Remember when we were "boycotting France" by calling cut up and fried potatoes "freedom fries" instead of "french fries"? Man, that was stupid*. I think we could hear the French rolling their eyes from here. Anyway, at the restaurant where I worked at the time, we happened to be reworking our breakfast menu at the time. My boss wanted to be patriotic and rename the french toast. His idea was "egg-battered toast." I managed to talk him down from this idea, mostly from the fact that no one would know what the heck it was. Then the servers would all have to tell the people that it was just french toast, which would completely defeat the purpose.
Sunday morning, my mother came to visit. Instead of going out, I made french toast, because I'm trying to save money. I was telling a coworker about our nice little brunch, and she asked me a question that totally threw me off.
"Did you make it from scratch?"
I'm sure that face reflected my confusion. "I, uh, what, uh, from, uh, I'm just not sure how else you could make french toast."
"Well, there are those freezer things."
I tried to conceal my horror at the idea of serving my dear, sweet mother microwave french toast. I mean, I could have really splurged and taken her to Burger King to have the french toast sticks there. Instead, I just replied, "French toast is so easy to make."
"Those freezer ones are really convenient."
"Bread, eggs, and milk are convenient."
I will not go into a rant about convenience foods. Because then if I ever am caught using one, which will happen, I will be forced to microwave a frozen crow dinner and eat it. But in general, I am not a fan. When given the option to spend a little extra time to create something that is better for me and tastes a million times better, I'm going to pick that one. I wonder if people just don't know how easy it is to make stuff from scratch.
So today I'm going to do my part to put the frozen french toast makers out of business. It's criminally easy to make the real stuff, and it won't taste like public school food. Make some for your mother.
Take a couple eggs. Beat 'em up. Pour some milk into the eggs and whisk that all together. Throw in some cinnamon or vanilla or nutmeg or whatever you want. Dip a slice of bread in, making sure to coat both sides with the mixture. Put the piece of bread in a frying pan over medium heat and let it grill. Flip it over to get the other side.
There. French toast without a freezer or a microwave or a toaster. Now I'm going to tell you how to make the best french toast ever.
There is a restaurant in Brooklyn which serves french toast that does not need syrup. Think about that for a second. Can you even imagine something that delicious? I think they had secret ingredients in their batter, some magic spice mix. According to the menu, they also used Challah.
So when I came home, I decided to make Challah. This is not a required step in making french toast from scratch. The Amish would say that store-bought bread is a convenience food, but that's something I'm willing to deal with. Baking bread isn't particularly difficult, especially if you have a mixer of some kind, but it's time-consuming. The wee yeasty beasties do all the work, but you have to give them time to do it. You can make it in the bread machine, too, but then it won't be pretty and braided.
Once I had made Challah, I made french toast with it. And I think that New York restaurant is on to something, because using Challah is a big step in french toast improvement. I found Challah to be very absorbent (a feature which makes it great for dipping in soups as well). Maybe it's the same with any fresh homemade bread. Perhaps I should conduct a great french toast experiment, in which I make lots of different kinds of homemade bread and see which yields the best french toast. That sounds like delicious science.
Now that you have your french toast, do not put Mrs. Butterworth's on it. Don't even put real maple syrup on it. Get some fruit syrup. Not fruit-flavored syrup, but stuff that tastes like fruit jam, but is much runnier. You might could even just use jam. Then, pour some cream on top. Whipping cream, half and half, whatever. My British friend taught me that trick, and I'll never go back to syrup.
And that is how I make french toast. Even if you can't get a hold of some Challah, try the fruit and cream trick. And if you can't do that, please just make french toast "from scratch." Don't buy the frozen things. Bread, eggs, and milk are very convenient.
*Stupid, but not unprecedented. There was a lot of renaming going around during the World Wars. One particularly silly one was the renaming of German measles to liberty measles. We're so angry at the Germans that we will refuse to name our diseases after them.