Saturday, July 5, 2008

French Toast Revisited - A Breakfast Classic with Fresh Orange Syrup and Summer Berries

Exotic ingredients and outlandish recipes get an awful lot of attention these days. Cookbooks, television programs and food magazines are full of what Julia Child referred to as "food fads". There seems to be so much fierce competition among professional chefs (and so much ego), that they go to ridiculous lengths to outdo each other. Do we really want Lobster Ice Cream, Buffalo Tongue, and Candied Anchovies? Maybe I don't want my Bolognese deconstructed. Maybe I prefer my butterflied leg of lamb seasoned with rosemary as opposed to having a rosemary tisane scenting the air nearby. Listen Mr. Chef Impressed-with-Yourself, I occasionally need something familiar, especially for breakfast.

Remember French Toast? Not the frozen kind - the real deal. French Toast is easier to prepare than pancakes (I always seem deep-six the first batch out of the skillet) and I don't have to haul the waffle maker out of the top cabinet. French Toast also makes great use of stale bread - and you can use almost any kind of bread - French bread, cinnamon raisin, challah, sourdough, even crossiants. It's fun to try specialty breads as well, such as pumpkin walnut or Asiago cheese.


Orange Syrup

1 cup sugar, preferably superfine
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1 generous tablespoon no-pulp frozen orange juice concentrate
1 cup water
1 teaspoon pure orange extract
1 tablespoon orange liqueur (optional)

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, orange juice, orange juice concentrate, extract and water. Bring to a boil over low heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for one minute. Remove from the heat and add the liqueur. Serve warm. Syrup can be made ahead of time and stored in a tightly covered glass jar in the refrigerator. Briefly reheat syrup before serving.

French Toast

6 large eggs
1 cup whole milk or half-and-half
1/2 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons sugar
grated zest of one medium orange
1 tablespoon orange liqueur (optional)
1 teaspoon pure orange extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
6-8 slices day-old challah or sturdy white bread, 1/2 inch thick
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or canola oil
2 cups fresh berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries)

In a medium shallow bowl, combine the eggs, milk, orange juice, sugar, orange zest, liqueur, extract and salt. Dip each slice of bread into the mixture, allowing it to soak up the liquid. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the butter or oil and fry the egg-soaked bread for 2-3 minutes per side until golden brown, turning only once. Serve immediately with the syrup and berries. Wonderful with pure maple syrup, too! Serves 3-4. Recipe may be doubled.

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