A French Toast To Remember


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People have been asking — what do you do with all this bread you're baking?

To which, I have my own question: Have you seen my behind lately?

But the truth is, I don't eat all, or even a quarter, of my bread. Giving it away has been a sound strategy. And, I have a freezer full of brioche, waiting for the day when a handsome bread pudding recipe comes along.

When I made challah, however, I broke the rules.

The moment I set eyes on my braided loaf, I knew French toast was a must.

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I may not have cooked much as a child but I do remember making French toast with my mother, a modern woman generally so intent on staying out of the kitchen that spending any time at the stove with her was a rare treat.

Our French toast escapades, few and far between, remain a somewhat foggy memory. What I do remember is, they were basic. Our ingredients numbered just two: spongy white bread from Gardenia, the mammoth commercial bakery of choice in Singapore, and a bowl of beaten eggs.

Just dip, fry and drizzle with honey or pancake syrup. Simple and tasty.

Nonetheless, I've rarely made French toast since.

With beautiful and painstakingly made challah at hand, though, I felt I owed it to the bread to be a little more ambitious. And so I found a Gourmet recipe that called for vanilla extract! Rum! Clarified butter! Crushed cornflakes, even!

Now that, that seemed fancy enough.

So out came the eggs, milk, vanilla and rum …

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… and with a little whisking, soaking of the sliced challah and then rolling of it in crushed cornflakes, off we went.

I'd been skeptical of the crushed cornflakes but it added a nice crunch to the toast. This gave it some crispy structure even when doused in maple syrup.

Personally, I also felt the quality and texture of the challah made it a little more tasty than the average French toast I've had at brunches. (Yes, I'm praising my own bread here — shameless, aren't I?)

Nothing could ever touch the eggs-and-Gardenia bread versions of my youth, of course, basic and always slightly burnt as they were.

But I could see myself considering this recipe a close second.

French Toast

Gourmet, 1997

Ingredients

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into bits
  • 8 large eggs
  • 4 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum
  • 1 loaf challah (about 1 pound), cut into 1-inch-thick slices and ends discarded
  • 4 cups corn flakes
  • cinnamon sugar made by stirring together 2 tablespoons sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Clarify butter: In a small heavy saucepan melt butter over low
heat. Remove pan from heat and let butter stand 3 minutes. Skim froth
and pour butter through a sieve lined with a double thickness of rinsed
and squeezed cheesecloth into a bowl, discarding milk solids in bottom
of pan.

In a large bowl whisk
together eggs, milk, vanilla, and rum. Transfer half of mixture to a
large shallow baking dish (about 13 by 9 by 2 inches) and soak half of
bread slices 10 minutes. Turn slices over and soak 10 minutes more. In
another large shallow baking dish spread half of corn flakes and coat
soaked bread slices on each side, transferring to a tray. Soak and coat
remaining slices with remaining egg mixture and corn flakes in same
manner.

Preheat oven to 250°F.

In a large heavy skillet heat 2 tablespoons clarified butter over
moderate heat until hot but not smoking and cook 2 or 3 slices (or as
many as will fit in one layer) 3 minutes on each side, or until puffed
and golden brown. Transfer French toast as cooked to a baking sheet and
keep warm in oven. Cook remaining slices in remaining butter in same
manner.

Sprinkle French toast with cinnamon sugar and serve with accompaniments.

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