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This quintessential dessert from Spain can be a fabulous weekend breakfast

I last made this dish just a few weeks ago and I’ve had so many requests for the recipe that I just had to blog about it. In Spain, this is a traditional Easter confection that reappears year after year, much to the delight of young and old alike. I also make it occasionally for brunch and there’s never a time when they fail to impress. They are delicious indeed.

Torrijas are a tastier, more elegant version of that American classic, the French Toast. It always puzzled me that French Toasts were neither French, nor toasted and often times ended up on your plate looking like a soggy, greasy, overly sweet wet blanket smothered with whipped cream and syrup. Not my idea of a healthy bite.

In my version, I used some beautiful challah bread because of its dense consistency and soft exterior. It stands really well to being dunked in liquid. If you are looking to make a gluten free version, choose a bread that has the proper density, such as a rice based one. Adjust the amount of time you let it sit in the liquid, and give it time to absorb enough moisture to develop a creamy interior.

I do not deep fry my Torrijas, but rather lightly brown them in a little bit of olive oil. This method yields torrijas that are moist but not greasy and it is much healthier from the nutritional standpoint.

I’ve also included the recipe for a traditional red wine reduction or syrup that is usually drizzled over the torrijas. The deep color of the red wine, the cinnamon and anise notes make your torrijas sing. It’s a beautiful song…any time of the year.

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Torrijas
6  1 inch slices challah bread (or gf option)
3 cups 1% milk
lemon zest (3 inch long piece)
2 Tbs Jerez dulce (sweet sherry)
1 medium cinnamon stick
1/2 vanilla pod
1/3 cup of honey
3 large eggs
olive oil

 


Red Wine Reduction

1 cup red wine
1/2 cup honey
1 star anise pod
1 cinnamon stick

Start by bringing the milk to a simmer in a saucepan. Add the cinnamon stick, lemon zest, Jerez and honey. Open up the vanilla pod by cutting a lengthwise slit and scrape the inside with the side of your knife. Add the pod and its contents to the simmering milk. Stir frequently and do not let the milk come to a complete boil. Turn the heat off after 10 or 15 minutes. The milk should be fragrant and slightly reduced. Let it cool and pour it into a shallow dish by putting it through a fine sieve to catch any of the solid. Reserve.

Beat the eggs until fluffy and place in another shallow dish. One at a time, place a slice of the bread into the cool milk and then into the egg. Make sure it is well coated but not so soft that it falls apart in your hands.

Use a good quality ceramic non stick frying pan with just about 1/2 a teaspoon of olive oil in it. As it starts to heat up, place the torrija in it. (Timing is everything at this point: your pan should be ready once you start dunking the bread into the milk and all three steps should be done in quick succession. Don’t let your torrija sit in the milk or it will become impossible to pick it up in one piece).

Let it get golden brown with a slightly crispy fringe and then turn it to cook the other side. Repeat the process for each torrija.

In a small saucepan, simmer the red wine, honey, anise pod and cinnamon stick. The reduction takes time and the end product ( approximately 1/3 of the original amount of liquid) should have the consistency of honey. You can fortify this sauce with 1 tablespoon of Jerez if you desire. Since the process is slow, it is a good idea to make the sauce in advance and warm it up slightly right before using it. Do use a good quality red wine: the fruit and oak notes will only intensify as the water evaporates.

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