The hotel world, chefs and brands are determined to turn the humble French toast into a modern, ornate and supposedly surprising dessert, but, no matter how good these versions are, at DAP we continue to stick with the traditional French toast. Even in the traditional recipe book there are many variants, but there is something that does not change: with old bread they come out better
It is not only because it is implicit in its nature and in its very origin or reason for being. The torrija, like all its international cousins, was born to give another life to stale bread, to reuse a humble but highly appreciated, nutritious and valuable food. Just like the Calatrava bread or the puddings sweeter dry doughs are revived, the torrija turns the most inedible forgotten bread into an energetic delicacy.
There is no definitive torrija or single recipe that deserves to be recognized as the best, at least in absolute terms. It’s absurd and it would be very sad to deny the wealth of traditions that give life to regional cultures. You may like milk or wine French toast better, with syrup, honey or coated in sugar and cinnamon, with custard or liquor, thicker or thinner, with sliced or loaf bread. None is better than another.
But all -or almost all- come out better with an old dough. Slices of bread already somewhat dry, harder, which has lost much of the moisture that made the crumb elastic, but without reaching the point of breaking our teeth when trying to mold it. That is why we always recommend using bread, at least from the day before, giving it time to dry out a bit, which can always be left grow a little olderdepending on the specific type of bar that we use.
Why is it better to use old bread?
In purely culinary and organoleptic terms, dry bread will absorb the milk infusion much better without becoming too soft, it will hold better the batter of egg and also the frying, draining and final batter. A very tender and soft fresh brioche can also be a sponge, but we run the risk that its crumb become excessively soft, and besides it will have too much flavor of its own. A French toast should taste like bread, not a bun.
Another problem with these too-soft breads is that, just as they suck up the soaking liquid, they expel it just as easily. Exactly like a sponge when squeezed. Old bread, on the other hand, absorbs the liquid to rehydrate its fibers, retaining it more effectively.
How to dry out too fresh bread
Suppose you want to make French toast, but you want them now, and you only have the bread you just bought or baked at home. Whether it’s a regular bar -but with a dark crumb without alveoli, we don’t want Galician bread or a ciabatta- or “special for French toast”, you can skip the wait with some tricks to give it that drier texture.
Preheat the oven to about 135-140ºC, with heat above and below, without air. Cut the bread into slices of the desired thickness and distribute them on a grid or ovenproof grill. Bake them for 10 to 15 minutes, making sure they don’t brown. Let them cool completely on the rack before the milk bath, always cold.
If you have a little more time and want to save the oven, or it is bread from the day before but it still needs a little more dryness, cut the slices and leave them without piling up in the coldest part of the fridge. The refrigerator, with very cold temperatures but above the freezing level, enhances the recrystallization of the starches in the bread and removes moisture.
A dehydrator, in the case of having it, it will also work its magic on the already sliced bread. The process is slower than the oven but less aggressive and easy to control.
The air fryer It is also perfect for this task, although it is better to use a test slice to control the power and time, since they are much more powerful and faster than the oven. Start by testing with minimum temperature (usually around 75-80ºC) for 4-5 minutes. Depending on the accuracy of the model, you may need to flip the pieces halfway through the time. Remember that we do not want it to be roasted.
With the toaster we have the last express resource, but we recommend combining it with some patience, letting the bread reserve on its own at least a couple of hours beforehand. Cut the slices of bread as soon as you have bought it, leave them on a rack in the air in a dry and cool place and, before making the French toast, apply a touch of toaster to minimum power and constantly controlling the point. Quickly transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
If you have used the oven, take the opportunity to leave it on minimum how much you start to make the torrijas; in this way you can leave them inside as you cook them until you finish with all the bread. Without temperature contrasts between one and the other, you can now apply the finish that you like the most and, if that is the case, serve them lukewarm.
Remember that it is always more advisable to soak in milk -or other liquids- cold, no matter how hot the process speeds up. The infusion of the bread will be smoother and more balanced, it will better absorb the flavors and there is less risk of breaking its fibers.
Images | DAP – Javier Lastras – Unsplash
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