Soak dried bread in milk, fry in oil, douse in honey, and serve. Sometime after that 4th century recipe (attributed to Apicius) was written, someone thought to make the milk thicker by stirring in an egg — an eggy batter. After that, every cook in every nation made a variation. Seriously – go looking and you’ll find sweet and savory, stuffed and unstuffed, with a multitude of spices and fruits and toppings and…
A Monte Carlo sandwich, for example, is a ham and swiss on white bread, said sabread then dipped in an eggy batter (with a bit of flour in this case), then deep fried for 2-3 minutes on a side. (If you pan fry it you need enough oil to get the side batter closed.) In this case the bread’s usually fresher, but it still should be a ‘tougher’ bread.
Now rather than chase into all the variations, I thought I’d pass along a small ‘trick’ I learned a few years back for basic french toast. I very lightly toast my bread before soaking it. I do this instead of drying it.
Dried is still better – set it somewhere pets and such can’t get to it and let it set overnight. In the morning soak for a bit in your eggy batter and away you go. But toasting it slightly means you don’t have to worry about insects or pets or such. It’s not quite as good but you still get some resistance to soggy bread.
And soggy bread seems to be the largest bane of french toast. Oh, sure, if it’s done right you’ve got this sorta custard in the middle, and some could consider this soggy. Once you’ve had the difference, however, you’ll know. Use fresh bread and you’ve a choice between a rather tough outside or an almost runny middle — unless you just barely dipped the bread in the first place. Use dried bread, or perhaps toast, and the center doesn’t have all that moisture. Instead you get, well, the custard lightly sets up from the heat before the outside turns to rubber.
That’s all, just a tip. If you make french toast and can dry your bread ahead of time, that’s best. If you can’t or you forget, take a few moments to lightly toast the bread before you soak it. It will make a difference, a difference you can taste. Not hard, and worth the effort.
Oh, my favorite topping? Butter and a moderately heavy sprinkle of confectioner’s sugar, with some apple butter on the side.