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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

French Toast

Hungry for spring? Like most of us after the crazy cold winter we’ve had, I can’t wait to get into the garden and enjoy the blessings of this glorious season. I get hungry for fresh greens and dishes made with eggs. These simple gifts from our feathered friends are so essential to breakfast and brunch and perfect at Easter. That’s why I love to make French Toast on springtime weekends when I have time to sit down and savor the first meal of the day.

The French call this delightful treat “Pain Perdu” or bread lost…what a great way to TRANSFORM stale bread into a delicious and downright elegant meal. Of course, we think of it as breakfast food but with some additional ingredients, it can become spectacular any time of day! Lost bread with ham in the middle (the Croque MONSIEUR or Croque Madame with the addition of a fried egg), cheese such as Gruyere followed by Mornay or Bechamel sauce are all great twists on the original. You will find plenty of recipes for any of these online.

Enough of all that as most of us want to get into our swimsuits! We are quite satisfied with a simple, slightly reduced cholesterol version of French Toast made with Egg Beaters and slices of Raisin Bread. If you are desperately counting calories you can even season with a butter-flavored cooking spray, I still use a thin pat of unsalted butter in a well seasoned or non-stick skillet or a little more for the griddle. Push that pat around a bit with a pancake turner on the heated cooking surface to distribute and facilitate the browning of the toast. There is no need for additional butter at the table unless you already ran a few miles. 

I find a teaspoon of vanilla adds to the richness of the milk and egg mixture used for dipping the bread slices. I never use a recipe when making French Toast—just a ratio of egg to milk. Once the skillet or griddle has been heated and seasoned with the butter or cooking spray, bring on that well-saturated bread. Every stove is different but over the years I start with the heat setting at just below medium. You can always lower it a bit if the toast is browning too fast. 

Once the toast is golden brown flip it over just as you would with pancakes. A generous sprinkle of powdered sugar over the top when the toast is transferred to the plate. I can often skip the syrup, but my husband must like to think of the toast as rafts floating in a pond of Maple syrup. (At least he could try for a small stream or brook, but he does count on that Saturday morning indulgence.) 

RECIPE: French Toast RATIOS:

The Mixture: Use 1 egg to anywhere from 2 Tablespoons to 1/4 cup milk for each piece of toast.  I use 1/2  cup of egg beaters to 1/3 cup milk for 4 pieces of raisin bread. To make things nice and rich, add a teaspoon of vanilla to the mixture. 

The Bread: I like the Cinnamon Swirl Raisin Bread made by Pepperidge Farm. The Thomas Company also makes a similar product. You can also use slices of Brioche. I found some rolls recently which were oval-shaped and immediately thought of slicing them in half to make an Easter Egg shaped French Toast. Around Thanksgiving, you may find a pumpkin-infused version still studded with raisins and plenty of cinnamon. I have a Sweet Toothed Texas friend who even uses big chunks of angel food cake instead of bread or Texas Toast. (Don’t tell her I said that.) 

The Strawberry Bunny is a great garnish during strawberry season. Slice off a piece on one side of the berry so the bunny will stand upright on its side. Next slice that small part into two long ears. With the bunny sitting up, make an angular slit partway into the narrow end of the strawberry and insert the ears. The stem end makes a fluffy green tail and the ears often look like our local Jackrabbits as opposed to the more traditional bunny. Sometimes they still turn into one of those Lop-eared bunnies…but just think of the size and shape of the bunny as a unique persona– all are a delicious sign of springtime! Hop to it! 

Sherrel Jones
Sherrel Jones
Sherrel Jones, known locally as Editor of the original Junior Welfare League’s “Stir-Ups” cookbook grew up with an intense love of cooking. Long before her 17-year food columnist days at the Oklahoman, she was in the kitchens and gardens of her family’s farms. “Stir-Ups” was a catalyst for more discovery and inspiration as Sherrel pursued her food education in the United States as well as Italy and France.

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