My mum used to make french toast with stale bread and my brother and I would dip them into sugar. Somehow I always ate more than him. I still do. Go figure. Living in a tropical country, we’d have our windows open all the time so whatever she was cooking downstairs in the kitchen would waft up tantalisingly into my room. I honed my sense of smell identifying all those delicious foods back in those days. My nose would be angled upwards. I’d go “French toast. Yum.” “Fried noodles. Yum.” “Chicken stew. Yum.” “Something garlicky. Yum yum.” “…Fish porridge? Ugh.”
I bought some pandoro bread for the first time this year. I had no clue what was. Wikipedia says that it is “a traditional Italian sweet yeast bread, most popular around Christmas and New Year.” The direct translation means “golden bread” and it would have been a serious sign of status in 19th century Venice. It was the best invention before sliced bread! Only kidding. It looked like a star-shaped tower and I was at quite a loss on what to do with it. So we ate it with some Ben&Jerry’s choc fudge brownie ice-cream. On a related note, ever had an ice-cream sandwich before? Just wedge some scoops of ice-cream (choc is best!) into a slice of white bread and chomp down. Talk about nostalgia. Anyway, the ice-cream ran out before the pandoro (can’t imagine how) and then I was really stuck.
The ever reliable and ever gorgeous Nigella came to the rescue with an episode of Nigella Kitchen in which she makes.. you guessed it, french toast! Sure hers was with a plain white loaf but french toast can be made with any sort of bread really, from brioche to baguettes. So here’s my version of it, made with a horizontal cross-section of the pandoro.
Makes 1 large pandoro french toast, or 2 white bread ones
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Pandoro slice, an inch thick/2 slices of thick-sliced white bread
1. Beat the eggs and milk in a bowl and mix in the sugar and cinnamon.
2. Pour into a baking dish and place a pandoro slice into it. Pandoro is really a very thirsty bread owing to its slightly dry and airy texture. Don’t risk flipping it over lest it breaks into a complete mush. Tip the dish a little and spoon the rest of the eggy mixture onto the top half of the bread. Let it soak in for a few minutes while you heat some oil up in a pan.
3. Gently slide the pandoro out of the dish into the pan and fry for 2-3 minutes on each side until it becomes molto oro! Be careful flipping it onto the other side. My improvised method involved flipping it over supported by two spatulas. Hence the crack running right through it.
I ate mine with maple syrup, the boyfriend ate his with smoked salmon. You can essentially treat it as a pancake and top it up with sweet stuff like jam, honey or fruits or savoury stuff like bacon, cheese or ham. I think french toast is the perfect winter foil to summery pancakes.