But it will be difficult to predict the weather. There are those who believe we can predict the rain if we just knew what signs to look for. Here in the Northwest the Puyallup Indians predicted that “when you see the mountain wearing a cloud cap, it is going to rain.” Others say that if the grass is dry in early morning, it means it will rain that day. Some claim that a rainbow in the morning means rain will come during the day. Or a temperature rise between 9 p.m. and midnight means rain is coming.
April weather is capricious—frosty nights often, but sunny days too, and sometimes even a surprise hailstorm. Whether we are at home planning to take a trip, or have already “hit the road,” a sturdy breakfast is a fine way to begin a day in April – or any month for that matter. And French toast is certainly a favorite of many.
In all my many cookbooks I have been unable to find how French toast came by its name. My French cookbooks don’t even mention French toast. The closest I could come to it was a recipe for New Orleans Pain Perdu. This recipe for “lost bread,” similar to French toast, is adapted from La Cuisine Creole. Pain Perdu was originally flavored with orange-flower water. Combine 2 eggs with 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar, a pinch of salt, and 3/4 cup of milk and beat thoroughly. Stir in grated rind of half a lemon. Dip slices of bread, not too fresh, in the mixture, then fry in plenty of heated butter until crisp and golden brown on both sides. Serve immediately with maple syrup, honey or a mixture of sugar and cinnamon. This makes enough batter for about six slices of bread.
The basic recipe for the French toast that most of us are familiar with is to beat 2 eggs lightly and combine with 1 cup of rich milk. Dip slices of stale bread into the mixture and sauté in three tablespoons of butter in a skillet, turning with a spatula, until both sides are lightly browned. Serve with powdered sugar and lemon or with maple syrup. Or fry in deep fat, heated to 380 degrees, 1-2 minutes or until nicely browned.
Here are a few other ideas for French toast:
BERRY-NUT FRENCH TOAST
2 cups of multigrain flakes with oat cluster, cranberries and almonds
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
4 slices of French bread, 3/4-inch thick
2 tablespoons of butter
Coarsely crush the cereal and place in a shallow dish. Set aside. In another shallow bowl, beat eggs, cinnamon, and nutmeg until well mixed. Dip the bread slices in the egg mixture until moistened, turning to coat, then dip both sides in crushed cereal until coated. In a large skillet or griddle, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add bread slices and cook about two minutes on each side or until golden and crisp.
Serve with warm maple syrup or warm apricot preserves.
STUFFED APRICOT FRENCH TOAST
In a mixing bowl, beat 8 ounces of cream cheese, softened, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla until fluffy. Stir in 1/2 cup of finely chopped walnuts; set aside. Cut one loaf (one and one-half pounds) of French bread into 1 1/2-inch slices; cut a pocket in the top of each slice. Fill each pocket with about 2 tablespoons of cream cheese mixture.
In another bowl, beat 4 eggs, 1 cup of heavy cream, 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla. Dip both sides of bread into the egg mixture, being careful not to squeeze out the filling. Cook on a lightly greased griddle until golden brown on both sides. Place on an ungreased baking sheet; bake in 300-degree oven 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine 12 ounces of apricot preserves and 1/2 cup of orange juice in a small saucepan; heat. Drizzle over hot French toast. The French toast can also be stuffed with a mixture of cream cheese and chutney.
CRÈME BRULEE FRENCH TOAST
1/2 cup of butter
2/3 cup of brown sugar
3 tablespoons of maple syrup
12 one-and one-half inch slices of Challah bread (this is a must)
1 cup of half-and-half
2 teaspoons of vanilla
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/4 cup of orange juice
1/2 cup of sugar
In a saucepan, melt butter; brown sugar and maple syrup just until it begins to boil; turn down when it is like caramel. Pour into a 9×9-inch greased baking dish.
Trim crusts from the bread and arrange it evenly over the caramel. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, vanilla, orange juice and salt; pour over bread.
Let the bread soak up the liquid for 5-10 minutes. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 35 minutes. Cut into squares and serve with fresh fruit and whipped cream or spoon the caramel sauce over the top. Serves six.
OVEN FRENCH TOAST WITH ORANGE APPLE SYRUP
1/2 cup of orange juice
1/4 cup of milk
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1/4 teaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg
8 French bread slices, cut 1-inch thick
1/4 cup of melted butter
In a medium bowl, whisk together all French toast ingredients except French bread and butter. Dip both sides of French bread in mixture and place in buttered 13×9-inch baking dish; pour remaining mixture over bread. Refrigerate overnight or bake. Before baking, drizzle melted butter over French bread. Bake in 400-degree oven until golden brown, 10-15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet combine 3/4 cup of orange juice and 1/4 cup of brown sugar; cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until mixture is bubbly. Add 1 medium apple, cored and thinly sliced, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon of ginger. Continue cooking until apple slices are tender; add 1 orange, peeled and cut into sections. Serve over French toast.
From the Don’t Eat Your Heart Out Cookbook comes this healthy recipe for French Toast: Beat 1/2 cup of egg substitute; add 1/3 cup of skim milk, 1/8 teaspoon of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. Blend. Heat Teflon griddle over medium to high heat. Dip day-old crusty French bread one slice at a time (six in all needed) into egg mixture, coating both sides evenly. Brown 2-3 minutes more.
French toast is a wonderful way to begin a day—either at home or on the road— whatever the weather is, and in April it can be most anything.
HINT OF THE MONTH: No maple syrup and you are miles away from a market!
Mix 1 cup of light corn syrup with 1/2 cup each of light brown sugar and hot water in saucepan; stir over low heat until sugar is completely dissolved. Add a few drops of maple flavoring, tasting between additions, until it suits your liking. Add 1 tablespoon of butter. Serve hot. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.
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Marian Platt's regional narrative cookbook of Washington’s Sequim Valley, From My Kitchen Window, can be ordered by sending cash, check or money order for $25 (includes tax and handling/mailing costs) to Marian Platt, 434 Chicken Coop Rd., Sequim, WA 98382. Phone (360) 683-4691