Slice Of Life
By Eileen Goltz
Jews have a habit of incorporating the foods of the countries they’ve found themselves in to accommodate the laws of kashrus. So it’s not surprising that many of the foods we eat have names associated with a specific country. However–surprise, surprise–many have absolutely nothing to do with the country tied to their names. Danish don’t come from Denmark; Swedish meatball, nope, not invented in Sweden. Brussels sprouts are not native to Brussels. French toast was not created in France. The earliest reference to this breakfast and brunch staple is from somewhere in the fourth century. It was considered a Roman invention to utilize stale bread.
Also known as pain perdu (“lost bread” in French) and omelet bread, the most common explanation/legend of how the name included a country is that Joseph French, an Albany, New York innkeeper, created the “named” dish (by forgetting the apostrophe and s) in 1724 when he served it as “French Toast” at his hostelry.
French toast is a kid-friendly dish. It uses leftover or toasted bread (a better choice than fresh bread, as it absorbs liquid faster and better) and typically incorporates milk, half-and-half, or cream into an egg mixture. It is then baked or fried until golden brown and served either plain or with syrup, fruit, or even whipped cream. French toast can morph into a bread pudding, but that requires more milk and eggs and is another column.
The best French toast begins with a concoction of eggs and milk, cream or buttermilk, and sugar, honey, or another sweetener. Add in vanilla, other extracts, or liqueur, soak the bread slices (for various lengths of time), and then bake or fry in butter, margarine, or oil. Different types of bread (challah is always my first choice) can make for different textures in your recipe, and I suggest you experiment with French or Italian bread, croissants, sourdough, brioche, cinnamon-raisin or whole-grain bread, or whatever you have on hand.
The end result of your French-toast experiment (using the following recipes) should be a slightly-crisp-on-the-outside, creamy-on-the-inside, delicious meal that says yes to breakfast at any time of day. You can always use a non-dairy substitute for the milk, cream, or half-and-half, and margarine instead of butter, to keep it pareve instead of dairy.Â v
Apple French Toast
Dairy. Serves 6.
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 loaf of French, Italian, or challah bread, cut into 1Â½-inch slices
1Â½ cups milk
2Â½ Tbsp. cinnamon, divided
1Â½ cups half-and-half
Â¾ cup sugar, divided
1Â¼ Tbsp. vanilla
5 tart apples, peeled, cored, sliced thin
2—3 Tbsp. chopped pecans (optional)
Preheat your oven to 400Â°. Spray 9”Ã—13” pan with nonstick spray or grease with melted butter. Place the sliced bread into the prepared pan (it should be a tight fit). In a bowl, combine the eggs, milk, 1Â tablespoon cinnamon, half-and-half, Â¼Â cup sugar, and vanilla, and whisk to combine. Pour half of egg mixture on bread. Place the apple slices over the top of the bread. Pour the remaining egg mixture over the top of the apples. Mix remaining sugar with the cinnamon and pecans and sprinkle the mixture over the top of the apples. Drizzle the melted butter over the top and bake for 30—40 minutes, until golden and bubbly on top. Remove from the oven; cool for 5—10 minutes before serving.
Pear French Toast
Dairy. Serves 6.
1 cup milk
1 cup sweetened whipped cream (optional)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon, divided
1 cup brown sugar
3 Tbsp. corn syrup
6 Tbsp. butter
1 cup chopped pecans or almonds
3 Anjou pears, peeled, cored, and sliced
â…“ cup water
3 Tbsp. white sugar
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
12 slices (cut 1Â inch thick) French, Italian, or challah bread
12 oz. cream cheese
raspberries, strawberries (optional)
Grease a 9”Ã—13” glass baking pan. In a bowl, combine the eggs, milk, cream, vanilla, and Â½Â teaspoon cinnamon, and whisk until combined. Set aside in the refrigerator until ready to use. In a saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, and butter, and boil for one minute, whisking to combine. Pour the mixture into the bottom of the greased pan (set the pan aside but don’t clean it). Sprinkle the chopped nuts on top of the sauce. Add the pear slices, water, Â½Â teaspoon cinnamon, sugar, and lemon juice to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat just until the pears begin to soften. Add the cornstarch and continue to stir until the mixture starts to thicken.
Remove from heat and let cool while you spread the cream cheese over six slices of bread. Place these pieces of bread, cream-cheese-side up in the pan. Divide the pear mixture over the cream-cheese-covered slices. Place the remaining slices of bread on top. Gently pour the egg mixture over the bread stacks in the pan. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4Â hours but no more than 24.
Preheat oven to 350Â°. Bake, uncovered, for 60 minutes or until the top is brown and slightly puffy. To serve, using a spatula, place one stack (flip it so the caramel side is on top), onto a plate. Serve with whipped cream and sliced berries.
Modified from epicurean.com
Almond French Toast
Dairy. Serves 6.
1 cup half-and-half or milk
3 Tbsp. flour
Â¼ tsp. salt
Â½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract
12 thick slices French, Italian, or challah bread
1Â½ cups slivered or chopped almonds, toasted
6 Tbsp. butter, divided
powdered sugar (optional)
Use a greased cookie sheet with sides. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, milk, flour, salt, baking powder, and almond and vanilla extracts. Dip the bread slices in the egg mixture, coating both sides. Place the dipped slices on the prepared sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 20—30 minutes. When ready to cook, dip each slice of coated bread (both sides) into the toasted almonds. In a skillet, heat 3Â tablespoons of butter. Fry the coated bread slices, 2—3 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Sprinkle the top with powdered sugar and serve.
Submitted by Ari Cohn, New York, NY
Tipsy French Toast
For A Crowd
Dairy. Serves 8—10
Â½ cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
Â½ cup whiskey
2Â¼ cups half-and-half
Â½ tsp. salt
5+ Tbsp. butter (for frying)
2 large loaves of French, Italian, or challah bread
maple syrup to garnish (optional)
In a large bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, whiskey, eggs, half-and-half, and salt. Whisk to combine. Melt 2Â tablespoons of butter in a skillet. Dip (do not soak) the bread slices in the egg mixture. Fry both sides until brown, adding more butter and slices as they cook. They should be golden on each side, about 3Â minutes per side. Remember to add more butter to the pan as needed so the bread doesn’t stick or burn. You may want to wipe the pan before adding more butter and more bread if there are lots of “burnt” pieces in the pan.
Dairy. Makes 6 slices. Can be doubled or tripled.
1Â½ cups buttermilk
2 Tbsp. vanilla
Â½ tsp. cinnamon
6 thick slices cinnamon-raisin bread, toasted (raisin challah works great)
4 Tbsp. butter
â…“ cup raisins
â…“ cup maple syrup
In bowl, combine the eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, and cinnamon. Whisk to combine. Place bread slices in a 9”Ã—13” pan and pour the egg mixture over the top. Flip the bread so that both sides are coated and then let them sit for 10—15 minutes. In a large skillet, melt 2Â tablespoons of butter and fry half the soaked bread slices until golden brown (2—3 minutes per side). Repeat until all the bread is cooked. In a small saucepan, combine the maple syrup and raisins. Heat until the raisins are just warm. Serve with the raisin-maple syrup.
My files, modified from about.com
Â© Eileen Goltz
Eileen Goltz is a freelance kosher foods writer. She graduated from Indiana University and the Cordon Bleu Cooking School in Paris. She lectures on various food-related topics across the U.S. and Canada and writes columns for the CJN in Chicago, kosherscoop.com, and the OU Shabbat Shalom website, www.ou.org. She also wrote the Perfectly Pareve Cookbook (Feldheim).