Every family has it’s food traditions and Christmas morning always meant sourdough french toast for me.
My sister and I always did Christmas morning at our dad’s and the afternoon with our mom. We would wake up early (ok, I, being the baby of the family, would wake up early and pester my sister until she woke up – she did institute a “not until 6 am rule” though). We would go downstairs to open our stockings and wait for Dad. Then we would open our Christmas presents after which my dad would make french toast and bacon. Drinks were fresh squeezed orange juice for the kids and mimosas for the grown ups. This meal is ingrained in my soul and while I, as a full fledged grownup, freely make french toast any time of year now, it always brings back the feelings of warmth and family camaraderie.
I always aim for a chewier bread, like a naturally leavened crusty bread. Growing up that always always meant sourdough and the sour tang goes oh so perfectly with french toast. But it’s harder to find sourdough around here and it’s not everyone’s flavor preference. I was watching a cooking challenge TV show a while back and a contestant was making french toast. One of the judges questioned how the contestant was going to pull off french toast without giving the bread time to get stale overnight. I was all, “Whaaa???” Apparently this is a thing if you’re using softer, sandwichy kinds of bread. I had no idea. Crusty, chewy bread fresh from the baker works perfectly without any of this night-before prep nonsense.
I love that this is a simple breakfast to make and my daughter, Maia, can help. I break the eggs, she pours them into the bowl. I pour in the cream and add the cinnamon, she whisks it all together. I soak and cook the bread and she waits (im)patiently for it to be ready. There really isn’t a recipe, per se, for this because my dad never works with recipes. Or maybe he did once, but then it became his own thing with no written recipe (like his eggnog – I’m totally going to have to write about that one of these days). So here are the guidelines:
2 slices of crusty, chewy bread (perferably sourdough) per person
1 egg per person
a splash or more of cream (milk is fine)
1 pinch to 1 tsp of cinnamon
butter for the pan
Melt the butter in a large pan over medium heat and let brown slightly. Crack the eggs into a large bowl (something with a wide bottom is easiest) add the cream and cinnamon and whisk everything together. Soak the bread in the egg mixture for 1-5 minutes, making sure to thoroughly coat the bread. Cook the soaked bread until golden in the buttered pan, flipping once. Soak and cook the bread in batches (soaking the next batch while the earlier batch cooks) until it is all ready to go. You can re-butter the pan between batches, if you like, but it isn’t necessary. The egg in the toast will naturally separate from the hot pan when it is cooked. Serve the toast with maple syrup, lemon curd, peanut butter, jam or whatever suits your fancy. Or put it all on the table and let everyone do their thang.
OH! I almost forgot my “mom variation” (“mom” as in me, not my mother – my mom doesn’t cook). Cut the crusty bread into cubes instead of slices and toss in the egg mixture. Then cook the whole thing together in the pan (as long as it all fits in one layer in the pan – don’t overcrowd). All the “french toast bites” cook at once, so there is less impatient child waiting happening. And bites are so much fun. The only thing you have to be mindful of with this variation is not over mixing the bites in the pan. You want to turn them a few times to cook all sides of each bite, but you don’t want stir it all and have the bread fall apart and/or stick to the bottom of the pan. So aim for the same sort of flipping that you would do with regular french toast slices.