Exercise 10: French Toast
Intermediate Lessons > Complex Breakfast > Intermediate Starches & Grains > French Toast
Exercise Checklist:
Recommended Pre-requisites
Introduction to Cooking Methods – Dry Heat with Added Fat – Pan Frying Food Preparation Basics – Food Presentation/Plating and Presentation Complex Breakfast – French Toast Batter
Ingredients
  • Ingredients for Batter:
  • 4 Large Eggs
  • 1 cup of Whole Milk
  • 1 tsp of Granulated Sugar
  • 1 tsp of Nutmeg
  • 1 tsp of Allspice
  • 1 tsp of Cinnamon
  • Ingredients for Making Basic French Toast:
  • 6-9 slices dried Challah bread
  • French Toast Batter
  • 1/4 cup Clarified Butter (approximately)
  • For Serving:
  • Powdered Sugar
  • Butter
  • Maple Syrup (preferably warmed)
Tools & Equipment
  • Flat Top Grill, Griddle or Frying Pan
  • Hotel Pan or Small Baking Dish
  • Balloon Whisk
  • Mixing Bowl
  • Measuring Cup
  • Measuring Spoons
  • Utility Tongs
  • Small Ladle
  • Small Silicone Brush (optional)
  • Grill Spatula
  • Large Plate (for Holding)
  • Cotton Towel/Cloth or Aluminum Foil (for Holding)
Estimated Time
25 minutes (approximately)
Yield
2 cups of French Toast Batter Serves 6-8

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Exercise 10: French Toast

In this exercise, we’ll use the French Toast Batter we made in the previous Exercise to make a basic version of French Toast (also known as Eggy Bread, Pamperdy, Pain Perdu, etc.) 

To make basic French Toast, stale bread slices are dipped/soaked in an egg-based Batter and Sautéed or Pan-Fried on both sides to a golden brown. The French Toast is then served with Butter and Syrup or another sweet topping.

Traditionally, French Toast is cooked on top of the stove. It’s best cooked on a Flat Top Grill or a Griddle (either an independent Griddle Pan or a Griddle that is part of a stovetop), but a Skillet or Frying Pan also works fine. The goal of cooking the batter-drenched Bread is to “crisp-up” the outer layer on an oiled, heated surface. This “crisping” is the hallmark of good French Toast.

You may see some recipes that call for French Toast to be Baked in an oven, but technically Baking stale, batter-soaked Bread would define a Bread Pudding, which rarely has a crunchy texture.

For Basic French Toast, your Mise en Place should consist of a Saute Pan, Skillet, Frying Pan or cooking surface (Flat Top Grill, Griddle, etc.), the French Toast Batter, dried/stale Bread slices, a Balloon Whisk, Grill Spatula, Utility Tongs, a small Ladle and/or small Silicone Brush for tempering the cooking surface of choice and a large plate, to Hold the cooked French Toast until it is served. You will also need a flat-bottomed dish (or pan) to soak the Bread in the Batter. Choose a dish or pan that is a few inches tall and wide enough for a slice of the bread to lie flat. You can also use a large mixing bowl with enough flat surface area to accommodate a slice of Bread. Ideally, the Batter will be about one to two inches deep when poured into the pan, dish or bowl. Finally, you will need a Fat to oil the cooking surface, and Butter, Powdered Sugar and warmed Maple Syrup, for service.

For the Fat, you have a number of choices: Clarified Butter, Sweet Butter, Whole Butter, rendered Bacon Fat, or a neutral Oil are all good ones. At Smart Kitchen we like to use Clarified Butter—with its high Smoke Point, you are less likely to burn the outside of the French Toast before the inside is cooked. Also, because you will probably serve the French Toast with additional Butter, in a sense you are layering the butter flavor into the dish—and who can argue with the flavor of butter? Of course, you can go in a more healthy direction and choose a Nut Oil with low Saturated Fats.

French Toast is usually made with Stale White Bread or Egg Bread though you can use any number of bread products, from butter-rich Croissants to Sourdough Bread to Brioche.

In this Exercise, we suggest using dried slices of Challah, an Egg-Dough bread. Egg Breads are especially useful for any recipe where Bread is soaked in liquid—for Bread Pudding or as here, for French Toast. Stale Egg Bread behaves better than plain Stale White Bread when soaked. Plain stale white bread tends to fall apart if it absorbs too much Batter. Adding Eggs to Egg based dough strengthens the integrity and structure of the bread, which helps it keep its shape under more trying circumstances.

Sourdough Bread is also a sturdier bread and good for these recipes, but be aware it will add its slightly sour flavor to the dish as well (some people love its flavor in French Toast). In a pinch, you can use moist fresh bread, but dry stale bread which has the capacity to absorb new moisture will do a better job of absorbing the wet batter without breaking apart.

To cook the French Toast, begin heating the Pan, Flat Top Grill or Griddle over Medium High Heat and add enough of your chosen Fat or Oil (Clarified Butter in this Exercise) to just coat the surface. You can pour the Clarified Butter onto the surface and spread it with a spatula, or use a small silicone brush to spread it over the surface. If you are using a stand-alone griddle or pan, you can spread the Fat or Oil over the bottom of the pan, by tilting it in different directions. Also, if in doubt about the temperature of your pan, use The Smoke Point Heat Test to determine how hot it is.

When the cooking surface is ready (hot and greased), pick up a slice of bread with the tongs and place it in the French Toast Batter (or use your fingers if you don’t mind getting Raw Batter on them). When one side is evenly coated with batter, which will only take a few seconds, use the tongs (or your fingers) to turn the bread over so it lies flat on the second side. The bread should be thoroughly coated, including the edges, and have absorbed some of the French Toast Batter.

How long you leave the bread slices in the French Toast Batter depends on:

1. What type of bread you are using?

2. How “custardy” you like your French Toast?

It will only take a few moments on each side for most bread to absorb a lot of batter. Denser breads (like Whole Grain Bread) will take a bit longer to absorb than others and will have a more limited holding capacity. We are talking only seconds here. Be careful not to leave the bread soaking for too long as it can become too saturated and it may fall apart when you try to lift it.

Of course, the longer you leave the bread sitting in the batter, the more batter it will absorb, which consequently means that more liquid will need to set for the French Toast to be “cooked.” The more liquid retained by the bread, the more “Custardy” the final product will be. If you like your French Toast firm, mind the soaking time carefully. If you like it gooey, let it sit until it is just barely holding itself together.

Next, carefully lift the battered bread with the tongs and hold it over the pan of batter a moment to allow any excess batter to drip back into the pan so it doesn’t cover your counter or cook top. Place the battered bread on the hot cooking surface. If you have maintained proper heat, the bread will sizzle on impact. If you don’t hear a sizzle, you should raise the heat a bit. If the battered bread begins to smoke, you should turn the heat down.

Repeat the battering and transport process with as many pieces of bread as you have prepped or can handle on the cooking surface at one time. Since the Spices tend to float to the top when the batter is at rest, give the batter a quick stir with a whisk (or even the tongs) before dipping the next slice of bread. The quick stir will insure that the spices remain evenly distributed in the batter and don’t clump on one piece of battered bread. This leads us to a quick tangent about griddle management. If you are loading up the griddle with French Toast, be careful not to overcrowd the cooking surface (there should be a bit of daylight between each slice of battered bread) and recall the concept of FIFO from Food Handling & Safety; the concept will be useful here too.

As they go onto the heat, try to physically organize your product on the cooking surface so that the first item on the griddle is in the first position, the second is in second position, the third in third, and so on. As you can imagine, having 12 (or more) items all over the griddle, all cooking at once can get confusing. Now, let the French Toast cook.

*If you used your fingers to batter and transport the bread, now would be a good time to remember that the batter contains Raw egg. Give your hands a quick wash-up before doing any other tasks to avoid Cross Contamination.

In about 1-2 minutes, the first piece of French Toast to hit the cooking surface should be Browning around the bottom edges, which is a Visual Clue that it is ready to be flipped. To make sure it’s time to turn it over, lift a corner of the toast with the spatula and peek underneath to make sure it’s browned all over (the toast will have brown patches and lines. Don’t expect a uniform color).

When it is properly browned, turn the first piece of French Toast over with your spatula. Let it cook on the final side until the second side is equally browned. The cook time on the second side should be a quicker than it was on the first side. Again, as with the first side, you can check the progress by lifting a corner. You will also want to check that the toast feels “solid,” i.e. is done enough in the middle, by moving it back and forth slightly with the spatula. The toast is ready if it doesn’t jiggle when you do this.

If you have soaked the bread in the batter longer, you’ll need to cook it longer; lower the heat slightly in order to give it more time to firm up without getting over-browned. It may be tempting to do so, but don’t press down on the toast with the spatula to force it to cook faster—that will toughen it.

When the cooked French Toast is ready, move it to a large plate and cover lightly with a cloth or piece of foil to keep it warm while you repeat the process with the remaining pieces of French Toast.

Now if you have a few pieces of battered bread on the cooking surface at once you will have to Manage Your Cooking Process, the third of Smart Kitchen’s 4 Levers of Cooking. to make sure that you are flipping the subsequent slices as they are ready and that you are removing the finished slices from the heat before they are overdone or burnt. It will require a little back and forth but proper organization should make it easier.

Smart Kitchen likes to serve French Toast, dusted with Powdered Sugar, Whole Butter, and warmed Maple Syrup. Plate as you wish, adding your own personal Flair (the 4th Lever of Cooking) such as a Garnish of a few decoratively sliced Strawberries or a simple sprig of Parsley as Garnish which makes a much prettier Presentation. You may also want to add Bacon or Banger to the plate to complete the meal.

In the next exercise, we’ll show you a delicious variation of basic French Toast: Almond French Toast.