Cornflake-crusted Stuffed French Toast

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Well, hi guys, it’s been a while. With everything seeming to happen at the same time, it feels almost strange to be typing on this platform again about things closest to my heart (aka sugar, spice and all things nice).

Above all, and most importantly, let there be french toast. The one food I will gladly eat every day three times a day. The one thing I love so much that I have a whole section in my recipe page dedicated to it.

There have been pockets of time in the past few weeks which have granted me access to memories only of the sweetest kind. I’ve tried making all sorts of fancy french toast get-ups, usually never with any regret (hello bagel french toast and black sesame french toast), although I have to say this childish cornflake-crusted banana-stuffed one is  not only a weekend winner, but a fanciful play on all things childhood-sweet. It’s any golden childhood memory on a plate– swinging through falling leaves on a swing, drinking hot chocolate by a fire.

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I understand that french toast isn’t considered french toast unless made with real, proper egg, so perhaps me going plant-based (it’s been over a year now) has put, on a subconscious level, the idea of good weekend french toast aside. But coming across multiple mouth-watering french toasts on Instagram and elsewhere on the www has made me determined to recreate a vegan version that’s just as good, and possibly better, than what most of us may find out there in the cafe-sphere. So if you’re quite the purist, go ahead and use real or vegan egg. But perhaps just once, try this combination of mashed banana, cinnamon and milk, which saturates your soft bread to the most ideal degree, resulting in french toast that’s neither too soggy nor rubbery. Oh, rubbery is the worst, isn’t it?

As human beings we require simple sustenance. But sometimes the simplest matters turn out to be the most delicious, and the smallest twist using something as ubiquitous and childish as cornflakes makes all the difference. Making a most delicious french toast right in your own kitchen is truly the most rewarding thing. Not much fuss, no wallet-burning, and a 100% goodness guarantee. So you can make this, and get back to whatever you’re doing the rest of the day, all the while knowing you’ve done something terribly good for yourself.

Quote of the day: ‘We are human beings, not human doings’

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Cornflake-crusted Cinnamon Banana French Toast (serves 1)

Ingredients

2 slices vegan brioche/ any soft bread of your choice

2 bananas, one mashed, and one sliced thickly at a slight angle.

60ml (1/4 cup) almond milk

1 tsp ground cinnamon

handful of cornflakes

3 tbsp brown sugar

vegan butter for caramelising

handful of frozen berries (optional)

icing sugar (optional, for decoration)

Directions

Place the cornflakes in a bowl and use your (clean, hopefully) hands to crush them into chunks. Pour the cornflakes into a shallow dish. Don’t worry if you are left with quite a few larger chunks– this will only give more texture to your french toast. In another bowl, use a fork to briefly mix together your french toast batter– the mashed banana, almond milk and cinnamon. Don’t worry about little chunks of banana in there. Add a pat of vegan butter or oil to a medium nonstick pan to start making the caramelised banana.

Once the pan is hot, add a little more vegan butter to the pan, together with the brown sugar. Add the sliced banana to the hot pan and let it caramelise for a minute. Once the side facing down is a nice caramelised golden colour, use a spatula to flip the banana slices and cook the other side. Once the bananas are nicely soft and caramelised, set them aside in a bowl while you make the french toast. Leave the pan on medium heat.

Dip both sides of one of the bread slices into the mashed banana mixture, then dip one side into the crushed cornflakes. Repeat for the other bread slice. Place the cornflake-side of one bread slice onto the hot pan to cook, add the caramelised bananas on the side facing up. Add the handful of berries if you wish– I think it adds a lovely tang to cut through all that sweet chimerical flavour. Then close your french toast sandwich with the other slice of bread. Once the side facing down has been cooking for a minute or so, use your spatula to check if that side is golden-crisp and cooked. If it is, flip the sandwich over and cook the second side.

Once finished, cut your french toast sandwich on the diagonal, then top with any leftover caramelised banana you have, and a sprinkling of icing sugar. Serve with more berries and a splosh of yoghurt. HELLO Saturday.

Pumpkin Ginger-Spiced French Toast Roll-ups with Cinnamon Tahini Fondue

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This cinnamon tahini fondue is very everything. When I woke up that morning, there was a funny pain at the base of my stomach, and that’s never a good thing, but I still knew my weekly french toast get-up was much needed, for better or for worse. There are times during the day, usually alone, with a bit of quiet, or during deep conversation with someone who’s on the same page as you, that one can calmly address all negative emotions, accept them, then pass them to the air.

Feeling wild writing this, yet calm. It’s my last day of being 19, and who knew a year could’ve changed me so much in all facets. Just a year ago I was on a boat with other freshmen pondering the excitement of living near Hyde Park, and now here I am, still alive, still a student, still eating the same plates of french toast. I am truly grateful for the close friends who stuck by me and who I can always count on, my family, and stuff to learn and discover every day. Now I find I need so much less to be happy– dining in the dark with an old friend, a fresh bath and timely wake, fresh roasted vegetables, the hug of tea in the cold, brisk air, working alone. Nope, nothing more.

Of course there was no more appropriate way to spend the morning than with my favourite breakfast. Opened the pantry and of course there was no bread. But. Found a fair bit of Lebanese flat bread given so kindly to me by a friend (Lavash I should think?), so I made do with that, and goodness was that good. Though it had gone a bit stale as I intended to make each pillowy bit of fragrance last as long as possible, dipping it in my pumpkin french toast batter and then frying it gave it a renewed warmth, tenderness, life.

I came up with the idea for this cinnamon tahini fondue whilst trying to think of something other than good old coconut almond butter for my porridge topping, and I know nothing comes quite as close as the stuff, but with a new pot of tahini, something had to be done, and tahini naked wouldn’t have been embracing that morning creative jolt It’s an uncomplicated mix of tahini, cinnamon, applesauce and yoghurt, along with some of the pumpkin french toast batter. The weirdness of that mix overshadows its majesty.

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Pumpkin Ginger-Spiced French Toast Roll-ups with Cinnamon Tahini Fondue

Ingredients

1 large flatbread (lavash), tortilla or crepe (alternatively, use normal bread slices)

 

For the pumpkin french toast batter:

2 heaping tbsp pumpkin purée

50ml milk of choice (I always use almond)

1 tsp fresh grated ginger (or ground)

1 tbsp sweetener of choice (agave syrup/date syrup/honey/blackstrap molasses)

pinch of salt

pat of vegan butter (or normal butter) for the pan

 

For the cinnamon tahini fondue:

1 tsp pumpkin purée

3 tbsp tahini

a heavy hand (around 1 tsp) of ground cinnamon

1 tsp sweetener of choice (refer to choices above)

 

Directions

If using flatbread, tear so that the pillow punctured and you get two thin ‘slices’ per bit of bread. You can use any other bread, but for the rollup effect, make sure to roll them out pretty tin and flat so you can squish them into the rolled shape you want afterwards.

Whisk together the ingredients for the pumpkin french toast batter and heat your pan on medium heat. Add a pat of butter to the pan and wait to hear a sizzle. Once hot, dip your slices into the pumpkin batter for 5-6 seconds on each side (you don’t need much time if you’re using a crepe or flat bread because they are so thin), then place gently in pan. Wait 20 seconds or so to cook, then flip and wait another 10-15 seconds.

Mix together the ingredients for the cinnamon tahini fondue, and serve the hot french toast rollups with that, together with some berries, perhaps some whipped (vegan) cream and more sweetener of your choice.

Strawberry Cheesecake French Toast

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Surreal. There’s no other way to describe it.

Yeah I’m talking about the french toast, but more so the fact that a whole term, just like that, in the scary blink of an eye, has come, passed, loved, and gone. Well, almost, with the imminent hurdle of exams, that glint of mild doom, but it’s always worth trying to look at the glass half full, and contemplate a rising, not falling.

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Breakfast is served, everyone. A soft, fluffy french toast sandwich stuffed with strawberries and a yoghurt-based cream cheese batter, topped with a digestive biscuit crumble. 

Was pondering this article earlier, acknowledging the benefits of not forcing oneself or others to eat breakfast in the morning. Many studies finally show that there is indeed no point thrusting yourself into routine if your gut is not up for that rude awakening at 7 30am. It once again points to the rather misleading nature of nutrition and health research; there are too little trials with too many variables to control.

Having always been an advocate of breakfast, both on a nutritional and creative level, I’ve extrapolated this idea to the fact that it’s actually ok to eat things like strawberry cheesecake french toast once every while. It’s alright to be unhealthy once a week, perhaps once a day. It’s a cut in the system, but breaking out of self-serving routine (e.g. the morning ‘kale juice fuel’ mindset categorising breakfast as something to always be healthy and the same thing every day) could well be good for just practicing day-today flexibility. Less rigidity, more creativity, more quiet time. Just you and breakfast (or no breakfast at all, which is perfectly fine). I noticed and was stunned by a slight reluctance on my part when I was thinking of what to make with fresh, in-season strawberries my aunt handed me earlier on in the week– I used to be more inclined to ideas letting them take over the mornings, let the flow take hold, creativity carving some scaffold of structure and stability for the rest of the day.

It struck me that rigidity, despite the calmness of its structure and how it makes more brain space for more things to worry about in the mornings, also can be a barrier in succumbing yourself to little joys in life, like finding a pocket of cheesecake batter-covered strawberry in the soft, fluffy insides of a well-made french toast sandwich, or finding a quote in a book (the one I’m reading now is The Diet Myth by Benedict Carey– fantastic so far and I’m just eating it up!) that you can really relate to. It’s the little things that spark glee, and let you look out for other little cute or glee-inducing things later on in the day, that perhaps inject a little more hope and happiness into other aspects of your life.

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Strawberry Cheesecake French Toast (serves 1)

Ingredients

2 slices challah/brioche bread

large handful fresh strawberries

2 heaping tablespoonfuls of cream cheese (softened)

2 tbsp icing sugar

60ml (1/4 cup) greek yoghurt

1 egg

splash of milk of choice

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tbsp butter (for cooking)

*optional topping: 1 crumbled digestive biscuit, mixed with a teaspoon of melted butter

mandatory topping: maple syrup

 

Directions

Preheat your pan on medium heat and ready a paper towel on your plate to place your french toast on afterwards. In a bowl, whisk together the egg, milk and cinnamon, and set aside.

In another smaller bowl, whisk together the cream cheese, icing sugar and yoghurt. The mix should be thick and spreadable, which is why greek yogurt is preferable in this case. Chop your strawberries lengthwise. Spread half of the cream cheese mix on one slice of the bread, and the rest on the other slice. Layer the strawberries on top, then sandwich the 2 slices together.

Add the tablespoon of butter to your pan and let sizzle. The butter should not burn or turn brown; turn down the heat if that’s the case. Dip one side of the sandwich into the french toast batter and let it soak for half a minute, then flip it over and do the same for the other side.

Fry each side in the hot pan for half a minute– you don’t want a full cook all the way through as this will result in a more rubbery, less soft and forkable final texture. Top with the digestive biscuit crumble, more yoghurt, strawberries and maple syrup.

 

Honey Balsamic-Roasted Rhubarb Coconut French Toast

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A change has occurred, indeed.

But it’s ok– the change shall be regnant, sustained. What exactly is it?

It’s been a full half a year since I’ve been without my other half- much has happened that has caused it to wane in importance in my life.. or so I thought. NOW I am reunited with my Nikon, complete and happy with old-fashioned clicking, rotating, manual correction, an old bit of Alex has been brought to life.

With the first set of exams over, what better way to celebrate than with a french toast, aka my favourite breakfast thing in the world ever?

A simple plate of french toast infused with coconut extract, topped with rhubarb roasted with honey and 12 year-old balsamic vinegar, topped with coconut extract, sweet, thick balsamic and maple syrup.

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Rhubarb is in season and it was that fateful Thursday morning I decided to make the most of it. It’s simple but lush; the honey balsamic pairing adds succulence without being overly sour, the sweetness balanced by the almost sophisticated yet playful addition of coconut extract in the french toast batter.

OH. It’s the roasting with aged balsamic vinegar that truly makes all the difference. Best bit is that it takes no longer than 12-15 minutes, so all you have to do is chuck the chopped rhubarb on your pan, chuck that in the oven, then make your french toast. It all fits into a decent timeframe, saving you from excess mental exhaustion, even if it is meant to be a relaxing morning for creative expertise to take hold of the system. Sometimes one just can’t think straight in the mornings. This is one of those recipes that cooperates a bit with an occasional blur streak.

Just make sure you buy the aged stuff, vinegar-wise, for the ultimate sweet and sticky rhubarb experience. The rhubarb soaks up the tangy glisten of deep golden-black, the rest lingers in a finger-thick puddle for you to lick up a little later (oops).

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Honey Balsamic-Roasted Rhubarb Coconut French Toast (serves 1 but may be scaled up)

Ingredients 

1 slice bread of choice– soft whole wheat (I took a frozen homemade slice and microwaved it so it was the right texture for dipping into french toast batter) was used here, but so can brioche/ challah/ classic white bloomer

1 egg

splash of milk

1/2 tsp coconut extract

2 tbsp honey (though there is no need to measure, simply drizzle as much as you want before roasting)

2 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar

1/2-1 stalk rhubarb

Toppings: maple syrup, more balsamic and coconut flakes

Directions

Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). Chop up your rhubarb into pieces 1.5-2cm long and lay them on your oven pan (won’t take up lots of space). Drizzle on the honey and balsamic vinegar, then chuck in the oven and let roast for 12-15 minutes– they should be done by 15 maximum.

Preheat your pan on medium heat and ready some butter. In a bowl, whisk together the egg, milk and coconut extract. Once the pan is hot, add a knob of butter to the pan and let sizzle– it should not burn and turn brown; if that’s the case, turn down the heat a little and wait for that to settle. Dip both sides of bread into the batter, 5-10 seconds on each side, then lay one side into the pan. Flip after half a minute and cook the other side.

Serve the french toast with the cooked rhubarb, bubbling, sweet and tangy, and any extra juices left from the roasting. Add maple syrup, coconut flakes and more balsamic vinegar if you wish. I had this the other day with some almond butter and blueberries, and that was pretty darn magnificent too.

Cinnamon Sugar-crusted Cream Cheese-stuffed French Toast

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There’s french toast, and then there’s cinnamon sugar-crusted french toast with a cream cheese filling and warmed berries. It’s your pick.

There are no extravagant steps, not too much brain energy involved. You dip good bread in luscious custard (or do it the eggless/vegan way), dip that in cinnamon sugar, fry in a pan.

Then you spread some cream cheese frosting (not the bought stuff, no no) on one slice, layer with warmed berries, layer on the other slice.

Then you ooh and aah for a bit, drizzle with maple syrup, and then EAT. Cream cheese and berries ooze out the sides, berries give up their juice.

That right there is the best morning.

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The cinnamon sugar crust is key. It’s what takes this to a whole new level, and adds a luxurious sweetness so you don’t need as much maple syrup later on.

Sweetened cream cheese may be substituted for yoghurt here, but I find the cream cheese adds proper oomph, volume, and just the right amount of tang. Together with the warm berries, this makes the perfect french toast sandwich.

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Cinnamon Sugar-crusted Cream Cheese-stuffed French Toast (makes 1 sandwich)

Ingredients

For the french toast:

2 slices fresh challah/white sandwich bread/sourdough, around 3/4-1 inch thick (I keep mine in an airtight bag in the freezer, and let thaw for a half hour before I need or want to use it)

1 egg

60ml (1/4 cup) milk

1 heaping tbsp ground cinnamon + 6 tbsp white sugar

splash vanilla extract

butter for frying

 

For the cream cheese filling and warmed berries:

2 heaping tbsp cream cheese spread

1 tsp milk

1 tbsp icing sugar

handful of berries of choice (I used blueberries and raspberries)

 

Directions

In a shallow bowl, mix together the cinnamon and sugar and set aside. Preheat your pan on medium-high heat. In another bowl, whisk together the egg, milk and vanilla extract. Once pan is hot, add a knob of butter and listen out for a sizzle; if the butter browns too quickly turn down the heat a little.

Take one challah slice and dip in the eggy batter for 10 seconds. Flip and do the same for the other side. It should be soaked through but not falling apart. Lift up the slice and let excess batter drip down, then immediately lay in the bowl containing the cinnamon sugar. Turn the slice and coat the other side.

Do the same with the second slice, then place both slices in the hot pan for frying. Wait 20 seconds for the first sides to fry, then flip. Wait a little longer, around 30-40 seconds, if you prefer a less soggy middle for your french toast (I like mine pretty soggy and saturated). The second side will take shorter to cook, so remove once you like the doneness.

In the same pan, add a little more butter, then plop in your berries. Let cook and sizzle– they will yield their juices after around 4-5 minutes of cooking and become warm and soft. Mix together the ingredients for the cream cheese filling.

Spoon the cream cheese and berries onto one slice of bread and then layer on the second slice. Finally, drizzle everything with good maple syrup.