I think anything as rudimentary as soaking stale bread in milk and eggs, then pan-sautéeing it to reconstitute texture, has universal comfort appeal. It is a breakfast comfort food so basic that it can easily be taken for granted, but it shouldn’t.
Pain perdu, “lost bread,” is not an exclusively French invention, as early Romans soaked dry bread in wine, eggs, and honey. The Normans brought it from France to England where they were dubbed the Poor Knights of Windsor, a name that has stuck until the present t describe French toast
. A favorite dish of princes, old English recipes for payn pur-dew refer to bread soaked in an elixir of spiced sherry, eggs, spices, and cream. In Germany it is called Drunken Maidens and Arme Ritter (Poor Knights), with regional variations sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar or touting poppy seeds. The Swedes serve it sandwiched with ham and cheese for dinner and the Mexicans know it as a fritada. It is served for the Jewish holiday of Purim as “Queen Esther’s Toast.”
As with any simple food, the eggy dipped slice is enhanced by a wide spectrum of flavors and textures. French toast has been listed as one of the hot food trends of the coming year. Chefs delight in the element of surprise and serve it for an elegant dessert with sweet sauces and ice cream. Stephen Durfee of The French Laundry in Yountville makes the whimsically named “Poached Eggs on Toast” for a unique dessert; little rounds of brioche are grilled, then topped with quenelles of milk-poached meringue and drizzled with a rich vanilla custard sauce. Variations show up sweet crusted with hazelnuts, stuffed with almond paste and raspberry jam, or savory stuffed with goat cheese and fresh herbs topped with a pile of sautéed mushrooms. It is obligatory camping fare, yet as comfortable on special-occasion breakfast menus at luxury establishments like the Hotel Bel-Air, where it is stuffed with bananas. The Plaza in New York serves their French toast dipped in a rum batter, coats each slice in corn flakes, and bakes them. The requested recipe says it is the favorite of visiting children.
While sweet baguettes, sourdough, and challah egg bread are my favorites, any firm whole wheat, seed, white sandwich, croissant, or holiday sweet bread like panettone can be used. Day-old and stale are key words here; fresh bread will just end up soggy. Cream, half and half, whole milk, nonfat milk, commercial eggnog, or soy milk all work equally well as the soaking liquid. Use fresh eggs or a commercial liquid egg substitute equivalent. If cholesterol is a consideration, use all egg whites and light olive oil for frying. For the adult palate, add 2 to 3 tablespoons of your favorite liqueur, such as Grand Marnier, Amaretto, or rum, to jazz up the batter. I have some basic recipes and a few special occasion french toasts…
Butter and maple syrup are certainly traditional toppings, but I also like a fruit syrup such as blueberry or raspberry (try Knudsen’s sugar-free pourable fruit or one from Knott’s Berry Farms), sautéed or fresh fruit, powdered sugar and fresh lemon wedges, even hot applesauce and vanilla yogurt.
Frozen French Toast
Make your favorite batter and brown slices on both sides in butter. To freeze, lay the cooked slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cool to room temperature and place in the freezer until frozen solid, about 3 hours. When frozen, remove from the sheet to individual plastic freezer bags for storage up to 3 months. Reheat in a toaster or microwave oven. Serve immediately.
Oven-Baked French Toast
Preheat the oven to 475º. Generously butter, or spray with a butter-flavored vegetable cooking spray, a large baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Make your favorite batter and arrange the well-soaked soaked slices on the baking sheet; brush the tops with butter. Bake on the lower third rack until golden, about 5 minutes each side, turning once. Serve immediately.
Good Morning French Toast with Warmed Winter Fruit
This is a basic recipe for French toast. Day-old bread is best since it won’t disintegrate after soaking.
3 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 1-inch thick slices day-old bread
1 to 2 tablespoons butter, as needed
1. In a bowl using a whisk or immersion blender, beat the eggs, milk, and vanilla. Pour into a shallow bowl. Add the bread and soak both sides until all of the mixture is absorbed.
2. Melt the butter in a large skillet, arrange the slices without crowding, and sauté over medium heat until deep golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Top with warmed winter fruit or plain maple syrup. Makes 2 servings
Warmed Winter Fruit
6 dried apricot halves
1 tablespoon dried cherries
1 tablespoon golden raisins
2 tablespoons butter
1 each small apple and pear, peeled, cored, and sliced
Pinch of ground cinnamon
1 sliced banana
1/2 cup canned pitted sweet cherries, drained
1/3 cup maple syrup
Cover the apricots, cherries, and raisins with hot water. Let soak 10 minutes. Melt the butter in a large skillet. Sauté the apple and pear over medium-low heat until soft. Drain the dried fruit and add with the cinnamon. Sauté 5 minutes. Add the banana, cherries, and syrup, and heat 2 minutes. Serve immediately spooned over the French toast.
Pumpkin French Toast
Delicious French toast with the rich flavors of pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. It’s easy and sure to become a family favorite in no time!
4 large eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 1/4 cups skim milk
1/4 cup half and half
2 tsp vanilla extract
8 slices French or sourdough bread, sliced at least 1/2″ thick
Preheat a griddle to medium high heat. Preheat the oven to warm to keep the French toast warm after cooking (optional).
Whisk together the eggs, sugar and salt in a large bowl until they are smooth.
Add the pumpkin, spices, milk, half and half, and vanilla.
Mix until the egg mixture is smooth.
Pour the egg mixture into a large baking dish or cake pan.
Soak 4 slices of bread in the pumpkin and egg mixture for about 1 minute.
Flip the bread over and soak for another minute.
Cook the bread on the preheated griddle, sprayed with cooking spray, until golden brown. Then flip the bread over and cook until the other side is golden brown.
Keep warm until serving, and repeat the process with the other 4 slices of bread.
Serve hot with toppings of choice.
Number of servings (yield): 8
Tori Ritchie’s Egg Nog French Toast
Makes 4 servings
It’s nutmeg that makes this egg noggy. If you use cream in the batter, each piece will have a custardy texture, but you can substitute milk for less fat if you prefer. Look for grade B maple syrup for its more intense flavor.
4 large eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream or milk
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
Real maple syrup, preferably grade B
8 slices challah or soft white bread or cinnamon bread
4 tablespoons butter
Sliced pears or bananas or berries, optional
Put eggs, cream or milk, ground nutmeg, and 1 tablespoon of maple syrup in a blender. Blend 30 seconds or until frothy. Arrange bread in one layer in a large shallow baking dish or on a sided baking sheet and pour egg mixture over bread. Let soak for about 5 minutes.
Melt a tablespoon of butter in each of 1 or 2 large nonstick skillets (depending on how many pieces you want to cook at once) or on a griddle. Transfer soaked bread to pan in one layer and cook until golden brown on each side, turning once, about 4 minutes total. Transfer to a plate and serve, or keep warm in a low oven. Cook remaining soaked bread in the same way, adding butter to pan as needed. Top each portion with fruit as desired and serve with additional warm maple syrup.Makes 4 serving
Brad Ogden’s Cinnamon Bread French Toast
12 slices Pepperidge Farm Cinnamon bread (if you have a great bakery cinnamon bread, by all means use that!)
1 stick of butter, melted
2 egg yolks
¾ cup sugar
3 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla
Spray 9 x 13 pan with non-stick cooking spray. Brush both sides of bread slices with melted butter and place in pan (I made 2 layers of 6 slices).
In a large bowl, whisk eggs and egg yolks. Whisk in sugar, milk, cream and vanilla. Strain the mixture over the bread making sure to saturate all the slices.
Bake for 45 minutes or till the top is lightly browned and the custard is set. Allow to cool about 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle each slice with powdered sugar. Serve with maple syrup and berries.
Banana-stuffed French Toast
Six 2-inch slices day-old bread
3 small bananas, each cut into 12 diagonal slices
8 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1. Preheat oven to 400º. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Insert a small sharp knife into the side of the crust and carefully cut a small horizontal pocket directly into the middle of the slice. Stuff each pocket with 6 slices of banana.
2. In a bowl using a whisk or immersion blender, beat the eggs, milk, syrup, and nutmeg until foamy. Pour into a shallow bowl. Soak each stuffed slice until soaked; turn once. Melt butter in a large skillet, arrange the slices without crowding, and sauté over medium heat until lightly browned; turn once. Transfer slices to the baking sheet and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Serve immediately. Makes 3 servings
Take a break from regular bread with this delicious French toast that’s filled with strawberry jam – ready in just 20 minutes.
Strawberry Jam-Filled French Toast
cup fat-free cream cheese (from 8-ounce container), softened
tablespoon powdered sugar
teaspoon grated orange peel
slices French bread (sliced 1/2 inch thick)
teaspoons strawberry preserves
cup fat-free cholesterol-free egg product
cup fat-free (skim) milk
tablespoon powdered sugar, if desired
1 In small bowl, mix cream cheese, 1 tablespoon powdered sugar and the orange peel until well blended. Spread 4 slices of the bread evenly with cream cheese mixture.
2 Spread 2 teaspoons preserves on each remaining slice of bread. Top each with 1 bread slice spread with cream cheese, making 4 sandwiches.
3 In shallow bowl or pie pan, mix egg product, milk and vanilla until well blended.
4 Heat 10-inch nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat or to 375°F. Dip each sandwich into egg mixture, turning to coat both sides. Cook in hot skillet 3 to 4 minutes on each side until golden brown. Sprinkle each sandwich with powdered sugar.
The Plaza Hotel Corn FLakes French Toast
4 c Corn flakes
4 c milk
1 Cube unsalted butter
8 lg Eggs
1 Loaf challah; (about 1 lb cut)
2 tablespoons Dark rum
2 tablespoons Vanilla
Original recipe serves 8
To clarify the butter; In a small heavy saucepan melt the butter over low heat. Remove the pan from the heat and let the butter stand 3 minutes. Skim the froth off and pour the butter through a sieve lined with a double thickness of rinsed and squeezed cheesecloth into a bowl, discarding any milky solids in the bottom of the pan. In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla and rum. Transfer 1/2 of the mixture to a large shallow baking dish (about 13 X 9 X 2 inches) and soak half of the bread slices 10 minutes. Turn slices over and soak 10 minutes more. In another large shallow baking dish spread half of the corn flakes and coat the soaked bread slices on each side, transferring to a tray when coated. Soak and coat the remaining slices with the remaining egg mixture and corn flakes in the same manner. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. In a large heavy skillet heat 2 Tbsps of the clarified butter over moderate heat until hot but not smoking and cook 2 or 3 slices (or as many will fit in one layer) 3 minutes on each side, or until puffed and golden brown. Transfer the French toast as cooked to a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven. Cook the remaining slices in the remaining butter in the same manner. When ready to serve sprinkle the French toast with the cinnamon sugar and serve with the accompaniments. NOTES : Have tried this and its a keeper. Recipe by: The Plaza Hotel N.Y.City-RSVP Gourmet Magazine 5/97
French Toast Casserole
- 1 loaf (1 pound) French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 8 eggs, lightly beaten
- 3 cups 2% milk
- 4 teaspoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- Maple syrup, optional
- Place bread cubes in a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla and salt. Pour over bread. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
- Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Dot with butter. Combine sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over the top.
- Cover and bake at 350° for 45-50 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Let stand for 5 minutes. Serve with maple syrup if desired. Yield: 12 servings.
Cannoli French Toast
French toast gets rolled up with classic cannoli flavors in this unique brunch recipe.
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1/3 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
16 slices home-style white bread, crusts removed
1/4 cup milk
2 Eggland’s Best Eggs (large)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup Land O Lakes® Butter
Garnish with powdered sugar
Combine all filling ingredients into a bowl and mix well. Set aside.
Flatten bread slices with rolling pin and spread 1 tablespoon filling over each bread slice, to 1/2 inch from sides and to 1 inch at top.
Roll up bread slices, starting from bottom.
Place milk, eggs and cinnamon in shallow bowl and whisk until combined.
Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a skillet over medium heat until sizzling.
Dip 4 bread rolls into egg mixture, then place in skillet.
Cook, turning occasionally, for 3 minutes or until lightly browned on all sides.
Repeat with remaining butter and bread rolls; wiping out skillet between batches.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired, and enjoy! Serves 8
text copyright Beth Hensperger 2016 Recipes copyright The Plaza Hotel, Tori Ritchie, Betty Crocker, Eggland’s Best Eggs, Brad Ogden, and Land O Lakes Butter.
Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.