The Crunchy-Creamy French Toast We Can't Stop Riffing On

March 21, 2018

In 2013, our Creative Director—and resident dessert queen—Kristen Miglore told us all about Anthony Myint's French Toast Crunch: “What happens when the minds behind Mission Chinese cross crème brûlée, French toast, and tres leches cake? An indulgent, 5-ingredient treat—maybe the best pick-me-up we’ve ever had.” Yes, please, and thank you.

Better yet, all this magic happens right beneath your broiler. Basically, you butter a slice of bread—both sides—broil until browned, cover in sugar, broil again, then plunk in a puddle of sweetened milk. In Change the Way You Cook part 2—the follow up series to make you a smarter-not-harder cook—we talked all about broiling desserts. The cheat sheet: While your oven is there for cakes, cookies, and the like, your broiler is at the ready for need-sugar-now dessert emergencies (in our heads, we imagine it wearing a cape!).

French Toast Crunch is a perfect Genius case in point. As Kristen noted, the recipe hails from Mission Street Food and comes with 13 variations, from matcha to baklava. This couldn’t help but get me thinking—how else could we switch it up, play around, get crazy? Enter, Change the Way You French Toast Crunch:

Swap out the bread

Kristen recommends "the best sandwich bread you can find—pain de mie, or brioche." You could also do challah, sourdough, or whole wheat. Even stale quick bread or cake, like banana or pound. We especially love Kindred's Milk Bread (also goes by, the most addictive bread you'll ever eat). Get it—milk bread in milk? Ha!

Replace (or drop) the chamomile tea

A splash of chamomile tea turns your toast’s milk puddle subtly floral, like walking by a garden. As noted in the recipe itself, this is optional. To streamline, you could skip it altogether. Or, you could switch it out. Try another type of tea, like chai, or booze, like bourbon, or even espresso or strongly brewed coffee.

Replace the sweetened condensed milk

This, also, is an accent to the milk. While the chamomile offers flavor, the sweetened condensed also offers, well, sweetness—and thickness. But, because it’s such a small amount (1 tablespoon to 1 cup half and half), there’s ample room to update. Try fruit jam or preserves, especially apricot or peach, any syrup, like honey or maple, or crème fraîche for tang.

Spice that sugar

This is my favorite way to riff. The recipe calls simple for “sugar” but what type of sugar—and how you tailor it—are all fair game. Try brown sugar for maltiness, or raw sugar for more texture. And if you want to counter the sweetness, turn to your spice rack: freshly ground black pepper, cayenne, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, or blends, like five-spice.

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Dessert emergency: solved.

Have you made French Toast Crunch before? How would you vary it? Let us know in the comments below!

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Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.