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The Best Challah French Toast

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Dip into the best skillet French toast recipe.

A simple, classic challah French toast recipe that combines challah bread, sweet vanilla custard, and a hot skillet for the French toast breakfast you deserve.

challah french toast recipe

Meet This Challah French Toast Recipe

I love French toast. Most of the time.

At its best, challah French toast can be a perfect stack of sweet, custardy fried bread that tastes as satisfying as any breakfast you’ve ever eaten.

At its worst, French toast can taste bland, gummy, soggy, and/or burnt on the outside and raw on the inside.

This pan-fried challah French toast recipe is the best kind. Rich challah bread gets dipped into a sweet vanilla custard and then pan fried in a skillet until golden brown. The custard is sweetened with brown sugar and vanilla, and made rich with eggs, egg yolks, and cream.

This challah French toast isn’t messing around. It’s rich, lightly sweet, and absolutely perfect.

And don’t miss this recipe for oven-baked French toast casserole! It’s amazing.

skillet Challah french toast ingredients: challah, vanilla, egg, sugar, milk

What type of bread is best for French toast?: The Importance of Day-Old Challah Bread

Challah (day old, please) is the best bread for French toast, with day-old brioche and soft, thick-cut white bread runners up.

What is the difference between challah and brioche?

Challah bread is a braided white bread enriched with eggs, oil, and a bit of sugar or other sweetener, such as honey. This enrichment creates a soft, rich-but-light bread.

This recipe calls for day-old challah. You want to use day old instead of fresh bread because it will become a little more firm and dry. This allows the bread to absorb the custard without becoming too delicate or mushy.

If you buy your challah on the same day you need it, you can stale bread quickly. Here’s how:

  1. Slice the bread. Arrange it in a single layer on a cooling rack set over a half-sheet pan.
  2. Bake at 225 degrees Fahrenheit (107 degrees Celsius) for 20 minutes or so.

A platter of skillet French toast with maple syrup and butter

Can I Substitute Other Bread for Challah for French Toast?

You can use a thick-cut sandwich bread, brioche, or baguette as a substitute, but I highly recommend using a loaf of challah because of the richness and flavor.

I love artisan bread, but I recommend against using a very crusty bread. A hard crust will not soften enough, and will make the French toast taste a little tough around the edges.

Is French Toast the Same as Pain Perdu?

What we English-speaking countries call French toast, the French (and some French-influenced regions like New Orleans) call pain perdu.

Pain perdu translates to “lost bread.” So called because pain perdu was made from day-old, or “lost,” bread, pain perdu put stale bread to good use and avoid waste.

French pain perdu typically gets made with day-old baguette, but these rules are not hard and fast.

Challah bread being dipped into custard before adding to skillet for easy skillet French toast
Dip the bread slices in custard for about a minute on each side. Do not saturate the bread or the slices will fall apart and be mushy.

How to Make French Toast That Isn’t Soggy

Below are the steps for making the perfect, absolute best challah French toast. Soggy French toast can be caused by 1) over-soaking, 2) undercooking, or 3) using bread that is too soft and fresh.

How to Make This Skillet Challah French Toast Recipe

This French toast recipe is fairly straightforward, but there are a few tips and techniques to get right.

Here are the steps:

  1. Slice the bread into 1-inch slices. You should have about 6 to 8 slices total.
  2. Scald the cream, milk, vanilla, salt, and brown sugar. You just need to heat it enough for the sugar to completely dissolve.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and yolks. Add the milk mixture into the eggs in several additions, whisking each time.
  4. Pour the custard into a shallow dish, like a casserole pan. Dip the bread slices in the mixture; coat on both sides. Do not let them soak too long or they will get mushy.
  5. Heat butter in a skillet over medium heat. Cook on both sides until golden brown. Keep the slices warm in the oven until ready to serve.

plate of skillet french toast

If you love a good skillet challah French toast recipe, you’ll also love these indulgent breakfast dishes:

Challah French Toast Recipe

The Best Challah French Toast

An easy skillet challah French toast recipe (pain perdu) made from thick-cut challah bread dipped in a sweet, eggy custard and pan fried to golden perfection.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Course: Breakfast, brunch
Cuisine: American, French
Keywords:: bread, brunch, challah, Challah French Toast, custard, easy breakfast, French toast recipe, pain perdu recipe, Skillet French toast
Servings: 4 people
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Ingredients

  • 1 loaf day-old loaf of challah bread (a 1 pound loaf or so)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 cup milk (not skim; low-fat is fine)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • pinch cinnamon, optional
  • 4 tablespoons butter, plus more for serving
  • maple syrup, butter, and confectioner's sugar, to serve

Instructions

  • Slice the day-old challah bread into 1" thick slices. You should have about 6 to 8 slices total. Set aside.
  • In a medium saucepan, heat the milk, cream, brown sugar, vanilla, salt, and cinnamon (if using) until warm, whisking frequently. Remove from heat.
    TIP: You just need to heat it enough for the sugar to completely dissolve. This means warm, not hot. If it is too hot, you risk cooking the eggs in the next step.
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and yolks. Add the milk mixture into the eggs in several additions, whisking each time. Pour the custard into a shallow dish, such as a casserole pan.
  • Dip the first round of bread slices in the custard mixture. Coat on both sides, letting the slices soak for about 1 minute per side.
    TIP: Do not let the bread slices soak too long or they will get mushy. I like to soak and pan fry the bread in stages.
  • Preheat the oven to 225°F. Melt half the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the first few slices of custard-soaked bread to the skillet and cook for about 3 minutes per side, give or take, until puffed and golden brown. Transfer to a plate and place it in the oven to keep warm.
    Butter the skillet with the remaining butter and repeat with the remaining bread and custard.
    TIP: As the skillet continues to absorb heat, you may want to lower the burner to medium low if I seems too hot. You want the French toast to cook through without the exterior turning dark.
  • Serve with butter, maple syrup, a dusting of powdered sugar, and maybe some fresh berries.

Notes

This challah French toast recipe makes the absolute best French toast recipe, thanks to a combination of the right bread, the right custard, and the perfect technique. Serve with pure maple syrup and a sprinkle of powdered sugar. 

11 comments

  • Sandy Allen

    5 stars
    Great and turned out perfectly.

  • 5 stars
    I normally do not leave comments but this was a perfect recipe so I thought I would just say so. Wonderful, and I really appreciated the helpful tip on making bread stale quickly.

  • 5 stars
    Made for Christmas morning and it was delicious! Excellent custard; not too sweet, but not bland, just right. Served with a frittata, fresh oj, and coffee.

  • Julie McConnell

    Hi Lisa,
    Can this be made in a 9×13 pan and baked ?
    Thanks,
    Julie

    • Unpeeled

      That is an excellent question. I am actually not confident that the ratio of custard to bread would make it a good baked French toast recipe. The other thing I’d worry about is that the bread does need to be somewhat stale for a baked casserole, since it’s sitting in the custard so long. I do have an overnight baked French toast casserole recipe that’s fairly delicious (if I do say so myself!). This can be made with or without the gooey sticky bun topping! https://unpeeledjournal.com/baked-sticky-bun-french-toast-casserole-recipe/

      • Julie McConnell

        Thanks for the reply! I’ll try your French toast casserole— heck,I’ll try them both !
        Love , love French toast !! Especially with challah 😉

        • Unpeeled

          I LOVE your philosophy! Can’t wait to hear how you liked it. And yes–challah is THE way to go on French toast. All that eggy goodness.

  • lowandslow

    The custard sounds delicious and will give it a go.We get a high end Pannetone like this one for the holidays
    https://cortibrothers.com/collections/panetonne/products/loison-veneziana-all-alpiane-vignalta. Since there is only 2 of us around here,can the extra custard be refrigerated? Thank you and Happy Holidays!

    • Unpeeled

      A pannetone sounds DELICIOUS. Wow! Yes, the rest of the custard can be refrigerated for a couple of days. The recipe also halves nicely. Enjoy, and have a wonderful holiday.

  • Brianne

    5 stars
    I usually do not make French toast for whatever reason but decided to make this because it looked so good. I loved it. The custard was sweet but not overly so, just right. I confess that I used a day-old French bread instead of challah so I see what you mean about the tough crust, but the recipe turned out deliciously nonetheless.

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