This Spanish sweet dish, known as torrijas, is traditionally eaten during Lent, the 40 days before Easter. It is believed to have originated in Andalucian convents during the XV century as a way to use up stale bread. Today it is a popular breakfast food all over Spain.
The British call it bread pudding, while Americans would probably call it French Toast. Although torrijas are popular for breakfast, they can be eaten anytime. The Spanish generally use a French-style baguette, as in the photo, but white bread can be used, too.
Torrijas are also known as rebandas de Carnaval or tortillas de leche and there are many variations of this beloved dish and some are included at the end of the recipe.
Pour the milk into a medium-size mixing bowl. Add the egg and beat together. Add the optional vanilla extract.
Pour enough oil into a large frying pan to cover the bottom and heat on medium. Be careful that the oil does not burn.
If you are using stale white bread, place one slice in the milk-egg mixture and quickly flip it over with a fork. Make sure that the bowl is next to the frying pan, so you can quickly transfer it from the bowl to the heated pan.
If the bread is more than a day old, you might need to soak the bread for 2 to 3 minutes or more, so that it softens up. Be careful that the bread does not soften so much that it crumbles when you lift it out of the bowl.
Carefully lift the bread out of the mixture and let the excess milk drain before placing the bread in the frying pan. Repeat for each of the other slices.
After 2 to 3 minutes, check the bottom of the bread. As the slices turn golden, turn each one. You might wish to use a nylon spatula or tongs to turn the slices over. Make sure that you have enough room in the pan to turn the slices.
Remove each piece from the pan and place on a plate. Sprinkle the top with sugar and cinnamon. If you prefer, drizzle honey over the top. Garnish with fresh fruit and serve immediately.
How to Reheat
If the torrijas cool down and you wish to heat them up, place them back in the frying pan on low heat or in a toaster oven at a low temperature. Do not place them in a microwave because this will cause the bread to become rubbery.
How to Serve
- If you do not have stale bread on hand, lightly toast the sliced bread so that it dries out enough to soak up the milk and not turn to mush.
- Instead of soaking the slices of bread in milk and egg mixture, soak in sweet red wine and then dip in beaten egg.
- Substitute 1/2 cup milk and 1/4 cup half-and-half for the 3/4 cup milk to give a richer taste.
- Pour flavored honey, such as orange blossom, clover, or eucalyptus, over bread before serving.