Tag Archives: french toast

French Toast, Perfected, or “Wow Mama, You Weren’t Kidding.”

Gentle Readers, The Practical Cook has long been a fan of French Toast. It’s a great way to use up stale bread, a perfect maple syrup conveyance, and did I mention it’s a natural bacon sidekick? Anyhoo, there are many styles. I grew up on the one egg, some milk, and a splash of vanilla kind using standard loaf bread.

Challah Y'all!

Challah Y'all!

Then I started reading Cook’s Illustrated. If you’ve never experienced their French Toast, you have never eaten French Toast. It was my go-to, but I’d never made the challah version. Until now. I told the Eldest Practical Cook Junior it would be the best she had ever eaten. She was still reeling from a French Toast and fried chicken experience from months ago at a local shop called Sandwhich (I know, apple:tree, what can I say.)

Challah French Toast, Perfected

Challah French Toast, Perfected

Her answer after tasting one bite: Wow, Mama, You Weren’t Kidding. I am not.

French Toast, Perfected

If you don’t have challah, go buy some and let it sit out. Pretend it was an accident, then make this recipe, adapted from Cook’s Illustrated. You can thank me later.

1 egg
2 Tablespoons melted butter
3/4 cup milk (I’ve used whole fat, skim, whatever you’ve got works)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (don’t skimp)
2 Tablespoons sugar (not a health food people)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
about half a loaf of day-old challah, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices

1. Preheat oven to lowest temp, and put a baking rack on a baking sheet in the oven. Heat 10- or 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes. It will get hot, proceed with caution.

Hot buttery cast iron skillet is key to great French Toast!

Hot buttery cast iron skillet is key to great French Toast!

2.  Meanwhile, beat egg lightly in a shallow pan, whisk in butter, then milk and vanilla, then sugar, flour, and salt. Whisk until smooth.

Saturate, but don't drown your Challah French Toast.

Saturate, but don't drown your Challah French Toast.

3. Soak the challah without drowning it (you don’t want total disintegration here), then fry in butter in the hot skillet. Work in batches, and keep the cooked French Toast warm in the oven.

Keep the French Toast warm in the oven while you finish cooking the batch.

Keep the French Toast warm in the oven while you finish cooking the batch.

Serve alone, or with fruit and bacon. (Recommended.) You will not have leftovers.

Keep your French Toast company with some bacon, and grits, and eggs, and . . .

Keep your French Toast company with some bacon, and grits, and eggs, and . . .

Are you a French Toast fan? What’s your bread of choice?

Send challah, queries, and serious blog challenges to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Up next, Cheesy Rainbow Pasta Toss. (Unicorns not included.)

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Kitchen Tool Talk: An Ode to My Cast Iron Skillet

Gentle Readers, is there anything better than a cast iron skillet? Yes, The Practical Cook would argue that one you get as a hand-me-down is better still. My 10-inch cast iron skillet is from my Granny, featured in the header picture. And if you haven’t added a cast-iron skillet to your cooking toolbox, here’s why you should.

Squash frying in the cast-iron skillet

Squash frying in the cast-iron skillet

An Ode to My Cast Iron Skillet: 5 Reasons to Own and Love It

1. Cornbread. It creates the perfect shape, the perfect crispness, and has a convenient handle for easy oven removal. And do I really have to defend cornbread? Fry some bacon in it first, then make cornbread. You can say thank you later.

Cornbread with Molasses

Cornbread with Molasses

2. Sauteed greens. Studies have indicated that there is some transfer of iron to food cooked, so I say, why not double down and go all Popeye on the spinach? The high heat tolerance makes it perfect for a quick flash-saute of greens of any stripe, and I use mine for spinach constantly.

Green Garlic + Spinach (Less Fluffy Now)

Green Garlic + Spinach (Less Fluffy Now)

3. Preheating. You can get a cast iron skillet hotter and keep it hotter than any nonstick I’ve ever tried. I use nonstick pans, but I am not crazy about any kind of serious heat used on them. So when the French toast recipe of my dreams says preheat the cast iron skillet over medium for 5 minutes, I can do just that.

Challah for French Toast Frying in the Pan!

Challah for French Toast Frying in the Pan!

4. Easy cleaning. This is the one reason I think people shy away from cast iron. You don’t clean them in the traditional manner using commercial detergent, but they’re not hard to maintain. I use salt or baking soda to scrape off anything stuck, I wipe down with vegetable oil, I re-season on occasion with a bake in the oven, and I cook bacon whenever I can. That really puts a nice patina on the skillet.

Sausage, greens, and pierogie

Sausage, greens, and pierogie

5. Longevity. Yours and the pan’s. I still don’t have my Granny’s strength in either a) wielding the thing or b) touching it with bare hands. Clearly, The Practical Cook’s generation is a soft one in comparison. So we need to toughen up! Oh, and the pan lasts a really long time too.

Cast-Iron Skillet Getting Hot Hot Hot!

Cast-Iron Skillet Getting Hot Hot Hot!

Of course, every time I cook with this pan, my Granny is in the kitchen with me. That’s reason enough for near-daily use. Thank you Granny for starting me down this road. Maybe one day the sausage gravy I make in your pan will equal yours.

Are you a cast-iron fan? Share your story in the comments section below! I’m feeling a comments-based giveaway coming on soon. So get some practice now, comment today!

Send your ideas, challenges, and bacon recommendations to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Up next, Mango and Blackberry Parfait.

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Moroccan French Toast Recipe

Why are the best recipes born of equal parts desperation and inspiration? During the Moroccan-themed dinner, I started thinking about how to use the locally baked pita that was starting to go stale, the Medjool dates from Trader Joe’s, and the bag of walnuts that is ever-present in the Practical Cook test kitchen for snacking, salads, etc.

Years ago, I had one of the more amazing meals of my life at Marrakesh in Washington, D.C. If you ever have the opportunity, go, it’s an experience (complete with a ritual hand washing and belly dancer), and the food is pretty great, too. I was a practicing vegetarian at the time, so I had the non-meat version of Bastilla. I still remember the taste.

Fast forward to a few days ago, the arrival of the Everyday Food Magazine, of which I’m a subscriber and fan. There was an article about alternative uses of pita, including a sweet pita that involved a dip in the egg pool. And thus a new dessert was born.

Moroccan French Toast Recipe

Recipe makes 8 pieces and will serve 4 people. Can easily be doubled or tripled. Confused about the method? Want to see hear it sizzling in the pan? Watch the video!

1 pita, cut in half and opened gently for stuffing
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or almonds
1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped Medjool dates
1 egg
1/2 cup milk (make this a healthy measure, don’t skimp)
sprinkle of cinnamon, to taste
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons sugar
butter
honey or powdered sugar

1. Chop the walnuts and dates together until they are well-mixed, but still chunky.

Chop Walnuts and Dates Together

Chop Walnuts and Dates Together

2. In a shallow bowl or pie pan, beat the egg with the milk, cinnamon, salt, and sugar until the mixture is frothy and smooth.

The egg batter makes it French.

The egg batter makes it French.

3. Carefully stuff the walnut mixture into the pita halves, smoothing out to make it even and reasonably flat. Cut each half into 4 pieces for a total of 8 pieces.

Halve the pita and gently open.

Halve the pita and gently open.

Stuff but don't cram the pita with filling.

Stuff but don't cram the pita with filling.

4. Preheat a frying pan with 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat.

5. Press the wedges together to make sure filling is secure, and carefully dip the wedge into the egg mixture, letting it soak for a couple of minutes on each side. Turn it over end over end, instead of side to side, to keep the filling inside. (Watch video for more detail on this.)

6. When the butter is melted and not foaming, fry the Moroccan French Toast, a few minutes per side.

7. Remove the Moroccan French Toast from the pan and drizzle with honey or sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Enjoy while warm! This is in fact as delicious as it looks.

Moroccan French Toast

Moroccan French Toast

Though I plan to make Moroccan Meatballs for dinner tonight, I will give the region a rest and blog about that later. Tomorrow, Kitchen Tool Talk: 3 (More) of My Favorite Things.

Thanks for all of the feedback this week. The Practical Cook will be answering viewer mail next week, so it’s a great time to submit a question. Don’t be shy! practical cook at gmail dot com

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