This past Friday after a tiring week I made a beeline to happy hour at my new favourite spot De Vondeltuin in Vondelpark. Too many double wines and a clumsy bike ride later we found ourselves at yet another garden themed bar (one decidedly less garden-like) – De Biertuin on the Prinsengracht. I didn’t get home until way past my bedtime.
I woke up early on Saturday morning. Too early. I can’t remember the last time I had such a late night. And boy, am I paying for it. As anyone who’s ever had a hangover can attest – carbs are the answer.
Given how I was feeling, I couldn’t manage anything too sophisticated and I wasn’t about to step out into the light of day for supplies. Whatever was in the kitchen was going to be it. Thank the holy heavens for the week old baguette and carton of eggs we happened to have.
Story time. When I was growing up I only ever had French toast the savoury way. In Romanian we just call it paine cu ou – literally bread with egg – and in my family it was always eaten with fresh crumbled feta cheese, a dollop of sour cream, and maybe other savoury sides like bacon, fresh cut tomatoes, breakfast links – you get the idea.
I think I was a preteen by the time I realized that basically the entire English speaking world was eating this same food but it was sweet and it was called French toast. It was a total novelty to me.
Back to my hungover breakfast. When I saw that we had that old baguette and the eggs I didn’t give it a second thought. Although we had Greek feta and fresh chives for topping, I didn’t have any dairy milk to add to the eggs. I improvised with a few tablespoons of creme fraiche (mixed into about 6 eggs) and about 1/2 a cup of water. I mixed it all up in a blender with just a pinch of salt for depth.
I cut the dry baguette into thick slices (mostly out of necessity because it was so brittle), put the slices into a large tupperware container and poured the egg mix over them.
By far the hardest part of making French toast (whether savoury or sweet) is knowing how much time it needs to soak in that egg-y goodness. If you’re impatient (like I often am when it comes to food) and don’t give it enough time, then you can end up with bits in the middle where the egg doesn’t penetrate.
I waited about an hour, rotating the tupperware every 15 minutes or so, and then I flipped it and emptied the contents into a large bowl to let soak another 20 minutes or so. How long you leave it to soak depends a lot on how dry / hard / thick the bread is to begin with. In any case I usually aim for an hour of soaking time at the minimum.
Of course at the end of the day it’s not a really big deal if it doesn’t fully penetrate to the center. Mine didn’t penetrate fully on this occasion and though I noticed it I don’t think it was off-putting at all.
Once I was comfortable with the amount of soaking time I fried those bad boys in some vegetable oil. Enough to rise about 2-3mm up the sides of the slices of bread. I started on medium high heat and moved to medium low after. The higher the heat the less the inside will cook.
In this case I think the high start made it a little too egg -y on the inside for my taste – but Bogdan was really happy with it so..to each their own I guess. It just depends what you like.
Of course rotate the slices throughout cooking so each side gets some time to brown. That’s another benefit of thick cut baguette slices – you can easily flip them basically on every side for an even distribution of crunch.
I fried up about 6 slices for the savoury course. Topped with Greek feta, chopped chives, creme fraiche and some fresh ground black pepper. Served with a side fried egg. So good.
Of course being who I am I also needed to reserve some slices for a sweet round. While I was late to the sweet French toast game, I’m a big fan now and when given the option – why not both?
For the sweet version I added about 1/2 cup of oat milk, vanilla, cinnamon and maple syrup to the egg mix and let soak about 30 minutes longer. I decided to bake the sweet round because I think the flavour develops more as dessert and less as fried eggs.
I buttered a metal pan and arranged the bread slices in there to be close together. I poured the rest of the egg mixture over them – I don’t think this is a pro tip or anything but I hate wasting flavour so why not right? Topped with cinnamon sugar then baked at 175 C (about 350 F) for about 30 minutes.
They smelled so good while baking. Once they came out of the oven I served them with fresh blueberries, creme fraiche, cinnamon and maple syrup.
All in all it was really little effort for two types of French toast that did everything my hangover needed and more. If you’re ever in the mood to try savoury French toast don’t feel limited to just feta and chives. Really anything you have that you’d put on a potato or even nachos is fair game. Just doing my part to add to the hangover eats repertoire of the world.
Until next time,