FRENCH TOAST WORTH STAYING HOME FOR

Here’s how you can trans­form yours to the kind of­fered at Sun­day brunches, writes Ju­lia Moskin

New Straits Times - - Living -

IF you’re like me when it comes to French toast, you’re a slosher, some­one who just throws the in­gre­di­ents to­gether. Your method might go some­thing like this: Slosh milk into bowl (I stock the 2 per cent kind), add a cou­ple of eggs and whisk un­til it looks right. Soak the bread, and siz­zle in but­ter un­til done. Some­times it’s de­li­cious, and some­times it’s dis­ap­point­ing. But it’s rarely worth the US$12 (RM52) price and the hour’s wait, some­times in the rain, that the mobs sign up for ev­ery Sun­day at brunch des­ti­na­tions.

French toast that good de­mands a recipe. And, for­tu­nately, it’s one that calls for no new in­gre­di­ents, tools or tech­nol­ogy. You don’t even need stale bread.

When I set out to make a travel-wor­thy French toast, my first call was to the ace of the new Amer­i­can break­fast: Jes­sica Koslow, the chef and owner of Sqirl, Los An­ge­les.

At Sqirl, the French toast is cut so thick that it’s cooked like a steak: seared on the stove, then roasted in the oven. (It’s also stuffed with a pock­et­ful of jam.) I wasn’t in­ter­ested in adding more steps to my process, but, know­ing that Koslow’s judg­ment on morn­ing flavours is spot on, I asked what home cooks could do to make their French toast more like hers.

“Cream,” she said im­me­di­ately. Many cooks think of French toast as an egg dish, but restau­rant recipes lean just as heav­ily on cream and milk, prefer­ably whole.

“But that’s so rich!” I hear you wail­ing. There’s a lot of con­fu­sion about the fat con­tent of milk. Whole milk seems like an in­dul­gence on a par with Dou­ble Stuf Oreos these days, but the dif­fer­ence be­tween whole and re­duced fat isn’t that great; a cup of 2 per cent milk has 5g of fat, while a cup of whole milk has 8, and makes for much bet­ter French toast.

While whole milk may not be as rich as one might think, cream, it must be ad­mit­ted, is full of fat, with 10g in two ta­ble­spoons.

But, Koslow said, “A lit­tle cream goes a long way.” She sug­gests adding a cou­ple of ta­ble­spoons to the milk-egg mix­ture. And, she said, the bread shouldn’t be soaked, only dunked, mak­ing it pos­si­ble to use fresh bread, which is less ab­sorbent.

NOT A DESSERT

French toast that has been over soaked stays damp and gooey in the mid­dle even af­ter the out­sides are crisp and brown. A dip last­ing for a few Mis­sis­sip­pis on each side is enough to coat the slices and keep them from fall­ing apart, es­pe­cially if you’re us­ing fresh bread.

While fresh­ness may not mat­ter as much, the type of bread does. As a child of the food rev­o­lu­tion, I was raised ex­clu­sively on whole-grain bread, and I’m here to tell you that noth­ing ru­ins the cus­tardy pleasure of French toast faster than a stray rye grain or wheat berry be­tween the teeth. Ba­sic white bread is the clear choice. It’s worth seek­ing out a whole loaf, so you can make sub­stan­tial slices.

Whether French toast should be sweet it­self, or unsweet­ened, is a mat­ter of taste. Many recipes in­clude sugar (along­side Grand Marnier, amaretto and other cloy­ing con­coc­tions) in the egg-milk mix­ture. I pre­fer it unsweet­ened, to let the de­li­ciously ba­sic egg-milk-bread flavours shine through — the bet­ter to en­joy with maple syrup, pre­serves, sug­ared fruit and the like. Ei­ther way, French toast is not a dessert, so skip the whipped cream and choco­late sauce.

The fi­nal, ir­re­sistible flour­ish of restau­rant French toast is in the lacy brown crust that adorns both sides. You’re look­ing for the golden brown of caramelised sugar, not the dull brown of over­cooked egg whites, which of­ten gives the dish a tough tex­ture and a sul­phurous taste. Adding egg yolks to the cus­tard is part of the so­lu­tion.

Dust­ing the French toast with sugar at the end of the cooking, flipping it of­ten to build a crisp crust, is another. This step is op­tional, but it does make peo­ple mad with lust — for more French toast.

But if a slosher you are, and a slosher you wish to re­main, think of these in­struc­tions not as a recipe, but as a formula. For ev­ery four slices of bread, slosh in about cup of milk (or milk with some cream). Add an egg and an egg yolk. Whisk vig­or­ously. Dunk quickly. Cook slowly.

Eat im­me­di­ately, and be glad you’re not stand­ing out in the rain.

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