Perfect or Not so Perfect French Toast

234562You won’t need to know how to speak French to visit its birthplace!

 Although the beginnings of French Toast are vague, one of the earliest versions has been traced back to the Roman Empire. The name “french toast” was first used in 17th-century England. The recipe and name were brought to America by early settlers.

In France, the dish is called “pain perdu,” meaning “lost bread.” Why lost bread? Originally, people made French toast from stale bread in order to make use of bread that would have been thrown away.

Making french toast, you start by dipping slices of bread into a mixture of beaten eggs, milk, cinnamon and vanilla and fry the egg-coated bread in a pan until browned.

One recommendation is to slice the bread the night before and let it dry out a bit overnight to keep the bread from absorbing too much egg and getting soggy.

Restaurants in the U. S. usually serve it with butter, maple syrup, and powdered sugar, but it can be topped with just about anything.

Popular toppings include powdered sugar, maple syrup, jelly, jam, honey, peanut butter, applesauce, whipped cream, fruit, yogurt, ice cream, and nuts. Savory (not sweet) french toast can be topped with bacon, cheese, gravy and even ketchup!

People use a variety of different bread to make french toast. In the western and southwestern United States, many cooks prefer sourdough bread. Within some Jewish-American communities in the New York area, people use leftover challah bread from the Sabbath dinner on Sunday mornings.

Around the world, people enjoy it in many different ways. The British call it “eggy bread,” “gypsy bread” or “french-fried bread.,” and sometimes serve it with ketchup.

The people of New Zealand prefer theirs served with bananas, bacon and maple syrup. Australians serve up a savory version with cheese and tomato sauce. The French consider “pain perdu” a dessert, not a breakfast food.

Here are some mistakes you can make when making French toast:

  1. Don’t go overboard with the dairy. If there’s too much, the egg in the mixture won’t cook, meaning wet, soggy, bread. You want the French toast to be dry on the surface with slightly crisp edges. If you’re adding maple syrup, honey, or dusting the toast with powdered sugar on the plate, you don’t need the custard to be too sweet.

  2. You don’t want pieces of egg white showing up on your perfectly browned slices. Make sure to whisk the custard until the dairy, eggs, and spices (if using) are well combined.

  3. French toast is like bread pudding. It soaks up a custard for a creamy texture on the inside and a slightly crunchy texture on the outside. If the bread is very thin, it will be too flimsy to hold together when dipped in the custard. If it’s too thick, it will never cook in the center. The ideal thickness for a slice of French toast is 3/4″ to 1″ thick. Pick a kind of bread that’s both spongy and sturdy enough not to fall apart during cooking. Brioche, challah, or a Pullman loaf are all perfect.

  4. Under-soaking the bread
    Lots of home cooks quickly dip each side of the bread in the custard before throwing it in the pan. The bread has to soak in the egg mixture; you want it to penetrate the bread for a soft, custardy center. This requires some firm yet gentle pressure—and let the bread soak for at least 15-20 minutes.

  5. French toast is not a steak—you don’t want to scorch the surface. With sugar in the egg mixture (the custard), it will caramelize and burn quickly and the inside won’t cook entirely, so you’ll be left with a burnt-yet-soggy piece of French toast. On the other side, if you cook it on too low a temperature, the bread will dry out and you won’t have that nice, soft center that makes French toast so decadent. Cook three to four minutes per side over medium heat.

  6. If the pan isn’t hot enough when you put your first slice in, the custard spreads out, forming a “foot” on the bottom of the French toast. When the pan is hot enough, the batter won’t have time to seep; the custard will start cooking as soon as it hits the pan.

  7. Give the pan a light coating of neutral oil and butter. This will help prevent the butter from burning. And make sure to wipe out the pan after every batch, then use a fresh combination of neutral oil and butter, otherwise, the butter will burn and little black bits will stick to the next batch of French toast.

Perfect or Not so Perfect French Toast

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