Breakfast for Dinner…or a Shameless Play for Positive Reinforcement

Every once in a while, I need a break from the constant dinnertime battle with my picky eaters. I can only bribe, cajole, and bargain for so long before my urge to run screaming from the kitchen becomes less fantasy and more reality. When that time comes, I break out the big guns and make French toast. Since my picky eaters are by definition, picky about everything, I went through quite a period of trial and error to find a method that did not leave the toast too soggy, too toasty, or too egg-y (and yes, I know egg-y is not a word). Here’s how I do it:

First, the ingredients. You’ll need:

  • 2 loaves of French Bread
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (the good stuff…imitation is for sissies)
  • 2 cups milk
  • Vegetable oil AND butter/margarine for cooking

When making French toast, it’s best to use bread that is slightly stale and dry; fresh, soft bread will turn into a soggy mess of mush. Mushy bread = long-suffering sighs that will only land someone in a timeout. The easiest way to get your bread to evenly stale/dry is to slice it into ¾ to 1-inch slices, and leave it out and uncovered for several hours:

Or, if you are a poor-planning, last-minute mess like me, you can always cheat! Mwa-ha-ha! To quickly stale up that pesky fresh bread, toss the slices into a 200 degree oven for 10 minutes, turning once halfway through (during which time you may or may not fix yourself a cocktail):

Ta da! Just remember, you don’t want your bread to be hockey pucks, just kind of dry. Now it’s time to focus on batter. In a medium bowl, crack the eggs:

And beat them into submission with a whisk, while picturing whoever-ticked-you-off-today’s face:

Feel better? I know I sure do. Anyway, add the sugar, cinnamon and vanilla:

And whisk until thoroughly blended:

Finally, whisk in the milk until well-combined:

Now that both the bread and batter are ready to go, let’s focus on the cooking process. To get started, heat up your largest nonstick skillet or pan on medium-high heat. To cook the French toast, you are going to pan-fry it in a combination of vegetable oil and butter. Why? Well, ideally you want the happy flavor that butter gives, but the heat in the pan will be high enough to burn both the butter and the bread before the toast gets cooked through; if you try to lower the heat too much to accommodate the finicky butter, the bread will not cook properly, and end up greasy and soggy. By using a combination of oil and butter, you’ll get the taste and browning you want, because the added oil raises the temperature that the butter can be heated to without burning. I don’t have exact measurements for this part, because you just have to eyeball it based on the size of your pan. When I cook French toast, I look at my non-stick skillet, and estimate that a couple of tablespoons of oil will just about coat the bottom of the skillet if I were to swish it around:

(That picture is pre-swish, by the way). Next, I add about a tablespoon or so of butter:

Bear in mind that the oil/butter measurements are based on the size of my pan. You only want enough so that the bottom of your pan will be well-coated; you don’t want a half-inch deep pool! Once you add the butter to the hot pan, it will probably start to bubble and spit violently, as seen below. Just lift the pan off the heat for a second, swish it around till the butter melts into the oil, and return the pan to the heat…basically, you’re telling it to take a chill-pill:

Now, it’s officially time to cook. Working quickly, dip each slice of bread into the batter mixture and immediately plop it in the skillet. Only dip as much bread as will fit into the skillet for this batch. The key here is a quick dip! Don’t send the bread scuba-diving in the batter, or it will end up being too soggy to cook through. A quick dunk and drop will do, one piece at a time:

After a couple of minutes, check the underside to see how things are going. Even with the butter/oil trick, the toast can burn easily if ignored too long. It’s no big deal…it just means that you probably do not want to try this recipe and give yourself a pedicure at the same time. Once the toast is browned to your liking, give it a flip:

Continue to cook until the other side is satisfactorily browned as well, anywhere from two to five minutes. Transfer the cooked French toast to a baking sheet, and pop it into a 200 degree oven to keep warm while you finish cooking the rest of the bread slices. Remember, that between each batch, you will have to add more oil and butter to the pan as described above. The two loaves of bread I used required about five to six batches in order to get all the slices cooked:

Serve this up with some warm syrup, a dusting of powdered sugar if you really want to be excessive, and maybe some bacon or sausage if you are extra ambitious.

And that’s how I get a “You’re the BEST MOM EVER,” on a Tuesday night. Positively Machiavellian, I know.

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