This post should really be titled “Challah French Toast: After 28 years on earth I finally made French Toast that doesn’t suck.” During my entire life, up until at least age 22, I don’t think I ever ate any type of French Toast. Certainly not Challah French Toast. I am sure I tasted it at some point, but I honestly do not recall ever having it. It wasn’t on my radar at all. My parents made the most delicious pancakes and waffles, but French Toast just wasn’t on the radar. And I was perfectly happy that way. In fact, I probably would have happily gone through life never eating French Toast.
BUT, there’s always a but. But, I met the Taste Tester. And French Toast is very much on his radar. He loves it. And he is also very particular about it. His mom makes delicious French Toast. All the mornings I was at home eating food-colored pancakes or chocolate chip waffles topped with Hershey’s chocolate syrup (yes-my mom was that awesome), TT was at home eating French Toast. All of this would be well and good had breakfast not become one of our all time favorite lazy weekend activities. We love to sleep in then lazily have coffee while I make delicious brunch spreads. On some weekends it might be the only meal we eat all day.
So, herein lies the problem. On some weekends, TT would request French Toast. And I didn’t have the first clue as to how to make French Toast. I mean it seems simple enough right? Mix some eggs and milk and dunk some bread in it. The problem that I have discovered is that it’s actually quite difficult to get it crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. This lead to lots and lots of burnt toast. It then eventually lead to me giving up on French Toast completely. I swore it off for a solid two years. We would only eat French Toast when we visited my mother-in-law.
Then, a couple months ago, TT and I discovered the simultaneous heaven and hell that is Trader Joe’s. TJ’s is a heaven to a bargain hunting, cheese loving couple like us. But it is also hell because there are always approximately 200 too many people in the store. And 150 of them are children who insist on pushing their own carts. Anyway, I digress. As we were navigating through the new TJ’s we got caught up by the bread and I spotted a gorgeous loaf of challah. As soon as I laid eyes on it I knew what had to happen. I had to conquer my fear of French Toast and create Challah French Toast. It’s only natural that a person who has never successfully made French Toast would want to ruin a $4 loaf of bread.
This time, failure was not an option. So I enlisted the help of Google and search for Challah French Toast recipes. It was there that I discovered the secret technique, of soaking and draining the bread. But the real key to successful Challah French toast is to crisp it on the outside in a pan, then BAKE it in to oven. Mind. Blown. Over the last few months I have completely perfected this recipe and discovered that it is best made on my cast iron griddle, which can go straight from stove to oven.
This recipe is all about technique, so pay attention. When I photographed this, I was making only a half recipe, so you will need a bigger baking dish and you will have more Challah French Toast if you follow the recipe below.
- ⅔ Loaf Challah bread-I like Trader Joe's
- 1 c. milk plus 1 c. heavy cream OR 2 c. half and half
- 5 eggs
- 2 T. maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- Optional: ¼ teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
- Of course you can make this with no cinnamon, but you will miss it. You won't miss the extract.
- 1 T butter
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Slice Challah into thick slices, at least half an inch thick. Can be thicker if you would prefer.
- In a shallow baking dish, pour milk and cream or half and half.
- In a bowl or a two cup measuring cup, beat your eggs. Add eggs to milk.
- Add cinnamon and extract, if using, and stir.
- Place bread into mixture and let it rest for 2 minutes.
- Flip so the wet side is up and let it soak another two minutes.
- Place a cooling rack over a cookie sheet. Place bread on cooling rack to drain for five minutes, so that all the excess milk/egg mixture drips off.
- While the bread is dripping, heat an oven-proof griddle or skillet to medium-high. Spray with a tiny bit of cooking spray, then melt ½ T butter on the griddle. The butter should be sizzling, but not smoking.
- Place toast on the griddle and cook until barely browned on one side, about 2-3 minutes. Flip and brown the other side.
- If one side is less browned than the other, make sure the less brown side is facing down and place the French Toast in the oven.
- Bake until the bread puffs up and is to your desired doneness on each side. I bake mine for 5 minutes on one side, then flip it and bake for an additional 2 minutes. This will vary based on your pan and the thickness of your bread.