- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 3, 2005

Mother’s Day breakfast is all about making something for mom that she would not make for herself. The best choice has to be French toast.

I mean, what mother makes French toast for anyone but her children? And what better way to express your appreciation for the loving maternal presence in your household than to fix a special version of it.

The recipe that follows takes French toast several steps further. Thick slices of soaked bread are dredged in a crunchy topping of choice. You can use almonds, oats or even uncooked millet.

This extra element adds not only divine texture, but toasty flavor. With little extra work and a lot of fun and suspense, it yields a French toast so crisp, you’ll be able to hear mom’s first bite from two rooms away. That is, if you are serving this to her in bed on a lovely tray, with doilies, flowers, fresh-squeezed orange juice and a bowlful of jumbo strawberries.

A few pointers will ensure that your French toast comes out superb and not just OK. Be sure to soak the bread thoroughly so there are no unpleasant dry spots in the center. This works best if the bread you use is at least a day old, maybe even older.

Dry bread soaks up the liquid really well and holds its shape; fresh bread has a maddening tendency to fall apart. The wetter the bread, the more it can stand up to the heat of the griddle or skillet, so the result will be double crunchy on the outside (double because of the coating, remember?) and moist and creamy on the inside. Make sure the griddle or skillet is very hot before adding the soaked and coated bread.

For best results, use either challah or a country-style bread with a crisp crust and an airy but chewy interior. This type of bread is often called batard, ciabatta or pugliese. If you can’t find any of these, use stale French or Italian bread.

If you become a serious French toast aficionado, as I am, you will develop the habit of buying these breads regularly and keeping them in the freezer so that French toast can be made at times beyond Mother’s Day … cooked by mother, perhaps, except once a year.

Crunchy coated French toast

3 large eggs

Pinch of salt

teaspoon vanilla

cup milk or more (see note)

Pinch of cinnamon (optional)

3 or 4 thick bread slices

2/3 cup sliced almonds or 2/3 cup rolled oats or 2/3 cup uncooked millet

Butter for the pan

Toppings of mom’s choice (any combination of syrup, berries, confectioners’ sugar, etc.)

Heat a skillet or griddle over medium heat.

Break eggs into a pie pan, add salt, and beat with a fork until smooth. Beat in the vanilla.

Continue to stir mixture as you drizzle in cup milk and sprinkle in cinnamon, if desired. When it appears well-blended, place bread slices into mixture, pressing them down with the back of a fork.

Let bread sit in egg mixture for about 2 minutes, then turn it over and let it sit for another 2 minutes. It should be soaked all the way through.

Spread out almonds, oats or millet on one or two plates. Lay the soaked bread on top, and press gently until coated on the bottom.

Turn bread over, and coat the other side.

Melt some butter on the hot cooking surface, then add the coated bread. Fry over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes on each side, or until the coating is golden.

If it begins to brown too much or too fast, turn the heat down. It’s important that the French toast be cooked all the way through.

Serve hot with the toppings of mom’s choice. Makes 2 servings, but the recipe is easily multiplied.

Note: Any kind of milk, including soy milk and half-and-half, will work. Start with cup milk and add a little more to mixture if bread is really dry.

Mollie Katzen is the best-selling author of the “Moosewood Cookbook” (Ten Speed Press) and “Sunlight Cafe” (Hyperion).


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