Kinako French Toast
French toasts have been done to death at brunch spots and hipster cafes the world over, drowned in swathes of maple syrup and malaise, heaped on with almost plastic, incessantly Instagrammable brunoised berries and other superfluous fruits. So why not add another one to the mix, eh?
This french toast is of a different breed entirely. It’s a little kooky, a little unconventional, but done with so much gumption and glorious flavour that it’s the only french toast I’ve ever truly craved. So it’s one that’s worth your while. I’m talking about a kinako french toast.
For those unfamiliar with Japanese ingredients, kinako is roasted soy bean flour—essentially soy beans that have been roasted and pulverised into a fine powder. It isn’t an ingredient that’s even remotely associated with French food or toasts, but when you dust your french toasts with a school-closing snowstorm of kinako, you’ll find that magic spot where French and Japanese cuisines just click.
The first and only place I’ve had this combination of kinako and french toast was at Shack-Fuyu, a Japanese-y restaurant at Soho in London. I’ve been to that place five times and the only thing I’ve ever had there is the french toast. (And from the talk about town, I’m not the only one who does that.) At Shack-Fuyu, the french toast is served thick, and the crust of the toast has a crème brûlée-like quality to it—crispy and crackly when you bite into it—and an inside so moist and custardy, barely held together by the soft structure of the brioche. On top of this already stellar toast, the kinako is layered on thick, giving it a nutty, toasty aroma, further lubricated by the matcha soft serve it comes with.
So, with this base inspiration, I set out to recreate it to the best of my abilities. It took a few tries to get it right, and I did take a few liberties (my recipe’s are meant to be replicable at home, after all), but here are some french toast secrets I found in the process:
For the best french toast, day-old brioche works best as it has a lower moisture content, which means it’ll soak up more of that flavourful french toast batter. Or if you only have fresh brioche on hand, toast it a little in the oven/toaster to reduce its moisture content. (A tip I picked up from Serious Eats.) Also, if you’re planning to make a brioche from scratch—I didn’t in this case because I was feeling a little lazy, plus I had a talented baker friend to help me out—here’s a solid recipe by The Woks of Life.
Slice the toast thick. Time and again I’ve seen places that serve french toasts the thickness of Gardenia slices (or Wonder Bread if you’re American). We don’t want floppy, pancake pieces of toast here people, we want thick (and I mean thicccc), belly-filling hunks, because not only are they more fulfilling, they help the toast maintain that clear distinction between a crispy outside and the custard-soft inside, which brings us too…
Instead of pan-frying your french toasts all the way through, try brulee-ing it with a blowtorch. It gives the toast a crackly, glassy, crème brulee-like crust, which is what makes Shack-Fuyu’s so good. So sprinkle some sugar on your toasts, and torch away!
Oh, and one other way in which I strayed away from Shack-Fuyu’s rendition—instead of the swirl of matcha soft serve, which is pretty much impossible to recreate in a home kitchen sans soft serve machine, I replaced it with a scoop of store-bought ice cream. Matcha flavoured, of course.
So here it is, my recreation of Shack-Fuyu’s kinako french toast. Char, this one’s for you, thanks for reigniting my love of this dish by bringing me there twice in the span of a week during my London trip. And thank you Em for being a boss at brioche!
Kinako French Toast
4 thick (1.5-inch) slices of brioche (get it from your best local bakery, or find a charitable baker friend)
100ml whipping cream
20g caster sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
50g butter, unsalted
50g caster sugar
30g kinako (roasted soy bean flour)
matcha ice cream, to serve
In an oven set at 150°C (or a toaster on the lowest setting), toast the bread for 3-5 minutes, or until it just turns the slightly blush of brown, not more. We just want to dry out the bread a little here.
In a wide bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the batter.
Place a slice of brioche into the batter, and flip it around so that both sides of bread are wetted. Let it soak in the batter for 2-3 minutes.
As the bread soaks, heat a non-stick pan or skillet over medium heat, and plop in a tablespoon of butter. When the butter melts and sizzles, lift the soaked brioche out of the batter and gently place it into the pan. Cook it in the pan until its lightly browned on the bottom. This should take about 2 minutes. When the bottom is browned, flip it over and continue cooking until the flipside is equally browned too. Then, remove the toast from the pan and place it on a wire rack to cool slightly. Repeat for the other slices of brioche.
Sprinkle the extra caster sugar onto the bread (~1/2 tbsp per side of toast). Using a blowtorch, gently melt and caramelise the sugar until it bubbles and turns a glassy brown, almost like the top of a crème brulee. Repeat on all 4 slices, before flipping them over and doing the same on all the flipside.
Using a small sieve, dust a liberal amount of kinako (~2 tsp per toast) onto one side of the toast. Serve it on a plate alongside a hefty scoop of matcha ice cream.