Bear Makes Brunch: French Toast and Finals

Do you ever feel like eating dessert for breakfast should be totally okay? But then you feel really guilty when you eat cake for breakfast? French toast solves that problem, because it tastes like dessert but it pretends to be breakfast. That’s right, all those people that judge you for eating bread made out of milk, eggs and sugar—so, like cake—for breakfast will no longer give you weird looks if you just eat bread dipped in milk, eggs and sugar. Or for you, rice milk, eggs and sugar. You can have your cake and eat it too!

As finals approach and temperatures drop, French toast warms my heart in a way that problem sets can’t. My favorite meal to cook is breakfast, and my favorite breakfast is French toast (see Blossom). NOTE: My recipe for French toast is one of those “measure by feeling” recipes, so if you’re into exact measurements and strict ratios, then this blog post may drive you crazy. If you don’t like strict recipes, feel free to play around with this one!

I try to make French toast more French by using French bread, but you can use whatever bread you want (except moldy bread). Sometimes I have bread that’s a few days old and I don’t want to use it for sandwiches anymore. That kind of bread makes great French toast! According to Wikipedia, French toast is sometimes known as “lost bread” because you can recover stale or about-to-be-stale bread by softening it in the batter. I like that idea, but you can use fresh bread if you prefer. Just make sure that your slices will fit comfortably into your pan!

plain french toast (bread)

The next step is to make the dipping batter. French toast is mostly just fried bread, but dipped in a gooey egg-based coating. Because there are no real measurements in this recipe, I have to judge the number of eggs by the amount of bread that I have. For the amount of bread I had (see above), I used five eggs and whipped them up with some rice milk. The brand that I have is Trader Joe’s rice milk, but any kind will work just as well. In fact, soy milk, almond milk, or any other kind of milk works, and if you have fewer eggs, the milk can increase the volume of your batter to cover all of your bread slices. I like to add a couple spoonfuls of sugar to my batter, which makes it a little thicker and sweeter. (The sugar is not pictured below.) I prefer plain white granulated sugar, but brown sugar and confectioner’s sugar also work. My rule of thumb is one small teaspoon or lump of sugar for every couple of servings, but you can play around with your ingredients. I have seen other people add cinnamon before, which is something that I’ve never tried, but wholeheartedly encourage exploring.

plain french toast (batter ingredients)

After you’ve mixed up the batter, dip a few slices in and let them soak on both sides while you heat your pan. If you are using particularly firm (or stale) bread, you may want to soak it for longer. If you’re wondering what kind of dish to mix your batter in, something relatively shallow is better than a large mixing bowl, so the bread doesn’t sink. However, it should be deep enough to comfortably soak a piece of bread in, so use your best judgement. Here I used a plain cereal bowl, because my bread slices were pretty small.

plain french toast (batter)

Cooking spray or a little cooking oil is all you need for French toast, but make sure that it is hot so that the egg will cook properly. Once the pan is hot, arrange the slices on the pan however you wish to do so. The arrangement of the toast is a matter of efficiency; the more toast you can put on one pan, the faster it will all cook. You should hear a nice sizzle sound when you place the bread down, which means that the oil is hot. I use chopsticks to cook a lot of my food, as you can see here, but a fork for the dipping and a spatula for flipping seems to be the norm. Just make sure you separate utensils that have touched raw egg!

plain french toast (cooking)

Each side is cooked when it’s golden brown (or just brown, if you like your toast to be burnt). Thinner slices cook better than thick slices. You will have to lift up corners and flip multiple times to get a feel for the timing, as every stove is different. I like to keep a plate right next to the stove so I can pile up the finished pieces. Because this is a poorly measured recipe, sometimes I have some egg batter leftover. Because of this, sometimes I double-dip some slices, mostly just to use up the batter, but also to make a fluffier piece of toast!

plain french toast (final)

I love to eat my French toast with maple syrup, powdered sugar or both! Some people like to eat it on its own, and some people like to add berries or other fresh fruit on top. Bear likes his with honey, of course. No matter how you choose to eat it, French toast is the perfect breakfast! It’s pretty easy to make, and once you get the hang of it, you will be able to impress other people with this seemingly fancy dish. Sharing French toast is the best way to convince people that, yes, you can eat dessert for breakfast!

Blossom

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope your weekend is filled with all sorts of deliciousness, hopefully in the form of special desserts! I will not be in the city over the holiday, so no brunches this weekend. However, I will be leaving you with this fabulous find from last weekend. If you have foodie family members in town, I highly recommend it!

One of my favorite neighborhoods is the Upper West Side, home to the American Museum of Natural History and a plethora of cafés and clothing stores. One such charming café is Blossom, located on Columbus Avenue at 82nd Street, where we went for brunch before the holiday frenzy. Blossom, a vegan restaurant, is a short walk from both the heart of Central Park and the 79th Street stop on the 1 train.

Blossom is as warm and pretty as the name suggests. Inside the restaurant is all bright and colorful, and the murals on the wall suggest nourishment, growth, and other plant-related metaphors. The hardwood floors and the plush seating also adds a touch of elegance—this is not a barefoot-and-dreads sort of place. Though the restaurant is small, the high ceilings and the reflective surfaces add depth and space.

Everyone who works at Blossom is really friendly—like Trader-Joe’s-level friendly—and they also have great hair. The great thing about Blossom being a vegan restaurant is that everything is dairy-free! Whenever I go to Blossom and tell the waitstaff about my allergies, they sort of just laugh and point this out. How liberating is that? They have a few nutty items, but those are incredibly easy to avoid. (NOTE: The ice cream at Blossom is from Lula’s Sweet Apothecary, a wonderful vegan ice cream place that unfortunately uses cashew milk as their main dairy substitute. I myself am not allergic to cashews, but if you are, please be aware!)

Even though it was around 1 PM when we went, they still let me order the stuffed French toast, which is amazing. French toast is one of my favorite foods to make and eat, but ordering it at a restaurant is usually a no-go, because of all the butter and milk that goes into its creation. Other exciting things on the menu were soy bacon cheeseburgers, milkshakes and pancakes—all things I can never order at a regular restaurant. All the options were overwhelming, so I reverted to the wonderful French toast that I’ve had before.

Whenever I make French toast at home, it’s mostly just a mess of bread, eggs and sugar. Blossom’s version of French toast consists of thick, practically cake-like bread, stuffed with raspberries, strawberries and “cream cheese,” which gives it a much more intense and complex flavor and texture. The portion size is pretty perfect, right down to the syrup and the side of fresh fruit!

The other Blossom customers were young and trendy, which is typical for the Upper West Side, and not everyone was a vegan. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be a vegan to love Blossom—you just have to be open-minded. Even Bear fit in rather well with the whole scene.

Because Blossom has such beautiful plates that all seem really delicious, I would recommend getting a few things to share between friends. Usually I refrain from sharing food at all, mostly because of cross-contamination, but Blossom has zero risks of dairy contaminants! Plus, the ability to be adventurous comes very rarely for us food allergy folks (see The Full Story) and Blossom is an especially safe place, unlike so many other restaurants in the city.

Blossom is a delicious delight, especially when paired with a pretty walk in Central Park or a trip to one of the many nearby museums after brunch. If you are looking for a classy brunch this weekend, Blossom is it. On this day full of gratitude, I am grateful for all the wonderful family, friends, and of course, food in my life! I hope you all have a safe and scrumptious holiday!