Introduction: Panini Press French Toast

French toast is one of my favorites, helps make a bad day just a little bit better for me. A local breakfast restaurant I used to frequent served french toast with a crust of corn flakes or Frosted Flakes. It added an interesting crunch that I haven't seen elsewhere. You can of course leave the cereal out.

I formerly used plain sandwich bread until I discovered how much Brioche or Challah breads improved the texture. Both breads also have a richer flavor compared to plain sandwich bread. I have also tried a cinnamon pullman style bread from the local bakery with good results.

This uses a panini press, but a George Foreman style grill would probably work. You could also use a non-stick pan or a flat griddle instead. The panini press cooks both sides of 3-4 pieces simultaneously making quick work out a loaf.

1 pound loaf of Brioche or Challah bread cut into 1" slices (about 12 slices)
9 Large Eggs
1/2 cup Half & Half
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of ground nutmeg (Optional)
1 cup Frosted Flakes lightly crushed (Optional)
Syrup for serving (Maple or otherwise)
Powdered sugar (Optional)
Butter for serving

Panini press, George Foreman style grill, flat griddle or non-stick pan
Cooling rack
Mixing bowl
Measuring spoons
Measuring cups

Step 1: Drying the Bread

I dried the bread since it always seems to disintegrate when it is fresh. America's Test Kitchen suggested leaving bread out overnight in their recipe. Drying in the oven seems to accomplish the same task, and it allows me to make it on a whim.

Preheat the oven to 175°F (80°C).

Spread the bread out on a cooling rack. Place the rack in the oven and allow it to dry for about 15 minutes. The exterior will be a little dry. Remove the bread and allow it to cool on the counter for a few minutes.

Step 2: Preparing the Custard

Preheat the Panini press to medium heat.

  • My probe thermometer says it was about 350-375°F (175-190°C) on a Villaware press set to "4".
  • I set my griddle to medium in the front and low in the back for two zone heat. A bead of water on the front half boils away but doesn't skitter around.

Whisk the eggs together in a medium to large bowl. Whisk in the half & half, salt, sugar, extracts, cinnamon and nutmeg.

I transferred the custard to a wide soup bowl to dip the bread into.

Step 3: Dipping the Bread

Dunk the bread into the custard for about 5-10 seconds, flip the bread over and repeat. The custard will permeate the bread leaving it rather soft but not disintegrating.

Optionally dip into lightly crushed Frosted Flake or Corn Flakes cereal. Gently shake off any cereal that is about to fall off.

Step 4: Cooking

Panini Press: Place the bread on the press and gently close the lid.

Griddle: Place the bread on the front half of the griddle.

Step 5: Checking the Progress and Rotating the Bread

Panini Press: Cook for about 1 1/2 minutes. Flip over the pieces as the custard kind of seeps into the groves. I also rotated the pieces 90° to make a nice little crosshatch pattern to grab butter.

Griddle: About 2 - 2 1/2 minutes for the first side since there wasn't heat on both sides.

Step 6: Finishing the Toasts

Cook for another 2 - 2 1/2 minutes until the bread is firm and shows little if any signs of raw egg.

Remove the pieces to a cooling rack in an oven set to 175°F (80°C) to hold them while working on the remaining bread.

In either case there should not be obvious signs of raw egg inside. The outside are golden brown.

Step 7: Serving

Serve with soft butter and syrup, powdered sugar if that's your thing or whatever else you feel is appropriate.

Step 8: Freezing Extra Toast for Later (Optional)

Place the bread in the freezer for a few hours to freeze. They will probably not freeze solid unless you have an exceptionally cold freezer. Using a metal pan is optional but it will remove heat from the toast faster.

Place the toasts into a vacuum sealing bag or a zip style bag. Remove as much air as possible with a machine or a straw and seal. You want the plastic tight to the toast to reduce freezer burn. Moisture sublimates into the air in the bag which produces the freezer burn effect. Reduced air volume will help avoid this.

  • The toast was freezer burnt within two days when I didn't even attempt to remove the air in a regular zip bag.
  • Sucking the air out of the zipper bag then sealing worked much better.
  • Vacuum sealing the bag with a machine worked best. There was no sign of freezer burn after two weeks.

To reheat from frozen:

  • Remove from the bag.
  • Place in the microwave and zap it for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes to reheat, flip over about half way.
    My microwave is 1100 Watts, adjust the time if necessary.