Breakfast

How to Make French Toast Without a Recipe

May 22, 2019
Photo by James Ransom

Here at Food52, we love recipes—after all, we have almost 50,000—but do we always use them? Of course not. Because once you realize you don't always need a recipe, you'll make your favorite dishes a lot more often, and have more fun, too. Today, Brette Warshaw gives us the easy-to-remember ratio to make any French toast—with whatever you already have in your kitchen.  

It's late, you just got home, and you're hungry. Your front door feels really, really far away. You have some stale bread, some eggs, and some dairy.

Or: It's Sunday morning, and your kids are shrieking, and you want to cook something—something quick!—that will get them all starry-eyed and quiet and happy.

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Or: You're tired of salads and roasted vegetables and even meat and fish and you want something soothing, something easy, and something decidedly un-seasonal for dinner.

In all these cases, and many more: Make French toast. Don't believe me? Go into the kitchen and check—you probably alrady have everything you need. See? Now, let's get cooking. 

How to Make French Toast Without a Recipe

1. Get out rimmed plate or shallow bowl or even a pie pan—my favorite soaking vessel for the bread—and combine your dairy and eggs. I like to use 3 egg yolks for every 1 1/2 cups dairy. (Note: You can mix and match egg yolks and whole eggs, but egg yolks add custardy richness without any eggy flavor.) When it comes to the dairy, you can use milk, half and half, heavy cream, or even a custom combination (look at you!). 

Some people add sweetener here, others don't (after all, maple syrup is coming). If you're Team Sweet, whisk in about 1 tablespoon of sugar, agave, honey, whatever (or don't!), and any flavorings you'd like. Vanilla extract (or better, scraped vanilla bean) is always a great call, but also try: almond extract, bourbon, rum...

French Toast from Food52

2. Start with day-old or even sort of stale bread, which can soak up all that good stuff without falling apart. (No overly soggy French toast here.) Slice it very thickly. I'm a fan of buttery brioche or fluffy challah, but sourdough and whole-wheat are great, too. Let the bread soak in the mixture for 15 seconds on each side (so, 30 seconds in total). Once it's out of its bath, let the bread hang out on a baking sheet for two minutes or so, which encourages even custard-soakage within.

French toast from Food52

3. Melt some butter in a pan (bonus points for salted butter and a cast-iron pan). Once it's nice and hot and runny...

Melting butter from Food52

4. ...get those soaked bread slices in there! Pan-fry until deeply golden brown on one side, and then flip. (A fish spatula works wonders here.) Get that other side just as brown, and, if you're me, drizzle some maple syrup on, right there in the pan. The warmth will get it evenly distributed—and slightly caramelized, which I love. 

French Toast from Food5

5. Transfer the toast to a plate, drizzle with more syrup, and eat. Quickly. Now.

French toast from Food52

French toast is a meal all on its own, but it would never turn away company. Here are some of our favorites to serve with: 

Eggs. Scrambled are always a good call, but there's some extra-special about a runny yolk to help "dress" the French toast. Take a cue from Canal House and try pimentón-fried eggs or do as Julia Turshen does and cook them in olive oil.

• Sausage, bacon, ham, really anything meaty. This DIY merguez—made with ground lamb, garlic, ginger, and a slew of spices—is an especially good friend to the maple syrup. 

• Creamed greens. If you're taking this route, skip the sweetener and maple syrup at the end. Try Trent Pierce's Miso-Creamed Kale or this spicy, yogurty Better Than Creamed Spinach Spinach. You can serve it alongside or even pile it directly on the toast. 

• Something to drink? Why not? Brunch is more fun with Bloody Marys and we have lots of them: the classic, one with homemade horseradish-pepper vodka, one with beef bouillon, another with fish sauce... We could go on. 

This article was originally published in September 2013. We've eaten a lot of French toast since then—so we gave it a buttery, syrupy refresh, all the better for you to scarf down. Now, tell us: How do you make your French toast? Discuss in the comments! 

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Brette Warshaw

Written by: Brette Warshaw

I'm a reader, eater, culinary thrill-seeker, and food nerd.

37 Comments

kayn May 22, 2019
I'm sorry, using only egg yolks avoids "any eggy flavor"? That is crazy talk. If you're a fan of eggy flavor, go for it, and I'm not knocking it (though I'm not a fan myself), but yolks are precisely what cause an eggy taste. And then you're recommending cooking a RUNNY-YOLKED EGG to eat with the toast. I don't understand the inconsistency.
 
Nancy M. March 27, 2015
Why would anyone need a recipe for french toast?
 
Bubbawubba G. March 21, 2015
"How to Make French Toast Without a Recipe" ? I opened it and low and behold.... a recipe? Let's see, ingredients, quantities and directions, yup, that's a recipe! I don't get it.
 
Andy T. May 23, 2019
Click-bait! You clicked it, I clicked it, so successful click bait. We are just a number to them. Numbers turn into money for them, not us.
 
Sharon January 29, 2015
I made this with coconut milk. The sauce was wonderful. I didn't get the curds with coconut milk but that certainly was not a deal breaker. I'll make this again and use packaged chicken (drumsticks, thighs, breasts). What a fragrant dish!
 
NotMeMon January 25, 2015
I agree with most ... I use thick-sliced (3/4") homemade bread (my Panasonic breadmaker makes a slice that is about 4"x7"), soak it in the fluid mixture (I use almond extract and grate some fresh-ground nutmeg - yummy), then put on a Corning "plate and a half), two slices per layer, separated by cling wrap ... refrigerate overnight (no, it doesn't get soggy nor fall apart!!), then pan-fry until golden ... use pure maple syrup and enjoy!!
 
Darvel S. January 16, 2015
Eggnog is a wonderful addition also! :-)
 
Jacque January 5, 2015
I have made French toast since 7 or 8 years old. This is the first recipe I've seen. I always used 1 egg for every 2 slices of stale bread. Adding a Teaspoon of sugar. Mix with a fork. Add a teaspoon of vanilla for every 2 or 3 eggs. Stir and add milk until it looks right but is not thin. Soak bread on both sides. Stop soaking while you can still transfer bread to skillet without it falling apart. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and fry until slightly crispy and brown. I've always loved it plain but some of the children liked syrup or fruit preserves on it.
 
liz C. December 28, 2014
Being from Kentucky, bourbon is always a great addition to everything. I add bourbon, bourbon barrel vanilla extract and orange zest to my custard. A nice handful of toasted pecans and maple syrup finish the dish.
 
Cathy B. December 23, 2014
I make my strictly with whole beaten eggs - yummy and less fuss!
 
alia March 6, 2014
here is recipe I found gives fuller custard french toast which I prefer (most versions I find dry):

Pain Perdu
4 servings

Ingredients

1 cup/250 ml milk, plus more if needed
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 slices baguette
1 egg

2 tablespoons sugar, plus more for caramelizing
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus more if needed
Vanilla ice cream, for serving
Cherries and blackberries, for serving

Directions

Stir together the milk and vanilla in a shallow dish. Soak the bread slices in the milk mixture for about 5 minutes, turning once so that they absorb the milk evenly.

Beat the egg with the sugar and pour onto a plate.

Heat the butter in a skillet until sizzling. Take the bread from the milk, holding it above the bowl to drain slightly. Dip into the egg mixture to coat both sides, then drop into the sizzling butter and fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes per side.

At the last minute, sprinkle the tops with a little extra sugar and "broil" with a blowtorch (or place them on a baking sheet under the broiler until the sugar, melts, bubbles and turns golden).

Divide the bread among serving plates. Serve hot with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a dribbling of fresh, ripe cherries and blackberries that have been sauteed in butter and sugar and possibly flamed.
© Recipe courtesy Laura Calder


 
Diana B. February 17, 2014
one and a half cups of dairy? I have never used that much, ever. That seems totally unnecessary to me. I can see why you have LOTS left over.
 
Yolanda B. November 24, 2013
I do Italian bread on the cheap and splurge with almond milk - its delicioso!
 
NJB November 15, 2013
I love using Challah bread dipped into eggnog...
 
I_Fortuna October 31, 2013
I take the leftover batter, add flour and save it for a dessert crepe in the morning. Easy breakfast. I like mine eggy.
 
djgibboni September 19, 2013
Really? People use a recipe for French toast?
 
thedomesticb September 16, 2013
Something that has always bothered me about making french toast is throwing away the milky, eggy mixture goodness. Are there any brilliant ways to re-use the dairy bath after soaking the bread?
 
Moe R. September 16, 2013
After I put the slices in the pan, I drizzle the leftover liquid onto the surface, just a bit. But really, it's a total of 25 cents worth of stuff, hardly worth saving.

In the past, I have used it to make kind of a scrambled egg but it's not very good.
 
[email protected] September 15, 2013
It's a question, really...you gave proportions for milk to egg....but what about the bread? How many slices of bread for the three egg ratio?
 
Jeremy P. September 15, 2013
There was a deli in Phoenix that used to cut the challah corner in a diagonal and then fry the pieces. Amazingly not healthy and amazing at the same time.
 
Janice D. September 15, 2013
That's about how I've done it for over 50 years. The main difference I use a dry griddle, just like when I make pancakes.
 
@JuliaMoskin September 15, 2013
Why only egg yolks?