Cooking Fresh: Breakfast Treats
Welcome the prime egg season back with these favorites.
Since the winter solstice on December 21, days have been getting longer. The more daylight increases, the more eggs backyard chickens (and others) will lay (factory chickens are supplied artificial light to keep laying through the season). By the spring equinox on March 20, eggs will be coming fast and furiously.
It’s still cold, though, which makes it a great time for the hearty egg-based breakfast entrees featured here, one or both of which are bound to become family favorites.
Great French toast is a traditional holiday breakfast in my family. This is French toast made from leftover baguette (a bread that goes stale within 24 hours of purchase) saturated with a milk and egg custard. Serviceable French toast can be made by dipping Wonder bread into an egg-and-milk bath before frying it. Martha Stewart slices fresh brioche (itself jammed with eggs and butter) and barely dips it into the custard, giving it a coating but not a soaking.
But to me, fabulous French toast requires day-old French bread or a country- style loaf that might be older still. It can be fabulous bread purchased at the best bakery in town, or it can be a supermarket baguette. I’ve made great French toast with bread so hard it shatters when I begin slicing. The drier the bread, the more liquid it will absorb; experience with the process will help guide you when to use more, or less.
Good French toast, soaked with custard, is like a self-contained bread pudding, with a creamy interior and a crispy outside. Exact ratios of eggs to milk are difficult to pinpoint: It depends on the bread, and how thickly sliced it is, how dry it is, how large the slices are and how long it steeps. A good guideline is to use is more eggs than you’d use for pancake batter but fewer than for scrambled eggs.
Here’s my method:
For baguette slices cut 1 inch thick on the diagonal and steeped in a 9- by 13-inch pan, I start with three eggs and one cup of milk. The night before cooking, I beat the milk and eggs together right in the pan, add bread slices to fill the pan, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Before going to bed I flip the slices and, if the bread was very stale when I started, I might pour a little milk on each slice. Then, cover and refrigerate.
To fry the toast, you need enough oil in the pan so that the entire surface of the bread is coated. It should be hot enough to sizzle when the bread is added, but not so hot that it burns outside before cooking through on the inside.
Total cooking time may be 15 minutes, and though you can peek under the bread to see how it’s progressing, you’re aiming to flip the pieces only once. The amount of heat under the skillet requires attention and experience. Cast iron cooks hotter than a shiny silver nonstick surface, so use gentler heat and cook the toast longer.