Torrijas-Spanish “French” Toast-Spain

I still remember the first morning I spent in Madrid. I had arrived in the Spanish capital the day before after my six hour bus ride from my home base of Seville. While I tried to fit a lot into the afternoon and evening of my first day there (a visit to the Reina Sofia Museum and walking around the famed Plaza Mayor), the weather was unfortunately cold and dreary (for Spain that is) so I turned in on the early side. The hostal (in Spain a hostal is a cross between a hotel and a hostel) I stayed at was anything but charming which I loathe. While my private room featured its own shower, the W/C (toilet) was in the hallway, as in shared facilities. Strike one. For strike two, it was undoubtedly the hostal owner’s screaming toddler who liked to ride his tricycle up and down the hallways way into the early morning hours with no parental disciplining in sight. (I shouldn’t be entirely mad at the toddler since he was after all keeping with his country’s cultural customs as in people do not go to bed early…ever.) The following morning after a craptastic night’s sleep, I set out for some breakfast even though breakfast in Spain is really a misnomer.

While in most European countries, breakfast is on the small side, I don’t think anywhere has a smaller “breakfast” than in Spain (on a sarcastic note I attribute this to the fact that when you don’t get home from a night out in Spain until the sun set is up, breakfast seems like a waste of time since it’s lunch hour by the time one actually awakens). In Seville breakfast at my host family’s house consisted of a piece of fruit and a roll. My roommate and I got into the habit of hording these wafer style cookies that were left out in a tin since we were famished all the time. That “breakfast” would have been fine and dandy had I not had to awake at roughly 6:30 AM in order to make it for 8 AM classes at the center and then have to wait for lunch until 2:30. In short, Spanish meal times are killers.

So back to Madrid. The hostal was located in the city’s Puerta del Sol area (the Spanish equivalent of New York’s Times Square) and I quickly found a bar/cafe (these also seem to sometimes be one and the same in Spain) that was open. I was headed out to the palace of El Escorial and started my day early. I ordered the only thing being offered in the AM-churros and chocolate caliente (hot chocolate). I had had churros once before as a child when on vacation with my family in southern California; I loved them-pieces of fried dough that had been deliciously immersed in cinnamon sugar. However, let me say this, churros one finds in Spain are not like the churros that are sold in SOCAL (I had some at Disneyland when I visited last year and they were just like I had remembered). Churros in Spain are still fried pieces of dough, just not extremely sweet. The hot chocolate was also not like hot chocolate I was accustomed to-it was like chocolate tar…literally. It was so thick I felt slightly sick drinking the  stuff as opposed to eating it with a spoon. Needless to say this breakfast didn’t leave me feeling rip roaring, ready to go but rather me wanting to return to my bed and pass out.

But the point of this post was to parlay it into a dish I made for dinner this week-Spanish French toast otherwise known as torrijas. The funny thing is while we in the United States eat French toast for breakfast/brunch meals (or dinner if you’re like me), torrijas in Spain is eaten as a sweet treat, but definitely not at breakfast. While I have made French toast before and blogged about it before, you can never have too many versions of it I say.

(Yes, it’s strawberry season here in the northeastern United States)

Torrijas (Spanish French Toast)
recipe courtesy of Sheila Lukins’ All Around the World Cookbook
2 cups milk
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons confectioners sugar
4 thick slices (1/2 inch) crusty peasant bread, cut from a large round loaf, halved crosswise
2 tablespoons extra virgin Spanish olive oil

-In a bowl large enough to soak the bread, whisk together the milk, eggs, granulated sugar, and 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon
-Combine the remaining teaspoon of cinnamon with the confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl. Set aside. 
-Dip the bread in the batter to coat well.
-Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly brown the bread in the oil, in batches if necessary (using more oil as needed), until nicely toasted, about 2.5 minutes on each side. 
-Place 2 pieces of French toast on each plate and using a strainer, sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar. Serve immediately. 

Serves 4

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  • Reply
    JoAnn M.
    April 14, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    A delicious post! I’m not really a cook, but I will have to try this! What is peasant bread and what can I substitute for it if I can’t find it? Can I make this with less sugar?

    Do you have a good recipe for churros?

    Love the photos! 🙂

  • Reply
    the red headed traveler
    April 14, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    Delicious indeed! You will be fine trying it! That’s what I love about French toast-the only thing you really need is just patience to sit through cooking each batch!

    I should go back and change the bread part to Italian loaf or something comparable. Just good, slightly soft yet crunchy bakery style bread. Something still thick enough to not come apart after soaking it in the egg batter. I’d think you’ll also be fine omitting less sugar-I only did the sprinkling on top at the end for the one batch.

    I have never made churros before but you definitely inspired me to find a good recipe! I will let you know when I do although that will be a challenge I’m sure. Not the biggest fan of frying things 🙂

  • Reply
    JoAnn M.
    April 14, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    Thanks for the info! I’ll let you know how it goes. Sounds like Tuscan bread might work. I’ll try it with the sugar and then decide how much to omit.

    Churros is a difficult recipe. The one I tried tasted good, but they got hard so quickly so I’m always looking for a better recipe. Even the Spanish/Mexican restaurants around here don’t seem to carry them. I hate frying things to. It’s an art I have not yet mastered.

  • Reply
    Sarah P | The Travel Spotlight
    April 14, 2013 at 10:58 pm

    Oh my gosh! My (Indian) grandmother makes Torrijas for special-occasion breakfasts! Except she calls it Bombay Toast! (no relation to Bombay / Mumbai – we’re not even from there so I don’t know where she got the name!)

    Believe it or not, it’s actually the same recipe! Except we eat it plain without strawberries! Ahhh I could happily inhale an entire stack – we don’t make it too often so when my grandma indulges us, we abandon all diets and indulge!

    Also – I definitely have to check out Sheila Lurkin’s cookbook – Food Around the World? Yes please!

  • Reply
    the red headed traveler
    April 15, 2013 at 1:03 am

    JoAnn-With pleasure! I would think Tuscan bread would definitely work though. Perfect way to describe frying-an art 🙂 And if that’s the case it’s an art I’m happy to have never mastered as my body is thanking me. Same way here about churros being nonexistent on the menus unfortunately.

    Sarah-I always love to discover variations of different dishes from around the world! The strawberries were my touch ha ha-torrijas a la Julie 🙂 I just need to eat them otherwise I buy and they spoil. It’s a great cookbook, I think it’s geared more towards high school students but terrific for uni and working class adults with the simple recipes!

  • Reply
    April 15, 2013 at 4:27 pm

    Spain is still on my list of “to do’s”. That torrijas looks delicious!!

  • Reply
    the red headed traveler
    April 15, 2013 at 10:59 pm

    You will love it when you go! So simple to make-my ideal night is one where I have breakfast at dinner 🙂

  • Reply
    Bar Ferdinand Brunch Philadelphia Restaurant Review - The Red Headed Traveler
    March 20, 2016 at 11:33 am

    […] freeze. You see, Spain has a type of French Toast that I’m aware of, except that its name is torrijas and in Spain it’s considered more of a dessert dish. However, it consists of a slice of bread […]

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