I love this Red Velvet French Toast because it is festive enough for the holidays but simple enough to make on camping trips. The brioche bread has the perfect flavor and texture to make an elegant French toast without requiring a lot of work.
Why I Love This
This is one of my favorite camping breakfast ideas because it appeals to kids and adults. The crispy outside texture contrasts nicely with the soft inside texture of the toasted bread.
The brioche bread is already slightly sweet so you don’t need to add anything for topping. So, add as little or as much sweetness for your tastes by drizzling the perfect amount of icing to satisfy your palate.
This recipe is great for special occasions because I can easily cut the bread into fun shapes. I like making:
- Hearts for Valentines Day, anniversaries and birthdays
- Stars for patriotic holidays like Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day and Veterans Day
- Christmas trees for Christmas
- Brioche bread
- Pure vanilla extract
- Red food coloring
Brioche bread: The most important ingredient in this recipe is the brioche bread. It is a French pastry yeast bread that uses more eggs and butter creating a texture and flavor that is soft, buttery and has a touch of sweetness. Brioche is commonly available in most grocery stores as an entire loaf that may be sliced or unsliced. If you can’t find brioche, good substitutes include challah bread, pullman loaf, Japanese milk bread also known as Shokupan, Hawaiian sweet bread or croissants.
Pure vanilla extract: Pure vanilla extract and imitation vanilla are both sweet. I don’t use imitation vanilla because it uses ingredients which often contain chemicals and added sugars. The vanilla flavor that comes from pure vanilla extract is best for raw preparations (like the icing) but the difference between pure and imitation is not as obvious when the ingredient is baked or cooked. If you prefer to use imitation vanilla, use a 2:1 ratio. Substitute 2 teaspoons of imitation vanilla when the recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract.
Buttermilk: I don’t buy buttermilk unless I am using a lot of it in various recipes. In this case, I just make buttermilk by combining regular milk and vinegar, set it aside to let the chemical process of curdling do its thing. It only takes about 5 minutes. Then, continue with the recipe as usual. The ratio is 1 tablespoon vinegar to 1 cup of milk.
Red food coloring: Organic food coloring is usually made from concentrated vegetable colorants and spices that are free from dyes and corn syrup. If you don’t like the idea of using red food coloring, pure beet juice, beet powder or pure pomegranate juice are good alternatives.
Garnish: I’m using strawberries and powdered sugar. You can intensify the red theme by adding red-colored edible toppings like pomegranate seeds, red currants, dried cranberries, candied red roses, white chocolate dipped strawberries and red-tinted whipped cream.
- Cast iron griddle or skillet
- Large shallow bowl
Cast iron griddle or skillet: I love the soft inside with the crispy outside texture of this French toast. It is easy to achieve this texture by frying the toast in butter in a cast iron pan. You can use a non-stick skillet but the outside texture won’t be as crispy.
Large shallow bowl: It’s easiest to dip the bread slices in the egg wash if you use a large shallow bowl. If you use a smaller bowl, make sure you move the bread around to get the entire slice covered in the egg mixture, don’t leave any part of the bread dry. Also, be careful not to tear the bread as you handle it in the small bowl.
How to Make
Gather all of your ingredients, cooking equipment and fuel. You’ll be cutting the bread first, making the icing, heating the pan and making the egg wash.
Preheat your pan! Heat a large cast iron griddle over low-medium heat using campfire coals. Alternatively, you can use a large nonstick pan or skillet with a camp stove, conventional stove or RV stove.
Hand Test For Cooking Temperatures
You don’t need a thermometer to determine the temperature of your heat source for cooking. Here are steps for the “hand test”.
- Hold the palm of your hand about 5 inches above the heat source (campfire coals, charcoal briquettes, propane grill etc.) you’re using for cooking. (Make sure nothing is flammable, like clothing or jewelry.)
- Pull your hand away from the heat before it hurts and note how many seconds have passed. Example: 6-7 seconds = medium heat.
Step 1. Prepare your ingredients, heat source and equipment as directed. If you are cutting the bread into cute shapes, do all of the cutting first.
For this recipe, you’ll use brioche bread. If you buy it pre-sliced, you will just need to cut the slices in half on the diagonal (like you cut a sandwich into two triangles). Or, you can cut the slices into fun shapes. Just use a sharp knife to cut free-form shapes, like we did with our hearts. Alternatively, you can use a cookie cutter. Just make sure the designs are not too intricate, small pieces probably won’t survive the dipping, cooking and flipping processes.
Step 2. Make the icing. Combine the butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla extract and milk in a medium bowl. Then set icing aside while you make the French toast.
- Note: Powdered sugar is also known as confectioner’s sugar or icing sugar.
Step 3. Prepare the egg wash. You are going to beat the eggs in a large shallow bowl, then blend in the buttermilk, cinnamon, sugar, salt, vanilla extract, cocoa powder and red food colouring.
Step 4. Prepare the griddle. Liberally coat the cooking surface with butter and let it melt.
Step 5. Dip the bread slices. Dip bread slices into egg mixture making sure it is completely saturated, then, flip to coat second side. Thicker bread must soak longer than thinner bread. Saturate each side of the bread, this may take up to 5 minutes. Let the excess drip off before placing it on the hot griddle.
Step 6. Cook till golden. You are going to fry the egg-dipped bread halves in the hot butter until it is “sort-of golden brown” … because of the red food coloring and cocoa powder, the color of the cooked French toast will have a slightly charred, black-ish color rather than a golden brown color. Flip to toast second side, total cooking time will be about 3 minutes per side.
Step 7. Lay toast halves on plate, drizzle with icing and dust with powdered sugar. Top with berries, if desired. I either use 8 strawberries sliced and fanned or 16 fresh raspberries. The color of the red fruit enhances the red color in the French toast.
Some people like to use vanilla bean paste, but that is not always easy to find and can be quite expensive. So, I prefer to use pure vanilla extract because it is readily available and affordable. If you want to use paste instead of extract, just substitute at a 1:1 ratio.
Camp Cooking Tips
The icing can be made several days in advance and kept in a fridge or cooler until you are ready to serve. If you do this, take it out of the refrigerator about an hour before you start cooking and allow it to get to room temperature so it drizzles nicely and is not too cold on the hot French toast.
If you don’t want to carry buttermilk to the campsite for one recipe, you don’t have to. Just measure out a cup of regular milk, then, add 1 tablespoon vinegar set aside for about 5 minutes. Let it form into little lumps, the chemical process is called curdling, and use in the recipe as a substitute for buttermilk.
Be careful not to tear the bread as you are handling it after it gets dipped into the egg mixture, especially if you cut the bread into delicate shapes, like hearts and stars.
Depending on the size of your griddle or skillet, you should be able to cook 6-8 bread slices at the same time. If you need to work in batches, set the cooked pieces on a warm plate and cover to keep warm until serving.
The cream cheese icing is an easy and delicious topping for this recipe but you can swap out the toppings to create different flavor profiles for this meal.
- Chocolate drizzle: Drizzle the top of the hot French toast with your favorite chocolate ice cream topping. I recommend a fudgy topping with a thicker consistency.
- Orange zest: Create a hint of citrusy flavor by adding orange zest to the batter.
- Cream cheese frosting stuffing: Spread cream cheese frosting on one piece of French toast and top with a second piece, creating a sandwich. You can use store-bought frosting or create your own.
My family likes a savory breakfast meat with sweet main dishes so I either serve a side of bacon, breakfast sausage or meatless breakfast patties with my French toast and pancakes. For drinks I serve hot coffee and cold milk.
Low and slow cooking is the key to a crispy, golden-brown outside texture with a creamy, rich inside texture. This is achieved by cooking over medium-low heat. If the heat is too high, the outside will burn before the inside is cooked.
The icing can be made several days in advance and stored in the refrigerator. Prepare the custard the night before and store covered in the refrigerator. The next morning, proceed with the cooking process as usual.
Stale bread soaks up the custard and remains sturdy during the cooking process. Bread that is too fresh will fall apart quickly after entering the pan.
Store leftovers in an airtight container in a refrigerator or cooler. To reheat, bring slices to room temperature, wrap in foil and re-heat in warm oven or over warm campfire coals.
This recipe serves 4, and, it’s easy to scale up or down. Just change the number of servings in the recipe card to modify the quantities to meet your needs.
- Note: If you are cooking for a large group you may want to start a little early and work in batches. Keep the cooked slices warm on a platter or sheet pan and cover loosely with aluminum foil.
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Watch How To Make It
Red Velvet French Toast
Cream Cheese Icing Ingredients, (see Note 1)
- 2 tablespoons butter softened
- 2 (oz) cream cheese softened
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons milk
Red Velvet French Toast Ingredients
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk (see Note 2)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon red food coloring
- 8 (1 inch thick) slices of brioche bread slightly stale, cut in half on the diagonal (see Note 3)
- 2 tablespoons butter or as needed
For garnish, if desired
- 1 teaspoon powdered sugar for dusting
- 8 strawberries sliced and fanned
- By hand, mix the butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla extract and milk in a medium bowl. Set aside while you make the French toast.
- Heat large cast iron griddle over low-medium heat using campfire coals. Alternatively, you can use a large nonstick pan/skillet with a camp stove, conventional stove or RV stove. (see Note 4)
- In a large shallow bowl, beat the eggs. Then whisk in the buttermilk, cinnamon, sugar, salt, vanilla extract, cocoa powder and food coloring making sure the custard is fully combined.
- Melt enough butter on the cast iron griddle or skillet to liberally coat the surface.
- Dip bread slices into egg mixture making sure it is completely saturated, then, flip to coat second side. Can take up to 5 minutes for egg mixture to seep into thick bread. Let the excess drip off before placing it on the hot griddle.
- Working in batches, if necessary, fry the egg-dipped bread halves in the hot butter until it is golden brown, then flip to toast second side, about 3 minutes per side. (see Note 5)
- Lay toast halves on plate and drizzle with icing and dust with powdered sugar. Top with berries, if desired.
- If your camping crowd likes a lot of frosting, make a double batch of it.
- If you don’t have buttermilk you can just add a tablespoon of vinegar to 1 cup milk, let it set for about 5 minutes then continue with the recipe.
- Cut slices in half on the diagonal (like you cut a sandwich so you end up with 16 triangles of bread) or some other festive shape.
- Use the “hand test”: hold the palm of your hand about 5 inches above the heat source, pull it away before it hurts, 7 seconds = low-medium heat.
- Depending on the size of your griddle or skillet, you should be able to cook 6-8 bread slices at the same time. Set aside the finished pieces on a warmed plate, cover with foil to keep warm while you cook the remaining slices.