One of the first things I ever learned to cook was french toast. It’s been one of those dishes that dotted my childhood with fond memories. It’s intrinsically linked to both my mom and my Grandmother Marr. A dish handed down from generation to generation, not so much for it’s uniqueness, but as a symbol of caring. It always said “I love you” in that beautiful unspoken way that food can convey.
Ever since I was a small child french toast was one of my favorites. Like most kids, my weekday breakfasts usually consisted of cereal or bagels, but with the weekend came the possibility of something a little more special. With great pomp my mother would pull the electric skillet from the cupboard and set it on the countertop. It was such an exciting sight to see because my brother and I knew something exceptional was shortly to follow.
My mother would grab some milk and eggs from the refrigerator, the loaf of sliced white bread, and a small bottle of vanilla extract. Then the magic would commence. A ritual of mixing, dipping, and frying that resulted in a crispy, creamy, syrup drenched delight. The same ritual that was acted out by my grandmother any time we would go visit her in Connecticut. A beautiful chain of “I love you’s” from mother to child, generation to generation.
I can still remember my mom showing me how to dip the bread into the milk and egg, allowing it to soak up just the right amount of liquid. Learning the perfect amount of browning and doneness on each side , and mastering the art of the perfect flip – that graceful fluid motion that contains equal amounts of confidence and and delicacy.
As I got older and had the opportunity to try french toast elsewhere, from diners to bed & breakfasts, I decided to make little tweaks to the french toast recipe of my youth. I experimented with different breads, added a few ingredients, and in the end found what I think is the ultimate french toast recipe!
It only has a few more ingredients, but sometimes little changes can make a big impact. Instead of regular sliced white bread I buy a loaf of bread and cut it myself, allowing it to soak up even more of the liquid and make a dense, rich custard in the center of each piece. I added a little sugar to up the sweetness, so there’s less need to drench it in syrup. A hint of almond extract gives a more complex flavor to the custard and perfectly complements the vanilla. And finally a little spice – cinnamon and nutmeg add a warmth and depth to each bite.
I’ll always love the simple french toast recipe of my youth, but I also love taking something that is so dear to me and making it my own. I hope you’ll try this recipe and with it tell the ones you care most about, “I love you”.
makes approximately 6-8 slices of french toast
- French, Italian or Challah Bread, sliced, 3/4″ thick*
- 2 Tbs vegetable oil
- 1 C. milk
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 C. sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp almond extract
- Put the oil in a large skillet on medium heat, making sure it evenly coats the whole pan.
- In a medium bowl whisk the eggs, then add the milk, sugar, vanilla and almond extracts and whisk until fully incorporated and the sugar is dissolved.
- Once the pan is heated, take the cinnamon and add a generous dash to the milk/egg mixture. Then a light dash of nutmeg. Swirl the spices then dip a slice of bread into the milk/egg mixture. Flip the slice of bread over, allowing it to soak up liquid on both sides.
- Place the slice in the pan and repeat, making sure to add more spices as necessary, until you fill the pan making sure not to overcrowd.
- After about 3-4 minutes, check the doneness on the first slice of bread. You’re looking for a nice golden brown. (see photo above)
- Once you see it, give the bread a flip and let it cook for another 3-4 minutes on the other side. As the bread cooks the center will begin to puff up. When you see that, check the underside for the same golden brown doneness, and remove from the pan to a plate.
- Once you remove it from the heat the center will begin to deflate and sink. Once it does the middle will be a nice dense custard texture. Repeat the process until all the bread is cooked, adding a little additional oil to the pan as you cook if it becomes too dry and the bread begins to stick. Serve with syrup and/or a dusting of powdered sugar.
*If you really want to really make this special, you can make your own French Bread using my recipe. Plus, the perfect side for this is bacon. Be sure to check out my post on how to make perfect bacon, every time, and with minimal mess – Makin’Bacon. Enjoy!