Recipe Review

The Problem with Ina Garten’s Challah French Toast

published May 5, 2022
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

When I think of easy luxury, both French toast and Ina Garten come to mind. After all, Ina is the patron saint of using the good vanilla extract for the most basic of recipes. French toast can be basic — it really only requires bread, milk, eggs, and some sugar — but it is also reserved for leisurely mornings at home. 

As I searched for contenders for this French toast showdown, a deep Reddit thread on the subject of French toast implored me to try Ina’s recipe for classic challah French toast. It had all the right ingredients — challah, eggs, orange zest, and some good honey — and simple enough instructions. I was excited about this recipe becoming a staple recipe for my Saturday mornings. Here’s what happened when I tried Ina Garten’s challah French toast recipe at home. 

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk; Headshot: Getty Images

How to Make Ina Garten’s Challah French Toast 

Ina’s French toast recipe starts with thick slices of challah or brioche bread. Thankfully there’s no need to start with stale bread or toast it before you begin cooking. The custard mixture for dipping the bread includes 6 extra-large eggs, half-and-half, “good” honey, orange zest, and vanilla extract. Those ingredients are all mixed up in a large, shallow bowl. 

The challah slices (as many will fit) are soaked in the mixture for a full 5 minutes. While the bread slices soak, a large skillet (I used cast iron) is heated and both butter and oil are added. After cooking, Ina recommends serving the French toast with “good” raspberry preserves, powdered sugar, and maple syrup. 

My Honest Review of Ina Garten’s Challah French Toast 

Without any granulated sugar to break up the eggs in whisking, Ina’s custard mixture ends up inconsistent even with lots and lots of mixing. The large, shallow bowl makes for an awkward soak — corners of the bread don’t get covered with the egg mixture, leaving some spots dry. The honey isn’t enough of a sweetener to aid browning, either (you really need sugar for that). Overall, the finished French toast is spotty — bits of egg whites don’t soak in and the slices look quite pale. 

The combination of butter and oil is nice for getting a tender-crisp exterior on the bread without any burned butter bits. I was also surprised by how well the orange zest came through in each bite — even after adding the powdered sugar, preserves, and syrup for serving. 

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

If You’re Making Ina Garten’s Challah French Toast, a Few Tips 

1. Whisk the eggs alone first. Before you make the rest of the custard, whisk the eggs alone until they are homogeneous. This will keep you from having spots of egg whites on the outside of the finished French toast. 

2. Use a large baking dish instead of a bowl for soaking. Move the custard mixture to a large casserole dish for soaking the bread slices. With plenty of room and a nice flat surface, the bread will be more evenly saturated. 

3. Pile on the powdered sugar, but skip the preserves. Because Ina’s recipe calls for honey as the main sweetener in the custard, the finished French toast is quite savory on its own. The powdered sugar helps sweeten it just a bit more without drowning it in syrup. The preserves are nice but definitely aren’t required and can mask the wonderful flavor and aroma of the lemon zest. 

Overall rating: 4/10

Have you tried Ina Garten’s challah French toast? Let us know in the comments.