How to make French toast – recipe

A step-by-step guide to a classic breakfast (or any time).

Also known as pain perdu, the hapless knight of Windsor and, most accurately, if least romantically, the egg loaf, this humble piece of culinary genius has been providing pleasure since the last days of Rome - perhaps a less decadent era than popularly believed, considering how to save money with stale bread. Sweet or savory, even vegan, it's not just for breakfast.

  • Preparation 25 minutes (if making clarified butter)
  • Cook 3 minutes
  • Serves 2, and it's easy to double
  • 100g unsalted butter (see step 1)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar, plus extra to finish
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • A pinch of cloves
  • A pinch of ground mace
  • A pinch of ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon powder
  • Finely grated ½ lemon (optional)
  • 2 tsp wheat flour
  • 2 x 2 cm thick slices of good white bread, preferably slightly stale
1 A word about fat

While you can use two tablespoons of butter straight from the package for this, it's best to take the time to clarify if you can, especially if you make several rounds, as that will stop the milk solids from burning in the pan. Alternatively, use ghee, or, if you prefer to stay dairy free, use two tablespoons of neutral oil instead.

2 Clarify the butter

To make clarified butter, melt 100g of butter (this will yield more than you need here, but still good, so it's worth making extra) in a small skillet over medium-high heat until a thick layer of white foam rises (this is dense milk protein, which won't burn at high temperatures) and begins to bubble vigorously as the water evaporates.

3 Strain and cool

Lower the heat in the bottom of the pan and continue to simmer gently until the foam is absorbed and the fat stops bubbling, being careful not to catch the whites on the bottom and burn. Strain the butter through a clean cloth to separate the milk protein solids. The clarified butter is now ready to use, though it will keep for at least six months, provided it is refrigerated in a sealed container.

4 Start the dough

Melt a tablespoon of clarified butter (assuming you're working it cold). Whisk the eggs in a bowl, then add the melted butter, sugar, salt, spices and lemon zest. Mix the spices however you like: use cinnamon instead, omit all cloves, add ground cardamom or fennel seeds instead - whatever feels good to you. The same goes for orange peels.

5 Finish the dough

Place the flour in a wide bowl and lightly beat the egg mixture to make a paste (if you prefer, you can use a gluten-free flour, such as cornstarch, or leave it out altogether; it's not critical, but it does help with crunchiness).

Gradually beat in remaining egg mixture until you have a smooth dough.

6 Soak the bread, then fry it

Soak the buns (gluten-free, if necessary) in the dough mixture for 30 seconds on each side, until soft but not drooping.

Meanwhile, heat another tablespoon of butter or fat in a skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, lay out the patties and let them cook undisturbed for about two minutes, until golden and crisp underneath.

7 Flip, fry and serve hot

Flip the buns, cook briefly (or slightly longer) on the other side, until golden, then transfer to a plate, sprinkle with sugar or drizzle with honey, and serve hastily while the French toast is still hot and crunchy (or still warm). in a low oven, if that makes life easier).

8 Vegan alternatives…

For the vegan version, whisk two tablespoons of chickpea flour (grams) into 100ml of non-dairy milk in place of the eggs, and add one tablespoon of neutral oil to the batter with the sugar, salt, spices and zest; cook with another tablespoon of oil. If your plant milk is sweetened, you may want to reduce the sugar a bit.

9 … and a savory one

Leave out the sugar, zest, and spices, or switch to a more savory flavor of your choice (grated parmesan and nutmeg, for example), then top with fried bacon or tomatoes. Or use French toast as a toast base, add filling (cheese is rarely a bad idea), top with another slice of bread and cook as above.

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