The French toast was really special because it was crispy. I've had good French Toast elsewhere but the crispy part was always missing.
After the Hilton Hotel was torn down, I had no idea where their chefs went, so that was the end of crispy Hilton Hotel French Toast. And the beginning of homemade French Toast.
When I first made French Toast, it was bland, it shrank after it was fried, and it just wasn't crispy.
Over the years, I've tweaked the recipe many times. I started with just eggs, sugar, milk, vanilla extract and bread. Now, cream cheese is a key ingredient. It keeps the texture creamy and "custardy", and stops the bread from shriveling after it's cooked – provided the bread isn't oversoaked. It also adds depth to the flavor, which is enhanced with a splash of dark rum. Most importantly, it's crispy with a sprinkling of sugar caramelized under the grill. And it's not oily because it's not fried.
I now have the perfect French Toast for a weekend breakfast or even dessert. Yay!
(Recipe for 2 persons)
4 slices stale sandwich bread, thick-cut (I use Gardenia brand's Junior White)
regular-cut sandwich bread would turn soggy and not make good French toast2 eggs
40 ml milk
20 g cream cheese
1 tbsp fine sugar
1 tbsp dark rum
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp butter at room temperature
1 tbsp fine sugar (for sprinkling)
Depending on the type of bread used, the amount of egg mixture and soaking time required may vary. Please adjust as necessary. For dense bread, a few slits in the middle and a regular rather than thick-cut would help speed things along. The bread should be thoroughly saturated with the eggy liquid without turning soggy. If necessary, cut the bread in the middle and check.
If possible, make egg mixture the night before so that flavors have time to mingle and develop. Stale bread is essential; fresh bread turns soggy and shrinks after it's grilled. Let some butter come to room temperature before starting to cook.
When you're ready to make toast, preheat grill to 230°C, and line grill tray with parchment paper.
Put cream cheese and sugar in a bowl and beat till smooth. Add dark rum, vanilla extract and milk in stages, beating till smooth after each addition. Add eggs one at a time and – you guessed it – beat till smooth.
Remove bread crust. Do it by hand if you have time; jagged edges turn really crispy. Cut each slice into four pieces. Soak bread thoroughly in egg mixture, turning over half-way so that both sides are evenly saturated. Do not let bread get soggy.
Place bread on grill tray. Dot each piece with butter – just a bit, not too much. (You could put butter on a knife, then push small blobs onto bread with a tapered chopstick. Or, if you're making a lot of toast, make a small piping cone with parchment paper, then use it to pipe the butter. Third option: Keep butter chilled and hard, then shave with a vegetable peeler directly onto bread.) Sprinkle bread with sugar, right up to the edges.
Grill with the door closed till bread is golden brown or even slightly burnt, then repeat butter-sugar-grill procedure for the other side.
Enjoy French Toast piping hot with its best buddy, maple syrup. Or drizzle with melted butter and honey and serve it as dessert. How about a light coat of icing sugar, some fresh fruits and cream or ice cream? I'm sure that'll win you lots of 'Ooh!' and 'Aah!'