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Leftover Bread

Irma R., a novice home cook, turns to F&W's Tina Ujlaki with her kitchen questions. This month, the topic is bread: how to keep French toast from getting soggy and good uses for stale loaves.

Question

Dear Tina,

I love to make challah French toast, but sometimes it's perfect and other times it turns out mushy. How can I prevent that infernal sogginess?

Yours gratefully, Irma

Answer

Dear Irma,

A soggy center can be caused by one of three things: You haven't used enough eggs in the custard mixture (for six 3/4-inch-thick slices of bread, you want 3 to 4 eggs and 1 cup of milk); you've undercooked your slices; or your bread is too fresh. Assuming that you're always using the same recipe, the culprit seems to be reason number three. French toast should be fluffy and light—but if the bread's very fresh and moist before cooking, the interior will remain custardy-soft. One- or two-day-old bread is a better bet. Don't let it get completely dried out though, or it will disintegrate. Brioche, cinnamon-raisin bread or a white loaf from a bakery all make delicious French toast too. In a pinch, you can use a sliced supermarket loaf—but don't let the pieces stand for too long after dipping in the custard mixture or they'll fall apart. Here's the recipe I use at home.

Best, Tina

Question

Dear Tina,

I always have bits of bread that are too stale for sandwiches, but I hate to toss anything out. Suggestions?

Yours faithfully, Irma

Answer

Dear Irma,

My first inclination is always to make croutons. They're great for tossing with salads, topping soups and egg dishes or crushing up and sprinkling on pastas, cooked vegetables and grilled chicken, beef or fish. And you can make them from any bread. Here's my method.

Best, Tina

Published March 2003
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