Frenching Toast

Bread has been around for about 30,000 years give or take a few. Thus, Pain Perdu-French toast-is the answer to a truly ancient culinary question, “What the heck can I do with leftover bread to make it taste better?”

I could kiss whoever came up with the answer. At it’s best, French toast is like an instant, pan-fried bread pudding-warm and toasty on the outside, soft and custardy on the inside. I used to think I made pretty decent French toast, until I followed the instructions in The Best Recipe by Cook’s Illustrated. I now make what has been called, “the best French toast ever.” I wouldn’t make this claim on my own of course. (Although, when I make it with my homemade Challah, I am tempted to write poetry.)

French toast is also an answer to a question as old as humanity itself, “What the heck should one make for dinner when there’s next to nothing in the fridge, you’re hungry, broke, or just don’t feel like going shopping.” Even Sheryl Crow knows the answer to that, “Scrape the mold off the bread, and serve you French toast again.”

As part of our must-be-homemade-and-on-the-table-in-less-than-30-minutes-meal planning, breakfast is on the dinner menu quite often. There are many variations-pancakes and eggs, breakfast burritos, waffles, polenta and eggs, etc. French toast, however, is always met with excitement. (Shh, don’t tell anyone, but it’s like having dessert for dinner.)

This last week, I tried a twist on two family favorites-French toast, and peanut butter and banana sandwiches. I’m not really sure what to call it, but it was a cross between a Monte Cristo and an Elvis sandwich. All I can say is, it turned out pretty dang awesome.

Peanut Butter Banana Monte Cristo, A Frenched Elvis Sandwich, or Something Like That  

Your favorite French toast batter (I don’t measure, but 3/4 milk to one egg is an excellent ratio. Add a little flour, little sugar, pinch of salt, vanilla, and cinnamon and it’ll be golden)
Sliced bread – sandwich bread or Challah is best, not too thick
Peanut butter

1)   Get your pan preheated to medium. Cast iron is best, but non-stick is ok too.
2)   Put peanut butter on both pieces of bread. Top one side with sliced banana and press it together lightly.
3)   Put a small pat of butter in your hot pan and spread it around as it melts.
4)   Dip each side of the sandwich in the batter for a few seconds till it feels a little heavy. Let any residual batter drip run off before putting it in the pan.
5)   Cook for a few minutes till brown, then flip and cook a few more minutes.
6)   As each sandwich is finished, put it on a cookie sheet in a 300 degree oven (or toaster oven) for another 5-10 minutes till you’re finished cooking.
7)   Serve with a light sprinkling of powdered sugar.

I only followed the Cook’s Illustrated recipe for French toast once or twice. Now I measure by color, add lots of cinnamon, and it still turns out beautifully. Since it’s all improv, I thought this would be the perfect recipe to experiment with the concept of a recipe poem. I stumbled on this idea in Alimentum-a wonderful literary journal that focuses on food.

Cooking is an art just as much as a science. The problem is, the standard recipe format minimizes, or skips the sensory experience all together. If you want exact measurements for the best French toast ever, I highly recommend you check out The Best Recipe, or the Cook’s Illustrated website. If you are feeling a little roguish and ready to attempt a culinary road less traveled, maybe this can be your guide:

Frenching Toast

Manhandle your heaviest pan over a flame half turned

Break an egg per person (from a carton that creaks like the floor)
Pinch the salt, more milk than egg, then loop it up
till yellow soft as an Easter dress

Snow in sugar and flour, no drifts
Muddy with cinnamon & vanilla, two caps
Mix in the flurries, and don’t worry
little lumps won’t hurt

Send a bit of butter round the hotpan bubbling
Dunk a good yeasty bread in the custard and count
(one-two-three) under your breath, then flip

Count three again, now heavy
Let the runoff slow
Flop it in the pan (soft hiss)
Flip and done when freckled brown

Watch them eat
eyes half-mast

p.s. America’s Test Kitchen posted my link on their Facebook page, calling it an “intensely delicious sandwich!”



Filed under Cookbooks and other Book Reviews, Cuisines (Regional and International), Meal Planning, New Recipes, Techniques

34 responses to “Frenching Toast

  1. I LOVE your poetic version of the recipe…I think people should mix up recipe formats more. After all, it’s cooking, not following federal regulations!

    • Thank! I’ve always had a soft spot for poetry, and when I read my first recipe poem I couldn’t wait to try it! I read an interview with Judith Jones, Julia Child’s editor, and she was talking about wanting to hear the author’s voice, even in a recipe. I think that is what makes the best cookbooks so enjoyable.

  2. I can personally attest that this IS the best french toast I’ve ever had!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I haven’t tried the peanut butter & banana version, but it’s definitely on my to do list 😉

  3. This looks soooo good! I will definitely need to try this. Or, um, have my husband make it 🙂

  4. Rachel Mercado

    What a wonderful poem! I would’ve never thought to put a recipe into poetry!

  5. Yum, yum! I’ve already eaten, but that makes my mouth water 🙂

  6. Brandon

    That looks like the main dish in a breakfast to end all breakfastssss

  7. Unfortunately I no longer eat food items like French Toast. Shame really because that looks really nice…

  8. This looks like something I’m going to have for breakfast on the weekend!!! Am so glad it’s Friday already! 🙂

  9. I LOVE French Toast, especially with strawberries and Maple Syrup, as featured in one of my past posts. Thanks for the recipes!

  10. That one made me hungry!

  11. thirdhandart

    This looks so delicious. I’ll bet my grandson would love it. Great entry for breakfast!

  12. Anything with PB and banana is great in my book! Can’t wait to try this for my grandson too.

  13. Just WOW. This looks so delicious it has me salivating. Anything with peanut butter and toast…doesn’t get much better than that. Oh yes it does – the sugar on top! Yum!

  14. Diana

    Love it!! love French Toast; love BP and banana sandwiches; now love poetic recipe (made me sit up and take notice, smiling all the way through). Wonderful post. Thanks!

  15. You bring out the cook in a person! And your writing is amazing : ) This looks absolutely delicious!

  16. Def need to make this for breaky, thanks for the yummy recipe 🙂

  17. Looks simply delicious!! Nice story to go with the mouth-watering pictures 🙂

  18. jbheronneau

    And to make it even better, just make a kind of soup with milk and one yellow egg, dunk the bread a few sec, and then do everything you explained… And this is amaizing 🙂

  19. this is a first for me – never saw peanut butter and bananas on french toast before! looks yummy!

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