French toast is one of those tasty dishes that doesn’t go over the top with the ingredients. You can make that delicious bread breakfast with only leftover bread, milk, and some eggs!
The former components make up the core of French toast ingredients, but cooking is all about creativity, right? That’s why many French toast recipes include sugar and salt to enhance the taste.
Additionally, vanilla and cinnamon are popular spices you can use to add a hint of sweetness and a pleasant scent to the egg batter.
That said, French toast wouldn’t be complete without oil and butter. Those fat ingredients are behind the crispiness and rich flavor of French toast.
Let’s discuss each element in further detail!
Originally, people made French toast to take advantage of leftover bread. So, it’s a dish born out of poverty, hence the name “poor knights of Windsor.”
For that reason, almost any thick slice of bread would work to make French toast. A few examples of bread loaves you can use to make battered toast include:
- Plain white bread
Out of the above options, brioche would give the tastiest results.
That’s because brioche is rich in butter and eggs. As a result, it’d pair well with the custard batter of French toast, giving it a deep, buttery taste.
On the other hand, sourdough, baguette, and stale white bread are sturdy enough to soak up the liquid batter. While these loaves aren’t as rich as brioche, you won’t have to worry about the bread slices crumbling during the cooking process.
Whichever bread you have on hand, opt for slightly stale, decent-tasting, and hole-free slices to make perfect French toast.
Here’s a detailed explanation of each factor:
All French toast recipes instruct you to soak bread slices in a custard batter. For that reason, crumbly, soft loaves aren’t your best bread options.
That’s when stale bread comes in handy, mainly because it’s dry; a perk that allows the hard toast to absorb the liquids better without getting too mushy.
Ideally, you’ll want to use one-day-old bread when making French toast. However, you can dry the bread yourself if you’re short on time.
Nothing can make bread go stale faster than baking it in the oven.
Just cut the loaves into slices around 1 inch thick and place them on a baking tray. Then, throw them in the oven for a maximum of 30 minutes at 350ºF—any longer than that might cause the bread to toast and harden.
Sure, the milky, eggy, and spicy wet mix would help cover the unpleasant flavors in low-quality bread.
However, the liquid batter won’t mask the taste completely. That’s especially true if the bread is too yeasty or sour.
That’s why you should try to use bread you enjoy eating on its own when making French toast.
A toast with many big holes won’t soak up and hold onto the liquid batter. Consequently, it’ll give you a dry, non-creamy texture.
That’s the opposite of what you want from bread when making French toast. For that reason, opt for bread with a close-knit structure.
Milk is the main liquid ingredient in the batter that softens the toast. Plus, it’s the one behind the custardy deliciousness of French toast.
As a rule of thumb, you should add a quarter of a cup of milk for each egg used in the batter.
You can also replace half the amount of milk with heavy cream. That’s especially ideal if you enjoy fat-rich food.
Nailing the milk-to-egg ratio is crucial to getting the perfect French toast texture.
Having little liquid won’t add enough moisture and fat to the bread. As a result, the battered toast would be dry and not rich in flavor.
On the other hand, you should avoid going overboard with the milk. Too much liquid in the batter will cause the bread to brown quickly while the eggs remain uncooked.
So, the French toast would come out soggy rather than crispy.
Instead of dairy milk, you can use almond, oat, or any other milk substitute of your preference. That said, the toast’s taste might be different when you use other dairy milk alternatives.
Sure, milk wets the bread, resulting in a creamy inside. However, the liquid won’t firm on its own when cooked. You need a binding agent to glue the liquid ingredients to the toast. As you might have guessed, eggs are the binding agent.
When heated, the proteins in eggs unfold. As a result, the loose proteins clump together, eventually solidifying. That solid structure holds the liquids inside the bread, giving you custardy French toast.
Generally, one egg mixed with a quarter cup of milk makes a batter enough for two bread slices.
Aside from texture, eggs also contribute to the flavor richness of French toast thanks to their fat content.
That said, eggs come with some drawbacks. For instance, not whisking the binding agent enough results in clumps when heated. So, the French toast ends up having a scrambled-egg texture.
Additionally, eggs can have an unpleasant fishy odor, which is a turn-off for most people.
That’s especially true if you use omega-3-enriched eggs or old eggs. The former egg type comes from chickens fed high omega-3 foods like canola meal, resulting in an unpleasant odor.
Vanilla is an unofficial ingredient in French toast. While most batters contain the aromatic extract, you can still exclude it from the recipe.
Typically, vanilla gives French toast a more rounded flavor thanks to its subtle sweetness. Plus, it helps cover any eggy smell or taste.
There isn’t a rule about how much vanilla extract you should add to French toast batter. Generally, use one tablespoon or 15 mL of the extract per cup of milk to get that delicate sweetness and aromatic scent.
You can also use vanilla beans or almond extract if you run short on vanilla.
Like vanilla, cinnamon adds sweetness to the French toast and helps mask eggy smells. Around a pinch of cinnamon per cup of milk would suffice to give the toast a spicy kick.
Usually, most French toast batters use a mix of vanilla and cinnamon. However, you can substitute each flavor additive for the other.
If you want to make your French toast more wintery, increase the cinnamon in the recipe. Adding nutmeg or allspice is a plus.
Both sugar and salt are optional. Still, they can take your classic French toast to a new level. The extra sugar would caramelize when cooked, contributing to the overall taste.
Add granulated sugar depending on how sweet you want the egg batter. You can use maple syrup or honey as an alternative.
As weird as it sounds, a pinch of salt can make all the difference to your French toast. Salt enhances all the flavors present.
The small pinch will make vanilla and cinnamon taste more pronounced and fragrant. Not to mention, the toast would taste sweeter.
Thanks to its protein and sugar content, butter gives the French toast a crispy, golden-brown outside. When heated, the amino acids in proteins react with sugars, a process known as the Maillard reaction.
As a result, new compounds with a brown color and various flavors emerge. Those compounds are behind the distinctive color and nutty taste of browning butter.
Now, what about oil?
Oils have a higher smoking point than butter. A perk that prevents the butter from burning quickly because of the milk solids it contains.
Plus, flavorful oils, like coconut, macadamia, or peanut oil, can enhance the overall nuttiness. The fat amount you’ll need to make French toast depends on the pan’s size.
You can just add an equal amount of oil and butter. Alternatively, you can only use one fat type.
Classic French toast recipes contain around nine ingredients. Bread is the only dry element in French toast ingredients, while eggs and milk make up the wet part.
Aside from the core components, butter and oil are crucial to getting the crispy, buttery richness of the battered toast.
Vanilla, cinnamon, sugar, and salt are all extra ingredients for seasoning. While the former components aren’t necessary, they enhance the French toast’s taste.
The best part is that you can alter the spices and fat used according to your preference. After all, making French toast is about experimenting and optimizing your recipe for the best version!
I have a bachelor’s degree in Film/Video/Media Studies, as well as an associates degree in Communications. I began producing videos and musical recordings nearly 15 years ago. I am a guitarist and bassist in Southwest MI and have been in a few different bands since 2009, and in 2012 I began building custom guitars and basses in my home workshop as well. When I’m home, I love spending time with my three pets (a dog, cat, and snake) and gardening in my backyard.