Soak it, stuff it, top it, house it
"French toast is a treat. It’s such a treat, in fact, that they put the word French in the name, so you know it’s fancy. In French, it’s the significantly more pedestrian pain perdu ("lost bread"), which is a nod to the dish’s ability to revive stale bread that would otherwise be thrown away. But whatever you call it, it’s sweet (or savory) and indulgent and endlessly customizable. One thing French toast is not? Difficult to make. So the next time your breakfast calls for something extra, pass on pancakes and wiggle out of waffles, because it’s French toast time.
Build a Bread Base
French toast’s foundation. You want something a little sweet and a little stale, cut a little bit thicker than a standard slice of bread. Challah or brioche are common, and I have been known to enjoy a French or Italian country loaf or even a sourdough upon occasion. Avoid ultra-savory breads like rye or pumpernickel, and from time to time try something outside the box, like slices of stale cinnamon rolls or whole croissants.
Custard Is a Must
The next step in Frenching your toast is dipping it in a custard. Traditionally, French toast custard consists of an egg beaten with some milk and sugar, and possibly some vanilla. The ratio is about one egg, a good splash of whole milk, and a healthy pinch of sugar for every couple slices of bread.
To make it your own, swap the sugar for maple syrup or honey; cut the milk for coconut milk or almond milk. Add bourbon or cinnamon or, heck, whisk in some creamy peanut butter. Just make sure to soak it until it’s wet all the way through, but not falling apart. The time will depend on the thickness and texture of the bread, so keep a close eye.
This step is optional, but it really takes your French toast to the next level. Basically you’re making a French toast sandwich: take two slices of bread, spread them with goodies, and make a sandwich. Then dip the whole thing in custard and proceed to the next step.
Filling ideas are pretty much endless, but include: Nutella, chocolate chips, cream cheese, strawberries, bananas, all manner of nuts, sprinkles, peanut butter and jelly, cooked and crumbled bacon, caramelized onions, dried berries, honey, sliced apples, cheddar cheese, ham, caramel sauce, pieces of candy. Pimento cheese? Sliced jalapenos? Skittles? You get the idea.
Get Your Griddle On
This step is, I am sorry to report, the least customizable aspect of French toast. Heat a skillet; add oil or butter, brown toast, 2-3 minutes per side until brown. That’s it, nothing more to see here. Move on to the fun part.
Or Get Baked
If you’ve got time, you can also make French toast as a casserole. The night before, lay the bread in a greased lasagna pan and pour the custard over it. In the morning, bake it in a 375 degree oven until the custard is set, about 40 minutes. It should be browned on top and jiggly in the middle.
Try Out Toppings
Traditionally, you’d top French toast with maple syrup, or maybe powdered sugar. Jam and fruit syrups work well; yogurt can be a refreshing alternative to whipped cream. Almost everything under the fillings ideas would work as a topping, too, but why not get crazy? Waffles shouldn’t have all the fun: top your French toast with fried chicken. Your favorite cereal? Pimento cheese? Chopped basil and sliced peaches? Burrata and chutney? Viva la French toast!
Personally, I like plain, old fashioned French toast with a side of breakfast sausage. Maybe maple syrup. But please don’t let me get in the way of your beaucoup French toast fantasies.