Recipe Review

I Tried Food52’s 4-Ingredient French Toast and Have Some Thoughts

published May 4, 2022
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

We all want easy French toast, right? There is something so appealing about being able to wake up and pull off a delicious plate of tender-crisp French toast with no prep and with whatever might be in the fridge. This is the promise of Food52’s “bell-less, whistle-less, damn good” French toast recipe. There’s no staling bread the night before or measuring sugar and cinnamon precisely before you’ve even had a cup of coffee. 

Despite being skeptical, I was drawn in by the short ingredient list. I’d been taught that good French toast should always have a proper custard of eggs, milk, and sugar and that ground cinnamon was the minimum requirement for flavor. I wish I could say I was wrong. Read on to learn why this minimalist’s dream recipe is one I wouldn’t recommend.  

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

How to Make Food52’s Bell-Less Whistle-less, Damn Good French Toast 

This recipe starts by asking you to cut a loaf of challah bread into “3/4-inch to 1-inch thickness.” I went with the thinner slice because I worried a 1-inch piece would be too thick to cook all the way through. Then you whisk together three large eggs and one cup of heavy cream — no salt, not a pinch of sugar, or dusting of cinnamon. 

After a dip in the egg-cream mixture, the French toast slices are fried in a bit of unsalted butter. The recipe calls for a griddle, if you’ve got it, but a large cast iron skillet worked well enough for me. The finished French toast is served with more butter, if you like, and maple syrup. 

My Honest Review of Food52’s Bell-Less Whistle-less, Damn Good French Toast

What is advertised as a bare-bones recipe actually requires both a loaf of challah bread and a cup of cream — neither of which I expect most home cooks to have on hand at all times. And I love a streamlined recipe, but the instructions for this recipe leave a lot to be desired. I was left wondering if I had soaked the bread slices long enough. Also, the recipe review from the editors and the recipe directions had conflicting information about prepping and cooking the French toast. 

As soon as I sliced the challah I knew that three large eggs was not going to be enough custard mixture for an entire loaf of bread. I got 8 slices from my loaf and the mixture coated 4 slices completely and an additional slice poorly. The egg mixture is too thick to penetrate the bread very well, so the interior of the bread remains bone-dry. In the pan, you end up with eggy “wings” off the bread slices. 

With tons of maple syrup the French toast is fine, passable in fact, but halfway through a single slice you’ll wish for a little more flavor to keep you interested. 

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

If You’re Making Food52’s Bell-Less Whistle-less, Damn Good French Toast, a Few Tips 

  1. Cut the challah thinner. After testing several French toast recipes, 1/2-inch seems the perfect thickness for both soaking up enough custard and cooking evenly while still being quite impressive on the plate. 
  2. Double the egg-cream mixture. With thinner bread slices you’ll want more custard anyway, but doubling this mixture means you’ll actually have enough to soak all the way into the bread’s interior.
  3. Add a little spice! Even if the idea of not-too-sweet French toast appeals to you, adding a little cinnamon, nutmeg, or even orange zest will keep you from getting bored of this recipe as quickly as I did.
  4. Give the bread time to soak. Almost every other French toast recipe I’ve tried has called for a 2- to 3-minute soak (with one even requiring a full 5 minutes!) Letting the slices sit in the egg-cream mixture will give the custard time to absorb, which is particularly essential here because the egg-and-cream mixture is so thick.

Overall rating: 2/10

Have you tried Food52’s Bell-Less Whistle-less, Damn Good French Toast? Let us know in the comments.