Butter

Crackly Kinako French Toast

July 15, 2020
Photo by Yi Jun Loh
Author Notes

The best French toast I’ve had was more crème brulee than, well, French toast. Imagine a crackly, caramelized crust, crunching under the weight of your spoon, yielding to a custardy, batter-soaked brioche so moist, it’s what bread pudding wishes it were but never is. Shibuya toast may be the ultimate dessert for breakfast (or is it breakfast for dessert?), but this, to me, is the pinnacle of French toast.

I first had this brûléed French toast five years ago, in a dimly-lit, izakaya-style restaurant along Old Compton Street in Soho, London. Shack-Fuyu’s menu is filled with Japanese-inflected dishes like miso aubergine, iberico katsu sandos, “prawn toast masquerading as okonomiyaki” (their words), and one, sole dessert: kinako French toast.

And truth be told, bar the French toast, I had to refer to their online menu in writing this, because in the dozen or so times I’ve been there, it was only ever for dessert. I’d eat the toast at the bar counter for all but 10 minutes, before fluttering out into the frigid London air, a little fuller than when I walked in and plenty content. It was my monthly ritual in the six months I lived in London, and I still haven’t had a better French toast.

Perhaps it’s because of the unparalleled, inspired combination of kinako, roasted and pulverized soybeans—and caramelized bread. When added to sweets and desserts, kinako lends an earthy, sultry undertone—one that plays especially well with the umami-sweetness of matcha.

Replicating this dish at home, I followed the many trappings of a good French toast—using day-old brioche or pain de mie, drying the bread in the oven to allow for better batter absorption (as Serious Eats’s Daniel Gritzer suggests), and pan-frying with generous pats of butter. But, this is where I then veer off course: the finished French toast then gets sprinkled with more sugar and torched (or broiled) until bubbly, browned, and crackly all over.

Dusted with kinako and spooned with some matcha ice cream, it instantly brought me back to my time in London—that fancified French toast, a ritual revisited. —Yi Jun Loh

  • Prep time 5 minutes
  • Cook time 20 minutes
  • Serves 4
Ingredients
  • 4 (1 1/2-inch) thick slices brioche
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons caster sugar, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon rum (white or dark is fine)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons kinako, for dusting
  • 4 scoops matcha ice cream, to serve
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. In a low (300°F) oven or toaster, toast the bread for 3-5 minutes, or until it just turns the slightest blush of brown, not more. We just want to dry out the bread a little here.
  2. In a wide bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the batter. Place a slice of brioche into the batter, and flip it around so that both sides are wetted through. Let soak in the batter for 2-3 minutes.
  3. As the bread soaks, heat a non-stick pan or skillet over medium heat, and plop in a tablespoon of butter. When the butter melts and sizzles, lift the soaked brioche out of the batter and gently place it into the pan. Cook it in the pan until just lightly browned on the bottom, careful not to caramelize it too much, as we’ll be browning it a little more after. This should take about 2 minutes each side. Repeat dunking and pan-frying with the remaining slices of brioche.
  4. Sprinkle the extra caster sugar onto the bread (roughly 1/2 tablespoon per side of toast). Torch the sugar until it bubbles and turns a glassy brown, like the top of a crème brulee. Repeat on all 4 slices, before flipping them over and doing the same on all the flipside. If you don’t have a blowtorch, you can do this in a toaster or a broiler oven too, though it might not be as even.
  5. Using a small sieve, dust a liberal amount of kinako (estimating 2 teaspoons per toast) onto each slice, and serve on a plate alongside the matcha ice cream.

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Engineer + cook + food blogger. All about cross-cultural cooking, funky-fresh ferments, and abusing alliteration.