Ona recent trip to Spain, I noticed something called torrijas on the dessert menu. A quick Google told me to expect French toast, but what arrived couldn’t have been farther from what I’d imagined. The first surprise was that it was cold, and the second was a crunchy layer of caramelised sugar on top covering a pillowy-soft, custardy interior infused with orange and cinnamon. I’ve since discovered there are many regional variations, so this is my attempt to recreate the dish I tried that day.

Torrijas

Pre 5 min
Cook 45 min
Serve 8

½ loaf white farmhouse bread
350ml milk
100ml double cream
Peel of 1 large orange
1 cinnamon stick
4 egg yolks
50g caster sugar
plus extra to top
50g unsalted butter

Heat the oven to 160C (140C fan)/325F/gas mark 3. Cut the loaf into four slices about 4cm thick, trim off the crust and cut each slice in half. Put the bread on a tray and bake, turning occasionally, for 15–20 minutes, until the slices feel dry to the touch. Remove and leave to cool.

In a small saucepan, gently heat the milk, cream, orange peel and cinnamon stick until warmed through, then take off the heat, cover and leave to steep for 20 minutes.

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar until pale and creamy, strain the warm milk into the egg mix and whisk again. Pour into a shallow bowl.

Dip a couple of slices of bread into the milk, turning them around to soak evenly on both sides, then leave them to sit in the milk for five minutes. Transfer to a plate – be careful because they’ll be very soft and delicate – then repeat with the remaining bread and custard.

Put about a tablespoon of butter in a large frying pan over a medium-low heat. Once the butter has melted, sprinkle a heaped teaspoon of caster sugar evenly on top, then fry the bread two slices at a time for five to six minutes, turning occasionally, until browned and caramelised.

If serving warm, scatter a little more caster sugar over the top of the bread slices, use a blowtorch (or grill) to heat the sugar until it bubbles and caramelises, then serve with custard or ice-cream. If you’re having the torrijas cold, leave them to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until well chilled. Just before serving, sugar the tops and blowtorch.

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