Food & Drink

Easy French Toast, 3 Ways

french toast
Horchata french toast | Cole Saladino/Thrillist
Horchata french toast | Cole Saladino/Thrillist

As a food editor, home cook, and brunch enthusiast I am here to tell you that French toast at its best is basically single-serve bread pudding. Ideally there’s a whole lot of soft, moist, pudding-like texture to sink into underneath a toasted, caramelized surface. You achieve that pudding texture by soaking your bread in an eggy mixture. And you get that toasted surface by cooking your toast for a brief amount of time on a hot surface. Think of it like searing steak.

Beyond those basics, there’s a whole world of options for French toast. Open your cabinets and start experimenting. You can use all kinds of bread for different results (though I don’t think your extra-fiber sprouted wheat Ezekiel bread is ideal). Bread that was soft and squishy to begin with, like brioche or challah, is ideal -- even in a stale state -- and yeah, definitely use that homemade sourdough you’ve been compulsively churning out for the past two weeks. Thicker slices are much better than standard, thin slices. You can add spices and other flavorings to the soaking batter. You can play with the toppings. And you can even go savory instead of sweet. Brunch sacrilege? We shall see. All I know is that French toast works for any meal.

Here’s the basic formula for two servings:

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 slices of bread

I like to pour my batter into a shallow pan or a pie dish and soak the slices for at least five minutes. Depending on the size of your slices and your pan, you’ll most likely need to do this in batches.

Over medium to medium high, heat some vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet. Yes, I said vegetable oil. Just go with me here on this, because butter can scorch. Gently lower a slice or two of your soaked bread into the pan and cook until crisp and golden, 2-4 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side. Serve immediately on a plate and add your toppings.

Horchata French Toast

Horchata comes in all kinds of permutations, from tiger nut milk to oat milk to rice milk. Which means guess what? You could use any of those as your milk base for this version. I recommend something with a richer texture and flavor, like tiger nut milk, or even coconut milk -- the thicker kind from a can, not that sad watery stuff you add to your coffee.

Add your two eggs, and then whisk in 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, a quarter teaspoon of nutmeg, a teaspoon of vanilla, a tablespoon of brown or coconut sugar, and a teensy pinch of salt.

This combo says tropical fruit to me -- specifically mango. You can go with fresh slices or frozen (defrosted, of course). No mango? Use banana. Over medium heat, melt a couple tablespoons of butter in your pan, sprinkle a tablespoon of your brown or coconut sugar, dissolve, and then add your fruit in one layer. Let it sit undisturbed for a minute or two until it caramelizes, then turn each piece over for more of the same. Then scrape the whole thing, released juices and all, over your French toast.

Boozy French Toast

Yes, Bourbon for breakfast. Because what does it matter, really, when you’re already planning to spend the entire day in your pajamas and you haven’t done your hair in days? Measure a ¼ cup of milk minus 1 tablespoon (to keep the batter from getting too watery), add your eggs, and then add 2 tablespoons of Bourbon or other whiskey. Whisk in a teaspoon of ground cloves or allspice and a wee pinch of salt. Soak your bread in that.

For the topping, peel and chop an apple into ÂĽ-inch squares. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in your hot, post-French toast griddle, add ÂĽ cup of Bourbon, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and let that cook down a bit, stirring to scrape up and incorporate the browned bits in the pan. Add the apple and stir until the apple softens. Drizzle the whole thing over your French toast.

Top with a scoop of ice cream. Vanilla is traditional but what the hell, use that Coolhaus Midnight Munchies right on top if that’s what you’ve got in your freezer.

Put an Egg on It

We’re going savory this time. Into your eggs and milk, sprinkle grated parmesan or romano cheese a little at a time while whisking to incorporate. Add a ¼ teaspoon of paprika if you have it (if not, just skip). 

After soaking your bread in this mixture and cooking, do your eggs. If you’re a poaching pro, go for it. Otherwise, add a little more oil to the pan and fry 1-2 eggs per serving, sunny-side up. Ease the cooked eggs over your French toast.

Top with your favorite hot sauce, some minced fresh herbs (literally any that you have except mint) or dried herbs, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

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Adriana Velez is a senior food editor at Thrillist.