Saturday, June 11, 2011

French Toast

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about bread pudding and gave a recipe for a Mexican version made with tortillas. Since then I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about bread. Of course, part of this newfound obsession may have to do with the fact that I’ve been laying off bread for about a month. Not that I think there’s anything wrong with bread, Lord knows. It’s the staff of life, after all, and I do think that if I could only eat one thing forevermore it might have to be bread in all its infinite variety.

However, when one feels the need to drop a couple of pounds, one has found that dropping bread from the diet for a while is a pretty effective way to go about it. I’ve been very good, but I am spending a lot of time daydreaming about toast.

Especially since I recently went out to brunch with a friend of mine to a local chain here in the Phoenix area called Crackers and Company. I ordered a salad and she ordered French toast. Now Crackers makes their French toast out of big fat hunks of cinnamon swirl bread, and I have to tell you that I seriously considered biting her hand off at the wrist every time she lifted her fork to her mouth.

French toast is one of my very favorite things ever. My mother made it for us occasionally, back when I was at home and young and skinny and had the metabolism of a race horse. I’d drown it in margarine and Mrs. Butterworth’s. Once I was out on my own, and especially after I married, I became interested in healthy eating. I still made French toast, but I’d make it with whole wheat bread, organic eggs, real organic butter and milk, and real maple syrup. I don’t care what you think about the wheat bread, you purists. It soaks up that egg batter real nice and believe me, it is to die for. The only thing is you either have to be Rockefeller or save up your pennies to buy a jug of real maple syrup. (It’s way worth it.)

I’ve experimented a lot with French toast over the years, as I go through my health-foodie phases. At one point I spent some time dairy-less and found a nice French toast recipe using soy milk. Since I don’t like soy milk very much, I substituted almond milk. It was so tasty that even though I gave up the dairy-free idea a long time ago, I still make almond milk French toast every once in a while.

Most of the time, though, you just can’t beat the classic recipe. Here’s how I like it:
6 eggs
1 cup of milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
2-3 tbsp sugar (optional. Sometimes I use sugar, but I rather like it without. If you do use sugar, add a pinch of salt.)
8 slices of bread (a firm bread is best, such as day old, whole wheat, or a 1/2 inch slice of Italian)
Butter or oil for frying (butter, please)

Mix the first four ingredients together in a flat-bottomed bowl. Soak each slice of bread in the egg mixture for about 5 seconds per side. Heat the butter in a skillet and fry each piece of bread until nice and brown, about 3-4 minutes per side. Stack the toast on a plate and cover to keep warm until all the bread is cooked, or you can keep the cooked slices warm in a 250 degree oven.

Being a purist, I like my French toast with maple syrup, but fruit syrups, jams, compotes, peanut butter--all good.

In fact, if you’re feeling particularly decadent, spread cream cheese and marmalade or fruit jam between two pieces of bread before soaking, or nut butter and sliced banana, then soak the sandwiches in the batter for a few seconds per side and fry in butter until brown, about 4 minutes per side.

Now I’m hot to try making my French toast with cinnamon swirl bread. Or how about sliced cinnamon rolls?

Now you know why one feels the need to drop a couple of pounds.


anthony stemke said...

Maple syrup is good. And expensive.

Have you tried cane syrup ("Steens" brand from Louisiana)? or Sorghum syrup?
I prefer them to maple syrup, you may also.

Donis Casey said...

I grew up eating sorghum and love it, especially mixed with butter. It's good for you, too, as those things go. I don't know Steens brand cane syrup. Is it a golden syrup or clear like Karo?