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Perfectly Custardy Classic French Toast

Updated: 3 days ago

French toast poses a very interesting question: how can you create a dish that has a crunchy exterior while maintaining a tender, custardy interior? Alton Brown solved this problem years ago with a double cooking method. By first frying the french toast in butter, and then cooking it in the oven, we can achieve that perfect textural contrast. This is an adaptation of that classic recipe from the early 2000s, one I believe to be the all time best french toast recipe. Scented with vanilla and cinnamon, this recipe is sure to delight. Make sure your bread is thick enough and dry so it can soak up enough of your delicious custard.




Recipe

8-10 slices of thick brioche

3 eggs

1 cup half and half or cream

pinch of salt

3 tablespoons of sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp cinnamon

Butter for frying


There are 2 key pieces to this french toast, the custard and the bread. We’ll make the custard first and then focus on the bread. Start by cracking three eggs into your bowl and whisk those thoroughly to completely beat the yolks into the whites, we don’t want any stringy egg in this. Add in 1 cup of half and half and mix that to create a smooth homogeneous mixture with the eggs. Season your custard with a pinch of salt, 2 to 3 tablespoons of sugar depending on how much sweetness you like, and 2 tsp of vanilla extract. Add in about a tablespoon of ground cinnamon and whisk that in. That is it for our custard, I’ll place this in the fridge while I turn to the bread.


Thick cut brioche is what I prefer for this, but you could use a challah as well. Anything super buttery and at least half an inch thick is good. French toast works best with dry bread, if the bread is fresh and moist in the center, it pretty much dissolves in the pan after soaking up the custard. Classically, french toast would be made with stale bread, but I will need the oven later for the second part of the cook, so I like to just place the bread on a sheet tray with the rack and place that in the oven while it’s coming up to 375f.


Check on your bread every few minutes just to make sure it isn’t taking on any color, we just need this dry, not toasted. Once it is dry and feels hollow, you can remove the bread from the oven and let it cool to steam off any residual moisture.


Our bread is now dry and cooled, and we can start combining the two parts. I like to pour the custard into a high sided plate so I can dip a couple of pieces at a time. Once the bread has soaked up custard, there is a clock ticking, if they sit too long, you run the risk of making the french toast soggy. Place your bread into the custard for about 20 seconds a side, I find any more is just a little too much custard for my liking, again, they’ll start to get a little soggy. Any less than 20 seconds, and it doesn’t soak up enough. While I’m doing this dipping, I like to get a 10in nonstick pan over medium low heat, by the time we’re done here, the pan should be ready to go.


With all our bread perfectly soaked with custard, bring your tray over to the stove and drop in a tablespoon of butter to the preheated non stick pan. Place your toast in, 2 at a time and cook on that first side for around 3 minutes depending on your heat level. Lift an edge with your spatula to check on the browning, and once it hits that beautiful golden crisp on the crust, we can give it a flip. I like to put another tablespoon of butter into the pan once I flip them so the other side can get nicely browned. Move them around to soak up that butter and cook them for another 2-3 minutes. Remove them from the pan once browned on both sides and set them on that same wire rack.


Continue working through the french toast pieces until they are all nicely browned, and we can move to the second phase. The whole tray of pieces can pop into the oven for around 6 minutes while we clean up and try not to drool over the warm scent of vanilla and cinnamon wafting from the oven. After that trip in the oven, the custard in the center should be completely set and the outside should be crisp. I’m a classic syrup and butter guy, as these have enough going on already from the vanilla and cinnamon. These are really delicious, and definitely a treat.

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Hey, I'm Cameron, and I'm glad you're here. I post new recipes every week, all intended to build your confidence in the kitchen, each one with video tutorials to help. Craving something specific? Drop me a note in my contact form! 

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