Torrejas are kind of like French Toast and in El Salvador as well as in other parts of Latin America, they’re eaten during Semana Santa (holy week, Lent, and Easter), with a special homemade syrup. One of the things that make Torrejas more amazing than your average homemade American French Toast is that after it’s fried to a golden brown, it’s cooked a second time in the syrup. The type of bread used is also important, as your common white sandwich bread will not do! Salvadorans use thick slices of a bread called “torta de yema” but it’s difficult to find in the United States. Good substitutes for torta de yema include Challah or “pan de leche” (milk bread.) Challah can be found at some grocery stores and the “pan de leche” I used for this recipe was from a Latina bakery.
Another ingredient I want to explain a little is the “dulce de panela.” Panela is an unrefined brown sugar and it looks like this:
(Wrapped in plastic)
(Wrapped in dried corn husks)
If you’re unable to find Salvadoran “panela” at your local Mercado Latino or International Market, then you can substitute about two 8 ounce Mexican piloncillos or about 2 cups of dark brown sugar.
Ready for the most amazing French Toast experience of your life? Then you’re ready to make Salvadoran Torrejas en Miel!
Torrejas Salvadoreñas en Miel
First, How to make the “miel” (syrup):
1/2 of a 28 oz. panela (So, about 14 ounces. For substitutions see post above.)
3 cups water
10 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1. Combine all ingredients in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. (The panela will melt and break up on its own. No need to force it.)
2. Boil for a few minutes, stirring when necessary to keep it from boiling over.
3. Lower heat and simmer for a few more minutes until the liquid thickens slightly. (Dip a spoon in and watch the way it coats the spoon and drips off it. This will give you an idea of whether it has thickened a little. Note that the liquid is a thinner consistency than American-style syrup or honey – that’s okay!)
4. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. (The liquid will thicken a little bit more upon cooling.)
5. Now this is ready for the Torrejas! Set aside and continue below.
How to make the Torrejas:
2 tortas de yema (or 2 loaves of Challah, or milk bread/pan de leche)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 cups 1% milk
Canola oil for frying
a batch of “miel” (the recipe above)
1. Slice the bread into thick slices, (about 1 inch thick or a little more.)
2. In a large shallow dish, beat the eggs, milk, salt and sugar until well combined. (You can use an electric mixer for about 1 minute.)
3. Dip the bread slices into the egg/milk mixture one-by-one, allowing them a few seconds on each side to soak up the liquid. Fry in oil over medium-high heat in a large frying pan, being careful not to crowd the slices in the pan. (My pan only fit two pieces at a time.) Flip when golden brown and cook the other side the same.
4. When each slice is golden brown on both sides, remove to a large rectangular baking dish or Pyrex lined with paper towels to absorb some of the oil.
5. Preheat oven to 350 F.
6. When the entire batch has been fried, carefully remove the paper towels from beneath the torrejas.
7. Some people cook the torrejas in a frying pan with the miel, but I find baking them works great and is much easier. Pour 1 cup of the miel onto the torrejas in the Pyrex, making sure that all get some of the “miel” on them. (Avoid including any of the cloves.)
8. Bake at 350 F for 5 to 10 minutes.
9. Serve with additional miel to drizzle on top.
Note: You will probably have leftover miel. This can be put into a jar and refrigerated. Use it in other recipes such as Jocotes en Miel or Nuegados!