This Is the One Ingredient You Need to Make the Fastest—and Most Decadent—French Toast
File this one under the best brunch party trick of all time.
Here at Real Simple, there’s nothing we love more than discovering a smarter, easier way to cook a dish for a crowd—and if it comes out even more delicious than the original recipe, we’re over the moon.
French toast is an easy dish to cook as it is: you dunk stale bread into a custard base (typically eggs, milk, and maybe a splash of vanilla or cinnamon), then sear it in a skillet with butter and oil until golden brown.
But can it get even easier? We set out to find out by using the simplest swap we could think of for the custard base: melted ice cream. It makes a lot of sense when you think about it—what is ice cream but a more delicious version of milk (better yet, heavy cream) and eggs whisked together with some sugar? Better yet, it’s likely you already have a pint of ice cream in your freezer, so if this trick works it means that you’re only some bread and butter away from having the best-ever breakfast tomorrow.
We prepped two pints of ice cream ahead of time by letting them thaw for a couple hours at room temperature, but you can also zap them in the microwave for 15-second intervals for about a minute. They should be melted but not hot. We poured the liquified vanilla and coffee ice cream each into their own casserole dish, then let several slices of slightly stale challah bread soak in there for a minute or so on each side. As the challah soaked up our ice cream sponge-style, we heated a tablespoon each of butter and neutral cooking oil in a nonstick pan. (The combination of the two types of fat will give your French toast a mouthwatering browned-butter flavor without burning the outside before its interior is sufficiently warmed.) We dropped the slices onto the skillets one by one and let them cook for about five minutes on each side. After they were evenly browned all over, we took the vanilla- and coffee-flavored French toast off the heat and plated them.
Results. Were. Delicious. Truly, it might have actually tasted better than classic custard-dipped French toast. And I mean, of course it did…we fried challah bread in melted ice cream! And butter!
The outside of the bread browned beautifully and the extra sweetness from the ice cream gave our vanilla French toast a flavor that strongly resembled crème brulee—caramelized sugar is cool that way. The inside of our thick slices was extra melty and sweet, too. The coffee ice cream flavor was subtler than we anticipated, which worked well. It didn’t dominate the toasty, buttery notes from the bread.
Even more than the extra easy recipe prep, our favorite part of this cooking trick is the endless opportunity. Think of all the flavors of melted ice cream you can be dunking your bread into! Cookies and cream, salted caramel, strawberry, pistachio…my head is spinning. Talk about the best brunch buffet ever. And we haven’t even talked about toppings.
We also love that those with allergies could swap in a non-dairy ice cream here. Coconut ice cream or another alt-milk base would work splendidly.
A word to the wise: French toast is already a way to (let’s be honest) eat dessert for breakfast, and this recipe is even richer. We recommend topping yours with lots of fresh fruit and/or peanut or almond butter, because maple syrup may put the sweetness over the top for those without a high tolerance for sugar. Not that we’re discouraging it. We took one for the team and tasted it with maple syrup too, and we approve.