The great thing about classic dishes is that there are a million ways to make them. Take Chocolate Chip Cookies for instance: whether you like them soft and chewy, thin and crispy, with chocolate chips, with chocolate chunks, more brown sugar, more granulated sugar, etc., there’s a recipe out there to suit your preferences. The same rings true for just about any dish you can think of, really–no matter what you like, I guarantee there is someone else out there who feels the same way. While I like to think this blog is full of the “ best” ways to make 200+ recipes, it’s really just a bunch of things made exactly the way I like them.
Today, let’s talk about French Toast, that classic dish made by dipping day-old bread in custard, frying it up, and serving it with maple syrup. The concept is simple, but there are endless ways to make it. Whether you like your French toast thin, thick, with just a whisper of custard, soaked with custard, fried, baked, stuffed, baked and stuffed, on the sweet side, with more of a savory note, or any other way, know that a recipe exists that suits your needs.
While I don’t think I’ve ever turned up my nose at any variety of French Toast, right now I’m into Baguette French Toast. My particular recipe was born of necessity on the last morning of my trip to Maine–we had two kinds of bread leftover, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to make this custard-dipped syrup-smothered dish with whole wheat sandwich bread. Thick-cut white bread or bust, am I right?!
My Baguette French Toast (or Pain Perdu, if you’re feeling kicky) is made with thick slices of day-old baguette. You want each piece to be somewhere between 1- and 1 1/2-inches thick; I can get about 20 slices out of a baguette. The advantage to using thick slices of slightly-stale crusty bread is that they can soak up a lot of custard without getting mushy and weird. This French toast has all the fluffy texture your (or uh, my) little heart desires, but also stays fully intact.
Let’s talk about the custard. While the (very good) French toast of my childhood was soaked in just eggs and milk, as an adult, I like mine to have a little more panache. I add cinnamon, a bit of sugar, salt, and vanilla to my custard, and while none of the flavors are particularly strong, they all work to make this breakfast treat taste balanced and delicious.
A word on mixing. There is nothing I dislike more than finding unadulterated bits of egg yolk or white on my French toast. To keep this from happening, I like to mix the cinnamon, sugar, salt, and vanilla into the eggs before adding the milk. This ensures a smooth, homogeneous custard.
I soak the baguette slices in the custard for about two minutes per side before frying them in a combination of butter and oil. Yes, butter and oil. Why? Because I want the flavor of butter and the smoke point of canola oil. If I used only butter, I’d run the very real risk that it would burn, and if I used only oil, I’d miss out on flavor. By using a combination, I get plenty of flavor and crispy edges.
As far as service goes, it’s up to you. I like the usual maple syrup, but I also heartily endorse sifting confectioners sugar over the top. Dot it all with fresh fruit, if you feel so inclined. However you choose to serve Baguette French Toast, know that you and your guests are in for a treat.
Baguette French Toast
makes 4-5 servings
1 day-old baguette* (about 11-13 ounces)
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup whole milk
1-2 tablespoons butter, for cooking
1-2 tablespoons neutral-flavored oil, for cooking (I like canola)
pure maple syrup
Use a serrated knife to remove the very ends of the baguette. Slice into 1-1.5 inch slices (about 20 slices). Set aside.
Make the custard. In a small-medium mixing bowl, whisk together eggs and cinnamon until smooth. Whisk in sugar, salt, and vanilla, followed by whole milk. Pour mixture into a shallow dish.
Soak about 8-10 baguette slices in the custard for 2 minutes per side.
Heat 1 tablespoon each of butter and oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Place baguette slices in the skillet. Let cook until a golden brown crust forms, about 2-3 minutes. Flip baguette slices and cook an additional 2-3 minutes. Remove French toast to a plate.
Repeat soaking and cooking processes until all slices of baguette have been used. Add more butter and oil to the pan, as necessary.
Divide French toast over 4-5 plates. Top with seasonal fruit, maple syrup, and confectioner’s sugar, as desired. Serve immediately.
Don’t have a baguette? Use 8 slices of thick-cut challah, brioche, or soft Italian bread instead.