The Only French Toast You'll Ever Need
The only French toast recipe you’ll ever need. [Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, unless otherwise noted]
My sister and five-year-old nephew have been staying with me this week, so, trying to be a good uncle, I asked beforehand what his favorite foods were. On the list, among Cheerios and chicken feet (yeah, he’s a pretty awesome five-year-old), was French toast. It was a nice little bit of kismet: Kenji and I had just been talking about how Serious Eats needed a tried-and-true basic French toast recipe, which meant that I could be the awesome uncle who makes French toast every day while getting work done at the same time!
When I told my sister the plan, and explained how I would make multiple batches of French toast each day to zero in on an ideal basic recipe, she didn’t quite get it. “What’s there to it?” she asked. “I just eyeball it when I make it at home.” She isn’t wrong. On one level, French toast is simple enough that you can just toss together some eggs, milk, bread, and whatever else, and probably not go too horribly wrong. And yet, if you look at recipes, there isn’t a ton of consistency. Some call for more eggs, some call for fewer; some call for sugar in the batter, some don’t; some call for milk, others cream. All these version yield different results, and I wanted to figure out where the sweet spot was.
Before proceeding to the specifics, just a word on the scope of this: the goal here is to determine the best way to make basic French toast, the kind you’d throw together using only ingredients that most have on-hand at all times. This isn’t a tricked-out, no-holds-barred version that would require a special shopping trip just to make—we’ll tackle the ultimate French toast in a future article.
On to the nitty-gritty!
The first question you’re likely to ask when making French toast is, how many eggs and how much milk? I took a quick look at various recipes and found the typical range to be anywhere from two to four eggs per cup of milk. If I were to tell a fairy-tale version of this test to my nephew, it would go something like this:
Goldilocks, having taken her nap in the comfiest of the three beds, approached the breakfast table. There, she found three plates of freshly-cooked French toast. Taking a bite from baby bear’s plate, which was made with two eggs per cup of milk, she declared, “This French toast is too mushy and wet.”
Next, she tasted Papa Bear’s toast, made with four eggs per cup of milk. “This French toast is too eggy and dense,” she remarked with a frown.
Finally, she took a bite of Mamma Bear’s French toast, made with three eggs per cup of milk, and behold, this French toast was just right!"Yum, it’s custardy and moist, light and fluffy," she cried, and then returned to the comfy bed for another nap.
(Moments later the bears returned, got pissed off that she’d eaten their French toast, and decided to eat Goldilocks as a savory lunch instead. Moral of the story: Don’t eat a bear’s French toast.)
To Sugar or Not to Sugar?
From left: no sugar, one tablespoon per cup of milk, two tablespoons per cup of milk. Note how browning is enhanced with more sugar. [Photograph: Daniel Gritzer]