Lingering Sunday breakfasts: blackberry and cream cheese French toast

On Sunday mornings, I usually wake up sleepily just before 9am, dream of lingering in bed, then jolt myself out into the shower and tear off to my Pilates class at 10am. Last weekend, however, the studio I go to was closed for the Bank Holiday (and redecoration), and I had the rare opportunity to wake up late and cook up a lazy morning breakfast.

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The recipe I had my eye on was an intriguing one called ‘Poor Knights of Windsor’ which came in a brunch-themed booklet with an old BBC Good Food magazine. It called for sandwiching slices of bread with cream cheese and blackberry compote and then dipping them in a mixture of beaten egg, milk, and sugar, which is more or less what I call French toast. Similar recipes throughout Europe are referred to as ‘Poor Knights’, and in Britain the additional, geographically specific, reference to Windsor refers to an order of Alms Knights forced to liquidate their estates to pay ransoms for their release following capture by the French army during the Battle of Crécy in 1346. In return for a lifetime of daily prayers for the sovereign, these military pensioners received a stipend and were lodged at Windsor Castle.

Apparently the difference between French toast and Poor Knights of Windsor is that, in the former, the eggs and milk are beaten together, whereas the latter recipe does not do so. While this is true of very old recipes, in more modern versions (by which I mean the 19th century), this difference seems to have been lost along the way. Certainly in the BBC Good Food version, the eggs and milk are whisked together.

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As much as the flavours of the Poor Knights recipe intrigued me, it clocked in at a massive 767 calories per serving. Even for an indulgent weekend breakfast, that is a high number, especially considering it would be consumed on a day where I would actually skip exercise. In addition, I didn’t have all the ingredients required and couldn’t be bothered to trek to the supermarket. (Admittedly it’s a psychological trek rather than a physical one, because it’s very close by, but anything which allows me to avoid the aisles wars, dodging wild children and arguing couples, is very welcome). I also halved the number of eggs because four seemed excessive to soak four slices of bread. It seems my suspicion was right because the amount of liquid was perfect.

With my changes, I managed to save around 215 calories, with each portion clocking in at 552 calories (or so; it depends on the brands you have used), which is much more manageable for breakfast, I think. You could also cut down on the amount of butter a little, I think, but you don’t end up eating it all. It’s a great dish: crisp, slightly sweet bread, and, once the outside is crunched through with a knife, the soft, pudding-like interior, and the slightly sharp cream cheese offsetting the sweet, delicate, even childish blackberry jelly. If you want more of a contrast between the sharp cream cheese and sweet jelly, you could even leave out the teaspoon of maple syrup used to sweeten the cheese. These are perfect for a weekend of lounging in front of the TV in your dressing gown, especially if the weather’s turned a bit. With the weekend about to start, why don’t you try it?

Blackberry and cream cheese French toast
Recipe adapted from BBC Good Food

This recipe serves 2. It could also be served as a dessert…

  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 100ml milk (I used semi-skimmed)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 TBS caster sugar
  • 2 TBS light/low-fat cream cheese or soft cheese
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 4 TBS seedless blackberry jam (I used Wilkin & Sons Tiptree Blackberry Extra Jelly)
  • 4 slices day-old white bread
  • 25g butter
  1. Whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla extract and golden caster sugar in a large shallow dish which can hold all of the liquid.
  2. In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese to lighten it (a teaspoon works fine!) and then add the teaspoon of maple syrup and beat again to mix. Spread over two slices of the bread, spread with 1 TBS each of the blackberry jelly or jam, then sandwich with the remaining slices.
  3. Submerge each sandwich into the egg and milk mix and allow to sit for 30 seconds before carefully turning over and soaking the other side for 30 seconds.
  4. Melt the butter in a large frying pan until foaming, then cook the sandwiches for 3-4 minutes on each side until golden and slightly puffed.
  5. Meanwhile, if using blackberry jelly or jam, heat the extra two tablespoons over a very gentle heat until melted, stirring. I have a very tiny saucepan perfect for amounts such as this, but I can completely understand if this is felt to be a step too far of a morning…
  6. Slice each sandwich in half (if wished) and serve with extra jam or jelly.

 

 

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