I made this delicious savoury french toast with foods that in many homes would end up in the discard pile. Stale bread and moldy cheese with just a few other simple ingredients.
Using up stale bread is easy enough. There are so many amazing uses for stale bread (homemade breadcrumbs, homemade croutons, panzanella, ribolitta) but of all those delicious options, savoury french toast might be my favourite (but it's really hard to choose.)
Cleaning up the moldy cheese wasn't hard either. I just used a knife to cut away the moldy bits and it was as good as new.
Mold generally can't penetrate far into hard and semisoft cheeses, such as cheddar, colby, Parmesan and Swiss. So you can cut away the moldy part and eat the rest of the cheese. If cheese has mold growing on it, should I throw it away? Katherine Zeratsky, Mayo Clinic
If this coronavirus experience has taught me anything it's that many of us (myself included) are woefully unaware of how food reaches our cities.
It's scary to think we could find ourselves in a situation where we run out of supplies. Although I think our supply chains are strong enough to see us through, it's good that this has started more of a conversation around using what we have on hand and making the most of food. This should be the norm for us always, not just during the coronavirus crisis.
In this case stale bread and moldy cheese transformed into a tasty meal with a few eggs, a cup of oat milk, olives, tomatoes and herbs. But there are so many creative ways to use ingredients and repurpose leftovers. Just shift your mind into a mindset of reducing waste, and all will follow.
Learn more: 7 waste reduction kitchen tips for quarantine and beyond
How to make savoury french toast (using what you have)
Last week I made a large loaf of bread I affectionately dubbed 'big boy'. Big boy was so big we didn't finish eating him in time (sounds so weird ugh ?). So I decided on savoury french toast for breakfast to make use of the sad remnants of big boy and a big block of moldy cheddar we had kicking around the back of the fridge.
If you are also dealing with moldy cheese, use a sharp paring knife to cut the mold off the cheese. Depending on how hard your bread is (and whether it's a loaf) you may need to heat it in the microwave just a little so you can cut it.
I put the leftover hunk of big boy in the microwave for 30 seconds to soften the loaf enough so I could cut it into thick slices. I got a total of 5 slices out of the loaf and set the butt-end slice aside to make croutons.
The composition for savoury french toast is easy. It's just eggs, milk and seasonings. Generally a 1:1 ratio of eggs to milk works. A higher ratio of eggs to milk will add richness. A higher ratio of milk to eggs only works to a certain point before it results in soggy french toast. I think the lowest you could go is a 1:2 ratio of eggs to milk (so two eggs for every one cup of liquid) but even then it might be too thin.
For this dish I combined 4 whole eggs and 1 cup of oat milk in a large square casserole. We didn't have dairy milk at the time, which is why I used oat milk instead. It's a common substitution that I made for a lot of different dishes and I've never really had issues.
You can use any unsweetened plant milk or regular dairy milk.
I mixed everything well and added fresh ground black pepper and Herbamare seasoning salt. Of course you can use regular salt.
Finally, soak the bread in the egg and milk mixture for at least 20 minutes but ideally up to 1-2 hours. The longer you soak, the better the egg and milk penetrates into the bread, resulting in really custardy french toast.
Once it's soaked long enough you can either fry it, then top with a ton of cheese, sour cream or creme fraiche, and fresh herbs. Alternatively you can do as I did here and top it all with cheese and dried herbs then bake it. Less hands-on time and same yummy results.
I topped this savoury french toast bake with cheddar, Italian seasoning mix, a few spoonfuls of mascarpone for extra creaminess, some black olives and a few cherry tomatoes. Baked at 180 C / 350 F for about 40 minutes.
What ingredients can you use to make savoury french toast?
Essential elements: The only absolute must is the eggs. You could conceivably make savoury french toast by just soaking some dried bread in a mixture of egg and water and topping it with a sprinkle of salt. Not the most exciting french toast, but definitely a variant that's been made many times throughout history.
Eggs: The eggs don't have to be special - that's the beautiful thing about french toast. You can use regular chicken eggs, goose eggs, duck eggs, quail eggs etc.
Milk: We are more likely to have oat milk in the house than dairy milk so I often substitute. You can use any unsweetened and flavour neutral plant milk. I added a few spoonfuls of mascarpone before baking to add some richness. It's up to you whether you do that.
Bread: The only rule is that the bread be very dry. This dish originated as a way to use up old bread. Bread that's stale and hard will soak up the egg mixture better and develop a really lovely custardy interior.
Seasonings: Anything you can think of. Salt and pepper are obvious choices but you could also do a Spanish vibe with smoked paprika and oregano, topped with green olives. Or like I did an Italian rif with Italian seasoning, tomatoes and black olives topped with really good olive oil. The possibilities are endless.
What bread is good for savoury French toast?
Just like with sweet french toast, a very soft bread like brioche that's dried out makes the most custardy and soft savoury french toast. However, any bread will be fine as long as it's dried out enough. I've made savoury french toast with baguette slices, rye bread, and this homemade sourdough.
If you have an unsweetened stale dinner rolls or other soft bread that's great but don't be too fussed about it being perfect - this is simple and unpretentious food.
Is it better to use stale bread for French toast?
Yes it's definitely better to use stale bread for french toast because stale bread is best at absorbing the egg mixture, which gives the cooked dish a very custardy and rich interior.
How much milk do you use for French toast?
About one part milk for every one part eggs at the most. This is roughly equivalent to one cup of milk for every 4 eggs (4 eggs is roughly one cup by volume). You could also increase the amount of egg to one and a half parts eggs for every one part milk (6 eggs for one cup of milk) if you want it to be extra rich.
You probably don't want to decrease the milk more than one part milk for half a part eggs (1 cup of milk and 2 eggs) or it might get too thin and make the french toast soggy.
How many eggs do you use for French toast?
It depends how many portions you want to make. An ideal ratio is one part eggs to one part milk (roughly equivalent to one cup/4 eggs to one cup milk.
If I have enough eggs I usually do one and a half parts egg to one part milk by volume (6 eggs to one cup of milk). This makes a really rich and custard-like french toast.
Can you make French toast with plant milk instead of dairy milk?
Yes absolutely. This has become the norm in my household since I’ve stopped drinking dairy milk and don’t often have it on hand. I do still bake with dairy milk but I’ve found that in most cases you can switch out the dairy milk for plant milk with little to no effect.
How do you dry bread for French toast?
In the perfect world you would be using bread that's dried out on it's own i.e. stale bread. Of course sometimes the cravings are real and you need french toast. If you need to dry out some bread to make french toast you can do it the long way or the short way.
The long way involves leaving it out on the counter to dry naturally overnight or over about 8 - 12 hours. The short way is just cutting it into slices and toasting or baking it at low heat (about 150 C / 300 F) for 15-20 minutes or so.
How do you soften hard bread?
If you need to soften some hard bread in order to cut it into slices, my preferred method is to pop it into the microwave for 30 seconds. The micro-waves agitate the water in the bread enough to soften it for a few minutes. But move quickly, it will re-harden again with a vengeance very fast.
Is savoury French toast fried or baked?
You can do it either way. Fried gives you a really nice crust all the way around, but baked is less hands-on time and can also be slathered with fun toppings like cheese and tomatoes before baking.
How do you know when French toast is done?
If you're frying the french toast, generally you know it's done when the center of the bread is no longer jiggly like it's still wet in the middle. The egg will have cooked and hardened a bit so it should firm up in the center. If you're baking it's harder to tell and you may need to employ the toothpick method. Just poke a toothpick in the thickest part and if it comes out clean, it's probably done.
Can you dry bread in the microwave?
No you can't dry bread in the microwave because it will dry out unevenly and some parts of it will superheat and could even catch fire.
Why is my French toast soggy?
It could be because your ratio of milk to eggs was off. Too much milk and not enough egg can make the french toast soggy. It could also be that it wasn't fried with enough heat, which means it didn't get a chance to form a nice crust.
How do you make French toast crispy not soggy?
Make sure you use at least 4 eggs for every one cup of milk and fry on medium-high heat.
Is French toast actually French?
French toast does have origins in France. What we know as French toast has been around since at least the 5th century AD, when Roman culinarian Apicius referred to it as pan dulcis - it was usually stale bread soaked in milk and sometimes egg and then fried in butter or oil.In France its referred to as pain Perdu or lost bread, referring to the fact that its made from bread that was stale or lost.
Pain perdu made into way into the English court of Henry V where it was all the rage amongst the nobility. Eventually it settled into humbler trappings as it was embraced by the working class throughout the English colonies. Today French toast is popular all over the world but somehow the savoury version hasn’t quite caught on yet.
What do you eat savoury French toast with?
Growing up, savoury French toast was the norm in my family. Usually we ate it with crumbled feta, a bit of sour cream or creme fraiche, fresh tomatoes not he side, olives, and sometimes even a few fried eggs. Dipping savoury French toast into a runny yolk is amazing.
Savoury French Toast Bake Using What You Have
- 4 whole eggs
- 1 cup of dairy or unsweetened plant milk
- Roughly four large and thick 2 cm / 1 inch slices of stale bread
- 200 grams / 7 oz cheddar or other hard cheese
- 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons of mascarpone optional
- ½ cup of cherry tomatoes optional
- 2 tablespoons of black olives optional
- Garnish with good olive oil more cherry tomatoes and black olives.
- Whisk together the eggs, milk, salt and black pepper. Soak the bread in this mixture in a shallow dish or appropriately sized oven-safe casserole for at least 20 minutes up to 1-2 hours, flipping the bread slices often so they absorb on both sides.
- After soaking, top the slices with the Italian seasoning mix and copious amounts of grated cheese. Spoon a few dollops of mascarpone around the edges and then scatter some cherry tomatoes and black olives around the dish.
- Bake at 180 C / 350 F for roughly 40 minutes or until the cheese is golden and the bread is cooked all the way through.
- Serve topped with more cherry tomatoes, olives and very good olive oil.