Calibrating exactly how long the bread should soak was trickier. A quick dip yielded toast that was dry in patches, while fully saturating the slices left them downright soggy. With some trial and error, I figured out the ideal scenario: The custard needed to penetrate ¼ inch into each slice, leaving a slim “backbone” of dry bread in the center that supported the weight of the custard to ensure that each piece cooked up creamy, not soggy.
I know what you’re thinking: No one would go to the trouble of measuring the soaking depth of the custard for French toast. But I did. And happily, those tests helped me figure out a really simple way to get each slice perfectly saturated.
I poured the custard into a rimmed baking sheet, which caused it to spread into an even layer. Then I laid out the bread slices like tiles on the custard-covered surface. By the time the last slice was in place, the first side of the first slice had soaked up just the right amount of custard. I flipped each slice, and in barely a minute I was rewarded with eight perfectly soaked slices of bread and no excess custard in the sheet.
The only problem was that the custard‑laden slices were too delicate to transfer to the skillet. But maybe I didn’t need a skillet at all. Why not bake the slices instead?