KUALA LUMPUR, May 24 — These days if you visit a café in the Klang Valley during the weekend, chances are the brunch dish of choice is a jazzed-up version of French toast. Some versions come slathered with homemade peanut butter, caramelised strips of banana, and toasted almond flakes. Others try to appear healthy with copious amounts of fresh fruit.
There’s even one with the all-Malaysian spread, i.e. kaya — who knew the delicate fragrance of coconut cream and pandan leaves could go so well with a Western-style French toast?
These slices of heaven don’t come cheap though, especially when most of these cafés are filled with young families and hipsters waiting for their French toast and flat whites. The long lines — a wait of over an hour at the more popular cafés is not unheard of — can frighten off those of us who merely seek a relaxing weekend and not one spent queuing.
Which makes me wonder — why not dish up a platter of French toast at home? It’s the perfect subject for a Weekend Kitchen project. After all the ingredients are but a few — eggs, milk, and bread — and surely it doesn’t take a genius to whisk, soak, and fry? A fool could do it (and I’ve certainly been called that enough times to qualify).
In lieu of something overly fancy — no coating of toasted almond flakes or caramelised banana, thank you very much; they’re liable to burn if I try to multi-task in the kitchen — I decide the French toast should be kept as simple as possible, and the toppings to be added on as is afterwards. The only cooking should be reserved for the actual toast, and not the toppings.
Nothing overly fancy, yet it’s the weekend: there’s no reason not to make something special for your loved ones or yourself (brunch alone can be a most delicious luxury, distraction-free as it is). No need to add more ingredients and stress yourself; simply “upgrade” the choice of bread used from plain white bread to something more rustic to make it a farmer’s French toast.
Sourdough bread is perfect for this purpose — you get more bite and more flavour too.
And when you’re done with the cooking and seated at your table with a platter of homemade French toast, it’s not too hard to imagine you are in a farm somewhere in Provence, enjoying a bucolic brunch. No need to line up... only the dish washing to contend with.
Take my advice: the dirty dishes can wait. Sit back and enjoy your farmer’s French toast. Oh yum.
FARMER’S FRENCH TOAST
As there are very few ingredients in creating a basic French toast, make sure you use the best ingredients possible. What makes this a farmer’s French toast rather than the run-of-the-mill variety is the use of bread that is more rustic.
This means avoiding boring white bread and using something with more texture such as sourdough bread. Also use a slightly stale loaf of bread if possible — the slices will hold their shape better and soak up the egg-and-milk mixture more easily.
Farm-fresh eggs, especially the free-range sort, will give a custardy flavour to your French toast when combined with milk. Avoid skim milk for this reason, as it lacks flavour. Full cream or whole milk is richer and adds more body to the egg-and-milk mixture.
One thing to watch out for when whisking this mixture is to ensure the eggs combine with the milk completely — any stray bits of egg white or yolk may end up similar to scrambled egg when cooked, which is off-putting both visually and texture-wise for what is essentially a sweet breakfast dish.
This rustic French toast is delicious on its own but the addition of toppings can never hurt. Use whatever you like but you can’t go wrong with nutty peanut butter, a generous drizzle of organic honey (instead of the usually too-sweet maple syrup), and cut fresh fruit such as strawberries.
3 large eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons of sugar
A pinch of salt
A pinch of nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 slices of sourdough bread, sliced ½ to ¾ inch thick
3 tablespoons butter
* Suggested toppings include peanut butter, organic honey, and fresh strawberries (optional)
Whisk all the ingredients together except for the bread and butter. Soak the slices of bread in the egg-and-milk mixture for one minute. Flip to the other side and soak for another minute.
Heat a large frying pan over a medium-low fire. Grease the pan with the butter. Once the butter has melted but not browned, place the slices of bread into the pan. Cook till golden brown, then flip to the other side. Once the other side is golden brown too, remove the slices from the pan and serve with toppings of choice.
Yield: 8 slices of French toast.