Easter holidays are in full swing, which this year means LOTS of revision for GCSEs which start shortly after the beginning of next term. I made French Toast aka Pain Perdu aka Eggy Bread aka Gypsy Toast over the weekend and thought that you might appreciate a little reminder that it makes a really lovely and seasonal breakfast.
Years ago, when I lived in Weybridge, my brother came over from Canada to visit. He was probably about 19 or 20 and had a HUGE appetite in those days – I remember being astounded at how much food he could get through. He loves pointing out all the cultural differences between England and Canada – just recently commenting on how the English love living in tiny properties…I digress. We had a friend who owned a Novelle Cuisine restaurant in Hersham and she invited us to have a meal with her there. If this food fad passed you by, please click on the link for a visual. We started with a selection of tiny but beautiful amuse bouche with our aperitifs. Eventually our first course arrived – a stunning looking plate of 3 slender asparagus spears, one quail’s egg with a 5 drops/dots/daubs of hollandaise sauce. I deliberately avoided eye contact with my brother at this point. Our main course was served – my brother had chosen the steak – 3 tiny tournedos of filet mignon looking stylish and very, very small indeed on the large white plate…I choked back a giggle and didn’t dare look at him for fear of disgracing myself – I mean it was such a lovely gesture for our friend to host us at her restaurant, right? He leaned over to me and said, “What’s this? A snack?!” Yes, I was both mortified and hysterical with laughter. We ended up getting some pizzas on the way back that evening…
I remember making a version of this French Toast for him which I think had rum or brandy in it; whichI baked in the oven – I really was a novice in the kitchen back then and didn’t feel confident enough to fry them. It had a great flavour but not such a nice mouth feel. I now always add something to the eggy mix and it is usually orange zest and cinnamon. This time I thought that coconut might be nice and it was. I also knocked up a quick fruit topping which was absolutely delicious.
So this is what you do…
First, get the fruit ready – it really elevates this fairly simple dish into something weekend-worthy…Put a pan on to heat and slice up one banana per person. Put a pat of butter in and let it sizzle over med low heat. Add the banana slices and let their natural sugars caramelise (not on too high a heat or they will just burn) on one side – start segmenting an orange in the meantime – I had a blood orange left so used that. Then flip the banana slices over and carry on segmenting the orange. If the butter browns a little that is great – just keep an eye on the heat so that nothing burns. Once the banana slices are done, turn off the heat and toss in the orange segments, squeeze over any juice left in the membrane and in the bowl and toss in a few blueberries. The residual heat will warm everything up and make it absolutely delicious! (Please click the link to watch a short demo on segmenting citrus fruit, if you are unfamiliar with the technique.)
Put a large frypan on medium low flame to heat up and dunk the bread in the eggy mix. (And yes, that is Hovis, Best of Both – my concession to Jake’s inevitable request for – what I call – white plastic bread, in the holidays.)
Once the butter is sizzling, place the bread in the pan and cook gently for 2 or 3 minutes. I don’t add sugar to the egg mix because I find that then the bread burns on the outside and is raw in the middle – I serve maple syrup on the side instead. Check the state of play by lifting a corner of the bread slices to see how they are coming along. Once they have browned nicely on one side, flip them over and do the same – they won’t need as long on the second side.
Serve with maple syrup, honey, icing sugar, fruit – whatever takes your fancy.
Orange and Coconut French Toast with Fruit
For the fruit
- 1 medium banana per person cut into 1 cm slices
- 1 small orange per person, segmented – save the any juice including what is left in the membrane
- ¼ cup of blueberries per person
- 1 tsp of butter per person
For the french toast
- 2 large eggs
- ⅓ cup of milk (approx 3 tablespoons)
- ½ tsp of cinnamon
- ½ tsp of vanilla extract
- zest of one orange
- 1 Tbsp coconut – desiccated
- 2 slices of large sandwich bread or 4 slices of something smaller and not as absorbent!
- 1 tsp of butter – please – just eyeball it!
- ½ tsp icing sugar
- Maple syrup, golden syrup, honey, agave nectar…
- creme fraiche or yoghurt
- Fresh fruit if you prefer – strawberries, blueberries, bananas, peaches, mango etc.
- Fruit compote
- Put a small frying pan on a medium flame to heat up. Add butter when the pan is hot and once the butter is sizzling a little, add the banana slices in one layer , turning down the heat if necessary and allow to caramelise on one side. Check after 1 or 2 minutes and when ready, flip over and do the same with the other side. Once the slices are done, turn the heat off, scatter over the orange segments, juice and blueberries, shaking the pan gently to mix.
- Crack eggs into a container which will comfortably fit at least one slice of bread – one large enough for two or more slices would be better. Add the milk, cinnamon and vanilla and whisk until there are no traces of yolk or white remaining. Zest the orange directly over the egg mix and sprinkle in the coconut – mix well.
- Put a frying pan on a medium flame to heat up.
- Lay the bread in the egg mix and allow to soak for about 30 seconds to a minute, depending on what type of bread you are using. 2 slices of sandwich bread soaked up all the eggy mix but if you use smaller, less absorbent bread you should be able to double the amount you can make.
- Put the butter in the hot pan to melt and turn the heat down a little.
- Flip the slices of bread over and let them soak up the remaining eggy mix.
- Swirl the butter round the bottom of the pan to coat it well then transfer the soaked slices of bread into the pan.
- Let this cook for about 3 minutes or so but do check from time to time, that it is not burning – the idea is to cook the egg through to the centre of the bread whilst the bottom turns golden brown and crispy. It is better to lower the heat and cook for a little longer rather than have the heat too high and char the bread, obviously.
- Flip the bread over and cook the second side for 2 minutes or so.
- Remove to plates and serve with the warm fruit, a dollop of creme fraiche and the syrup of your choice