Monday, December 05, 2005

French Toast w/ Blackberry Syrup

French toast. One of the least solely French dishes we have in our American culinary lexicon (or maybe it is french fries). The origin of the dish is unknown but there are similar dishes dating back to Medieval Europe. It does not make it any less enjoyable. It is a great dish because it lets our old bread be put to good use. In fact, the French call french toast pain perdu or “lost bread,” because the old or almost “lost” bread is put to delicious use. It surpasses regular toast because it is soaked in eggy protein. And it can be dressed up in countless ways to make it a decadent luxury, nary a pain.

I love where I live because when I get off the train, I pass three 24-hour fruit & vegetable stands on my 5 block walk home. I also pass 3 bakeries, 4 fish shops, 2 butchers, and restaurants of every variety (and the fact that they are actually reasonable are just a few more reasons to live where I do). But it is the fruit and vegetable stands that are a blessing on a late night home (and a real bargain when they slash the prices to make way for new morning shipments). It is here that I found my 99 cent pint of blackberries to use as a sweet topping for the perfect pain perdu.

On the weekends when I was younger, my mother used to make breakfast: chocolate chip pancakes, toast w/ a hole and an egg inside, but it was the french toast that was my favorite. I loved the way the cinnamon-sugar smell combined with the cooking egg. The sweet-savory combination was always a pleasure to rise for. I would be upstairs in my bedroom and could smell whatever was brewing downstairs (my bedroom was above the kitchen and maybe this is why I have a slight fixation on smells). I would reluctantly open my eyes having been awakened by a banging pan maybe, but one breath and I quickly grew hungry and was drawn down the stairs (almost always before my brothers made it down-- their bedrooms were on the other side of the 2nd floor, they must never have been able to smell what was cooking from up there). I loved having first dibs at whatever was created and would happily be munching away when my younger brother, and much later, my older brother, made it to the table.

This recipe may bring out the kid in you. The deep crimson of the cooked berries against the golden yellow of the egg-soaked bread had me dancing in my seat. One smell and you'll be racing to finish cooking it. One taste and you will soon be licking your plate clean.

Serving Size= 2. Prep + cook time= 20 min.
4 slices old bread (I used Irish Soda Bread for these but any thick white bread or egg based bread is good)
4 eggs
2 Tbl milk
2 Tbl orange juice
3 tsp orange grating
1 pint blackberries
½ cup sugar
2 fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 Tbl water
cinnamon-sugar mixture (in a small container ahead of time combine 1 part cinnamon, 1 part sugar)

1) In a wide bowl combine and beat eggs, milk, orange juice, and 2 tsp orange gratings. Add bread slices one at a time, soaking them into the egg mixture well.
2) On the stovetop in a large skillet, melt a tab of butter on medium heat. While the skillet is heating, in a small saucepan on medium heat, add blackberries, sugar, water and 1 tsp orange grating. Allow this mixture to boil and reduce, keep an eye on it and stir frequently. Add egg-soaked toast (you may have to cook this in two rounds if your bread is too large) to the skillet and cook slowly until both sides are golden brown.
3) When bread is done, remove from heat one at a time, sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar mixture, and layer on top of each other so cinnamon-sugar can melt.
4) When you finish up the french toast, the blackberry syrup should be thick, warm and complete. Add on top of the french toast.

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