This recipe is an adaptation of one calling for stale brioche, from Larousse Gastronomique (Clarkson Potter, 2001). We discovered that rich, buttery, thick-sliced shokupan (Japanese white bread), left out to dry for a day, makes and excellent substitute.
1 1⁄2 cups milk
6 1⁄2 tbsp. sugar
1⁄2 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
4 tbsp. butter
4 thick slices shokupan (Japanese white bread)
1. Put milk and 6 tbsp. of the sugar into a small saucepan. Scrape seed from vanilla bean into pan with milk, then add pod to pan. Bring milk mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring often. Pour milk mixture into a wide bowl and set aside to let cook, then discard pod. Whisk eggs, salt, and remaining sugar together in another wide bowl and set aside.
2. Melt half the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Meanwhile, soak 2 of the bread slices in milk mixture, turning them once, for 10 seconds per side, then dip both sides of each bread slice into eggs. Fry soaked bread slices, turning once, until golden brown on each side, 3-4 minutes per side. Repeat process with remaining butter, bread, milk mixture, and eggs.
3. Serve French toast sprinkled with a little sugar and with maple syrup poured on top, if you like.