Quarantine French Toast!

Another day of quarantine and another day of trying to make sure the kids have a variety of skills with which to face the zombie apocalypse. Hopefully, the skill most needed in the event of zombies will be cooking food from scratch. (Hey, if you prefer boat talk, check this out.)

This time I told the kids that we would begin making breakfast at 0900. By 0945 and still unable to get my teenagers out of bed despite several tries (thought in my head when I realized I could not wake them “Oh shit, the zombies are already in the house!”) I decided that if Sam or Ella possessing french toast making skills might someday save the world, the world was screwed. (Similarly, if the world depended on me being able to wake teenagers, we are screwed.)

French toast is ludicrously simple and a great starter for people that don’t generally cook. It requires few ingredients or tools and doesn’t take long. Plus, it gives you that full belly happy-faced feeling that will make you want to tackle other cooking projects in the future.

Tools: a big-ish bowl or flat bottomed deep dish/pan, a whisk (a fork will do), a pan (preferably non-stick), a spatula.

Ingredients: bread, eggs, milk, vanilla, Karo syrup (agave, maple syrup, honey all work), salt, and butter.

Generally speaking, French toast here in America- okay, off I go on a tangent to one of the best scenes from an 80s movie . . .

But anyway, as I was saying, American french toast is bread soaked in a concoction including egg and milk and then sauteed in butter. Once brown, throw it on a plate with some breakfast meat and you have achieved basic greasy-spoon breakfast nirvana.

My basic off-the-top-of-my-head recipe (the Quarantine recipe is below) when I wake up with a hankering for french toast is one egg per two pieces of bread. Add to that milk so that it makes up about 1/4 of the liquid. I then add a bit (if in doubt, a tablespoon is plenty for a two-egg concoction) of Karo syrup, a few drops of vanilla, and a small pinch of salt. Beat the heck out of it with a fork or whisk.

Get a non-stick pan ready with some butter melting to cover the surface (I often use bacon grease if available). It should be hot, but not smoking.

Once the liquid is beaten like me in virtually every fistfight I ever had (that is to say weak in the knees, talking funny, and pretty uniformly loose), dip the bread for about 20-45 seconds on either side (This depends largely on the bread and its thickness. You don’t want it to fall apart, just to fully absorb the egg mixture.), let the excess drip off, and then place onto the hot pan.

Leave the toast on the pan for at least a full minute. When you see the edges solidify and start to brown you may then take a peek to see if the bread is browned. If browned to your liking, flip it. When browned on the second side, you are done.

Here, non-cookers, is where some experience helps. If you are using pre-sliced white bread then you are done. If you are using something thicker then you need to develop some instincts for how much longer additional thickness requires to get the french toast cooked completely. As a practical matter, the solution to it browning too quickly is generally to drop the heat a bit and let it cook longer. Or, if you are making a lot and don’t want the pan temperature going up and down you might hold the browned toast in the over where it can finish cooking.

There is no shame in cutting the first piece as a test. You certainly want it cooked through, but not hard. A cooked custard-like consistency is my goal. Practice makes perfect.

Finally -Quarantine French Toast!!

Okay boys and girls, time for the slightly less basic Quarantine French Toast. This is an easy variation to make with the kids or while those stinkers are in bed. I used the ingredients we have on hand and made the basic, but better.

I had corn flakes and know the kids like them. You can use other cereals too. In fact, one of my favorite french toasts is from Blue Moon Cafe in Baltimore, which is coated with crushed Captain Crunch. (They also have a dish called Sweet Baby Jesus, which is simply fantastic.) (No you weirdo hippy, grape nuts will not work. Gross.)

But Wait- First Make Grease (and bacon)

I love bacon as do my kids. So, before I started the whole rigmarole described below, I put bacon on a sheet pan and put it in the cold oven. I turned the oven onto 350 degrees and checked it after about 15 minutes. The advantage of starting this way is that you render a lot of the fat off the bacon, which means you get to use it for making the French toast.

And, of course, you end up with crispy bacon because no decent American breakfast is complete without breakfast meat. (I was an English major with a concentration in poetry, and the best I could do was rhyme “complete” and “meat.” 😢)

Back to French Toast

I happened to have six pieces of pre-sliced sourdough bread that have been sitting on my counter for a week (no mold- so still good for french toast), leftover strawberries too mushy for the kids to eat voluntarily, and very brown bananas.

Step one- crush the corn flakes. Not to powder, but make them small. Use your hands, it is a good way to release the anger at the fact that your teens are still in bed.

Next step, whisk five eggs and milk.

Next, dip the bread into the egg mixture for about 30 seconds per side. Let the excess egg drip off, and then press the coated bread into the crushed corn flakes. From there, put the french toast onto the hot buttered (I used bacon grease) pan or griddle.

Cook until golden brown. (Tip for non-cookers -pay attention to the heat of the pan. Ideally, keep it hot enough for the butter to sizzle/bubble, but cool enough to avoid smoking.)

Fruit Concotion (aka- Compote)

If you want to make use of fruit, here is what I did. Step one – chop it up. (At this point if you think of the Wiggles singing “Fruit Salad” you should slap yourself. HARD.)

Make the chunks at least 1/2′ square or you run the risk of them disintegrating into mush. Trust me on this.

Next, melt about three tablespoons of butter.

Once melted and bubbling, add the fruit and sugar. I started with a 1/4 cup of sugar and then adjusted as concoction came together.

Heat this slowly so as not to brown anything.

Stir gently so as not to crush the fruit until you get a tasty and not-too-sweet compote.

Mangia!

I don’t have anything wise or particularly clever to end this recipe post. But, I did notice that I tend to overuse exclamation points! Hmm, I will endeavor to avoid exclamation points on the next post. On the other hand, the next post will be about making tater tots from scratch. So, no promises.

Quarantine Bagels

Bagels- one of the world’s ultimate comfort foods!!! Like much of the world, we are practicing “social distancing” and staying indoors. So, we are getting a bit bored. To channel some of the pent up energy, I decided to take the kids on a walk down my memory lane . . . back to when I was a bagel baker. (prefer some boat talk? try this.)

Largely Unnecessary Disclosures

Full disclosure -the bagels were much better than our local bagel places here in Marin County, California, but not up to local-bagel-shop-on-virtually-every-corner-in-NY standards.

Full disclosure #2 -I took the recipe from Epicurious and made slight modifications to add the use of bagel boards. Follow link below for the recipe.

Full and final disclosure – prior to this effort to make bagels, my last time making bagel dough, rolling, or baking bagels was probably about thirty years ago -so cut me some slack please.

Bagel Dough Basics

The bagel recipe is by Peter Reinhart and is found on Epicurious. I don’t know Mr. Reinhart, but the recipe rings true in my memory. We used the same ingredients plus, at certain bagel stores, some chemical crap to keep them from going stale too quickly. We skipped the chemicals. And, if at all possible do find liquid malt. Malt really adds to the flavor both in the dough and in the boiling water.

One mandatory variation from the recipe in my opinion – DO NOT go punching a hole in a piece of dough as the recipe suggests might be acceptable. no. No! That is not okay. Bad bagel baker.

Roll the damned thing the way it has been done for generations!

Bagel Boards

The one thing I thought was lacking from the recipe was the use of bagel boards. Bagel boards are 3″ (ish) wide boards covered in burlap or other material and soaked in water. They are easy to make and worth the time.

As shown below, I just cut the boards from wood I had around. I then cut up a kitchen towel (Teresa has not yet noticed it missing) and stapled it to the boards. Before use, soak both sides in water to prevent burning.

Almost Time To Eat

As mentioned in the recipe, after 24 hours in the fridge pull the bagels out and let them rest at room temperature for about an hour. This is when you want to put your water up to boil. After the hour on the counter, the bagels are ready to go! Time to boil them. (notice malty color of the water)

When the bagels come out of the boiling water/malt mix they go onto the bagel boards. (A glistening shark skin appearance is what you want when they come out of the water.). Back when working in bagel stores this was the stage that revealed seasoned bagel bakers versus newbies. If you can handle the bagels without gloves or constantly putting your hands in cold water then you have the makings of a real bagel baker.

You then put your toppings on and the boards go into the oven on the baking stone. I put them on the right side of the stone because I was flipping to the left. One suggestion, leave a bit more room between the boards so that the right most board’s bagels flip onto as much fresh super hot stone as possible.

After about 4-5 minutes you flip the board so that the bagel flips onto the stone. What was the top of the bagel is now the bottom. The idea here is to give each side its turn in the dry hot air to crisp. It also keeps the “bottom” from burning.

When the tops are just turning golden brown, they are done!

We ate them with cream cheese and smoked salmon (not the great kippered salmon from Russ & Daughters I usually indulge in, but quarantine is causing bigger hardships than lack of kippered salmon).

Enjoy.

More To Come- Suggestions Please

I plan on continuing to document some of the foodie type things we do here in the Bonder household. Hope y’all enjoy. Please subscribe and comments are usually welcome.

Finally, if you are bored -and you know you are- please read the rest of this blog. Start at the beginning -we are totally interesting and worth it.