Torrijas con crema pastelera

Torrijas are the official Easter dessert in Spain. Similar to French toast they make use of old bread and like many other Spanish desserts they were invented by nuns around the 15th century. It is said that they are an Easter dessert because their traditional appearance resembles roast meat, an item of food which is forbidden for Catholics around this period. They are as moist as a good bread pudding and can be eaten all year, not just during Easter. Today Aragon is the community in Spain where they are most consumed with some 3 million torrijas being made and eaten every year. If you ever happen to be in any city of Spain during Easter, make sure you try this traditional dessert or make your own at home following this simple recipe.

Ingredients          

Serves 6

  • 1 loaf of brioche bread (preferably from the previous day; you could also use brioche buns)
  • 1 litre whole milk
  • 5 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 1 Cinnamon Branch
  • Lemon peel from 1 lemon
  • 4 eggs beaten to dip

For the crema pastelera (custard)

  • Torrija batter reserved
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons cornflour

Preparation:

For the torrijas:

Cut the loaf of bread at an angle into thick slices. You could also use whole brioche buns.

In a saucepan add the milk, sugar, cinnamon stick, lemon peel. When the milk is about to boil, pour half of it onto the sliced bread and let it stand for an hour, reserving the other half with the lemon peel and cinnamon stick for the crema pastelera (custard).

In a deep frying pan, heat the olive oil. Dip the bread in the egg and cook over medium heat until golden brown. Flip the bread slices once (1 minute on each side).

For the crema pastelera (custard):

Bring the reserve milk to boil again with the vanilla pod.

Mix together the egg yolks, sugar and corn flour to get a smooth paste.

Pour over the milk and stir well. Remove the vanilla pod (you can wash and dry it to use again in a another recipe).

Strain the mixture back into a clean saucepan and, stirring constantly, cook gently until the custard thickens.

To serve, simply pour the hot custard over the fried torrijas and sprinkle with cinnamon and caster sugar to taste. For extra decadency you can also use a blow torch to caramelise the sugar.