How to Make Torrijas (Spanish French Toast)
What Are Torrijas?
If you're not familiar with these sweet little treats, it's high time you became acquainted! Perhaps the easiest way to describe torrijas, if you've never tried them, is that they are basically Spanish French toast. While very popular in Spain during Holy Week (where they're a classic Easter recipe), this is a dish you'll be wanting to make all year round.
Like pain perdu, this dish is prepared by soaking stale bread in milk and eggs and then frying it to a beautiful golden brown. Torrijas can also be made with wine-soaked bread, but the milk-soaked version is one everyone can enjoy! Think of them like little fried bread puddings tossed in cinnamon and sugar like a churro.
The first similar recipe is found in the Apicius, a Roman cookbook from the late 4th or early 5th century. The earliest written record of the Spanish dish specifically comes from 1496, when poet and composer Juan del Encina published his work Cancionero, including the word "torrejas."
How to Serve Torrijas
While I usually make it for dessert, the great thing about this recipe is its versatility. In Spain, people often enjoy torrijas for breakfast or as an afternoon snack. They're amazing straight out of the oil, crispy and warm, with a cup of strong, dark coffee.
Honey and maple syrup are great toppings, but if you want to take the experience to the next level, make your own syrup from seasonal fruit, as shown in the video below the recipe.
Spanish Torrijas Recipe
Cooking Tips Before You Start . . .
- The denser or tighter the crumb of your bread, the better it will hold up. Many recipes call for baguette, but a loaf of white French or Italian bread works better.
- Make sure your bread is really dry, though I recommend slicing it while it's still soft, as it's harder to cut good slices after it's stale. Allowing it to dry out will give you the best torrija—moist and rich on the inside, crispy on the outside.
- Prepare the paper towels and/or rack where you'll be draining the torrijas before you begin frying so that you don't have to scramble.
- Mix cinnamon and sugar ahead of time so that you can sprinkle it on while still hot. If you try to coat torrijas after they cool, it won't stick as well.
- 1 loaf white bread, stale
- 4 cups milk
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 5 eggs, lightly beaten
- Pinch salt
- Oil for frying
- Cinnamon and sugar
- Cut bread into slices approximately 1 inch thick. Lay out slices in the bottom of a shallow baking dish.
- Combine milk and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat immediately and let cool to lukewarm.
- Add salt to the milk mixture, then pour over the bread.
- In a shallow pan, heat about a 1/2 inch of oil until very hot. (Test by dropping a grain of rice or popcorn kernel into the oil to see if it is at proper frying temperature.
- In batches, carefully dip soaked bread slices in your beaten eggs, holding for a moment to allow excess to drip before placing in the hot oil to fry. Do not overcrowd your pan!
- Fry for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until a nice golden brown. Remove to paper towels to drain excess oil while you continue frying the remaining pieces.
- While still hot, sprinkle your torrijas with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar to coat.
- Serve hot with honey or homemade syrup.
How to Make Orange-Ginger Syrup
As with any recipe, once you've mastered it, you can really start to have fun playing around with it. Here are a few suggestions for variations on the basic recipe:
Try the "adult" version of this classic by substituting 2–3 cups of Spanish red wine for some of the milk.
Add orange and/or lemon zest to the milk mixture when you take it off the heat to add a beautiful citrus note to the custard.
Infuse the milk with a pinch of spice; cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg make great additions.
Torrija Dipping Fingers
Instead of slices, cut your bread into thick "fingers." These are great for dipping in syrup or sauce and a big hit with kids of all ages.
© 2017 Lena Durante