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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Custardy French Toast (Bánh Mì Rán)

Tower Cafe in Sacramento is known for its famous French toast. Once in a while, my husband would show off his romantic side by taking a few hours off work to take me there for breakfast. He knows I like this place best for its relaxed outdoor garden ambiance and the famous French toast, of course. I usually don't care much for French toast, but the setting sure lends itself at Tower Cafe.

Their French toast is slightly crisp on the exterior, silky, custardy, and  luscious in the center. It's addicting.  All these years, I had never bothered to figure out their "secret custard recipe" that they use for their famous French toast until I tasted Shokupan that I bought at my local Japanese bakery a couple weeks ago.  Shokupan is literally translated as "eating bread". The bread is about an inch thick, white, much fluffier, and softer yet resilient but not too chewy.  It would make really good French toast, I thought. 

So I whisked up a can of condensed milk and fresh eggs and soaked Shokupan slices in the egg custard. When thick slices of bread are soaked in sweet, creme anglais custard, fried in butter and oil, doused in syrup and served along fresh fruits, what could be better?

The French toast recipe I am sharing with you is inspired by Tower Cafe. They use French baguette for their French toast and people use a variety of different breads to make it. However, it's essential to use the right bread and the right thickness. The sandwich bread will not give you the same texture and delicious result as the bread is too soft and the size of the slice is too thin. Day old French baguette, challah, or brioche would also make delicious French toasts if you don't have Shokupan. 
RECIPE: Custardy French Toast

about 4 Shokupan slices or day old French baguette, cut at least 1-11/2 inch thick slices 
4 eggs
1/2 cup condensed milk 
1 cup hot water or milk 
1 teaspoon vanila extract, optional
whipped butter, optional
powdered sugar, optional 
Preparing Fruits

Wash fruits thoroughly. Drain and set aside.
Making Whipped Butter, optional

Beat 2 tablespoons of milk with 1/4 lb softened butter together on low speed for 1-2 minutes, or until the butter and milk combine. Then, mix on high for 2-4 minutes, or until the butter is light and fluffy.
Preparing Custard 

Whisk condensed milk and hot water or milk until combined. Add eggs and whisk until blended. Strain the mixture to remove any egg that has not been fully incorporated.

Preparing Bread 

Take your pick at cutting the bread slices into half, quarter, or leave it as whole. If used French baguette, cut bread diagonally into at least 1 1/2-inch for extra-thick slice.

Place bread slices in the custard bowl and give it time to soak, about five minutes. Flip bread slices and let soak for another five minutes until custard has been absorbed. The soaking time depends on the type, the size and the thickness of your bread slice. Extra-thick slices can be soaked overnight. 
Pan-Frying French Toast

Heat equal parts butter and vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium-low heat. Using both butter and oil will help prevent the butter from burning.

Fry bread until golden brown on both sides. After each batch, be sure to wipe out the pan with a paper towel, then add fresh oil and butter. Otherwise, the butter will burn and brown bits will stick to the next batch of French toast.

If your bread slice is too thick, the outside of your toast is golden brown but the inside might still cold and soggy. To get the best result, you need to finish cooking the pan-fried bread in the oven. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake until cooked through, about 10 minutes. It results in a crispy on the outside, and luscious on the inside.

day old French bread

Sprinkle the toast with some powder sugar and serve with whipped butter, and assorted fruits.  The buttery sweetness in this toast is just right for me so I don't even need to douse it with syrup, and top with whipped butter, but you can indulge yourself.   

Eat well. Stay healthy.

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