Spices are the second most important element to consider when making French toast after the kind of bread that you will be using. The bread type determines the texture, but the spice gives it the right flavor and aroma. Here some suggestions if you are looking for excellent French toast spices.
Cinnamon is without question the most popular French toast spice. There are two spices that you might see labeled as cinnamon in the grocery store: true cinnamon and cassia. They both belong to the same family and have some flavor notes in common, but they also have different characteristics.
True cinnamon has a mellow and resinous, while cassia is spicier and warmer. The flavors of true cinnamon and better suited to baked goods while the flavors of cassia are closer to the kind you get from candy and gum though you can bake with either. Both forms are widely associated with breakfast foods, including breakfast pastries and cereals.
You will see cinnamon used to make cinnamon toast, cinnamon toast breakfast cereals, and even as a flavoring for oatmeal. Cinnamon is also associated with yeasty baked goods like cinnamon rolls. In addition to being an excellent flavoring for French toast by itself, cinnamon pairs well with all of the other spices on this list.
Pumpkin Pie Spice
A blend of spices formulated to give pumpkin pie its traditional flavor profile, pumpkin pie spice can be described as sweet and complex. While you may associate its flavor with pumpkin pie filling, the spices in it can accompany a range of pastries.
All forms of natural vanilla flavor originate with the seeds of the vanilla bean. You can scrape the seeds from the vanilla pods and add them to your French toast batter. This will give you the most potent vanilla taste but is also the most expensive option.
A more cost-effective way would be to add some homemade or commercially bottled vanilla extract. The extract will be easier to find and may mix into the batter more evenly than the seeds. Vanilla’s sweet, floral flavor profile is perfect as a background note for all kinds of strong spices and is all but essential for a sweet breakfast bread like French toast.
The nutmeg spice comes from the fruit of the Myristica fragrans tree, which also provides mace. It commonly shows up in the same sweet baked goods that use cinnamon and is an excellent complement for it.
Nutmeg is sweetly nutty without the intense aromatic spiciness of cinnamon. It will pair well with the buttery, crunchy exterior of French toast as well as with vanilla and any other spices you use to prepare it.
Ginger is the rhizome of a plant that belongs to the same family as two other popular spices: cardamom and turmeric. It offers a sweet, spicy kick that will go as well with French toast as it does in baked goods like gingerbread. Gingerbread may be the best-known application for ginger in Western cuisine.
When using ginger on French toast, you may find that the dried and powdered version of the spice is easier to use than the fresh rhizome though the latter will give you a more intense flavor. Whichever form of it you use, ginger will pair well with the other spices on this list.