“French Toast” from Pedro Subijana’s Father

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

“I remember how well my grandmother used to make torrijas,” master chef Pedro Subijana of Akelare restaurant in San Sebastián told me, “but the one who did them best was, without doubt, my father, who was a pastry maker by trade, and I can still smell the wonderful aromas of sweet breads and pastries wafting from his oven. He was a man of uncommon sensibility, who delighted in preparing food for family events, thinking only of the pleasure it would bring to his guests. He gave his distinctive touch to torrijas, just as he did with everything else that passed through his hands in the kitchen.” Although torrijas are quintessentially Spanish, they are similar to what we know as French toast. Bread slices are soaked in a custard-like milk mixture, coated with beaten eggs, and fried. They emerge crisp on the surface and creamy within. A nice crusty bread works best, and torrijas should be eaten when freshly made.

8 servings

Cooking Methodfrying



Total Timeunder 30 minutes

Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionFamily Get-together

Recipe Coursedessert

Dietary Considerationpeanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegetarian

Equipmentdeep fryer

Mealbreakfast, brunch, dinner

Moodblue, stressed

Taste and Texturecreamy, crisp, sweet


  • 2 cups milk
  • 6 tablespoons sugar plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Zest of 1 lemon, in several pieces
  • Mild olive oil for frying
  • Sixteen ¾-inch bread slices, cut from a day-old French-style loaf
  • 2 large beaten eggs
  • Ground cinnamon for sprinkling


  1. Heat the milk, sugar, cinnamon stick, and lemon zest in a saucepan. When it reaches a boil (watch carefully so that it does not boil over), reduce the heat to a slow boil and cook for a minute. Return to a full boil, then reduce the heat again as before. Repeat four to five times until the milk is slightly thickened. Simmer for 5 minutes and cool down until barely warm.

  2. Pour the oil to a depth of at least 1 inch in a skillet (or better still, use a deep-fryer set at 360°F) and heat until the oil quickly browns a cube of bread. Place the bread slices in the warm milk and soak for about 1 minute on each side. Coat with the egg and pass directly to the hot oil. Fry until golden, turning once. Drain on paper towels. Arrange on a serving dish and sprinkle generously with sugar and cinnamon. Serve as soon as possible warm or at room temperature.

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