French Toast has always been one of my favorite sweet breakfast dishes. With the abundance of summer berries, a fruit compote is the perfect way to top it off. This French toast with berry compote recipe has all the tips and tricks to help get yours perfect each time!
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As with many dishes with "French" in the name (*cough* French Fries *cough*) the French Toast isn't actually French. In fact, a version of it has existed before the founding of France. It gets its name from a man called Joseph French from Albany, New York - talk about a surprise!
But I won't bore you with more historic details. Instead, I'll share answers to questions about making French toast or berry compote - ingredients to use, how to cook, and how to troubleshoot.
📋 Ingredients & tips
You'll need fluffy but dry bread. You'll dip this into a custard made with eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. For the berry compote, you'll need mixed berries and sugar. But the devil is in the details!
🍞 Bread: The bread makes a huge difference for a good French Toast. I prefer to use brioche but Challah, Pullman loaves or sourdough all work well. Challah also has the added advantage of usually being lactose free. But if you can't find those in a pinch, here are two things to watch out for:
- Pick a dry bread. Dry bread helps soak the slice in custard without having it fall apart. You want the outside dry but the inside moist. I'll sometimes cut the slices the night before (meal prep, anyone?!) and leave them out on a sheet pan overnight. Occasionally, when I'm running out of time, I'll just lightly toast them.
- Go for something thick, fluffy and sturdy. If the bread is too thin, it'll fall apart, and if it's too thick, the center won't cook.
👩🏽🍳 Making perfect French toast
Over the years, I've had many run-ins with French toast gone awry. Here are some common mistakes (and tips and tricks to avoid them).
Make the perfect custard for dipping your bread. Mix your custard well and be careful not to add too much milk. I first whisk my eggs in a tall water glass with a fork (trust me, it works so well!) Then I whisk that with milk and spices in a shallow dish to mix well. If you add too much milk, the eggs won't cook through. If you don't mix well, you might end up getting egg whites on the French toast. We don't want either of those!
Soak the bread for a few minutes if you can. When I'm in a rush, I toss the bread in the mixture, and throw it on the pan. You can do absolutely that (and it'll still pretty good). But for a perfect, lip smacking French toast, I toast the bread lightly (about a minute) and then soak my bread slices in the custard for no more than 5 minutes (flipping half way in between). This helps the bread soak up the custard. It also makes for the type of French toast you get at your favorite brunch spot in town.
Use medium heat and preheat the pan. I love using a cast iron skillet, and I preheat the pan before I drop the slices in. There's sugar in the custard, so you don't want to burn it. If the pan is not hot enough, the custard will seep out because it doesn't start cooking the second it hits the pan. So, I preheat the pan and then aim for 3 to 4 minutes per side on medium heat. I also try not to overcrowd the pan.
Use both butter and oil, and do it each time you add a new slice: Butter burns. I've experienced this one too many times in my life. So, nowadays I add about a teaspoon of neutral oil (avocado oil typically) along with butter. I wipe the pan between each slice, removing all the burnt bits and use a fresh dollop of fat before tossing the next slice in.
Know when French toast is done cooking: this is a matter of preference to some degree. I like my center to not be super cooked, but my boyfriend likes his to be cooked through. Touch the French toast before you take it off the pan (i.e. give it a poke). I've found three minutes of each side is perfect for how we both like it, but you'll perfect yours the more times you make this!
🍓 Scrumptious berry compote
Berry compote = berries cooked in sugar and water (typically their juices). The most delicious French toast topping that I can think of, and honestly, something that's hard to mess up. But trust me, on this blog, there are no recipes where I haven't (intentionally or unintentionally) messed up. So, here are some common questions, mistakes, tips and tricks.
Use either fresh or frozen fruit. In the summer, when we have an abundance of berries, I like to make fresh berry compote. All other times of the year, frozen fruit works just as well. You can use most types of fruits - berries, stone fruits like peaches or apricots, apples, and pears all make for excellent berry compote.
Thickening your fruit compote. If your compote ends up too watery, add a spoonful of chia seeds in there - nutrition, check. Alternatively, you can whisk together some cornstarch and water until smooth, and add that to your skillet. Note that the sauce will thicken as it cools!
Storing berry compote. Berry compote is technically intended to be eaten fresh whenever possible (and why note - it takes 10 minutes to make!) It will stay in the fridge for up to a week, but it's not a jam!
Using wine in your compote: Get it. I love wine in my compote. Use red wine, and go for a dark one - think Cabernet, Bordeaux, Beaujolais. In fact, what a great reason to crack open a bottle the night before, right?!
If you try this recipe, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it, and tag #urbanfarmie on Instagram, @urbanfarmie on Pinterest!
Check out these other delicious brunch recipes while you're here too!
French Toast with Berry Compote
- 4 slices bread, preferably brioche - check post for tips
- 2 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoon for every two slices
- 2 teaspoon oil, I use avocado oil - 1 teaspoon per two slices of bread
- 3 eggs
- ¾ cup milk, preferably whole
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- ½ tablespoon cinnamon, adjust to taste
- ½ tablespoon nutmeg, adjust to taste
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar, adjust to taste
- 2 cups frozen mixed berries
- 2 tablespoon granulated sugar
- Heat a skillet over low heat, add berries, sugar, and slowly crush the berries until it forms a thick sauce-like consistency
- Adjust thickness to your taste, turn the stove off, and let it thicken as you make the French toast!
- Whisk the eggs, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, and milk in a bowl
- Preheat a cast iron skillet until warm on medium heat
- Dunk the bread slice in the custard and use gentle pressure from your fingers. If you have time, you can toast the bread ahead of time and then soak it in the custard for up to 5 minutes.
- Add 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 teaspoon of oil to a pan and let it heat up
- Cook the bread, 3 minutes on each side until perfectly brown - this is done to preference. If you want it more "cooked" you can leave it on another minute on each side.
- Serve two slices of French toast and pile the compote on top of it. You can also garnish with powdered sugar and/or mint leaves!
- Picking the right bread is critical - you want something that's dry on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside, and sturdy enough to not fall apart when you soak in custard. Old bread works, but make sure it's not stale!
- Make sure to wipe the skillet clean and use fresh butter and oil each time you add additional slices of toast. This helps make sure there are no burnt bits.
- Adjust spices to taste - I usually go light on the cinnamon and add in nutmeg to give it the nutty flavor. But you can scale up and add up to 2x the cinnamon mentioned in this recipe, depending on your taste.
- Check out the full post for tons of tips and tricks and troubleshooting suggestions!
Note: This post was originally published in October, 2019. It was updated on 3 July, 2020 with new pictures and updated tips and tricks.