Best French Toast Recipe (Pain Perdu)
The Best of France
I have a long-standing relationship with French Toast.
First of all, classic french toast is Lt. Dan’s second favorite food, after steak, so I’ve become very well acquainted with it over the years.
I thought I had perfected French Toast. Yet I then had the opportunity to take not one, but three trips to France in a relatively short amount of time.
On these trips, it became quite clear to me that I still needed to learn a few things about How To Make French Toast… The way the French make it!
So now, after a couple of Parisian cooking classes, and a lot of at-home experimentation, my French Toast is now just as amazing as the Pain Perdu we ate in Paris.
You can make it too! All You Need Is:
- The right ingredients.
- A better understanding of what real French Toast should taste and feel like.
Why Is This Called Pain Perdu?
French toast (like french fries) is an Americanized version of a classic French recipe.
The original recipe is called Pain Perdu in french, which literally translates as “lost bread.”
Some believe the term refers to using day-old bread that would be thrown out if not repurposed. Others believe it refers to the bread getting lost in the egg mixture when dunked.
Either way, this lost bread is given new life in the best possible way.
What’s The Difference Between French Toast And Pain Perdu?
There’s a vast difference between the French Toast most Americans make on the weekends, and what Pain Perdu is meant to be.
In France, Pain Perdu is nearly an art form. It has been perfected over centuries. There’s a method. There’s a ratio. There’s an expectation.
Here in the United States, French Toast is an afterthought. We open the fridge and think, “Great! I’ve got a few pieces of sandwich bread left, and a couple of eggs… French Toast!”
We whisk the eggs with whatever liquid dairy product (or nut milk) we can find, sprinkle it with cinnamon, and dunk the bread.
We don’t measure. We don’t consider the consistency of the egg mixture. We don’t worry about the type of bread or the thickness of the slices.
We know, in the end, we will drown the French Toast in maple syrup and enjoy it regardless.
However, this quick weekend breakfast could be SO much more, with very little effort.
French Toast Vs Pain Perdu
Let’s take a moment to compare the major differences, so you can make the best french toast you’ve ever tasted, AKA real Pain Perdu!
(American) French Toast tends to be:
- Overly spiced
- Too thin, because we use sliced sandwich bread
- Dry and bready in the middle, because we didn’t soak the bread long enough (or we used too many eggs)
- Or too soggy, because our liquid mixture isn’t portioned correctly
Pain Perdu should be:
- Crispy and golden on the outside
- Soft and custard-like on the inside
- Sweet enough to stand alone, without syrup or toppings, yet not cloyingly sweet
- With a delicate vanilla custard flavor
Is This French Toast Recipe Supposed To Be Soggy?
Why is my french toast soggy? Is it supposed to be like that?
French Toast should never be soggy, but it shouldn’t be bready in the middle either.
A perfect Pain Perdu Recipe should have a pillowy, well-saturated, custard texture on the inside.
That means it will be moister than most Americans traditionally make it.
However, if you turn the heat down and cook it a little longer, the crust will become brilliantly caramelized on the outside, while the inside will puff into a soft custard cloud.
Pain Perdu Recipe Ingredients
Here’s What You’ll Need:
- Brioche Bread Loaf – Unsliced. You will want to slice it into thick pieces yourself. If you can’t find brioche, challah is the next best bread.
- Half & Half – Full-fat. This is not the time to be worried about calories or fat. Some recipes call for whole milk and heavy cream in various proportions, but I’ve found buying just one carton of half & half works perfectly and saves money.
- Egg Yolks – Don’t want an eggy Pain Perdu Recipe? Well then, just take out the egg whites! The silky quality of the yolks will create the perfect custard texture.
- Sugar – To sweeten the French Toast, making it a stand-alone dish.
- Vanilla Extract – Just a little splash to create the vanilla custard flavor.
- Salt – A little pinch does a lot of good, bringing the best flavors to the forefront.
- Butter – To fry the pain perdu.
How To Make French Toast
Are you ready to make a mind-blowing and easy breakfast recipe? Ok, good!
- Preheat the oven. This helps keep the first batches warm, and “finishes off” this recipe’s cooking.
- Whisk. Mix the half & half, egg yolks, sugar, vanilla, and salt together in a shallow dish/bowl.
- Cut. Slice a brioche loaf into 1 inch slices. The bread can be fresh or stale. Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to use day-old bread.
- Prep the skillet. Set a large skillet over medium heat. Add a little butter.
- Soak. Soak the brioche in the egg mixture, flipping to coat.
- Fry. Gently move the soaked bread to the hot skillet/griddle. Fry the coated bread slices until golden brown.
- Keep Warm. Move the cooked bread to the baking sheet and place it in the oven to keep warm.
- Repeat. Continue cooking the remaining thick slices of bread until all the bread is cooked.
Perfect French Toast should be golden and crispy on the outside, and custard-like and pillowy in the center… But not raw.
Placing the pieces of French Toast in the oven under low heat, puffs them up a little and keeps the pieces from getting soggy over time. If you are worried about the French Toast being undercooked in the center, the oven also slowly finishes the French Toast off, so to speak. Don’t skip the oven step!
Get The Full Printable Best French Toast Recipe (Pain Perdu) Below. Enjoy!
What Do You Put On Top?
The beauty of making this recipe authentic is that it’s sweet enough to serve as-is. No toppings needed!
However, you can feel free to add:
- Maple Syrup
- Powdered Sugar
- Whipped Cream
- Toasted Nuts
- Fresh Berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries)
- Chopped Stone Fruit
- Caramel Sauce
- Chocolate Shavings
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know it is finished cooking?
Perfect Pain Perdu should be golden and crispy on the outside, and custard-like and pillowy in the center… But not raw.
If the exterior seems to be browning too fast, lower the heat to medium-low. This will allow more time for the interior to cook.
Also, placing the pieces of finished toast in the oven under low heat, puffs them up a little and keeps the pieces from getting soggy over time. If you are worried about your breakfast being undercooked in the center, the oven also slowly finishes this recipe off. This is a very important step!
How long should it be kept in the oven?
Really, just a few minutes of “dry time” as you finish cooking the other pieces will do. Around 5-10 minutes, or possibly up to 20 minutes.
Is there a lactose-free option?
Sure! Try using thick canned coconut milk and plant-based “butter”. The thick canned coconut milk helps bring the custard-like consistency instead of using other dairy-free substitutions like almond milk or oat milk.
How long does this recipe last in the fridge?
This recipe tastes its best when it is freshly made, but if you do end up having extra afterward, leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
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How To Make French Toast
- Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Lay out a large baking sheet.
- In a large bowl, whisk the half & half, egg yolks, sugar, vanilla, and salt together. Make sure the sugar is fully incorporated.
- Use a serrated knife to slice the brioche loaf into 1 inch slices. (About 10 slices.)
- Set a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1-2 tablespoons butter, depending on the size of the skillet.
- Soak 2-3 pieces of brioche in the egg mixture for about 30-60 seconds, flipping to coat. The bread should soak just long enough to be fully saturated, without dissolving it.
- Carefully move the soaked bread to the hot skillet. Fry the French Toast slices for 2-3 minutes per side, until golden brown. If they are cooking faster, lower the heat to medium-low, to make sure the inside is cooked through the middle.
- Move the French Toast to the baking sheet and place in the oven to keep warm. (The longer it sits in the oven, the puffier it will become.)
- Wipe the skillet out with a paper towel and add more butter to the skillet. (You only need to wipe the skillet if the butter residue looks dark.)
- Repeat with the remaining slices of bread until all the French Toast is cooked. Place each batch in the oven to keep warm.
- Serve warm with fresh berries, maple syrup, or your favorite toppings!