Thursday, 23 July 2009


“Hear! hear!” screamed the jay from a neighboring tree, where I had heard a tittering for some time, “winter has a concentrated and nutty kernel, if you know where to look for it.” - Henry David Thoreau

Today was a very cold morning. When I woke up and heard the weather report on the 5:00 am news bulletin, it was 3˚C, with the wind chill factor bringing the temperature down to almost freezing. It wasn’t much better an hour-and-a-half later when I was catching the train. Today was the sort of morning when breakfast has to be a substantial meal, with something piping hot and fragrant. Warm toast with lashings of butter and that wonderful smell of toasting bread filling the kitchen hits the spot. Alternatively, pancakes with honey and cream are good, or if completely spoilt one may indulge in handmade doughnuts (prepared by someone else of course!). But these latter foods are more of the weekend indulgence variety, rather than the ordinary weekday fare when time is at a premium.

Winter mornings are a wonderful experience. The prolonged darkness of night that lingers until later in the day and the bright stars overhead, made all the more bright by the crispness of the cold air are a sight to behold. Walking in the morning twilight, watching one’s breath cloud up and feeling that tingle of the cold on the face is a bracing, invigorating feeling that prepares one for the rigours of the day ahead. Snuggled up in a warm coat, with a scarf wrapped around the neck and gloves warming one’s fingers, walking to catch the train makes for a vibrant start to the day. Then, at work, discarding one’s overclothes layer by layer and luxuriating in the heated comfort of the office, watching the city come alive and the milky whiteness of winter morning gradually dispersing the wintry twilight is a good thing to experience.

For Food Friday today, some versions of a winter breakfast recipe for a wintry weekend morning tomorrow. “French Toast”, which is not really French nor is it strictly speaking toasted. Most French toast recipes have in common bread slices dipped in an egg batter mixture and pan-fried. The first such recipe seems to have originated in Rome. Today, just about every country around the globe has their own version of this classic breakfast food. And if you want to eat this in France don’t look for French Toast (Pain Français Grillé?) on the menu because the French refer to it as “pain perdu” (lost bread) or “pain doré” (gilded bread) depending on whether you are pessimist or an optimist.

It is said that French toast recipes evolved when even staple foods like bread were expensive and every bit of it had to be used up – even stale bread. The cooks of old found that dipping stale bread in a mixture of eggs and milk helped rejuvenate it. They then cooked it in a pan and served it up, much like our modern version. Another French toast recipe was reserved only for the wealthiest people of the olden times because it used expensive white bread, exotic and costly ingredients like vanilla, cinnamon and sugar.

Classic French Toast
• 8 slices of bread
• 2 eggs
• 1 cup milk
• 1/4 cup flour
• Butter
• Icing sugar

Mix together the eggs, milk, and flour and pass through a strainer. Dip slices of bread into the mixture and fry in the butter on both sides in a hot frying pan. Before serving, sprinkle with icing sugar.

Oven-Baked French Toast
• 8 slices white bread
• 3 tablespoons softened butter
• 1/2 cup maple syrup
• 1/2 cup milk
• 2 large eggs
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• Icing sugar for dusting

Spread butter over each slice of bread, coating both sides. Place on a baking tray and bake for 10 minutes at 175˚C. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Beat eggs in a large bowl. Stir in milk, cinnamon, salt, maple syrup, and salt. Place bread slices in a lightly greased casserole dish and top with the egg mixture. Bake until nicely browned, approximately 30 minutes. Dust with icing sugar and serve.

Savoury French Toast
• 4 eggs
• 1 cup of milk
• Spices and herbs (as desired)
• 1/3 tsp dried mustard
• Olive oil for frying
• Grated cheese
• Parsley for garnishing

Mix the eggs and milk very well. Mix in the dried mustard, your favourite herbs and spices with the eggs and milk and beat until well-blended. Preheat your pan with a little olive oil to a medium temperature. Quickly dip each side of the bread into the egg/milk mix and place in the pan. Cook until the bottom side is golden brown; flip and cook the other side. On the top, sprinkle a little grated cheese and let it melt.

Cinnamon French Toast
• 4 eggs
• 6 slices thick bread
• Cinnamon to taste
• 2 tsp vanilla
• 1 cup milk
• Cooking spray

Beat eggs in a large bowl. Add milk, vanilla, and cinnamon, and beat well. Lightly coat a large skillet with cooking spray, and heat over a medium fire. While the skillet heats, soak bread in the milk mixture, turning to coat both sides evenly. Cook bread over medium heat until nicely browned, approximately 4 minutes per side.

One of course may alter these recipes in a variety of ways. For example using raisin bread, brioche, cake or panettone instead of plain bread, buttermilk or cream instead of milk. Allspice and nutmeg instead of cinnamon. A variety of sauces and fruits to accompany the bread, etc, etc.

Enjoy your weekend!


  1. When I have time I love making pancakes and eating them with honey. Scrambled eggs are another favourite of mine. I am getting much better at bearing winter than I used to but I am not as enamoured with Winter mornings as you are.

  2. It's definitely winter weather in my part of Australia..forecasting a low of 2 for tonight....brrrrr..

    The perfect time of the year for comfort food. French Toast meets that criteria.

  3. Yummy! I love French toast and now I can try these recipes.