No matter which way you slice it, the key to a winning plate of French toast or a pan of bread pudding is the type of bread used to make these irresistible dishes. It's the main ingredient, so here's the inside scoop on what you need to know.
What Makes These Breads the Best?
There are a few expectations from the bread when it comes to French toast and bread pudding. In order to meet those, you have to pick the right bread for the job. Here are a few of the qualities we consider — all of which you'll find in the selection of breads below.
- It's available by the loaf: You want the ability to cube or slice bread to the dimensions of your preference. That means unsliced bread is the way to go.
- They're sturdy: Both French toast and bread pudding require a soak in an egg and milk mixture to create the custardy final product. If the bread is thinly sliced or of too fine a crumb (aka squishy like Wonder Bread), it can fall apart during the cooking process.
- It should taste good! Of course, much of the flavor in either of these final dishes comes from the seasoning of the custard mixture and mix-ins, but the bread should taste good too. Enriched breads like challah and brioche are particular favorites since they come with pronounced eggy flavor.
Brioche is arguably the most classic choice when it comes to French toast and bread pudding. Think of it as a richer version of sandwich bread, made with butter and egg. It has a sturdy, plush crumb that allows it to hold its shape after soaking up the custard, and cooks into a finished dish with a crisped outside and a soft, creamy inside. Buy it by the loaf – never sliced — so you can cut slices that are as thick as you want them.
Get a recipe: How To Make Brioche
Like ultra-buttery brioche, challah (which typically doesn't contain dairy products) makes a wonderful foundation for bread pudding and French toast. This is an eggy bread that can soak up custard without collapsing. It toasts nicely on the outside, and leaves you with the creamy insides you'd expect from these dishes.
Get a recipe: How To Make Challah Bread
3. Pullman Loaf
Pullman loaf, also referred to as sandwich bread or pan bread, has a tender, but still tight-packed crumb that delivers a solid French toast and bread pudding. Because it isn't as dense as brioche and challah, the results are a bit less creamy, although no less delicious. You usually don't have to soak this bread in the egg and milk mixture, so watch it carefully and pull it from soaking before it disintegrates. Do steer clear of pre-sliced bread since the thin slices don't hold up well.
Get a recipe: How To Make Basic White Sandwich Bread
4. French Bread
One more reason to save that leftover baguette from last night's dinner. Think of a French bread as your wild-card choice. Cut on a diagonal for larger slices, this firm-crusted bread has no problem soaking up custard and staying sturdy. Unlike brioche, challah, and sandwich bread, a baguette makes a French toast and bread pudding with more of a chewy bite. Let it soak extra long in the egg and milk mixture to make sure it's thoroughly softened.
Get a recipe: How To Make a French Baguette at Home