To say my mama doesn’t like French toast would be a bit of an understatement. It’s not like she hates it with a passion or anything. One could say she strongly dislikes it. With a passion.
Suffice to say, French toast is not my mama’s cup of tea.
The reason why can be traced back to an unpleasant childhood memory. I can’t remember the specifics, but I know it involved a camping trip, rainy weather, and French toast that was overly-drenched in the batter and then undercooked over a campfire. The resulting breakfast entree wasn’t just soggy; my understanding was that extra batter oozed from it upon being cut. Notably, French toast is traditionally made with egg, which leaves one wondering about what the possibility of salmonella or other food-borne illnesses.
Of course, this could have been an exaggeration on my mama’s part but, impressionable child that I was, it still had a profound effect on my opinion of this breakfast favorite. My mama never cooked it, and the few times I ever tried it in a restaurant where understandably colored by this legendary family tale. I steadfastly refused to eat French toast at friends’ houses, I shunned frozen boxes of French toast in grocery stores, and I spent years fervently believing that French toast was, in a word, gross.
So it was with great trepidation that I made the decision to try making French toast on my own. My husband loves it but, due to my general dislike of eggs and my refusal to cook it at home, he only ever ate it at the occasional breakfast out. But for Father’s Day this year, our first year celebrating it with our then four-month-old son, I had decided to venture into the kitchen and make something yummy for him.
But what to make? Pancakes? We make pancakes all the time, and he loves them, but they’re not special enough. Breakfast sandwiches? Ooh, I could make English muffins, hit the farmers’ market for some fresh eggs, and buy some artisan cheese, and… never mind, way too complicated. Breakfast scramble? Maybe, but would I even have time to chop up all of those veggies?
Finally, I remembered a cookbook I had just finished perusing Pure Vegan, by Joseph Shuldiner. One of the recipes in it had caught my attention and merited a bookmark for future consideration. That recipe was French Toast with Cardamom Pear Compote. Of course, making the compote was out of the question; I didn’t have the ingredients or willpower to make it. I didn’t have the time, either; with such a small baby, it was a bit of a miracle when I got to cook anything at all.
But the French toast itself? That I could do.
And you know what? It was amazing! It was so unbelievably good that I could hardly believe I had avoided it for my entire life. This recipe (the French toast part, anyway) is definitely being added to my collection of personal favorites.
French Toast with Cardamom Pear Compote
from Pure Vegan by Joseph Shuldiner
2 pears, peeled & cored
⅓ c maple syrup
grated zest of ½ lemon
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
½ tsp ground cardamom
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp salt
1¼ c soymilk
1 tbsp maple syrup, plus more for drizzling
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1-2 tbsp canola oil or soy margarine
6-8 slices rustic bread
powdered sugar for dusting
To make the compote: Cut the pears into ½-inch dice. Put them in a small saucepan over medium-high heat; add the maple syrup, lemon zest, lemon juice, and cardamom; and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thick and syrupy, 10 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm. (If you make the compote in advance, reheat before serving.)
To make the French toast: In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, and salt and blend with a whisk. Add the soymilk, maple syrup, and vanilla and whisk just until smooth and free of lumps.
In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the canola oil over medium-high heat until a drop of water sizzles when added to the pan. Dip several slices of the bread (however many will fit in the skillet without touching) in the batter and fry until golden brown on the first side, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn and fry the second side until golden brown. Repeat with the remaining bead, adding more oil as necessary. Serve with the pear compote and a dusting of powdered sugar. Drizzle with additional maple syrup if desired. Serves 6 to 8.
Holly’s notes: The author suggests using homemade bread; specifically, he recommends the recipe for Twenty-One-Hour Boule, found elsewhere in Pure Vegan. Since I’m not cool enough to make my own bread for recipes like this (or rather, because having a baby leaves me no time for things like kneading dough), I instead chose to use a soft-crusted French baguette from the bakery section of my local grocery store. We sliced it pretty thick, and it was delicious! Definitely spring for real maple syrup for a recipe like this; sugar-laden “table syrup” can’t hold a candle to the real thing. I think this recipe is great because, like so many vegan recipes, it uses ingredients that I pretty much always have on hand. (I very rarely have eggs, since I don’t really like them that much.) And, like so many vegan recipes, it can easily be non-veganized for the omnivore. I’d be willing to bet that the recipe would come out just fine with the use of regular milk in place of the soymilk.
As I said earlier, I did not make the compote, but I’m including it here, because it was part of the original recipe. The French toast itself was fabulous, and it made a believer out of me. This recipe is a keeper!
Holly Scudero lives in San Diego, California, with her husband, baby, and cat. She has been writing for SBR/SFBR since December 2008. She’s a stay-at-home mama who loves to cook vegetarian and vegan meals, when she has enough time to cook anything at all! When not playing with her son, reading, doing copy editing, writing book reviews, or writing other things, Holly spends her time cooking, knitting, playing video games, watching her husband play video games, or listening to music.