How about a French toast grilled-cheese sandwich?
right bread is essential, something substantial but not too
heavy, one that will crisp up around the edges when cooked
and won’t resemble a brick when plated. Recipe options are
many, but some seemed odd: gingerbread, banana bread, angel
food cake, pound cake, bagel, waffle and glazed doughnut.
Others were more mainstream: cinnamon-raisin bread, challah,
brioche, marbled rye, panettone, sourdough and ordinary
white sandwich bread.
consulted with master baker Joe Artim, whose Grateful Bread
artisan bakery in Sacramento, Calif.’s Loehmann’s Plaza
has been around for 25 years. Because sourdough is so
predictable in California, we discussed alternatives.
decided on three, cut into half-inch-thick slices. Seasonal
Swedish limpa is hearty with rye and wheat flours, honey,
anise and orange zest and pulp. Pugliese bread was less
dense, with air pockets in the loaf and a chewier crust.
French bread was also light, but with less texture than the
other two. The pugliese and French were "batards,"
which refers to the shape of the loaf, which is like a
baguette but shorter, taller and wider. We liked the limpa
for its layered flavors, but, in a close call, favored the
is where ingredients and measurements in so many recipes are
all over the place. Options included cinnamon, nutmeg,
allspice, almond or vanilla extract, sugar (white or brown,
for caramelization), ricotta cheese, cream cheese, crushed
pineapple, eggnog, coconut water and hot chocolate.
recipes called for 6 eggs and 1 1/2 cups of liquid. Others
asked for 4 eggs and 2/3 cup of liquid, 4 eggs-1/4 cup, 2
eggs-2/3 cup, 3 eggs-3/4 cup and so on. In every case, the
liquids were either milk (whole or low-fat) or
half-and-half, light cream, light whipping cream, whipping
cream, heavy cream or heavy whipping cream, or combinations
of two. The difference is in the fat contents.
ended up with three whole eggs and one egg yolk, to tone
down the "eggy" taste in the whites and make a
richer custard. As for liquid, nobody had mentioned
buttermilk, so that went in for tang and texture, along with
orange zest (grated orange peel), Grand Marnier
orange-flavored liqueur, vanilla extract, kosher salt,
fresh-ground black pepper and a couple of dashes of Frank’s
Original RedHot sauce – optional, but a little heat
tempers the sweet, though sugar was left out.
your pick: warm maple syrup and butter, fruit of any kind,
preserves, nuts, granola, cream cheese-sugar glaze, salted
caramel, ice cream, whipped cream, peanut butter, raisins,
shredded coconut, cranberries, toasted pine nuts or pumpkin
seeds, Craisins, Nutella, chocolate chips, fried eggs and
with coarsely chopped oven-toasted pecans, with a side of
maple syrup-infused whipped cream dusted with finely ground
incarnations of French toast came out of my kitchen
experiment — some really good and some, uh, not so much.
Here are two options to the master recipe:
the Grand Marnier and pecans, but keep the orange zest.
Substitute 1/3 cup of Frangelica hazelnut liqueur and use
coarsely chopped roasted hazelnuts.
keep the orange zest but omit any liqueur, and use 1/2 cup
of ginger juice instead. The invigorating elixir is sold at
Whole Foods markets, or order it from the Ginger People at
toast can be dessertlike and way too sweet. To avoid that,
sugar is not part of this recipe, nor is a big pour of maple
syrup on top of the toast. Instead, maple syrup-infused
whipped cream – lightly dusted with cayenne pepper
(optional) – is served on the side for dipping. Also: The
flavor of heavily textured Kerrygold Irish butter from
grass-fed cows adds depth and richness to the dish. Careful:
It has a very low smoke point.
heavy whipping cream
cup real maple syrup
ground cayenne pepper
the French toast:
whole eggs plus 1 egg yolk
heaping tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
cup Grand Marnier
or two of Frank’s Original RedHot sauce (optional)
teaspoon vanilla extract
shakes of kosher salt
grinds of whole peppercorns
slices of day-old Swedish limpa, pugliese or French bread
from Grateful Bread bakery
plate of oven-toasted coarsely chopped pecans
fruit for garnish
make the cream: Whip the cream with an electric mixer until
peaks are stiff. Add maple syrup and whip 5 more seconds.
Serve 2 heaping tablespoons to the plated French toast, on
the side — not on top. Otherwise, the hot toast will melt
the whipped cream into a liquid mess. One dash of cayenne on
top of the whipped cream should do it (optional).
make French the toast: Preheat a skillet or griddle over
medium to medium-high heat (cast iron works well). Put the
eggs in a big bowl, add the zest and whisk. Add the liquids,
and the salt and pepper and whisk again. Pour the custard
into a large glass pie plate.
two slices at a time, place the bread into the custard and
let it soak 15 to 20 seconds per side. Then lay the slices
on top of the plated pecans, pressing firmly but gently. Put
a big pat of butter into the pan; the butter should sizzle,
but not smoke. Moving quickly and using a spatula, carefully
lift the slices one at a time from the pecan plate and place
them nut-side down into the skillet. Cook each side 2 1/2
minutes, or until golden brown and crispy. Use the spatula
to carefully turn the slices, keeping as many pecan bits on
the top side of the bread as possible. Wipe the skillet or
griddle with a paper towel in between cooking the batches,
and add fresh butter each time. Keep the French toast in a
warm oven as you cook the remaining slices.
serve, place two slices per plate, with a mound of maple
syrup-infused whipped cream on the side. Garnish with
raspberries, blueberries or any other fruit, and/or orange
time: 2 minutes
time: 4 minutes
savory take on the classic French toast with a golden,
cheesy crust, one the table in 5 minutes. And far less
calories than the usual French toast, drowning in maple
syrup or melting butter. Recipe from Nagi of RecipeTin Eats.
She offers these tips: "I made this recipe with plain
white sandwich bread, but you can make it with any bread you
want — French stick, sourdough or brioche would especially
slightly stale bread if you can, that way the bread does not
absorb too much of the egg mixture (which can make it soggy
on the inside)."
large eggs (or 4 small eggs)
cup milk (or cream)
cup grated Parmesan cheese
tablespoon fresh chopped parsley (optional)
slices slightly stale bread
butter in large pan over high heat.
whisk eggs, milk, Parmesan, parsley, salt and pepper.
bread into egg mixture, shake off excess, then place into
pan. If your pan is large enough, cook all 4 pieces at the
any remaining cheese at the bottom to the egg mixture bowl
onto the bread in the pan (why waste it?).
each side until golden — 1 to 2 minutes. Serve