French toast is the first thing I can remember cooking completely on my own. I can’t remember learning to make it. I just remember making it: eggs, milk, loaf bread, maybe some cinnamon or nutmeg, and if I was feeling really crazy a dash of vanilla. Do you have anything like that? You know, one of those things that you don’t know how you know it, you just know it?
Growing up, things around the house were kind of basic (well, except that we had a second refrigerator in the garage where mom kept all of the kimchi and other Korean foods). We didn’t have the fancy breads in the house. And we almost never had heavy cream or half-n-half. My step-dad was strictly a Coffee-Mate kind of guy (the powdered kind). But we always had eggs, milk, and some form of white loaf bread at home. So my childhood French toast was pretty straightforward, but oh-so-good drenched in butter and Log Cabin syrup (or Mrs. Butterworth if I was lucky… I cherished those buttery-sweet bites when mom would let me pick the syrup at the grocery store).
These days I don’t buy much bread because I live alone and I don’t eat many sandwiches so the loaf goes uneaten. When I do buy bread, it is usually a baguette or some other crusty bread that pairs well with cheese or is good for dipping in olive oil. With so little bread in the house, I don’t have French toast very often any more which really is sad. But after this post-run meal, I may have to reconsider my bread stocking habits.
I started with a good sized hunk of almost stale “rustic” bread. I split it in half to expose the once tender middle. A couple of eggs with heavy cream (I did just go for a run after all), about 15 minutes of patience, and I had a great meal. Topped with homemade Meyer lemon curd and dusted with powdered sugar. My one complaint? I used the last of the lemon curd. I guess I’ll have to make some more…
Unfortunately, this picture doesn’t really do it justice. The cream added a richness to it. And my lemon curd… oh I miss you already.
4 pieces of bread (preferably something crusty like a baguette or brioche and slightly on the stale side, but good ole loaf bread works too)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk, half-n-half or heavy cream (you determine how decadent you’re feeling and choose accordingly. I chose heavy cream this time)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg and/or cinnamon (I like to use both. And I don’t measure, I just sorta of sprinkle it until I’m satisfied)
a dash of vanilla extract (let’s say about 1/2 teaspoon)
1. In a small bowl or a pie plate, beat the eggs and cream or milk if you’re going light. Add the nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla. Mix well.
2. I like to use a pie plate or a baking dish because it has a flat bottom and you can lay the bread in to soak. If you are using fresher loaf bread, you don’t need to do this, you can just dip it, flip it and throw it in the pan (dip it for 30 seconds to 1 minute). BUT if you are using something slightly stale or thick and crusty, you will want a flat bottomed dish that your bread will fit into. For my 2-day old crusty “rustic bread”, I soaked each side for about 5 minutes to give it a chance to really soak in the egg-milk custard.
3. Is your pan hot? I like a good cast iron skillet (even heating and all that). But a nonstick or any other pan or griddle will work. Heat a small amount of oil in your pan and then add some of your now eggy-soaked bread. Don’t overfill the pan, but put as much as you think fits.
4. When the first side is brown and happy, flip it. The cook time will vary according to the bread thickness. The bread slices I used were about 1/2 inch thick and I cooked them for about 3-4 minutes per side. (Note: if your french toast is brown on both sides but still gooey in the middle, you can put it in the oven at about 350 degrees to cook the middle).
5. Top it with butter and syrup or lemon curd and powdered sugar… or mom’s blueberry jam. (You seriously can’t go wrong. I’ve even skipped the cinnamon/nutmeg/vanilla and added salt and pepper to make a savory french toast and topped it with sundried tomato and olive bruschetta topping).