The trick to 1892 East’s crispy French toast is a combination of cornflakes and buttery palmiers, which add great crunch and rich flavor. (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)

The trick to 1892 East’s crispy French toast is a combination of cornflakes and buttery palmiers, which add great crunch and rich flavor. (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)

Is your bread stale? Don’t throw it away; make this treat

Cornflake French toast might seem a bit of a gimmick, but the added crunch is a marvel.

  • Tuesday, August 11, 2020 1:30am
  • Life

Perhaps you’ve made loaves of delicious challah or sourdough bread during the coronavirus lockdown or picked up crispy baguettes from your favorite bakery. White bread is so amazingly good when it’s fresh from the oven; sadly it goes stale very quickly.

Of course, leftover bread can be ground into crumbs or torn into crunchy croutons (I keep crumbs and croutons in my freezer to top macaroni and cheese or to add to salads), but there are many more creative and enjoyable ways to use day-old bread.

Dried-out bread is very adaptable to soaking up flavors without getting mushy. Many cuisines rely on the use of stale bread such as Lebanon’s fattoush (a chopped salad of crisp vegetables, fresh herbs and strips of pita bread bathed in vinaigrette), and Italy’s Tuscan bread soups like pappa al pomodoro (ripe tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, garlic mashed together with a slice of country bread) or panzanella salad (ciabatta bread and ripe juicy tomatoes, extra-virgin olive oil, olives, capers and red peppers).

Try tomato bruschetta (pronounced broo-skeh-tuh) for an appetizer (lightly toasted or grilled slice of sourdough or rustic country bread piled high with chopped tomatoes, garlic and balsamic vinegar).

For something sweet, French toast (pan perdu or “lost toast”) or New Orleans’ bourbon-infused sweet and custardy bread pudding can’t be beat.

Bread is used to thicken Spain’s roasted bell pepper Romesco sauce — traditionally served with fish, chicken or roasted vegetables. To make Romesco sauce, pulse 1 large roasted red bell pepper from a jar, 1 garlic clove, ½ cup toasted slivered almonds, ¼ cup tomato puree, 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley, 2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper and 1 slice rustic bread in a blender or food processor. With machine running, slowly add ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil; season with salt and pepper.

Coffee and cornflake French toast

This recipe is adapted from “A Flash in the Pan: Simple, Speedy, Stovetop Recipes” by John Whaite, Kyle Books ($24.99).

Red wine might be the perfect fit with breakfast; much like a bloody Mary. French toast goes very well with Oregon’s La Crema Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2018 ($26.95). The light oak in the wine melds with the honey and vanilla in the French toast, and if bacon or ham is on the menu, the pairing would be exquisite.

Whaite writes, “Cornflake French toast might seem a bit of a gimmick, but it’s a marvel. While the flavor is somewhat subtle, the added crunch to that pillowy soft bread is where the virtue lies. I’ve taken this a step closer to breakfast perfection with the addition of coffee, but if you’re a coffee-phobe, feel free to leave it out.” I dump the cornflakes in a large plastic ziptop bag and smash with a rolling pin or mallet.

½ cup whole milk

2 teaspoon instant espresso powder

1 tablespoon runny honey

2 large eggs

3 cups cornflakes

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 thick slices of brioche or challah bread (day-old)

Maple syrup, to serve

Put the milk and espresso powder into a mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Add the honey and eggs and whisk until well mixed. Crush the cornflakes roughly — some should be fine powder, while other pieces should be fairly chunky. Tip into a wide bowl or plate. Set a large frying pan over a medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, reduce the heat to medium and add the butter, swirling it around the pan to melt. Dunk the bread slices, one at a time, into the egg mixture, pressing them down gently to soak them well. Dip both sides of the bread slices into the cornflakes to coat completely, then pop into the pan. If your pan is big enough, fry all 4 pieces at once; otherwise cook the bread slices in batches, only dipping and coating them just before frying. Add more butter if necessary. Fry over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes per side, until deeply golden and crispy. Serve with a drizzle of maple syrup.

Makes 4 slices.

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