What could be simpler? A few eggs, some old bread, and maple syrup — voila! Yes, French toast. This morning stalwart most likely got its name from the French dish pain perdu — “lost bread” — a poetic way to say “stale bread.” And slightly stale bread is one of the keys to good French toast: a crunchy exterior, with light and airy insides. Essentially, it’s bread soaked in custard and pan-fried — perhaps it was the precursor to bread pudding.
We experimented with loads of different breads and soaking times and found that the following recipe makes exquisite French toast that won’t chain you to the stove. Country-style sandwich bread works well (we used Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse “Country White”) — but brioche or challah bread (sliced 3/4-inch thick) put us over the moon. Lay fresh slices on the racks of your unheated oven overnight, and by morning they’ll be ready and waiting for their big dip.