“While it took me a few trips to Japan to appreciate shokupan – fluffy white and incredibly soft bread – I am now a fully-fledged convert and seek out thick slices of the stuff at any cafe or bakery we go to,” writes Julia Busuttil Nishimura in her new book A Year of Simple Family Food.
"Sometimes with melted cheese and honey, as I ate in Kyoto, served with a boiled egg and black coffee, as they do in Nagoya, or as a sandwich to eat on the bullet train. However it’s served, it is so delicious and nostalgic. A hotel we like to say at in Tokyo is famous for its French toast. In fact, even if you are a guest and plan to eat at the cafe for breakfast, you must book in specifically for the French toast. The thick slices of shokupan are soaked in a fairly traditional mixture of eggs, milk and some flavourings. The secret is that they are soaked overnight in the egg bath. Served simply with seasonal fruits, a dusting of icing sugar and a drizzle of maple syrup, it is the best French toast I have ever eaten. And while it can be found all over Japan, I still associate it with Tokyo, hence the name of this recipe.
"Because shokupan (or Japanese milk bread) is still a little difficult to come by outside of Japan, regular white bread, brioche or challah are fine substitutes."
300 ml full-cream milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
4 x 4 cm thick slices of shokupan, white bread, brioche or challah
100 g unsalted butter, plus extra to serve
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Maple syrup, to garnish
Strawberries or other fruit of your choice, to garnish
1. A full day before you plan on eating, whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla and sugar in a large bowl.
2. Arrange the slices of bread in a deep tray where they fit snugly and pour the egg mixture over the top. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours, flipping halfway. This stage is really important and can’t be short cut.
3. Preheat the oven to 150°C and line a baking tray with baking paper. Sprinkle each slice of soaked bread with a little extra sugar on both sides.
4. Heat half of the butter and olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium–high heat. When the butter is foaming, place two of the slices in the pan and cook for around 3 minutes on each side until golden. Transfer to the prepared tray and keep warm in the oven. Repeat with the remaining butter, oil and bread.
5. Serve the French toast with extra butter, maple syrup and fresh fruit.
This is an extract from A Year of Simple Family Food by Julia Busuttil Nishimura, published by Plum (RRP $39.99). Available from 25 August 2020.