Monday, 11 May 2015

Chinese Elvis French toast: Salted duck egg custard and strawberry stuffed French toast brulee

Brunch is officially back bitches. I don't know where it went, why I stopped going or how I ever fell out of love with it - but its officially on my radar to have as many times as possible in one week. Whilst having a meal replacement shake at work one morning, someone asked what I was drinking. As I had already had breakfast,(thus defeating the point of it being a meal replacement shake), I replied 'it's brunch'. And it hit me that it was depressing on two levels; one being that I had technically had two breakfasts and the other being that the definition of brunch was demoted to a meagre, sawdust flavoured liquid. That is most certainly not brunch in my eyes. A glorious spread of eggs, avocados, BACON (its importance is justified by the capital letters) and pancakes should be the staple base of any brunch. And proper coffee. However, whenever I go to brunch, I tell myself I'll go for the sweet options of waffles/french toast - and my mind is changed last second to a more savoury choice. All to change with this recipe I would hope.

Decades ago, Hong Kong saw the rise of Cha Chaan Tengs - a pseudo Western-Canto mixed cafe - to provide cheap, Western food to locals who had developed a penchant for drinking British tea and eating cakes. If you ever go to HK, you've got to go into one of these cafes - pop a squat and eat like a true local - be it macaroni and soup for breakfast, noodles for lunch or club sandwiches galore. However, the best duo in my books that is always on my menu is French toast - HK style is pretty much deep fried and with a generous lashing of butter and syrup, perhaps peanut butter and condensed milk if you're feeling lavish, and washed down with a milk tea (that's black tea with condensed or evaporated milk mind...just to add to the caloriefest). I'll always opt for the sweet option vs. savoury when in Hong Kong. French toast has a special place in my heart, and my arteries.
This recipe takes it to the next level though - I thought, how can I make HK style French toast even more calorific and sinful? How can I increase the chances of pulmonary failure on a plate? Ah yes, stuff the bad boys with a rich and decadent custard. Nope, let's go one further and make a rich, salted duck egg custard. Let's throw in some strawberries as a count towads your 'five a day'. Sure. A great Hong Kong dim sum is a custard bun - comforting pillowy dough with a subtle custard inside. Let's take that custard and make it richer with a salted duck egg and have a hint of coconut to complement the strawberries in a French toast. Not complicated or necessary to do - but I was intrigued to try and make work. I'd probably advise to guzzle this down with some milk tea and Gaviscon...purely for precaution.

Ingredients - Salted egg custard and strawberry french toast brulee (serves 2)

For the Salted egg custard (adapted from Bake for Happy Kids Liu Sha Bao recipe) 
2 salted duck egg yolks (you can buy the duck eggs from Chinatown - and boil these up for 15 minutes and extract the yolk only)
30 grams of salted butter
25 grams of icing sugar
15 grams custard powder
20 grams dry milk powder
1 teaspoon of cornflour
5ml of condensed milk
10 ml milk
1 tbs dessicated coconut

(if you want a slightly oozier filling, you can use 15ml of coconut milk as per Zoe's recipe!)

2 thick slices of brioche (ideally 3-4 inches wide so you can slice down the middle to make room for the stuffing). You could also use Hokkaido milk bread if you've got access to it!
Handful of fresh strawberries
Knob of butter
2 eggs
15ml milk
50 grams of brown sugar

Ideally you want to make the egg custard filling a day ahead. Having boiled your duck eggs, remove the yolks and place into a bowl. Mash with a teaspoon as smooth as you can and incorporate some butter (ideally softened) and icing sugar. You should have a light consistency like buttercream icing. Mix in the remaining ingredients for the custard until all is incorporated in nicely. Lay out a square of cling film and place the mixture into the middle. Roll the mixture into an oblong shape with the help of the cling film and wrap up and keep in the fridge to harden. This makes it easier to cut into slices and stuff your French toast. If you don't have the whole day, an hour or so is just about good enough.

Whisk your eggs and milk into a shallow bowl. With each slice of brioche you want to cut out a little slot to stuff your french toast on the underside of your crust- like a pitta bread. Make sure not to cut all the way through - you want a little pocket within your thick slice. Cut a few strawberries and the custard into slices and stuff as best you can without breaking the bread.
Dip both sides of the brioche into the egg mixture. Sprinkle a good few pinches of the brown sugar on both sides.

Heat a frying pan on a medium heat with a knob of butter. Cook the brioche gently on all sides (about 2-3 minutes per side) or until the sugar melts and starts to caramelise. Transfer from the pan to a wire rack to cool and let the sugar layer harden like a brulee.

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