Torrijas (Spanish Style French Toast with Anise Syrup)

I absolutely freaked out the first time I tried torrijas. A coworker had given my mom a tray of the syrup-soaked French toasts as a gift one year, and she brought it home for us all to share. Impatient as ever, took my first bite straight from the platter, and found that the flavors of almond and anise and honey were so intensely and perfectly matched with every sweet thing I’ve ever loved that I felt an instant sadness knowing the bite could not last forever.

I immediately demanded that my mom teach me how to make them, but not being much of a dessert maker, she sort of just handed me a Puerto Rican cookbook and encouraged me to figure it out myself. I did, and now you can, too.

Unlike the type of French toast typically made for breakfast, torrijas are a sweeter dish meant to be enjoyed as dessert and can be eaten both hot out of the pan or cooled to room temperature.

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Torrijas (Spanish Style French Toast with Anise Syrup)
Serves 6

1 thick, stale French or Italian-style baguette

For the syrup
1 ½ cups water
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup honey
1 tablespoon fresh orange zest
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 cinnamon sticks
¼ teaspoon anise extract
½ teaspoon almond extract

For the batter:
2 large eggs
1 ½ cups whole milk

4 tablespoons butter
Flaky sea salt, for garnish

Slice the baguette on the bias into 1” thick slices.

Make the syrup: combine the water, sugar, honey, orange zest, salt, and cinnamon sticks in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil 1 minute. Lower heat and let simmer 7-10 minutes, or until reduced into a thin syrup. Remove from heat and stir in extracts.

Whisk together eggs and milk in a shallow bowl. Dip the bread in the batter and let soak about 30 seconds to 1 minute (do not let the bread get too soggy).

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet and fry the battered bread in batches about 3 minutes per side or until golden. Repeat with the rest of the bread, adding more butter as needed.

Place the torrijas on a slightly concave or rimmed serving platter and cover fully with the syrup. Let soak at least 20 minutes before serving. Best served warm or room temperature.   I also like to finish it off with a bit of flaky sea salt.

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