The Problem with Ina Garten’s Baked French Toast Recipe (2024)

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Patty Catalano

Patty Catalano

Patty is a recipe developer and food writer. She worked Alton Brown’s Research Coordinator and podcast producer and in the Oxmoor House test kitchen. She loves maple syrup, coffee and board games. Patty lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children.

updated Dec 11, 2019





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The Problem with Ina Garten’s Baked French Toast Recipe (1)

If you’ve been following our celebrity recipe battles here at Kitchn — everything from roast chicken to pie crust — you might have noticed a trend. Whenever Ina Garten is in the running, she’ll often take the top spot. But despite what some might say, there’s no bias here at Kitchn, and the battles aren’t rigged. It’s just that (more often than not!) Ina knows her way around the classics.

And when it comes to breakfast standbys, French toast is definitely up there. That’s why it felt right to make Ina’s version — a hybrid French toast + bread pudding number — one of the contenders here again. But was her breakfast upgrade just as delicious as it sounded on paper? Here’s what I found out when I made it for the first time.

How to Make Ina Garten’s French Toast Bread Pudding

You’ll start with thick slices of challah and layer them into a 9×13-inch baking dish. (Ina says to cut the bread to fit the dish, but I had an abundance of space in between the slices.) Then you’ll whisk 8 eggs, half-and-half or milk (I used half-and-half), honey, orange zest, vanilla, and salt together. Set aside for 10 minutes to soak.

Then it’s time to make a water bath. You’ll nest the baking dish inside a large roasting pan with a bit of water in it. Cover with foil, making sure it doesn’t touch the casserole, and cut a few vent holes in the foil. Bake in a 350°F oven for 45 minutes, then uncover and continue to bake for 40 to 45 minutes until the custard is set and puffed. Remove from the oven and cool slightly. (Ina doesn’t indicate whether or not to cool the casserole in the water bath, but I removed it and cooled on a wire rack.) Cut in to squares and serve dusted with powdered sugar and drizzled with maple syrup.

What I Thought of Ina Garten’s French Toast Bread Pudding

While I love the rich, eggy flavor of challah for other applications, a French toast bake is not one of them. With its close texture and tender crumb, a standard 1-pound loaf didn’t fill the 9×13-inch baking dish. Slices certainly say “French Toast,” but leave too much room for pooling custard. It’s an awkward mix, and I expected more from Ina.

Other issues? For one, it calls for too much dairy in the custard — more than a single loaf of bread can absorb. Ina also overcompensates by calling for a water bath so that the excess custard cooks properly. I don’t know about you, but there’s no way I’m balancing a roasting pan full of boiling water before my first cup of coffee. Not to mention, how do you even get the baking dish out of a roasting pan to cool without boiling your fingertips along the way? The simple solution here is to reduce the amount of custard to just the right amount to be absorbed into the bread.

If there was one upside, it’s that the flavor of the custard was great. Ina infuses the custard with honey, orange zest, and vanilla. It’s light, floral, and will make you feel sophisticated even if you’re making this French toast casserole before you’ve been properly caffeinated for the day.

If You Make Ina Garten’s French Toast Bread Pudding …

1. Challah isn’t the best bread choice. Pick up a large, chewy loaf of sourdough bread to fill your baking dish. Italian or French bread (not a baguette!) are good alternatives if your bakery is out of sourdough.

2. Axe the extra-large eggs. Ina often calls for extra-large eggs, but there’s no need to make a special trip to the store to pick up the oversized eggs; 8 large eggs are just right for a French toast casserole of this size.

3. Reduce the amount of dairy. A good rule of thumb for French toast casseroles is 3 cups of dairy to 8 eggs, so reduce the dairy from 5 cups for a more balanced bread-to-custard ratio.

4. Skip the water bath. With the dairy-to-egg ratio under control, there’s no need to be so careful with the custard. Skip the fussy water bath and move on with your morning.

Overall Rating: 2/10

While the breakfast bake gets points for the orange- and honey-flavored custard, that’s where the wins stop. This French toast casserole is more bread in custard than bread-soaked-custard.

Read More About This French Toast Showdown

  • Who Wins the Title of Best French Toast Casserole Ever?
  • Recipe Review: Chrissy Teigen’s French Toast
  • Recipe Review: Joanna Gaines’ French Toast
  • Recipe Review: Ree Drummond’s French Toast

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Ina Garten

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Recipe Review

The Problem with Ina Garten’s Baked French Toast Recipe (2024)


Should French toast have more eggs or milk? ›

Whatever you decide on, the ratio of liquid to egg will still be about ¼ cup liquid to one egg, and one egg per two slices of bread. So, if you want to make four slices of French toast, you would need four slices of bread, two eggs, and ½ cup milk. How's that for an easy recipe?

Why does my homemade French toast taste like eggs? ›

If the balance is off and you include too many eggs or not enough milk, the finished French toast will have a scrambled egg-like flavor. When scaling this recipe up or down, keep in mind that you need 1/4 cup of milk for every egg.

Why is restaurant French toast so much better? ›

Restaurant French toast is generally a superior product because of time. Letting it soak in the custard for up to five minutes allows more delicious dairy to be absorbed. This step is where having stale bread is essential. Using soft fresh bread will take on too much custard and become a mushy mess.

How do you keep French toast from being too eggy? ›

A basic rule of thumb is about 1/4 cup of milk and one egg per two-slice serving—and if you want to avoid that "scrambled" taste, use only the yolks of some or all of the eggs. (Sulfur compounds in the whites are what give eggs their unique "egg" taste.)

Why is my French toast bad? ›

For French toast, the amount of ingredients can make all the difference in the finished product. Too much, says Bon Appetit, could turn your bread into a soggy mess. The same could happen if you measure out a bit too much dairy.

Should you soak bread for French toast? ›

Ideally it's best if you can soak the bread in the french toast batter overnight however, if this cannot be done I suggest leaving it soak for a minimum of 30 minutes to 1 hour. As we want that custard like middle, cut very thick slices of bread.

Should I dry bread before making French toast? ›

Ideally, the bread should be slightly stale. A drier bread will soak up all the custard. Bread can be left out with the wrapper open the day before cooking. If you find yourself in a pinch, dry your bread slices in a 275°F oven for 10 minutes before soaking them in the custard.

What is the best pan for French toast? ›

Your perfect companion for making French toast is a non-stick frying pan. CRISTEL® has an exceptional selection of non-stick frying pans with removable handles that are great for both pan-frying and also oven-cooking.

How do I make sure my French toast is fully cooked? ›

Transfer the French bread to the pan, and cook on each side 2 to 3 minutes, until dark brown. External temperature of the French bread needs to get up above 310°F for that nice dark brown rich outside (Maillard reactions); and the internal temperature needs to get to around 150°F for the egg mixture to set.

What kind of bread do you use for French toast? ›

The best breads for French toast are brioche, sourdough, French bread, or challah. These varieties are dense and sturdy enough to handle total saturation in the wet, milky, egg custard without falling apart. However, in a pinch, any thick-sliced white bread will do.

Is French toast supposed to be soggy in middle? ›

The ideal French toast is browned and crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. It is not dry and it is not soggy.

Why is my toast always soggy? ›

When toast is allowed to lay flat down, condensation can build up and get trapped on the underside. This moisture then seeps back up into the bread, causing one side of your toast to become soggy.

What happens if you soak French toast too long? ›

The first is using fresh bread, which soaks up too much of the egg mixture and doesn't cook through, remaining eggy and soggy in the middle. Leaving the bread in the egg mixture for too long is another route to soggy French toast.

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