Most days of the week we keep breakfast pretty simple around here - I try to have yogurt or muffins or oatmeal pre-made and in the fridge or freezer - with four kids to get dressed and fed and out the door for school, we need to be pretty systematic in the mornings. But on the weekends, we love to have a big family breakfast. And French Toast is one of my favorites. Sometimes I'll really go all out and make some eggs and bacon or sausage to go along with it, and sometimes we keep it simple - because the toast really is a whole meal just by itself. I've seen a lot of recipes for French toast over the years - at its core, it is a fairly simple thing to make. Bread, eggs, milk. But there are some simple extra things you can do to take it from just really good, to amazing. My usual habit around here is to just throw things in until I like the way it looks, tastes and smells. But a couple weeks ago I tried to take the extra few minutes to actually measure and write down what I was throwing in, so I could share with my a little more of an exact recipe for my French toast. so here you go...
- 1 loaf of rich, egg bread - Brioche, or Challah, sliced thick.
- 1 dozen eggs
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons vanilla (real vanilla please, not vanilla flavoring) Or almond extract is good too, for something different.
- 1 tablespoon cognac, or any other similar liquor.
- Orange zest and or a couple tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice
- 1/2 cup milk (or even better - cream or half & half if you have it)
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup (plus plenty more for serving)
Using rich bread is really one of the key parts of what makes this good - ordinary bread will give you ordinary toast. One time I made it with a nut & raisin brioche - and that was even more amazing! If you have the time, it's good to slice your bread the night before and leave it sitting out to dry a little. This isn't necessary, but can make the soaked slices a little easier to handle. You might be thinking that this sounds like way too much custard - a whole dozen eggs for one loaf of bread - but that really is right, and sometimes not even enough. I sometimes have a little left over if it was a smaller loaf of bread, but with a good size loaf of Challah I will go through all of these, and maybe even need to mix up a little more. The liquor isn't necessary, but gives it a nice background of rich flavor, it's a small amount so you really can't identify that it's there, but it really does amplify the richness. The little bit of syrup in the mix gives it a hint of extra sweetness, and helps give a nice caramelized crust. And you don't have to grill these in a buttered pan, but really, why not? This is a special treat for breakfast - I say go all the way and cook it in butter!
Mix everything except the bread & butter in a casserole or similar wide dish. And then soak your slices in the mixture. And I mean soak them. So many recipes tell you to just dip to coat and then cook. But I want that rich custard and all those flavors to go all the way to the center of each slice. This can make them a little tricky to handle, but you can do it. Use a spatula to get them out of the dish if you need to. Then cook them on low heat, on a well buttered griddle. It will take a little while to get them cooked all the way through, since you soaked egg through to the center of the bread, so this is why you need fairly low heat. And you don't want your butter to burn. When cooked, I stack them on a rack on a cookie sheet (the rack keeps them from steaming and getting soggy), and put them in a 200 degree oven to keep warm while I cook the rest.
Serve warm and drizzled with some warm real maple syrup (please. no fake syrup!).
These freeze really well. I always make extra so I can just pop them out and warm up for a weekday breakfast (but no syrup during the week - my kids know that we only get syrup on the weekends). I also sometimes cut some slices of bread into sticks, they make a handy size for the kids to eat as finger food. And if I have any custard left over after I've used all my good bread, I'll do some French toast sticks with some good whole wheat bread (multi grain or whole wheat breads don't hold up quite as well to the extreme soaking, so cutting in smaller pieces helps).
If you've followed my menu and lunch posts, you'll know that we do breakfast for lunch on Wednesdays. French toast is one of our favorites! The sticks make a great lunch with some jam and cream to dip in, or I make sandwiches with the bigger pieces and cream cheese - it's one of our most popular lunches.