I truly thought I did not like French Toast. (It’s so…eggy?) But all that has changed now. I’ve found the secret methods to the BEST French toast of your life. I will show you how to make this easy recipe that uses egg yolks and cream, super thick brioche or challah bread, with caramelized edges for a magical sugary crunch. It is the ONLY way I will eat French toast from now on! Originally posted September 10, 2020.
The other day Valentine (who is 3) was super excited to go outside to play after dinner. In her haste, she wiped her messy hands down the front of her shirt instead of using her napkin. I told her she couldn’t go outside for a few minutes, as a consequence. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth ensued.
But the joke was on me. To pass the time, she started playing the piano. She played the same two notes in a row, over and over, like a battering ram, overandoverandoverandover until Eric finally yelled, GO OUTSIDE ALREADY.
Valentine: 1. Parents: 0. Welcome to parenting in a pandemic, where you make up the rules as you go and break them just as quickly. It’s like an eternal game of Calvinball.
Well, is it turning into fall where you are? The only thing “fall” about California in September are the menus at Starbucks. But that doesn’t stop me from getting excited! Fall means good food. I don’t think of a French toast recipe as a fall food, but hey it’s got cinnamon in it, right? Everyone needs this classic recipe, anytime of year. Here we go!!
Caramelized French Toast Recipe
I’ve never been a French toast lover. There are just so many ways it can go wrong: soggy, undercooked eggy centers, or overcooked, tough-as-a-tire crusts on the edge. Burned edges. But the worst French toast sin of all, in my opinion, is the scrambled-egg-on-the-edge of your toast situation. Do you know what I’m talking about??
Solution? You’re going to caramelize the edges! It’s FANTASTIC. It’s kind of like eating the crackly top of a crème brûlée, right there on your French toast. You don’t even need syrup. I’ll show you exactly how to make it!
French Toast Ingredients
Here’s what you’ll need at the store. (Quantities given in the recipe below.)
- Large loaf challah or brioche bread. You can substitute soft white bread. I don’t recommend chewy French bread.
- Egg yolk
- Heavy cream or half & half. You can substitute whole milk in a pinch.
- Granulated sugar
- Vanilla. For a fun variation, try 2 teaspoon vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract!
- Kosher salt
- Pinch of nutmeg. Optional.
- Butter, for frying
- Vegetable oil, for frying
What’s the best bread for French Toast?
To avoid tough edges, use the right bread. Challah, brioche, or a super soft white bread are your best bets. Challah and brioche have much less flour and a higher liquid content than your average loaf of bread, resulting in a super soft, cloud-like texture.
I don’t like using French bread, or whatever random loaves they are selling in your deli. I know, I know, this is French toast, we should be using French bread, right? Well the joke’s on you, America. (See below to read more about Americans calling things French that aren’t even French.)
The crust on your average loaf of French bread is too tough and chewy. Nobody wants to have to use a knife to cut through the outer of edge of their toast. It should be perfectly fork-able.
The great thing about starting with a loaf of bread is that you can slice it yourself. Most sliced bread is 3/4 of an inch or less. I sliced mine at 1 and 1/4 inch. You could even go up to 2 inches.
Just look at these gorgeous thick slices!
How to make this easy French Toast Recipe
There is nothing I hate more than biting into French toast and tasting cooked egg on the edge. No matter how long you beat those eggs, the gloopy whites insist on clumping together. Then when you cook it, the egg on the edge cooks faster than your toast cooks, leaving you with scrambled egg on the edge. Noooooo
The answer is to use only egg yolks. The result is a super rich and creamy mixture. You are basically going to be soaking your bread in creamy custard.
Here is my French toast dream: I want perfectly toasty, crisp edges that are not AT ALL tough. I want a perfectly cooked THICK center that is soft as a pillowy cloud. I want a rich, custardy flavor from my French toast recipe. And if I taste even a hint of scrambled egg edge, get outta here.
Here’s how to achieve this phenomenon:
- To avoid undercooked centers: cook on medium low. Yes, it takes longer. Yes, it’s worth it.
- To avoid burned edges: use half oil and half butter when you fry
- To achieve pillowy cloud like fluffy centers: use thick slices of bread
- To achieve rich, custard flavor: use straight up cream, or half & half if you must
- To avoid scramble-egg-edges: use only egg yolks (no whites)
How to caramelize the edges of your French Toast
You might never have eaten caramelized French toast. I’ve never seen it in a restaurant, nor had I tried it at home. But now I am NEVER going back. IT IS A GAME CHANGER!
I learned this method from my new friend Jade, who is French. I asked my Instagram followers if they had any tips for making amazing French toast, because I was several batches into testing and hadn’t found a recipe that was making this French toast-hater into a French toast-lover.
Jade messaged me and explained how her mother taught her to make French toast: use half oil and half butter so that the edges don’t burn (butter will burn and smoke much faster than oil, but we want some butter for the magical flavor.) And then here is the kicker: sprinkle sugar on the bread right before flipping, so that it gets a gorgeous, crackly sugar edge that shatters in your mouth when you bite into it:
It’s like having the top shell of a Crème Brûlée, right there on the edge of your French toast. IT’S AMAZING. I’m sorry I’m yelling, but this method of caramelizing the edge that Jade told me about has officially turned me into a French toast lover. So if you ALREADY love French toast, imagine how much more you are going to love this! I will never go back. Thank you Jade’s mom!!
I also asked Jade what they call French toast in France. Here’s what she said:
She said the first time she was in England and heard someone call it “French Toast” she was very confused! (We also talked about how Americans love to add “French” to the title of their recipes to make them sounds fancy, like French Silk Pie. I sent her that recipe and she said, “Oh that looks delicious! But definitely not French, I’ve never seen that in France once in my life.”
Oh, ‘Merica. Fakin it til we make it. I guess we could call ourselves charlatans! (Which is definitely a French word, by the way. Just going full circle here.)
How do you make French Toast not soggy?
The secret to avoiding soggy French toast is to cook it low and slow. Your burner should not be set above medium low heat. Yes, it takes longer to cook, but it’s worth it to not have soggy, undercooked centers with burned edges.
How long should you soak French toast?
About 10 to 20 seconds, but this depends on how thick your slices of bread are. Before removing your bread from the egg mixture, touch it with your finger. It should be soft when you touch it, but still hold itself together. It should be soaked but not disintegrating.
You can place the soaked bread on a baking sheet or plate while you finish soaking all of them, and wait to fry all the bread after it has all been soaked.
Should I use oil or butter for French toast?
Use both. This is one of the secrets to frying French toast that is ultra flavorful, but doesn’t burn on the edges. Oil has a higher smoke point than butter. If you use all butter, it will have great flavor but you risk burning your toast. If you use only oil, it will crisp up beautifully but won’t taste as great. Solution? Use a combination of both. See recipe for more details.
What can I do with leftover egg mixture for French toast?
You can throw it straight in the garbage. I’m sorry, folks, “Waste not want not” is a great life mantra, but not when it comes to French toast batter. If you are insistent, here are your options:
- Add a bunch of eggs (like, at least 6), whisk it up and make scrambled eggs. But don’t come crying to me when you can taste the vanilla and cinnamon.
- Refrigerate up to 5 days and use it to make another batch of French toast
- Freeze it (up to 3 months) and use it later to make more French toast. Let thaw completely in the fridge.
Can French Toast be frozen and reheated?
Yes! Quite successfully. Your edges will no longer be caramelized, but it will still taste good. Place cooled leftovers in a ziplock bag and freeze for up to 3 months. Let thaw in the sealed bag at room temperature. Here is how to reheat leftovers:
- Microwave on 50% power until warm
- Toast pieces in the toaster
- Pan fry leftovers in a mixture of butter and oil, just as when you prepared it the first time. You can even add the sugar and caramelize it again.
- Heat your oven to 350 and place the toast in a single layer on a wire rack set over a baking sheet, until the toast is warmed, about 5-10 minutes.
So, there you have it. That’s how to make the French toast of your dreams, my friends. We are usually a pancakes and waffles family. I hardly ever made French toast because I just didn’t love it that much, much to Eric’s chagrin. But all that has changed now! I plan to buy or make challah bread on the regular now, so that I can have it tucked away in my freezer for when the French toast mood strikes. (Bread, when sealed properly, freezes beautifully. Just thaw it out in the sealed bag on the counter so that it can reabsorb moisture.)
If you are not already looking up a bakery near you, or recipes for challah bread, then tell me what else I need to say to convince you that you need to make this French toast recipe this weekend. Make this your life mission!!!
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The Best French Toast I’ve Ever Made
- 1 loaf challah or brioche bread, or 8-10 thick sliced white bread (see instructions)
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 & 1/2 cups heavy cream, * or half & half
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- pinch of nutmeg, optional
- extra granulated sugar, for caramelizing
- butter, for frying
- vegetable oil, for frying
- maple syrup
- sifted powdered sugar
- strawberries, blueberries, raspberries
- Choose your bread. If you like very thick french toast (you should try it at least once!), find a local bakery and get yourself a loaf of challah or brioche bread (buy a day-old loaf if they have it.) I don’t like using French bread or the regular loaves you find in the deli at the grocery store; the crusts turn out too chewy. You want a nice soft edge. If you can’t get to a bakery, head to the grocery store and buy the thickest and softest white bread you can find. (3/4 inch or thicker.) Texas toast is great. I like to use the Artesano brand of bread; they sell a pre-sliced brioche loaf that is pretty legit. But their white bread is also nice and soft. See photos.
- Slice your bread with a serrated knife if you are working with a whole loaf. See photos. I like my slices to be about 1 and 1/4 inch thick, which feels a little ridiculous, but trust me. You can even go up to 2 inches if you’re feeling wild. Don’t slice thinner than 3/4 inch.
- Set your bread aside, spread out so that it gets a little dried out. Day old bread is great for French toast. In France, they call this dish “Lost Bread” because it’s what you make when you have dried out bread to use up. (I experimented with toasting the bread first, but thought it dried out the finished product too much.)
- Make the egg mixture. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl,* whisk together 3 egg yolks, 1 and 1/2 cups heavy cream* or half & half, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon vanilla, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and a pinch of nutmeg, if you like. Whisk until it is completely smooth and the cinnamon is well incorporated.
- Pour the mixture into a shallow dish like a pie plate, or an 8×8 inch pan. Place a slice of bread in the mixture and let it sit there for 10 to 20 seconds. How long you soak it depends on how thick your bread is. It should be soft when you touch it, but still hold itself together. Flip the bread and soak the other side. You can start cooking the French toast right away, or you can place the soaked bread on a baking sheet or plate while you finish soaking all of them.
- Cook the French toast: Heat an electric griddle or large 12 inch skillet over medium low heat. When it is hot, add 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (or any oil with a high smoke point.) Swirl it around until the pan is coated. Place the French toast on the pan with 1 to 2 inches in between each slice of bread. Cook on medium low heat for 3-5 minutes. The timing depends on your oven or griddle, so stick around and keep an eye on it.
- Caramelize. When the bottom of the first side is LIGHT brown (we are going to cook this side twice), sprinkle about a half tablespoon granulated sugar on the top (raw) side of the bread. Flip the toast, sugar side down, and fry until golden brown, about 2 minutes. (Be sure to swirl the pan so oil re-coats it, or add more butter/oil if necessary). Then, sprinkle another half tablespoon of sugar on the cooked side, and flip it over again so that it lightly caramelizes the first side.
- Keep your toast warm. Preheat your oven to the “keep warm” setting, about 170 degrees F. As you finish frying the toast, transfer each one to a wire cooling rack set over a baking sheet. Keep toast warm in the oven until ready to serve.
- I honestly don’t even put maple syrup on caramelized French toast. I feel like it doesn’t really need it, plus it makes the caramel edge not as crunchy. I like to eat it plain, or with a little jam. But maple syrup is really delicious if you are in the mood! A sprinkle of powdered sugar and a berry garnish never hurt either.
- Keep leftovers stored covered in the fridge. It will keep for 3-5 days. You can reheat leftovers in the microwave or the toaster. Or heat your oven to 350 and heat the toast all together on a wire rack set over a baking sheet, until the toast is warmed, about 5-10 minutes.
Same amount of time on the second side soak, I am assuming? Timing the soak is my downfall with french toast. I fail every time.
Why have I never thought to caramelize sugar on French toast before?? This really is a game changer and I will be doing it from now on. No more soggy French toast! And using only egg yolks is a great tip too!!