Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Towards Better French Toast

October 5, 2014

French Toast
Fried Bacon
Mixed Berries

Perfect Quick-and-Easy French Toast from Serious Eats

French Toast is one of the first things I learned to cook. I never used a recipe, following my father's example I would gently whisk some eggs, stir in some milk, maybe add some salt or sugar or cinnamon, soak some bread in it, and fry it on a griddle or in a skillet. The results were almost always good but, not surprisingly, inconsistent. What is the best way to make this favorite dish? What is the best ratio of egg to milk? What other seasonings should be added to the batter? What kind of bread should be used? How should it be cooked? There are a lot of variables for such a simple dish. It's time to start experimenting with some recipes!

The goal is an exterior that is crunchy with a velvety, custard-like interior. It should not be soft, wet, and soggy. It should not be too firm and eggy either. It should be easy to fix, not requiring a lot of extra time in the kitchen either preparing the ingredients or cooking.

I started my experimentation this Sunday with a recipe from Serious Eats. The recipe uses eight slices of ½-inch thick white bread. I wanted to use store-bought bread and bought a loaf of "Texas Toast" for its thickness. (Only afterwards did I measure the thickness of the slices and find it was ¾-inch.) The bread is dried in a 200° oven before being dipped in the batter. The main ingredients in the batter are 6 eggs and 2 cups of milk to make 8 slices of french toast. I cooked the toast in a cast iron skillet set over medium heat.

The finished French toast was good but it fell short of the goals. Some of the bread was too soggy in the middle while other slices were OK. None had as crispy an exterior as we would like. The recipe includes a pinch of nutmeg which Diane picked up on almost immediately: she does not like it and is very sensitive to its presence. I suspect the main problem leading to these results is the bread itself. It is a soft American bread and so it is perhaps not surprising that it leads to a soft French toast. It was also thicker than in the recipe so the interior was not properly cooked when the outside was done. I think this recipe might be worth another look some day but with different bread (and no nutmeg). In the meantime I have half a loaf of Texas Toast in the freezer and I can try it using another recipe.

For protein I decided to go with bacon over sausage. I like to have potatoes when we have breakfast for dinner but it seemed a little too much with a starchy dish already on the menu. After a little thought I decided to serve berries. I bought some blackberries and raspberries at the store; at this time of year these are not cheap so this was the most expensive item on the menu. I had them as a side dish while Diane used them as the topping on her French Toast along with whipped cream. I, of course, had maple syrup on my French toast.

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