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America’s Test Kitchen French Toast with Challah

America's Test Kitchen French ToastA Trader Joe’s expert just took me on a tour of the store, showing me her favorites. She showed me the best deals and gave tips on what to buy elsewhere for budget sake. One of the most memorable parts of the trip was finding the challah bread. I’ve been searching for challah for some time, because America’s Test Kitchen recommends using this “egg-rich yeast-leavened braided bread” for their french toast. But I haven’t been able to find it anywhere, even at local bakeries. I had never heard it pronounced before. Right there in the bread aisle, I loudly proclaimed, “They have CHallah!” Said expert laughed while correcting my pronunciation, “It’s hallah. Like holla.” Then she “raised the roof.” What a weirdo! FYI: The proper pronunciation is “hallah,” like so, or “kallah,” like so.

America’s Test Kitchen has a standard recipe for French Toast which is “crispy on the outside and soft and puffy inside, with a rich, custard-like flavor.” I do not like eggy french toast. To solve this common problem, ATK uses only egg yolks in the dipping batter. Apparently the “eggy” flavor comes primarily from the egg white, because the sulfur compounds are mostly in the whites. (This is why I LOVE ATK; I always learn something new!)

This French toast was delicious and worth the effort. I’m eager to try the Almond-Crusted French Toast version found here. Instructions are included below. Hmmm….Easter Brunch anyone? Challah!

America’s Test Kitchen French Toast (variation: Almond Crusted version)

Page 521, The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2001-2013

For best results, choose a good challah or a firm, high-quality sandwich bread, such as Arnold Country Classics White or Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse Hearty White. Thomas’ English Muffin Toasting Bread also works well. If you purchase an unsliced loaf, cut the bread into 1/2-inch-thick slices. To prevent the butter from clumping during mixing, warm the milk in a microwave or small saucepan until warm to the touch (about 80 degrees). The French toast can be cooked all at once on an electric griddle, but may take an extra 2 to 3 minutes per side. Set the griddle temperature to 350 degrees and use the entire amount of butter for cooking.

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 large slices good-quality challah or hearty white sandwich bread (see note above)
  • 1-1/2 cups whole milk, warmed (see note above, I used 2%)
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus 2 tablespoons for cooking
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Maple syrup

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Place bread on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet. Bake bread until almost dry throughout (center should remain slightly moist), about 16 minutes, flipping slices halfway through cooking. Remove bread from rack and let cool 5 minutes. Return baking sheet with wire rack to oven and reduce temperature to 200 degrees.
  2. Whisk warmed milk, yolks, sugar, cinnamon, 2 tablespoons melted butter, salt, vanilla in large bowl until well blended. Transfer mixture to 13- by 9-inch baking pan.
  3. Soak bread in milk mixture until saturated but not falling apart, 20 seconds per side. Using firm slotted spatula, pick up bread slice and allow excess milk mixture to drip off; repeat with remaining slices. Place soaked bread on another baking sheet or platter.
  4. Heat ½ tablespoon butter in 12-inch skillet over medium-low heat. When foaming subsides, use slotted spatula to transfer 2 slices soaked bread to skillet, and cook until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and continue to cook until second side is golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes longer. (If toast is cooking too quickly, reduce temperature slightly.) Transfer to baking sheet in oven. Wipe out skillet with paper towels. Repeat cooking with remaining bread, 2 pieces at a time, adding ½ tablespoon of butter for each batch. Serve warm, passing maple syrup separately.

For Almond Encrusted French Toast (Published on January 1, 2009. From Cook’s Illustrated.)

  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Triple Sec
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest

Begin by processing ½ cup slivered almonds and 1 tablespoon light brown sugar in food processor until coarsely ground, 12 to 15 one-second pulses (you should have about ½ cup crumbs). In step 2, add Triple Sec, and orange zest to the milk mixture. In step 3, sprinkle 1 tablespoon nut mixture over one side of each slice of soaked bread. Cook as directed in step 4, cooking nut-mixture side first.

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