Thursday, April 24, 2014

Oven-baked individual French toasts

This past Easter was a bit of a rush job.  We'd just gotten back from a quick road trip to Boston and then dashed off to attend a friend's wedding festivities the day before Easter Sunday.  I didn't have time to plan anything resembling an elaborate Easter breakfast or brunch.  Instead, I tried a little time-saver.  I oven-baked French toast for breakfast.
Skip pan-frying and bake your French toast in the oven
I saw this idea on Martha Bakes.  I particularly like it because we're not talking about a casserole (which generally makes more than we need) but baking individual French toasts so you can make as many or as few as you want.  You skip the time, mess, and calories of pan-frying.  I don't use a ton of oil when I cook my French toast so, for me, the appeal was more in the time-savings.  You put the French toast in the oven and have some free time to prep other things for your breakfast.  In my case, I used the time to make some drinks.
I took out the last two slices of my homemade white bread from the freezer to use for this recipe. Those two mushroom-looking slices you see on the left (photo above) are mine.  I supplemented with other bakery white bread.  Much like those baked eggs-in-a-hole, I really like letting the oven do most of the work.

So, taste.  Here's the thing.  I found that the oven-baked French toast is not as moist and rich as regular French toast.  That shouldn't come as a huge surprise but I better point it out.  You're omitting some fat and while pan-frying on the stove-top quickly seals everything in, the oven tends to dry things out.
It's important to be mindful of the baking time.  The toasts bake in a 375 degree oven for about 10 minutes, then it needs a couple of minutes on broil to give it some color on top.  The timing thing is a lesson I learned; trying to buy a few extra minutes on a busy morning, I left my French toast in the oven a couple minutes longer than I should have so it dried out more than it needed to.  I will certainly be more diligent next time.

So while baking French toast might not be quite as good as frying them, I think that the benefits make it worth the compromise sometimes.  It's certainly easier on the cook!  I'm definitely willing to try this again soon.


In order to bake the French toast slices, you'll need a silpat or silicon baking mat to line your baking sheet with.  While parchment paper would work if you were simply baking these, the paper could burn under the broil function and the toasts need to broil for 2-3 minutes to get some brown on them.
To soak the French toast, I used the custard I usually mix up for our regular French toast.  I don't usually use too much milk in the custard because I like the flavor of the eggs to come through but I find that with this baking method, adding a bit more milk makes sense.
They really don't look quite like French toast until you put them under broil for 2-3 minutes so you can't really skip that step.  30-60 seconds makes the difference between not brown enough and a little too much...another thing I was reminded of on that busy morning!

So don't get too distracted like me, and avoid over-baking.  The recipe online says bake for 12 minutes but going back to the videotape, Martha says 10 minutes on the show and I would definitely stop the baking and move on to broil by then.  Also consider the thickness of your toast.  The baking time guidelines are for about half-inch thick toasts.
Update: (May 2, 2014) I can confirm that keeping a careful eye on the French toasts, and not over-baking, pays off!  The oven-baked French toast "sticks" that I made below for my son's breakfast (so easy I whipped it up on a Friday morning before school) were baked for about 7-8 minutes, then broiled for about 2 minutes.  They turned out far more moist with the reduced baking time.  I'm adjusting the wording/timing a bit in recipe below.



Recipe:

Oven-Baked Individual French Toasts
French toast recipe adapted from Cooking Light; Oven-baking method from Martha Stewart

- Makes four slices - 

2 large eggs
1/4 cup low-fat milk (I use 1%)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Pinch of salt
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 slices of bread, half-inch or just slightly thicker (I used white sandwich bread but you could use more flavorful brioche or challah bread)
For serving (optional): maple syrup, powdered sugar, butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees with a rack positioned in the middle of the oven.  Line a baking sheet with silpat or a non-stick silicon mat (parchment paper could burn when the oven is turned on to broil).

Crack eggs into a shallow rimmed plate.  Lightly beat the eggs with a fork and then gently beat in the milk, sugar, salt, and vanilla extract.

Dip each slice of bread into the mixture (just long enough to soak both sides but without making it too sodden) and transfer to the silpat-lined baking sheet.  Bake until the custard has been absorbed and the toasts are just dry, approximately 8-10 minutes.  Turn oven setting to broil and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until French toasts are lightly golden brown on top.  While baking, keep a close watch on the French toasts and take care not to over-cook in order to avoid drying them out too much.

Serve immediately with maple syrup, and a dusting of powdered (or even granulated) sugar, if desired.


54 comments:

  1. I've never thought to bake french toast, but this looks like a marvelous idea!

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  2. A baked French toast! Though I quite like the richness of a pan fried French toast, I am totally up for anything that goes into the oven. These ones look gorgeous...whoever would have imagined that they are healthier and so much more convenient. I love the fact that you used home made bread to make this..basically you made it from scratch!

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    1. Some people would definitely miss the richness but it's a compromise. The cook likes this method. ; ) It was very gratifying to use my leftover homemade bread. Thank you!

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  3. Hi Monica, what a clever idea and a perfect way to prepare French toast, love the idea of making these healthier.

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    1. I felt the same way. It's definitely healthier and easier...watch the timing more carefully and it won't dry as much as mine did. Glad you like it, Cheri.

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  4. I like when oven does most of the work...your toast are certainly something to try! They look pretty nice to me. Thanks for sharing :) ela@ GrayApron

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    1. Thanks...I'm always interesting in a shortcut since there are so many other things to do.

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  5. Oh yum! These look amazing - I love french toast!

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    1. Thanks, Miriam. Breakfast, especially weekend breakfasts, are the best.

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  6. Didn't know you can bake the French toast! They look super, Monica.

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    1. I hadn't thought of it either, Angie!

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  7. I just love french toast, but have thought to bake it. Sounds delicious! I have a double oven and it never fails every time I put something in the top one, I over brown everything. Thankfully, my husband likes crispy toasted breads :D

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    1. A minute or two makes a difference so you do need to remember it! : ) I am a big fan of extra crispy toasts (my husband, not as much) so I'm actually okay with with a little crispiness...haha

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  8. I love french toast and baking them individually is such a fantastic idea! Totally agree - so much better than a casserole since this makes only as much as you need :) Thanks for pointing out that these won't taste like the pan-fried version, I still can't wait to try this since I think I would enjoy the baked version more while my totally predictable husband would probably like the pan-fried version hehe. They look amazing - especially since you used your home made bread - pinning ;)

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    1. I'm so with you, Kelly! I'm not big on those overnight French toast casseroles but I do love putting things in the oven and having one less big thing to do. My husband, who is not at all concerned with saving calories, prefers the pan-fried even if he is game for anything. Like you, I'll cut back where I can...plus, this is such a time-saver for the cook!

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  9. I looove french toast! It is so cool that these can be made in the oven. No mess and oil everywhere. Trying these for brunch this weekend. :)

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    1. You have me thinking about those deep-fried, stuffed, French toasts at the HK tea shops. This is definitely not that but a nice light, convenient version. I'd love to know how it works out for you if you try it. Just don't over-bake like I did!

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  10. This is great Monica. I actually have french toast on my weekend list - as a Mother's Day post - but I would have never thought to bake the slices. Very cool - and so pretty! Have a great weekend.

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    1. I'm sure your French toast will be beautiful and delicious - can't wait to check it out.

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  11. I can't stand having to stand by the stove and flip constantly, so this sounds perfect to me!! Plus we can't have rich and indulgent french toast every morning...but i would happily eat this oven-baked version daily.

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    1. I wouldn't mind if I wasn't trying to do at least 3 other things at the same time as cooking that French toast. I loved the convenience.

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  12. LOVE this idea! I've done the big french toast casseroles before but never anything like this. I will be trying this one for sure!

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    1. Glad to hear it. Just keep an eye out and don't over-bake like I did. It will definitely be drier but so convenient and good portion control. : )

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  13. I love my oven! Anything I can convert to oven baking, I will do! Sure, it's not always the same but the time saved, the mess by passed, all worth it! These baked French toast look great Monica!

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    1. I can't live without my oven either. And I agree - some things are a compromise. You have to know that it'll be different and different can be perfectly good.

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  14. I really like that you can just make as many as you need and it does seem easier in the oven! I'll have to try this out next time I'm trying to do a million things at once : ) haha I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

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    1. I have a feeling that you're like me and doing a lot at once. But I'm betting you are better at juggling than I am!

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  15. What a great idea to bake the french toasts! My daughter and I are home by ourselves this week, so I might have to make this for us one evening!

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    1. My son didn't seem to notice a difference...then again, his mind is on far more important kid stuff than the food I'm serving! : )

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  16. I love the idea of a baked French toast! I had no idea they could crisp up so beautifully in the oven! I'll be trying this soon for sure. Thanks for sharing, Monica!

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    1. Crisp up, they really do...could go too far and dry out like mine were drier than I wanted...but such a convenience. Just need to mind the time better. : ) Thanks, Georgia.

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  17. Oh, what a brilliant idea to bake French toast in the oven! Who would have said they'd turned ut this wonderfully huh? These need to be my breakfast so soon!
    Hope you have a wonderful weekend! x

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    1. Ready to start the weekend and I want some big breakfasts to go with it! You enjoy the break.

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  18. Oh my gosh, I love this! I just made French toast for the first time the other day -- smitten with the idea of baking it instead. And your mushroom home-baked bread is adorable :)

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    1. haha - thank you for being kind to my mushroom slices. My first attempt at sandwich bread, you see... : ) Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

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  19. Baked french toast? This sounds amazing!

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    1. It's definitely easy and a lighter option to try out. : )

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  20. That is 10 extra minutes you have for the morning rush. Love this idea of baking a delicious French toast. Take Care, BAM

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    1. Yes, 10 or so precious minutes, making it possible to do everything else so I can sit down at the same time with my fellas. : )

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  21. Love that you baked this in the oven! Great idea!

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    1. I like any recipe that's easy and make the oven do most of the work. : )

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  22. I am heading into the kitchen now.

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  23. such a great idea to bake french toast! love it!

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    1. I'm going to do this again soon. Thanks.

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  24. I love the idea of baking the french toast! This looks heavenly!!

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    1. I was smitten with the same idea. It's not as decadent as pan-frying but worth the sacrifice, I think.

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  25. Looks delicious! I love baking French Toast in the oven. It never seems to get soggy that way!

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    1. True! First time I ever baked French toast individually like this and I'm looking forward to trying again soon.

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  26. Baked French Toast? That sounds wonderful! It's a lot faster than making one by one on stove, or even with my electric griddle pan. And it looks perfectly made too!

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    1. Kind of wild, right? I hope you try it one day...

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  27. totally dig this idea, for the same reasons you mentioned: normal baked french toast casseroles yield FAR too much (unless you routinely have 20 people over for breakfast) and skillet french toast, while delicious, means i'm in the kitchen making rounds of french toast and not getting to eat with everyone else. this seems like the perfect way to handle it.

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    1. You just cannot beat the convenience. it's worth paying closer attention to the oven and staying close not to have to fry.

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