Torrijas are a typical sweet eaten in Spain during what we call the Holy Week. It is one of the most typical sweets in Spain. They are normally prepared around Easter although they can be enjoyed all year long.
Prepared with ingredients always available at home, these are great when you want to use stale old bread and you do not have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen. You just need some milk, eggs and sugar, ingredients that are pantry staples at everybody’s home, to prepare these delicious toasts.
Most recipes that you can find online for this dessert are overly sweet. The recipe I bring you today though is just moderately sweet since most of the sugar is caramelized giving the torrijas another dimension of flavour. The sugar then loses its sweetness and the torrijas end up gold and caramelized.
Torrijas vs French toast
You may be tempted to consider these just another version of French toasts. And it is not the case. These Torrijas are passed sequentially by different mixtures of egg, milk and sugar, while French toasts are dipped in a mixture of all of them. While you may think this is not a big difference, it is.
The way the sugar and egg behave is very different because they interact in a different manner with both the bread and the oil. This makes torrijas much less eggy than French toasts and creates a very different section between outside crust and gooey center.
Ingredients you need to prepare Torrijas
- One stale loaf of bread. Not completely dry, maybe a couple of days old. If you do not have any around home, maybe head to your baker and ask them. They will most likely be happy to give you an old piece of bread at no cost.
- Eggs. A couple of medium eggs should be enough to make torrijas from one loaf of bread.
- White sugar.
- Milk. I used almond milk but you can use any type of milk. I would not recommend you to use whole milk because the amount of fat in it, combined with the oil from frying will make for very heavy torrijas.
- (Optional) cinnamon, tea or a sweet wine such as Moscatel.
- Vegetable oil without flavour, canola or sunflower ideally. The oil will be very hot, so make sure it has a high burning point.
Preparing the ingredients
To prepare the ingredients, it is necessary to cut the loaf of bread in slices of about one inch. Even though you can make them thinner, they may desintegrate when you soak them in milk. Also, if they are too thin you may lose the differences between the layers of crunchy caramel and soft and wet center.
The oil must be very hot since we only want to cook and caramelize the outside layer of the torrijas. It should be almost fuming. And as per Mr Ramsay advice, always place the toasts away from you in the oil. You will avoid splashing hot oil on you.
Whisk the eggs slightly in a bowl. Then add the milk to another bowl, and the sugar to another one.
Preparing the torrijas
- Place the bread slices in the milk for 30 seconds to a minute, depending on how dry your bread is.
- After that, pass the bread to the sugar bowl and cover both sides with it. You can press a little bit to both sides to create a more compact sugar layer.
- Remove torrijas from the sugar and give them an egg bath. Make sure you cover both sides.
- Once done, place on a plate while you prepare enough to cook one batch in the oil. If you prepare more, the egg will slide off the toasts, so avoid that as much a possible.
- Pan fry the torrijas in enough oil to cover 2/3 of the toasts.
- Cook both sides flipping them a couple of times until they turn dark golden brown.
- Place on a cooling rack and taste them once they are warm but not hot.
The most crucial point during the preparation of the torrijas is the frying. It is necessary that the oil is hot enough so that the bread only fries but does not soak in the oil.
As you fry different batches of torrijas, sugar will accumulate in the pan and start burning. It is important that you always remove these pieces of caramel from the oil between batches or you will end up with burn and bitter bits in your toasts.
Do not prepare all torrijas at the same time, just do them as you fry them. If you already started before you have place in the pan, you can stop in the sugar step. Just don’t do it on the milk or your bread will get too wet.
The more torrijas you pass through the egg more sugar will accumulate there. That is normal and great. As you make more torrijas, the outter layer will get a tad sweeter and the caramel layer thicker.
Like in many other things, the first batch will never be great. Just keep on going and you will not regret it.
Some people may not consider their torrijas sweet enough. If that is the case, you can always cover them in sugar after frying them. I prefer the version I am posting here, but the possibility is there.
A similar thing goes for cinnamon. If you enjoy this spice, you can always infuse the milk with it before dipping the bread. Make sure the milk goes back to room temperature before you start preparing torrijas. Same thing goes for tea. If you want to make some funky-tea torrijas, infuse the milk with tea before starting to prepare the torrijas.
Finally, another alternative to these toasts are boozy torrijas. You can prepare a mixture with equal parts of milk and sweet wine (such as moscatel) and then soak the bread there. Just keep children away. These will be a lot sweeter than the originals since the wine will penetrate the inside of the torrijas.