Today is World French Toast Day, and in time-honoured tradition, we decided there had to be some recipe testing. The results are below, for all to see.
But, just before that, a quick walk down history lane tells us that French Toast has really nothing to do with France. In fact, its origins are in the Roman Empire, when Romans would soak bread in a milk and egg mixture, then fry it in oil or butter. It was called Pan Dulcis.
The name ‘French Toast’ first appeared in print in the Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, in 1871. It is also known as German toast, Eggy bread, Gypsy toast, and pain perdu or “lost bread” in French. The name itself, apparently, is a take on a cook named Joseph French, who created the dish in 1724.
And now for the recipes…
Bombay Toast or Savoury French Toast
Anupa Kurian-Murshed, Senior Digital Planning Editor
I remember waking up to the aroma of ‘Bombay Toast’ at home on weekend mornings. Mum would mince the onions and green chillies, while Dad would whip the eggs into a frothy mixture.
“The air bubbles will make the eggs lighter,” he would declare and still stands by it, several decades later. Our recipe hasn’t changed much for Bombay Toast, a savoury desi or Indian version of the French Toast, as it passed down generations in my family.
Like father, like daughter. I too spend quite a few minutes beating the eggs with either a wire whisk or for lazier moments a fork, especially when the craving for a mid-day snack arrives and the thought of vegetable crudites with yoghurt sounds too depressing.
Bombay or Mumbai has the fabulous ability to take all things global and own it with a dash of this and a pinch of that, especially when it comes to food. Ask anybody who has eaten the Bombay Sandwich or Kyani bakery’s Bun Maska. Bombay Toast has had no less of an evolution. At every street corner, you would be hard pressed not to find a push cart with a portable gas cooker, stone slab that serves as a pan, vegetable basket, racks of eggs and bread rolls.
It’s a hot, protein-balanced meal at a price of about Dh2. The bread roll coated with lashings of butter, is pressed down on the sizzling stone slab, covered in egg-onion batter and served with a dusting of salt and pepper, along with a glass of sweet “cutting” chai or milk tea. Try walking past that offering on a cool December morning and greed is bound to gain some ground.
In homes, it gets a bit more of a gentle treatment, with the fire element greatly tempered. And the bread soaked in rather than wrapped with the egg.
So, when the Food team happily announced that it was World French Toast Day, I felt compelled to share this delicious version from my city with a personal recipe that has been adapted and taste tested for years.
2 large eggs (each needs to be about 60gms +)
½ tsp of milk (can be substituted with almond milk)
4 tbsp of minced red onions
½ tsp of minced green chilly (you can use Jalapenos, too)
1 tbsp of fresh coriander minced
1 tsp of full-fat butter (I prefer semi-salted Elle and Vire, as its water content is very low)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 palm-sized slices of stale/aged sourdough bread (I prefer sourdough as it is less doughy, has a stronger texture and flavour, along with trapping more of the egg batter while cooking)
Whisk all the ingredients together other than the salt and bread. Adding salt early will cause water release and ruin the body of your batter.
Place a pan on low flame. Swirl a small slice of butter on it, enough to coat the surface. Too much fat and it will cloak the layers of flavours.
You can cut the bread into smaller slices. Immerse them in the egg mixture, one at a time and place on the pan. Then spoon some of the onion, chilly and coriander mixture atop each slice. Season with salt.
After about 2 minutes, flip the slices, gently please. Press down a bit. Wait another two minutes or so.
Should be done. Place on a serving dish and tuck in!
Classic French Toast or Eggy Bread
Shreeja Ravindranathan, Assistant Features Editor
Breakfast has always been a luxury in my time-strapped existence. It’s a meal I treat myself to on weekends when the alarm doesn’t dictate my life. And even then, I prefer giving my money to one of Dubai’s many breakfast spots because let’s face it, my culinary chops never measure up to my cravings: PBJ (peanut-butter-jam) skill set doesn’t a waffle make.
So, when we were asked to dish out our favourite versions of French Toast, the main challenge for me was to find a recipe that was simple enough for a novice cook to replicate but was brimming with flavour. Something even an elementary schooler eager to play chef for the weekend under mum and dad’s supervision could accomplish.
Which is exactly what British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s recipe for classic Eggy Bread (as French toast is called in the UK) aims to do.
Am I indirectly copping to having the cooking skills of a 12-year-old? Let’s sidestep that train of thought.
But I’ll confess that I do have the patience of the average pre-teen when it comes to spending time over a hot skillet, and so this recipe is a winner for me.
The recipe channels the French toast's versatile simplicity – the key to its genius. It's the uncomplicated nature of the French toast that allows it to shapeshift and be open to interpretation – from being a cheesy delight in Italy, to deep-fried peanut butter-filled decadence in Hong Kong.
For a recipe whose origins lie in repurposing stale bread, it always has fresh and innovative iterations.
Jamie’s recipe is free of exacting numbers and equipment, which makes reproducing it a stress-free endeavour. I didn’t have to commit to measurements, bother myself with even a whisk or set timers to watch over the bread as it sizzled its way to a glorious golden crust. Instead, I scrolled through Instagram. It’s perfect for those who have a sparsely stocked kitchen.
Vague instructions such as ‘a pinch of cinnamon’, ‘knob of butter’ and ‘few drops of vanilla essence’ might drive a cook who values precision up the wall. Asking us to soak the bread in the milk-and-egg mixture for a couple of minutes did transform into a disaster – my store-bought sliced white bread disintegrated into mush. There’s a reason why all of Dubai’s Instagrammable brunches use brioche bread to make their French toast.
However, eyeballing ingredients has for me always translated to a freedom to make mistakes and learn from them. And when I (surprisingly) end up succeeding, it’s an opportunity to make the dish my own.
This recipe also has my vote since it doesn’t add sugar but tastes just as sweet, thanks to the fresh fruits and maple syrup (honey, in my case) topping, which also adds to visual appeal. Plus, its choice of Greek-style yoghurt over whipped cream just rounds off its guilt-free quotient.
2 large free-range eggs
Optional: sea salt
Optional: freshly ground black pepper
2 slices of bread
Unsalted butter or olive oil
Greek-style yoghurt, to serve
1 handful of fresh berries (blackberries, blueberries, strawberries), to serve
Maple syrup, to serve
Shallow, wide bowl
Non-stick frying pan
1. Crack the eggs into a bowl, then add a splash of milk.
2. Add a few drops of vanilla extract and a pinch of cinnamon (or a bit of salt and pepper if you’re going savoury) and whisk the eggs with a fork.
3. Soak slices of bread in the egg mixture for a couple of minutes, turning halfway.
4. Melt a knob of butter in a hot frying pan, then add the bread. Cook for a few minutes, without moving the bread, until golden.
5. Use a spatula to carefully flip the bread over and cook until golden on both sides.
6. Transfer to a plate and top with yoghurt, fresh berries and a drizzle of maple syrup.
Recipe from jamieoliver.com
Hot Chocolate French Toast
Sangeetha Sagar, Assistant Features Editor
Unlike the above two French toasts, I won’t even pretend to call this one a meal. No, it’s not remotely good for your health. No, it’s definitely not breakfast, despite combining two breakfast favourites, hot chocolate and French toast. It’s just a dessert, plain and simple. A luscious, gooey, chocolate-soaked, chocolate-filled one at that.
So, now that we’ve established your sugar levels are going on a wild rollercoaster ride and the scales may raise an alarm soon after eating this, let’s talk about this recipe by Tieghan Gerard, author of the Half Baked Harvest blog and two cookbooks. She’s created numerous varieties of French toast recipes for her website, but she describes this hot chocolate one as the “best ever”. And you’ll see below why it’s tough to disagree.
It’s French toast, but not as you know it. Not only is its centre filled with chocolate mocha ganache, the bread itself is soaked in hot chocolate. It’s then topped with whipped cream, marshmallows, and… you guessed it, more ganache. You’re welcome.
Another excellent component of this recipe that vies for attention is the coconut. Hailing originally from southern India, I’m partial to coconut in forms ranging from desiccated to milk. And this recipe caters to the terrific flavour combination of coconut and chocolate in three ways: it uses coconut oil in the ganache, it uses coconut milk (you can use whole milk too) to soak the bread in, and it fuses coconut extract with vanilla. You can also drizzle some toasted coconut over the finished product, so make that four ways.
But despite all its components, it’s super easy to make. We promise. First, you heat up some cream, chocolate, coffee and coconut oil – breathe easy, no bain marie needed, just pop it in the microwave! I used milk chocolate instead of semi-sweet as I prefer my ganache sweeter. Slather that on slices of bread, then soak it in a mixture of egg and hot chocolate. You can soak the slices for half an hour or overnight to prep ahead for brunch, but be wary about using too thin slices, or your bread will disintegrate before it even hits the pan. Challah or brioche bread is your best bet, but if like me, you can’t find either, slightly thicker-than-average slices work just fine. I skipped the overnight soak and only did a 10-minute one, so I didn't end up with a soggy mess.
Then just pan-fry to golden, and voila, oozy interior, crispy exterior… this is one warm, comforting dish. Ever-reliable when you find yourself prey to chocolate cravings. You’ll go back for more, just like we did.
Prep time: 35 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
For the French toast
1 cup canned coconut milk or whole milk
2-4 tablespoons of your favourite hot cocoa mix
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract optional
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter
8 slices thick-cut challah bread or whatever your favourite French toast bread is
Hot Cocoa Ganache
3/4 cup canned coconut milk or heavy cream
9 ounces (1 cup) semi-sweet chocolate chopped
1 tablespoon coconut oil or butter
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
Whipped cream, marshmallows, and coconut
1. To make the ganache: In a microwave-safe bowl add the cream, coconut oil and chocolate. Microwave on 30-second intervals, stirring after each until smooth. Stir in the instant coffee until dissolved and smooth. Place this in the freezer for 15 minutes or the fridge for 30 minutes, but no longer. You want the ganache to be spreadable or to be able to drizzle it.
2. To make the French toast, in a glass measuring cup or medium-size microwave-safe bowl add 1 cup of coconut milk. Microwave the milk for 2-3 minutes (depending on how powerful your microwave is) or until the coconut milk is hot. Stir in 3-4 tablespoons of hot cocoa mix. Let cool 5 minutes.
3. In the meantime grab a 9x13 inch pan and whisk together the eggs, vanilla, coconut extract (if using) and salt. Whisk in the hot chocolate.
4. Grab your ganache from the freezer (or fridge) and use a spoon to carefully spread the ganache over one side of all the slices of bread (You will not use all the ganache). Sandwich the slices together to make four sandwiches. Place the sandwiches in the hot cocoa egg mixture, cover the pan and place in the fridge for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes flip the sandwiches over so the other side of the sandwich is now in the egg mixture. Place back in the fridge for 15 minutes or let it sit overnight.
5. When ready to cook the French toast, heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat and coat generously with butter. When the skillet is hot, cook the toast in batches (do not overcrowd) until golden and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove and serve immediately with whipped cream, marshmallows, toasted coconut and a good drizzle of more ganache. Devour!
Recipe from halfbakedharvest.com