You’re probably rolling your eyes and thinking “oh no, not another Nigella moment” re: the now infamous avocado on toast sequence featured on Nigella’s new BBC show Simply Nigella that elicited an onslaught of whinging and incendiary barbs from malcontent viewers which, for whatever reasons, eludes me. Nigella’s response to the criticism was “Well, as I said on the show, it’s not a recipe but chatting about food I eat is what I do!” I suppose this could be construed as self indulgent to the unconsoled.
In Nigella’s defence I have to say I’ve been an unabashed fan for many years. You can think what you like, but Nigella is an astutely seasoned home cook with an engaging gift for descriptive copy. The recipes are well tested and transcribed into easy to follow recipes that deliver the delicious results that have been so persuasively described and photographed.
Of course everyone knows how to make French toast which has been around since medieval times. However, in most recipes little credence is ever given to the bread itself other than to mention to use pan perdu (day old or stale bread). Bread is after all the main ingredient. With a resurgence of traditional bread baking methods using whole grain flours and natural leavening, there is now a proliferation of bread possibilities to choose from that will turn out some of the best French toast you could ever imagine.
To avoid any Nigella moment pitfalls I’m going to follow Elizabeth David’s lead here with a missive rather than a recipe for making French toast. For the bread I chose a crusty yeasted maize loaf that has a slight sweetness from the fresh corn kernels mixed into the dough. The bread choice is completely up to you, so here is your chance to be creative.
Best to gather your ingredients before you begin, which include an organic egg, about a third cup of whole milk, a splash of pure vanilla extract, a pinch of salt, a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg, a large thick slice of crusty bread of choice (day old or stale is best), a couple teaspoons butter, honey or pure maple syrup, and cinnamon sugar. This will make a single serving, so simply increase the ingredient proportions for the servings required.
Whisk together the egg, milk, vanilla extract, nutmeg, and salt. Pour into a shallow dish and add a bread slice. Let soak for at least five minutes and then turn the bread over and soak another five minutes. You want the bread to be completely saturated.
Place a skillet over medium low flame and add a teaspoon of butter. Swirl to coat the bottom of the skillet. Carefully lift the bread out of the egg mixture and lower it into the skillet. Fry until the underside of the bread is an even golden brown, checking by lifting the bread with a spatula now and again as it fries. Then slip the spatula under the bread, lifting it up, adding another teaspoon of butter to the skillet, again giving the pan a swirl to distribute the butter, before flipping the bread over into the skillet. Again fry until the bread is an even golden brown.
Gently lift the finished French toast out of the pan and onto a plate. Drizzle the honey or maple syrup generously over the toast. Dust lightly with cinnamon sugar and serve.