Provincial Mornings (a post by Josh): Overnight French Toast

I found my new recipe for french toast. I found it after a long night, some mindless egg beating and an emotional conversation, but I think this time, the ends justify my means. Around 11 at night, I got a phone call:

“Hey. Um, when are you – going home?”

“When do you need me there?”

“Don’t rush. No. I’m fine.”

Around 11:10pm, I was home.

Around 1:30am, I was in bed.

What transpired from pm to am included a few venting tears, a bunch of hugs, and my resolution to do what I could to be there for her. What I leaned on was food, obviously. I mean, whenever I get down, I need there to be quick food so I don’t have to think about my next meal. That’s not exactly true, I’m quite the opposite, but I imagine others feel like that. At least, that’s how my friend felt.

She went to bed around 12:20am, and I found myself searching hard copy cook books and Epicurious for breakfasts that soothe my soul with hearty warmth. Pancakes stuffed with honeyed ricotta, waffles loaded with cherries and cardamom, omelets from the southwest – these were all recipes I tried to adapt for my friend.

But let’s be honest, it was the new morning slash late night and I had work the next day. That’s not to say that the culinary effort for my friend wasn’t worth it, but more than five hours of sleep seemed a worthy reason for taking the gourmet factor down a notch. So I fell back on my provincial friend – french toast. I remembered two things first – stale bread works best and dipping eggs are best with milk.

“French Toast” turns up about two hundred and one times on Epicurious, but I seemed to find my perfect recipe on the first page. Always, I’d cooked my french toast on the stove top, buttering a cast iron skillet, adding vanilla, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg to a milky egg. And that’s exactly why I clicked on “Overnight French Toast.” I had never spent more than twenty minutes, let alone overnight, on French Toast.

Around 12:40am, I found myself beating eggs, vanilla, and melted butter together in the only illuminated room in my house, almost too anxious to wait until the morning. That’s really my problem with cooking – be it dough, bread, cake, I always want it to be done about twenty minutes (or in this case six hours) earlier than possible. But, I firmly placed all my ingredients in a pan and into the fridge to sit overnight. And I sat overnight, waiting. Lying down, really, but I tried for the literary angle anyway.

I think it was 7:30am when I got up and 7:50am when she got up. By 8am she was raving about my surprise.

To finish the dish, all I had to do was place the soaked bread on a baking sheet and let them sit in a 350 degree oven for eight minutes on one side, four minutes on the other. Before the sauna, I added some brown sugar to the sides to get a caramelized crust, and the results were “de-LISH.” What came out of the oven were sweet, lofting, buttery smells and three pieces of baked, crispy like Crème Brule on the outside, moist like a fresh loaf of bread on the inside, all topped with fig compote. Filling, warm, and soothing all came to mind as we cracked the outside, lifted fork to mouth, and melted with the butter at the combination of warm spices, hot bread, and comfortable breakfast.

Overnight French Toast
Adapted from Bon Appétit, July 1992.  Makes 6 servings.

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, room temperature
12 3/4-inch-thick French bread slices
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt

Spread butter over the bottom of a heavy, large baking pan with 1-inch-high sides. Arrange bread slices in pan. Beat eggs, milk, sugar, syrup, vanilla and salt to blend in large bowl. Pour mixture over bread. Turn bread slices to coat. Cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Bake french bread for 10 minutes. Turn bread over and continue baking until just golden, about 4 minutes longer. Transfer cooked toast to plates and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve immediately.



  1. kate says:

    This is how my mom makes french toast — it used to be a treat for our birthdays before school because it didn’t take as much morning prep time as pancakes do. So delicious.

  2. sophie says:

    love the last line– melting with the butter. and now my stomach is growling

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