Leave it to the Spanish to think of using wine to soak their French Toast! Torrijas are a traditional Lent and Easter treat made from soaked bread that is deep fried and served with cinnamon sugar or honey. You’ll want to give this version of French Toast a try!
Torrijas: A Long History
What we think of as a breakfast dish in the States has a long history in Europe. You find versions of what we would call “French Toast” as early as the 300-400s AD!
The Spanish version, torrijas, were first seen in the 1600s, when they were used as a common food to nourish women during labor and postpartum.
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Now, that’s how you treat a Mama!
Torrijas For Lent and Easter in Spain
No one really knows how torrijas transitioned from being a common labor food to being the most widely eaten Easter and Lent treat in Spain.
Some say that because the deep fried pieces of bread look a little bit like slices of meat, they were a ‘meat replacement’ during the Lenten fast from meat.
Others say that since torrijas used common, everyday ingredients, they were considered a nourishing food for hard times, which made them a staple during the Lenten fast, when people were forgoing richer, more expensive foods. (Which is funny for us in the States to think of, because rarely do we think of deep fried foods as nourishing. Rather, we’d think of them as indulgent.)
Spanish Wine French Toast
What we do know, is that torrijas are most traditionally made by soaking day old bread in wine. And this gives us a bit of a clue to the Christian connection.
Christ’s body is considered the “bread of life”. And, He gave us wine as a symbol of the blood that He shed for us on the cross. Therefore, the use of bread and wine in torrijas, makes these wine-infused French toasts a wonderful symbol of the death of Christ that we remember during the Lenten and Easter seasons.
How to Make Spanish Torrijas
Torrijas are made with a slightly different method that we traditionally think of for French toast in the States.
(Actually, they’re made more like Brazilian French Toast. But, the Brazilians probably got their method from the Portuguese.)
The bread is first soaked in wine that has been infused with cinnamon and orange zest.
Then, the soaked bread pieces are dipped in beaten egg, to coat all sides.
Finally, the soaked and dipped bread slices are deep fried in olive oil. (The olive oil is key to giving torrijas their classic sweet and slightly savory combo of flavors.)
To serve, torrijas are either dusted with cinnamon sugar or drizzled with honey. Some recipes even have you pour any remaining bread soaking liquid over the fried toasts, making the final dish a creamy, bread-pudding consistency.
Such a treat!
“Torrijas de Leche” or “Torrijas de Vino”
You will find torrijas eaten as dessert or as a snack, but rarely as breakfast. And, depending on who is making the torrijas you will now find the bread soaked in a number of different liquids.
Infused sweet white wine is the most traditional. However, we have seen versions that use an infused sweet red wine as well.
Some versions will tone the flavor of the wine down with some water or milk.
And, other versions will skip the wine all together and infuse milk with cinnamon and orange to dip their bread.
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Do keep in mind that since you are simmering your wine to infuse it, much of the alcohol from the wine will be cooked off before the torrijas are served. But, in our torrijas recipe below, we give you options for using both wine or milk.