Recipe: Best-Ever Challah French Toast

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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Growing up, challah French toast was the only French toast I knew. We would slather softened butter over thick slices of fresh challah on Friday night for Shabbat, and my dad would use the rest of the loaf to make mile-high stacks of French toast the next morning, dusted with powdered sugar and doused with syrup. (Eventually, we just started buying two loaves of challah, for fear we wouldn’t have enough left over).

It wasn’t until a diner served me French toast made with a piece of limp wheat sandwich bread that I realized how spoiled I had been. French toast should be fluffy and custardy with a crispy exterior, spiked with cinnamon and vanilla and sweet maple syrup — not any old end piece of soft bread fried in butter.

Trust me, once you’ve had challah French toast, you’ll realize there’s no other way to eat it. Here’s my recipe for the best-ever version.

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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

3 Steps for the Absolute Best Challah French Toast

1. Cut thick slices of bread, then dry them out in the oven. Start with the prettiest, shiniest, plumpest loaf of challah you can find. Nowadays, you can find one-pound loaves of challah at most grocery stores, but your local bakery likely sells them too, especially towards the end of the week in preparation for Shabbat. Buy it whole and slice it yourself into one-inch slices. The thicker the slice, the more custard it can soak in, creating a more satisfying contrast between the crispy outside and the creamy, custardy center.

Then, you’ll dry out the bread in a 300°F oven, which ensures your French toast is soft and fluffy and pillowy, but not soggy.

2. Use full-fat dairy for the very best custard. Save your skim milk for your waffle batter and opt for either whole milk, heavy cream, or a combination of the two for the richest custard for your French toast. I also like to flavor the custard with a substantial amount of vanilla extract, a good dash of cinnamon, and a bit of maple syrup, which adds flavor without making it overly sweet. Plus, you’re likely to drizzle some more on top, so you might as well sweeten the bread with the same stuff.

3. Fry the French toast in butter, not oil. You’ll notice a lot of French toast recipes call for a mixture of butter and oil to fry the bread, which is thought to prevent the butter from burning. But as long as you keep a close eye on it, I find using all butter produces a more flavorful French toast, and it’s one less ingredient you need for this recipe.

More French Toast Recipes

107 Ratings

Challah French Toast

Serves4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 1 (1-pound) loaf

    challah bread, cut into 1-inch-thick slices (10 to 12 slices)

  • 1 1/2 cups

    whole milk, heavy cream, or a combination of the two

  • 6

    large eggs

  • 2 tablespoons

    maple syrup, plus more for serving

  • 1 tablespoon

    vanilla extract

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    salt

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

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Instructions

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 300°F.

  2. Fit a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet. Place the bread in a single layer on the rack. Bake, flipping halfway through, until dry to the touch on both sides, about 15 minutes total. Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes. Meanwhile, make the custard.

  3. Place the milk or cream, eggs, maple syrup, vanilla, and cinnamon in a quart-sized liquid measuring cup or medium bowl. Whisk until fully combined (no streaks of egg remaining). Pour into a 9x13-inch baking dish.

  4. Add as many slices of challah as can fit in a single layer. Soak, flipping once, until drenched but not falling apart, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Return to wire rack (letting excess drip off into baking sheet) and repeat with remaining challah slices.

  5. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. When the foaming subsides and the butter is sizzling but not brown, add 4 soaked challah slices. Cook until the bottoms are golden-brown and crispy, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and cook until the second side is browned, about 3 minutes more. Add remaining 1 tablespoon butter to the pan in between batches, swirling as it melts to ensure it doesn’t burn. Serve warm with more maple syrup.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

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