Kitchen Lab: Ceci N’est Pas un Toast

Mais oui! Eet ees FRONCH toast!

ingredients for french toast: bread, milk, eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla
Not pictured: cinnamon. Way to be tardy, cinnamon!

Super-easy. I mean, look at how few ingredients there are. And you don’t even need ALL of them, the sugar and vanilla are just nice. Hell, you probably have milk, eggs, bread and butter in your fridge right now. Isn’t that what’s on the top of every grocery list you’ve ever seen on TV?

You’ll want a nice big pan to cook your toast in, so you can do more than one slice at a time. This is crucial when cooking for more than one person, so someone isn’t stuck eating cold toast. I’ve got a nice flat square one that fits four slices of bread at once. Yes, I bought it specifically for making french toast. Because it’s that awesome.

So now is the time where I start to understand why cooking-folks sometimes speak in such vague, hand-wave-y terms. For French toast, I don’t measure. I learned to make this by watching my dad on the weekends, and I just kinda figured out how to eyeball it by trial and error. But French toast is a great thing to practice on, because the ingredients are inexpensive, there are only a few of them, and it cooks pretty quickly so if you totally screw it up you still have time to make something else to eat.

two raw eggs and milk unmixed in a bowl
What you see here says a lot about your personality

First you find the one bowl in the house that does not have a chip or a crack, so your photos don’t make it look like you’re living in a thrift store all the time. And by you I mean I. What you actually want to do is make “custard.” Because apparently custard is eggs and milk, tada you’re done. Anyway, I usually use two, maybe three eggs per breakfast-eater, depending on how thick I want my custard-dip to be. Pour in a glorp of milk (that’s a technical term, dammit), again depending on how thick you want your custard-dip to be. Never more milk than egg, though.

Here you can add a sprinkle of sugar and a smidge of vanilla extract if you like. They’re just nice extras, not essential, so your French toast will be just fine if you don’t have ’em or you forget. Whisk it all up with a whisk or a fork or some chopsticks or whatever you’ve got. Because of the nature of eggs this mix won’t be completely uniform, but you want it all well-blended.

Another nice thing to add to your French toast is cinnamon, and it’s super-easy. Before you dip each slice of bread, add a dash of cinnamon to the custard. Seriously, a dash. A quick shake. This is not the cinnamon challenge. DO NOT BREAD YOUR FRENCH TOAST IN CINNAMON. It’s already bread!

a loaf of bread next to a bowl of french toast custard and a shaker of cinnamon

But wait! Don’t go dipping anything just yet. Heat up your pan and grease it up real nice. Cooking spray or whatever random butter-like spread is in your fridge works fine, but you should use real butter if you’ve got it, totally worth it. (Also totally worth it: real maple syrup. Aunt Jemima ain’t got nothing on the entire nation of Canada. Warm it up before you pour it on your French toast… heaven.)

As your pan gets hot and greasy, dip and soak each side of a slice of bread in the custard. When the pan is hot, throw it on there and dip another slice. You want to go quickly enough that the slices will be done cooking at about the same time, but slowly enough that the bread has time to soak up some of the custard. If you’re using cinnamon, add another dash to the surface of the custard before dipping each slice. If you’re feeling particularly dextrous (and really like cinnamon), you can do this for each side of the bread.

Flip each slice when it starts smelling awesome. You may need to peek to see if it looks toasty yet, and perhaps rotate the slices for an even toast. (My pan is square, the flame coming out of my stove is round. My square pan is great, but not the best about dispersing heat evenly.) Like regular toast, there will be differences of opinion in what qualifies as “done,” but in general here’s what you should see:

side-by-side view of a slice of french toast before and after cooking

If you’re doing multiple rounds of toast, you may or may not need to re-grease the pan. Depends on how non-stick it is. Subsequent slices will likely take less time to cook since the pan is all totally hot already, so keep an eye on ’em.

Tada, Fronch toast! I believe the term “om nom nom” is the same in every language. Apply butter and warm syrup, garnish with bacon. Aww yiss.

French toast and bacon with syrup on a plate
Over-crisped bacon courtesy of me getting distracted by taking these photos. YOU’RE WELCOME.

Voulez-vous venir à la cuisine avec moi, ce soir?

Beth Voigt

Beth is a graphic designer in Chicago, a superhero in her own mind, and absolutely nothing on TV. She wrangles fonts professionally, pummels code amateurishly, and has been known to shove fire in her face for fun. Fond of volunteering, late-night bursts of productivity, and making snacks, she dislikes grocery shopping and sticky public transit and is only on her second smartphone. Her opinion is that you should try everything twice; if you don't like it, you were probably doing it wrong the first time around. If external links are your thing, here are links to Twitter and Instagram, and you can support her ongoing weirdness by buying her a coffee or six.

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