Recipe of the week: Milk bread French toast with berry compote from Kith by Sarah Rankin

  29 May '24   |  Posted by: Birlinn

This weekend brings with it the start of the summer months, and while the weather hasn’t quite realised it yet, we are excited to celebrate with colourful summer food. Masterchef finalist Sarah Rankin’s debut cookbook Kith is split into seasonal sections, and for our recipe this week, we have chosen a delicious summer breakfast offering, Milk bread French toast with berry compote.

Milk bread French toast with berry compote

Eggy bread is a weekend breakfast staple in our house and I tend to begin on Thursday, when we eat half the loaf, the remainder of the slightly stale bread being the perfect vehicle for soaking up all the egg, making a fabulous Sunday breakfast!

Milk bread was originally a Japanese invention called Shokupan, coming into the consciousness of the rest of the world in the late 1800s when the country began to open up after years of isolation. A fluffy, enriched white bread, it became even more popular in the UK and the US in the 1960s, as a mass-produced child-friendly sandwich vehicle due to its soft and slightly sweet taste.

It’s also a key ingredient for the achingly cool ‘sando’ phenomenon of the late 2010, and the current craze for a fruit and cream-filled sando that can be found in all the coolest dessert spots in Tokyo. Nothing more than sliced fruit and whipped cream sandwiched between two slices of this bread, it’s pretty easy to create at home, and if I was to provide it on the menu to the family I suspect every packed lunch from now until the end of time would include one.

Milk bread is a cousin of brioche, but is easier to make and uses fewer eggs. It’s perfect for French toast, with its pillowy texture and mild sweetness. It works best a day or two after baking, so if you have no willpower, cut off as much as you’ll need for the recipe and eat the rest with lots of butter.

Choose whatever summer berries or fruits are in season. Poached forced rhubarb is a joy in spring, and brambles and damsons in autumn would work beautifully too. I like a half and half compote, where half is cooked and half is added raw at the end. The difference in textures and temperatures adds an extra dimension of sweet and tart.

Serves 3
For the milk bread
(makes 1 loaf)
280ml warm milk
30g melted butter
2 tbsp caster sugar
1x 7g sachet fast action yeast
550g strong white bread flour
1 tsp sea salt
1 egg, beaten, for glazing

For the French toast
3 eggs
1 tbsp caster sugar (optional)
6 slices of milk bread
500g mixed berries – whatever is in season
1 tbsp golden caster sugar
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp crème fraiche
a few mint leaves, chopped (optional)
icing sugar, for dusting (optional)

Start with the milk bread. Heat the milk to body temperature (37°C) and add the butter, sugar and yeast. Take off the heat, cover and leave to work for 3-5 minutes.
Pour the flour and salt into a mixer with a dough hook attachment (or onto a board if you are going manual) and add the yeast mixture.
Knead for 3 minutes or so in the mixer until a smooth dough is formed.
It may take a few minutes longer if kneading by hand.
Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave to prove in a warm place (around 45°C) until doubled in size. Usually about an hour.
Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into three equal pieces. Roll each section out using your hands into sausage shapes about 45cm long. Pinch the three sections together at the top and plait them, pinching the ends together and tucking underneath for neatness.
Place on a tray and leave to prove again for 10 minutes covered in oiled cling film. Glaze with beaten egg and bake at 185°C (fan) for 25-30 minutes.
To make the French toast, beat together 3 eggs and the sugar, if using, in a shallow dish. Place 6 thick slices of bread into the tray and leave to soak up the egg for 5 minutes. Flip over and repeat.
Place half the berries in a small pan with the sugar and a little water.
Cook down gently for 3 minutes until all the sugar has dissolved and a light syrup has formed. Leave to cool a little and add the rest of the berries.
Heat a little butter in a non-stick frying pan and fry the eggy bread until golden and crisp on each side. Cut on the diagonal and stack up with a healthy serving of the berry compote, a good spoonful of crème fraiche, and top with a few chopped mint leaves and a dusting of icing sugar, if you like it sweeter.

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