Bread, eggs, and milk; what can go wrong with three ingredients? Well, turns out French toast isn’t that easy to nail.
While sugar can fix a lot of mistakes, foodies will easily point out what has gone wrong. French toast can fall apart, taste eggy, or even get burnt if you don’t know when it’s done.
We’ve also had our own learning journey. Today, we can proudly share our successful process and confidently guarantee you’ll get similar results.
In this article, we’ll dive deep into the science of this brunch staple. You’ll learn how to make French toast fluffy, just like an experienced chef.
This recipe has a few instructions, but there’s a lot to learn at each step. Small changes can make the difference between an expert and a beginner’s French toast.
There would be nothing on the dish if there was no bread in this recipe. This item is probably a game-changer for French toast, so here’s what you need to consider when shopping for bread.
While you might be thinking of picking gourmet bread for this elegant dish, the opposite is surprisingly true. Forget about the fancy stuff here; leftover bread is king for this recipe.
In fact, stale bread is best at absorbing the soaking custard because it has already lost a lot of its moisture. This will make it absorb just enough liquid to become crispy on the outside while remaining fluffy at heart.
Of course, stale bread comes in all shapes and sizes, but you still need to be picky here. One thing we’d like to emphasize is to stay away from store-bought toast.
Typically, bread packages confirm the presence of Calcium Propionate, high fructose corn syrup, diacylglycerols, and a dozen other chemicals with names that we can barely read.
These preservatives shall bid farewell to fluffiness.
Authentic sourdough bread also doesn’t make a great choice, as it’s relatively dense.
On the other hand, brioche makes a great option for French toast as it’s enriched with additional fat and eggs. This will add tenderness to your bread without adding much liquid.
Additionally, brioche will hold its shape much better than store-bought white bread, which will absorb too much custard and fall apart.
Another reason to ditch store-bought toast is that it’s typically sliced ahead. This forces you to use a minimal thickness for your bread, which will make it soggy.
The perfect thickness for a French toast slice is anywhere between three-quarters to one inch. Otherwise, the bread will seep the custard all the way through, making the center soggy.
Custard has become a popular staple in fillings of French desserts, like eclairs. Although it isn’t runny like the soaking liquid of French toast, they both have something in common; eggs plus milk. That’s why both of them are called custards.
While we might think that this magic solution only makes the French toast tender, there’s much more to it. When heated, the custard coating on the toast’s surface creates the beloved Maillard browning.
This is the appetizing tint that we seek on our steak, coffee, and bread. It has become subconsciously synonymous with layers of rich flavor that we’d miss without the color.
Simply put, Maillard browning is a nonenzymatic reaction between the proteins and sugar in food. Although caramelization gives a similar tint to food, it’s a different process because it involves sugar without proteins.
We need to note that the Maillard reaction isn’t all about the brown color. It’s a key player in French toast because of the aromatic flavors it creates.
A combination of butterscotch, nutty flavors, and rich, earthy notes are all associated with this heartwarming browning.
Yes, it’s eggs and milk, but how much do you need? The ratio of the custard’s ingredients directly affects its consistency.
You don’t want to have too much milk because it will give you less browning. At the same time, going overboard with eggs will make the toast taste eggy and feel soggy at the center.
The perfect ratio is one cup of milk to three eggs. This will give the custard a runny consistency that will help the bread absorb it faster.
A secret ingredient that makes a subtle difference is one teaspoon of flour. It will enhance the crispy texture on the outside.
After that, you can add sugar to taste. Some recipes would suggest adding vanilla, ground cinnamon, orange zest, or other optional flavors.
Now that you’ve cracked the eggs and added the milk, there’s some hard work to do. You might even get tired before reaching the optimum consistency.
That’s unless you’re using an electric mixer. Most chefs, however, use a handheld whisk to get a better feel for the consistency.
In all cases, you’ll need to whisk properly to ensure everything is well-incorporated. Otherwise, the ovomucin in egg whites will form chunks while cooking.
We want the bread to absorb the custard quickly for a reason, and that’s to reduce the soaking time. Remember, stale bread and a runny custard should help with this step.
Your goal is to wet the surface of the toast while the center stays almost dry. The longer you leave the slices soaking, the more liquid they’ll absorb.
Many home cooks would go for around 20 seconds on each side. It’s a good enough soaking duration, for most people.
However, chefs would give each side a quick turn in the custard and then transfer it immediately to heat. Truth is, much depends on your preference and the bread type you’re using.
The last step might be the easiest one. Still, you want to keep a careful eye on the pan because you don’t want to lose all the previous effort.
For the perfect French toast, start with high heat then turn it down after a few seconds. You want to let each side cook low and slow to ensure the custard in the center gets cooked.
A soaked slice of toast can be challenging to handle, especially if it’s thin. You don’t want this masterpiece to fall apart.
Therefore, we’d recommend using a turner to flip the French toast slices on the pan. Try not to press the toast so that it doesn’t get weighed down and become dense.
You don’t need a toothpick to know if the French toast is done. When you notice the browning, just make sure each side is completely dry before flipping.
What many of us might find challenging is to make a fluffy French toast. Truth be told, it isn’t easy to let the bread soak in the custard without turning soggy.
In a nutshell, what makes the greatest difference is the quality of the bread, the thickness of the slices, and how long you soak them.
The rest of the tips will ensure you get the perfect crispiness and flavor.
Feel free to adjust our recipe to your needs, but just know that this is the process that finally made us proud!
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.