Sunday, February 8, 2009

Perfecting French toast

French toast is one of my favourite go-to breakfasts on Sunday mornings. I almost always have stale bread on hand, and I've made it so many times that I barely feel the need to measure out the other ingredients. A little beaten egg and milk for dipping the bread in, some sprinkles of cinnamon and vanilla, a spoonful of butter for cooking in, and that's it! Couldn't be easier.

But I admit, sometimes my French toast goes off the rails - a bit soggy perhaps, or tasting too much of the egg it was cooked in. So when I saw an article in the Feb. 2009 issue of Cook's Illustrated about making better French toast, my interest was piqued.

Among their suggestions, which they arrived at after extensive trial and error (the main reason I love C.I. - they do the testing so you don't have to): oven drying the bread for a few minutes before soaking in the egg and milk to prevent sogginess, eliminating the egg whites and only using the yolks, and soaking the bread in a flat baking dish for a mere 20 seconds per side to ensure that the slices are saturated just enough.

I tried their recipe, using stale sourdough bread, and I have to confess, the extra time required is worth it. My French toast was buttery, and mildly spiced with cinnamon, crisp on the outside, soft on the inside. With a drizzling of Quebec maple syrup, it was heaven on a plate.

French Toast

8 large slices hearty white sandwich bread or good quality challah
1 1/2 cups whole milk, warmed
3 large egg yolks
3 tbsp light brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted, plus 2 tbsp for cooking
1/2 tsp table salt
1 tbsp vanilla extract
Maple syrup

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat to 300F. Place bread slices on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet. Bake bread until almost dry throughout (center should remain slightly moist), about 16 minutes, flipping slices halfway through cooking. Remove bread from rack and let cool 5 minutes. Return baking sheet with wire rack to oven and reduce temperature to 200F.

Whisk milk, yolks, sugar, cinnamon, 2 tbsp melted butter, salt and vanilla in large bowl until well blended. Transfer mixture to 13 x 9 inch baking pan.

Soak bread in milk mixture until saturated but not falling apart, 20 seconds per side. Using slotted spatula pick up bread slice and allow excess milk mixture to drip off, repeat with remaining slices. Place soaked bread on another baking sheet or platter.

Heat 1/2 tbsp butter in 12 inch skillet over medium-low heat. When foaming subsides, use slotted spatula to transfer 2 slices soaked bread to skillet and cook until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and continue to cook until second side is golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to baking sheet in oven. Wipe out skillet with paper towel. Repeat with remaining bread, 2 pieces at a time, adding 1/2 tbsp butter for each batch.

Serve warm with maple syrup.

Serves 4

Courtesy Cook's Illustrated, Feb. 2009



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