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Fat Guy

French toast for the novice

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Jaymes, I have been posting about this for several years.

  andiesenji

Posted 08 January 2005 - 10:45 PM

First of all I would invite you for brunch. In preparation I would make some fresh duck sausage which is excellent for breakfast or brunch.

I would have prepared ahead of time one of my special bread puddings in a large, deep loaf pan.

This would be sliced in 3/4 inch thick slices and placed on a griddle on top of browned butter.

Prior to turning it to cook the top side, I would brush it with cream and sprinkle with granulated maple sugar which, after turning it over, would form a carmelized crispy crust on top of the "mock" French toast. This way it needs no syrup to make it soggy. The center is like custard under the carmelized maple sugar crust.

Since this is something I originated I do consider it a "signature" dish.

With fresh fruits in season, this is a simple, yet satisfying morning meal.

And again in other topics.

I used to make a bunch of these "pudding loaves" when I was still volunteering at fund raisers. Some of the local organizations have "pancake breakfasts" and at one event they wanted something a bit more upscale because some celebrities were going to attend.

Regular French toast is much too messy to prepare for loads of people standing in line to be served so I suggested we add this to the menu, which I originally developed when I was catering, back in the late '80s, so I had plenty of experience in cooking it for crowds.

I baked 20 pudding loaves in the extra-long disposable loaf pans (made it easier to slice as I could slice right through the pan sides (used an electric knife) and the resulting "French toast" was a big hit. We sold out and made a lot of money for charity.

It's been so long since I first developed this that I am not sure what exactly prompted me but I think I got the idea when I was preparing grits for a similar process.

Those loaf pans were aluminum? Did you have any problem with the filings?

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It sounds good, andie, but wouldnt suit for us.

French toast takes 15 min from start to serving, 25 if I want it all cooked for 5 people first.

To make a bread pudding, bake it, then fry it would be a several hour process.

Sounds like a great fun for a special brunch, with the crusty top.

Why not just carmelize the sugar on the pudding directly, without the slice & fry ?

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It sounds good, andie, but wouldnt suit for us.

French toast takes 15 min from start to serving, 25 if I want it all cooked for 5 people first.

To make a bread pudding, bake it, then fry it would be a several hour process.

Sounds like a great fun for a special brunch, with the crusty top.

Why not just carmelize the sugar on the pudding directly, without the slice & fry ?

As I said upthread, I often sprinkle sugar onto the top of the French toast right after I put the slices into the skillet. I use whatever I'm in the mood for - granulated sugar (usually with cinnamon), or maple sugar (like Andie) or brown sugar, turbinado, piloncillo, etc. Then when you turn the French toast, it caramelizes, and your regular French toast made with your usual method develops that nice crusty top.

Not the same as Andie's fried (or caramelized in the pan - whichever method you prefer) bread pudding, but adds a nice and unexpected touch, and couldn't be any easier.


Edited by Jaymes (log)

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Those loaf pans were aluminum? Did you have any problem with the filings?

The loaf pans I used were not aluminum. They were (and are) the paper ones. When I first began doing this, the paper ones were not available for consumers but I had a business and could buy from commerical suppliers - but had to buy in quantity, I think 500, but used them for a lot of things.

The trick was to cut the slices, including the liner so that my helpers and I could pick up the slices and place them on the griddle - then peel off the liner. It made it much faster and easier and cleaner to handle.


Edited by andiesenji (log)

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It sounds good, andie, but wouldnt suit for us.

French toast takes 15 min from start to serving, 25 if I want it all cooked for 5 people first.

To make a bread pudding, bake it, then fry it would be a several hour process.

Sounds like a great fun for a special brunch, with the crusty top.

Why not just carmelize the sugar on the pudding directly, without the slice & fry ?

I don't think you have yet gotten the idea of how this should work.

I prepare the puddings a day or so prior. It works better if the pudding has been chilled at least overnight. The interior is firmer, for one thing.

When we did the fund raisers, I had to be on site at six a.m. to set up for an event that began at eight and ran until eleven a.m.

All the prep from mixing the pancake batter and prepping the fruit which was going to be applied to the pancake after depositing on the griddle, to baking the puddings was done the day and night before.

We served 200 to 300 people at most of these fund-raisers, our record was 540.

Some tickets were sold ahead of time to local businesses and we generally expected twice that many walk-ins.

I have also, in recent months, prepared these puddings for others who want to prepare a special breakfast for someone.

I did two for Mother's Day - one for a husband who has few skills in the kitchen. (He's a pilot.)

and another for the teenage children of a woman who lost her husband last year.

As I stated in my first post in this thread, this is something that does not require one to be particularly adept in the kitchen. It is far less messy than dipping bread in a drippy liquid and transferring it to a griddle.

Folks who have tried it have found it easy. If you don't want to try it, that's your privilege.

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I don't think you have yet gotten the idea of how this should work.

I prepare the puddings a day or so prior. It works better if the pudding has been chilled at least overnight.

I did get that. That's why I said for us it would work for a special brunch.

We dont plan regular breakfasts that far ahead. We rarely plan them 10 min ahead of when we start cooking them. Its not personal nor an attack on your method.

Its clear that it was a marvelous thing for the special occasions you described.

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I don't think you have yet gotten the idea of how this should work.

I prepare the puddings a day or so prior. It works better if the pudding has been chilled at least overnight.

I did get that. That's why I said for us it would work for a special brunch.

We dont plan regular breakfasts that far ahead. We rarely plan them 10 min ahead of when we start cooking them. Its not personal nor an attack on your method.

Its clear that it was a marvelous thing for the special occasions you described.

I didn't take it personally. I truly thought you had the idea that the pudding and the end result had to be prepared immediately after baking the pudding. My mistake in misreading your reply.

I have to prepare these things ahead of time. I live alone and have only myself to cook for most of the time. However, I have a lot of friends who drive up this way, on their way to Las Vegas or Mammoth and further north and like to drop in for a "brief" visit and I like to be able to feed them without a lot of fuss.

With a day or so notice, I can produce a very nice breakfast or brunch and if they are on their way home in the evening, I can give them something to tide them over till they get home - with one of the savory type.

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I like stratas, which is pretty much your method. You hit the nail on the head, its the day or so notice that makes all the difference.

We tried homemade challah with our french toast method the other day. I guess we're creatures of habit - we all, down to the 7 yr old, prefer our french toast made with the whole wheat bread. who'da thunk it. :laugh:

Of course, there must be maple syrup. Warm.

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I can vouch for Andie's French toast! It was fantastic to have all of the work done ahead of time and to have only to crisp it up in a pan. We served it to weekend company and even made it one weekday morning from the leftovers for ourselves - I don't think I've ever had French toast for a workday breakfast before! I really liked the fact that the center wasn't wet - a problem with most French toast that I make.

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I pride myself on my French toast, and I'm a proponent of the "simpler is better" method. I use challah, heavy cream and eggs. Period. I beat about three eggs in with about 1/2 to 2/3 cup cream in a wide, shallow bowl; slice the challah between 3/4 and an inch thick; lay a slice in the bowl, press it gently all over the surface with the back of a fork, flip it over, repeat the process, and fry it in butter on a medium-hot griddle.

If there is anything any better, I don't think I could stand it.

I have also discovered I can do the entire loaf on a weekend, put the leftover slices in plastic bags, and the teenaged son can reheat them in the toaster oven through the week.

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There's been very little discussion of spices so far: are most of you doing like kayb and going with just eggs, dairy, and bread? Then topping it with something? The way my dad always made it he mixed cinnamon and nutmeg into the liquid mixture: I do that too, and also a little salt.

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I generally add vanilla, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, sometimes sherry, as listed in my recipe.

I have also flavored it with cardamom, mace and other spices. I like to experiment.

Fennel seed, ground, was not so great but star anise (stewed in the milk, not ground) was very nice combined with black pepper and palm sugar instead of regular sugar.

If you like a particular flavor, try it.


Edited by andiesenji (log)

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It will taste oddly flat if there's no salt. I use salted butter to cook it in, so that takes care of it, but if you are in an unsalted butter household, it may pay to add a pinch of salt to the egg/milk mixture before mixing it up.

Most of the flavor comes from the topping(s). Melted butter and powdered sugar, good jam or preserves, maple syrup or whatever floats your boat.

Someone mentioned mess. I dont quite understand where that's an especial problem. Pancakes = bowl, transfer item, fry pan(s), plate.

French toast = bowl, soaking pan, fry pan(s), plate. Same number of items to wash and the egg/milk is so much easier to clean up than pancake batter.

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There's been very little discussion of spices so far: are most of you doing like kayb and going with just eggs, dairy, and bread? Then topping it with something? The way my dad always made it he mixed cinnamon and nutmeg into the liquid mixture: I do that too, and also a little salt.

As a base, our constants are eggs, dairy, cinnamon, vanilla, pinch of salt (we're an 'unsalted butter' household), little sugar (or syrup or other sweetener). Always.

Back when I began my "french toast" journey, some four decades ago, didn't add sugar to the eggs - just the vanilla, cinnamon, cream, salt, like my granny taught me. But when my children were small, they ate it with their hands. When I was a kid, we always poured maple syrup over the French toast, or dusted it with powdered sugar and strawberries, but that's really messy for little kids to eat with their hands. So I started putting sugar into the egg mixture to encourage my children to eat it without adding some sort of sweet topping, and noted that it really helped to crisp it up. And as I usually make French toast for a crowd, I almost always put it into the oven to hold while I finish making as much as I think we're going to eat. Even with only a pinch of sugar in the batter, it crisps nicely in the oven even if you add no more sugar on top of the toast while it's grilling.

We do like maple flavor, so if we're not going to be pouring maple syrup over the toast as we serve it, I often work in a little maple somewhere. In lieu of adding regular granulated sugar to the egg mixture, will add maple syrup. Or maple sugar to the cooking toast. When we get really fancy, like for houseguests, I'll whip up some cream for a whipped topping. I'll add maple sugar to that cream. And/or a little dark rum.

Again, regarding spices and flavorings, as I said above, at Christmastime, make it with eggnog, which has nutmeg (but don't add nutmeg as a matter of routine). And booze. Often add liqueur, such as an orange-based one, but any favorite liqueur can add a nice flavor. There's a Cream of Tequila that I love.

As I'm thinking back over the years and the many options I've tried, I'm kind of smiling in appreciation of this wonderful and versatile dish. And have decided there's no "right" or "wrong" way. Just a delicious preparation that you can fiddle with and adapt any way you like. Hard to ask more than that.


Edited by Jaymes (log)

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This baked version, non-traditional but much less last minute work, is pretty good, although it's a little too sweet for my taste.

I tried this similar version a year or so ago and it was pretty much just a bread pudding and was much to sweet for me, even with using the Splenda/sugar baking mix, reducing the volume according to suggestions on the Splenda site.

My complaint with this type of dish is that the only crusty bits are on top and I like the flavor of the crusts browned in butter.


Edited by andiesenji (log)

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JAZ reminded me of making eggnog french toast, and of making it with the regular batter, but using panetone for the bread. Talk about rich!

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I soak my bread (almost any kind) until it's saturated and brown in butter. Than I transfer to a cookie sheet and bake at about 325 until the bread is very puffy. That way I know the soaking liquid is completely cooked.

I spread the baked toast with softened butter, than sift over a coating of powdered sugar, then squeeze one or more lime halves over it until the sugar is all liquified. I can't remember where I heard of this, but I have never been tempted to eat it any other way since my first taste.

A friend told me once that she could never understand why she didn't like anyone's French Toast but her mother's. Turned out her mother French Fried her French Toast!

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I spread the baked toast with softened butter, than sift over a coating of powdered sugar, then squeeze one or more lime halves over it until the sugar is all liquified. I can't remember where I heard of this, but I have never been tempted to eat it any other way since my first taste.

Very interesting. Sounds sort of Latin/Caribbean with the lime juice. But I'm definitely going to give it a try.

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One thing which i heard of from a patron who was dining in a railway car where he had the best FT he had ever had. It was made the normal way or as desired. The secret was it was coated on the outside with rolled corn flakes and pan fried in butter..

Cheers

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One thing which i heard of from a patron who was dining in a railway car where he had the best FT he had ever had. It was made the normal way or as desired. The secret was it was coated on the outside with rolled corn flakes and pan fried in butter..

Cheers

Interesting. I've never heard of doing that to French toast, but my grandmother often coated fish in crushed corn flakes before frying.

And then there's fried ice cream...

So I can see how it could be really tasty.

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I made Andie's French toast for Sunday brunch, it was wonderful. :wub: :wub: Cut it maybe 1 1/4" thick. Next time I'll cut it thinner. The "crusty bits" to center ratio was off. :laugh: :laugh:

Thanks Andie.

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I've made French toast once since starting to collect advice here. I used challah, lessened the percentage of milk, soaked for about half as much time, and heated the pan a bit more than before. No other ingredients. Results were significantly better. Next time I may try adding some stuff to the mix.

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I just saw an episode of America's Test Kitchen where they explored French Toast. Turns out that it's better to dry the bread out in the oven for about 15 minutes than to use stale bread -the starch will absorb more and have a better texture. They liked Challah, used it for the demo, and mentioned several mass-market breads that tested as best to use.

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