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Perfect French Toast

Good cooks in many cultures have found delicious ways to revive stale or leftover bread. But the French take first prize with their simple recipe for pain perdu, literally "lost bread," which we have come to know as French toast. Once you've mastered the basics -- coating slices of bread in an egg-and-milk mixture and sauteeing them -- a range of possibilities opens.

  • servings: 6

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Ingredients

  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • Juice of 1 medium orange, (about 1/4 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons cognac, (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Zest of 1 lemon, (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • Pinch of salt
  • 6 slices bread, such as brioche, sliced 1-inch thick, preferably day-old
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Pure maple syrup, (optional)

Directions

  1. Step 1

    Whisk together eggs, milk, juice, vanilla, cognac, sugar, zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a bowl; set aside.

  2. Step 2

    Place bread in a shallow baking dish large enough to hold bread slices in a single layer. Pour egg mixture over bread; soak 10 minutes. Turn slices over; soak 10 minutes more or until soaked through.

  3. Step 3

    Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Place a wire rack on a baking sheet, and set aside. Heat 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat. Fry half the bread slices until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to wire rack; place in oven while cooking remaining bread. Wipe skillet, and repeat with remaining butter, oil, and bread. Keep in oven until ready to serve. Serve warm with maple syrup, if desired.

Source
The Martha Stewart Show, November 2005

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Reviews (13)

  • Sissiboo Smith 4 Apr, 2014

    This recipe needs to say why you use each ingredient; for example it calls for a teaspoon of sugar in the dip. There are a couple of reasons for that: 1. it helps the toast brown, 2. it tastes nicer (you could use maple syrup or brown sugar for this reason as well), 3. the sugar helps to break down the eggs for soaking, so you don't just get slimy bread.

    I could go on, but you get the idea. People remember things when they understand them, otherwise a recipe is just a list.

  • GooniesAndy 27 Oct, 2013

    The reviews on this recipe show that most people aren't really familiar with French toast, and explains why so many restaurants make terrible versions! French toast is SUPPOSED to be moist all the way through, not just coated with egg on the outside and dry in the middle. The center should be like custard and the outside a bit crisp (like bread pudding made with whole slices of bread). This recipe is perfection! Yum!

  • jpagan29 7 Jan, 2012

    I finally found challah bread in my area and of course french toast was first on my list. I halved the recipe because just 2 people were having this. It is by far the best french toast I've ever had! My 10-year old was in awe.... Delicious, easy and fun to make with my son! The flavors are profound and warm with the spices play well together with the orange....

  • ShawnEC 10 Apr, 2011

    The name of this recipe says it all - perfect. I would not change a thing about the egg mixture. My husband, who is a French toast connoisseur, thoroughly enjoyed his breakfast, cleaning his plate and trying to guess the ingredients. I used French bread and did not let the pieces soak; I just poured the mixture over the top, picked the pieces up, and threw them in the pan. This prevented the middles from being too moist for our taste.

  • Marieli 20 Jan, 2011

    In Spain we call these "torrijas" and eat them for Easter. Main difference is that we just soak them in the flavoured milk and then coat them in the beaten egg (not milk and egg together). Then we deep fry them and coat them in granulated sugar. Not for you if you?Ǭ

  • bitchnkitchen 1 Jan, 2011

    When I make french toast I never soak the bread. I just put it in the mixture and quickly turn it and then fry it. So I decided to try Martha's way for three pieces and my way for the last three pieces. Both my husband and I preferred my way. Perhaps it is just what we are familiar with but both of us felt the "martha" way was uderdone as it seemed moist and uncooked to us.

  • ChristineIvy 20 Mar, 2010

    The soaking was a lot, and it came out moist in the middle but my husband said that's how he likes it, so maybe that's just how some people eat their french toast? I wish I had read the thing about day-old bread the day before I tried this recipe - my bread was fresh and I can imagine the soaking being less damaging to a sturdier loaf. I cut down the butter (1 tbs. instead of two) because that much oil in the pan seemed a bit much.

  • Natalie123 1 Feb, 2010

    Wow, this recipe is so much like mine. I wonder if mine is a Martha Stewart recipe. I got it from my mother. I agree with you ,JohnWhitaker, the soaking time must be a typo. You should only need to soak it for 30 seconds to a minute at the most :-)

  • JohnWhitaker 6 Dec, 2009

    I made French Toast from this recipe this morning. Throwing all common sense out the window (because I am a guy). How can you possibly soak the bread for 20 minutes?! It came out so soggy and wet, no matter how long you cooked it the center was still raw. What gives, Martha?

    PS. I'm only 70% mad because the Pumpkin Pie recipe came out awesome on Thanksgiving.

  • SarahSmile 12 Aug, 2008

    Wonderful and very easy recipe! We love to have breakfast for dinner so I made this last night for my husband, brother, and I. Very flavorful. I left out the cognac and nutmeg since I didn't have either but other than that I followed the directions exactly and it really turned out delicious.

  • SummerLinen 3 Jul, 2008

    The lemon zest and juice of 1 orange are a welcome addition to this classic recipe. A new family favorite!

  • SummerLinen 3 Jul, 2008

    The lemon zest and juice of 1 orange are a welcome addition to this classic recipe. A new family favorite!

  • KathMeg 20 May, 2008

    Maple syrup is nver optional-it is a requirement-God's perfect food!