Is French toast really French…French fries aren’t; they are from Belgium. Why don’t we call it toast Francaise like we have named the chicken dish…that is chicken dipped in an egg batter and sauteed; just like French toast. The funny thing about French toast is that I had a devil of a time finding a corroborating recipe to prove that I was not crazy (I’m not sure that the fact that I did eventually find a recipe proves that I am not crazy, after all I did spend 25 years running kitchens ~ sounds like galley slave or crazy). James Beard talks about French toast as though we all know what he is talking about and that we all know how to make it (still a candidate for crazy) and there are no references to the dish in Mastering the Art of French Cooking at all. Then Irma Rombauer came to the rescue with not one but four great sounding recipes and I’m not going to tell you about a single one of those. Just know that they are there and understand that the 75th Anniversary edition of Joy of Cooking is worth the cover price if only for these four recipes.
The French toast in Joy of Cooking is gussied up…I just want to talk about plain old, basic, unadulterated, soul satisfying French toast that you can cover with powdered sugar, jam, preserves, honey, cinnamon and sugar, or maple syrup; and whip together in a matter of minutes for a quick breakfast. The recipe is quite simple; day old bread, eggs, milk, a little butter to cook in and your favorite topping. Some people go out of their way to make it better, but it is very hard to improve on the basic model. My basic version has some important ratios that one could keep in mind that might make things a bit easier. I use 2 eggs (which is about 4 fluid ounces) and half a cup of milk; the ratio is 1:1 eggs to milk by volume. I use just enough butter on the griddle or cast iron skillet to coat it (and sometimes I even wipe off the excess) because there is nothing worse than greasy French toast…remind me to tell you about the restaurant cook who tried to deep fry French toast… mon dieu Gary, qu’est-ce que tu fais? La merde! Needless to say, I was not happy. The last helpful hint is to use day old bread and that the bread should be real bread (not fluffy white bread that has a 2 month shelf life) you want something that will go bad and get a little dry after a day. Real bread that is a day old has the ability to soak up some of the egg and milk so that it forms a custard-like texture when cooked properly. Egg bread is great and bread with raisins in it may be even better…your call, I go for homemade bread in any case.
makes 4 servings
4 eggs, beaten well
1 cup milk
8 slices of real bread
some of your favorite toppings
Preheat a griddle or cast iron skillet over medium heat (about 350°F). Crack the eggs into a pie pan (yes a pie pan, I will explain in a minute). Whip the eggs until they begin to cry…or until they are well beaten. Add the milk and whip to combine well. Dip each slice of bread into the batter, turning several times and allowing the batter to soak in a bit; the flat bottom of the pie pan helps when trying to coat the bread with the batter. When all of the bread has been coated (and soaked) put just enough butter on the cooking surface to coat it (wipe off the excess if necessary with a paper towel) and carefully place the soaked bread on the surface to cook. Let it cook for about 3 minutes and turn over allowing that side to cook as well. Touch the top surface, you should feel a good deal of heat coming through and the texture should spring back or jiggle in a custardy sort of way when done. If they don’t feel done you may have to turn them over and let them cook another 1-2 minutes on each side until they are done (raw milk and egg soaked bread is not my idea of a good breakfast although some may disagree).
We like cinnamon sugar (½ cup sugar:1 Tbsp ground cinnamon) on our French toast with some extra butter or maple syrup, but there are many ways to enjoy this most basic of delights. Enjoy!