French toast is, for me, the ultimate weekend breakfast. There are two reasons for this:
- The intense nostalgia that French toast makes me feel, since my mom would only make it on weekends, and
- The intense food coma that I experience after eating it (usually some recovery time is involved).
Both of these facts make it certain that French toast is a dish that is not meant for weekday consumption. It’s supposed to be eaten on a lazy Sunday morning, with the promise of a mid-morning nap on the horizon.
When I was little, French toast was my all-time favorite breakfast food, and my mom (whom I affectionately refer to as Betsy) was the ONLY person who knew how to make it right. With coffee brewing and Meet the Press on in the background, Betsy would whip up an eggy batter, soak some bread in it, and fry away. This part sounds standard—it’s what comes next that always blew my mind.
Once the French toast was made and plated, Betsy would melt generous amounts of butter on top, then heap spoonfuls of powdered sugar over the melted butter. The result was a sweet, rich, frosting-like topping that I would lick off my plate after the French toast was gone. In my house, maple syrup could NEVER accompany French toast. Powdered sugar and melted butter was the only way, and anything else would be blasphemy.
I’m still not a huge proponent of putting maple syrup on my French toast, but I have become more open-minded when it comes to toppings. Peanut butter? Yep. Berries? You betcha. Tahini? Of course! Lately, though, my topping of choice is a caramelized banana. It makes a particularly ideal topping because the butter and sugar that caramelize the banana also form a syrup that is perfect for drizzling over the French toast.
For this recipe, I used a loaf of challah that I baked myself (!!). It was my very first time baking bread, but it turned out so well that I knew challah French toast was in my near future. Typically, Betsy would use a plain white bread for her French toast, but every so often, when the stars were perfectly aligned, we would have a loaf of challah on hand and she would use that instead. It’s always my favorite.
You don’t have to bake bread yourself, obviously. Who has time for that on a regular basis? You don’t even have to use challah here, though it does add a certain something. However, I wouldn’t recommend using bread that is flimsy, thinly sliced, or anything with large holes. You want that bread to soak up the batter so that it can achieve a custardy middle and a crispy exterior, to make something so delicious that you need to take a nap afterwards just to recover.
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla paste
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- Pinch of salt
- 4 thick-cut slices of challah bread
- 2 Tbsp. butter or oil, plus more if necessary
- 1 Tbsp. butter
- 1 Tbsp. sugar
- 2 bananas, peeled and sliced in half lengthwise and crosswise
- In a shallow dish or cake pan, combine the eggs, milk, vanilla paste, cinnamon, and salt. Whisk together until combined, making sure no distinct egg whites or yolks remain.
- Place a large skillet, preferably non-stick, over medium-low heat. Place two slices of bread in the egg mixture and soak for one minute. Turn the slices over and soak for another minute.
- While the bread soaks, add the butter or oil to the skillet. When the butter starts to foam (or the oil sizzles when a few drops of water are sprinkled over it), transfer the soaked bread to the skillet. Let the bread cook for a few minutes, then peek under each slice. When the French toast has turned a golden brown color, flip the slices and continue cooking. Remove from the skillet and onto a serving plate when both sides of the bread are golden brown.
- Soak the remaining two slices of bread, one minute per side, and add more butter or oil to the skillet if necessary. Transfer the soaked bread to the skillet and cook as described in Step 3.
- Place a small skillet over medium heat. Combine the butter and sugar in the skillet, stirring, until melted and starting to foam. Add the bananas and spoon the melted butter over them as they cook. Once the bananas are golden brown and caramelized on the bottom, flip each one and simmer until the other side is golden brown, as well.
- Remove from heat. Plate the French toast and spoon the bananas and caramel sauce over the top.