Published January 1, 2009.
For French toast that’s crisp on the outside and soft—not soggy—on the inside, you need to do more than just throw milk, eggs, and bread into a bowl.
The results are rarely worth the trouble. The bread is soggy, too eggy, or just plain bland.
Could we come up with a really good French toast that’s crisp on the outside, soft and puffy on the inside, with rich, custardlike flavor every time?
We first found out which type of bread fared best in a typical batter made with milk and eggs. Tasters eliminated French and Italian breads for being chewy. We then turned to white sandwich bread, which comes in two kinds: regular and hearty. Regular bread was gloppy both inside and out. Hearty bread crisped up nicely on the outside, but still had mushiness, even when we dipped it just long enough to soak through. Could we eliminate sogginess?
Drying the bread in a low oven produced French toast that was crisp on the outside and velvety on the inside, with no trace of sogginess. However, the toast still tasted more like scrambled eggs. We recalled a recipe that required bread dipped in milk mixed with just yolks, versus whole eggs. The yolks-only soaking liquid made a huge difference, turning the taste rich and custardlike. Research revealed that most of the flavor in eggs comes not from the yolk but from the sulfur compounds in the whites. With texture and egginess resolved, we did some fine-tuning. Since dunking multiple bread slices in a bowl led to uneven saturation, we switched to a baking dish in which up to three slices could fit flat and soak up liquid evenly.
For flavorings, we settled on cinnamon, vanilla, and brown sugar. For nutty butter flavor, we took a trick from pancake recipes and incorporated melted butter into the soaking liquid, warming the milk first to prevent the butter from solidifying. A final bonus—the recipe works just as well with challah.list of recipes