Before I launch into today’s post, I wanted to thank all my readers (new and old) and new subscribers who’ve popped by here in the past couple of months. I know it’s been a bit of a wait between posts but I’m so glad you’re here. It turns out baby number 2 will be making an appearance around here early-ish next year, and the first few months of the pregnancy have been SO hard regarding food (by which I mean food and cooking in general have been pretty off-putting!). Things are definitely looking up so I expect to be doing a lot more sharing here over the next several months.
Sales pitches for combination steam ovens frequently include the assurance that you’ll be able to cook healthier food more easily and quickly. This is true, but it’s not what we’re going to talk about today, because cooking with steam also has its advantages when making some of the most luxurious and decadent ‘treat’ foods. Think brownies, puddings, breads and pastries – all of which can be done very successfully in a ‘dry’ oven but which benefit enormously from some (or a lot of) steam during baking.
Today’s recipe is similar: making it the regular old way is fine, but if you’re lucky enough to have a combination steam oven you’ll turn it into something so much greater than the sum of its parts. Behold, the Combi Steamed French Toast Sandwich. A thing of beauty, no?
To be fair, you may be thinking it doesn’t look all that different from a regular French toast/ham and cheese hybrid, but you’d be wrong – a combi steam oven renders the whole sandwich almost soufflé-like but without the anxiety inducing whisking, folding and praying over the oven as per regular soufflé. It’s browned and toasty on the outside, silky underneath and really, really good. In our house we make it as a dinner sandwich because it’s almost too much for breakfast, but I won’t be judging you for eating it any time of day.
Sometimes you need a trick up your sleeve involving pantry staples which can be repurposed into an oozing, cheesy bomb of deeply satisfying comfort food. I wouldn’t recommend it as an everyday food but when nothing except melted cheese will do, this is your new go-to.
Combination Steam Oven Ham & Cheese French Toast Sandwiches
Makes 4 quite hefty sandwiches – one each is plenty for hubby and I, and half a one for the toddler.
The ingredient list is somewhat subjective, you’ll need to increase and decrease quantities of things as you see fit (especially the eggs and milk, as different breads soak up different amounts of liquid). Following is what I use.
Also, if you feel so inclined, there are a multitude of sweet fillings you could substitute for the ham and cheese here. Think Nutella, sliced bananas, fresh berries or dulce de leche. Or go all out with an Elvis-inspired sweet and savoury mix of peanut butter and fried bacon. I take no responsibility for your cholesterol levels after eating such a thing, though.
8 slices crusty bread (I most often use a white ‘fancy supermarket’ loaf with a medium density. I’ve used a heavier sourdough in the past and it’s actually not great in this form – the bread doesn’t soak up the liquid as well and the crusts get almost too chewy to be enjoyable)
Dijon mustard (optional)
16 thin slices good leg ham
About 200g Gruyere, Jarlsberg or other good melting cheese, sliced (I slice it quite thickly because, well, this is an occasional dish in our house and I don’t like to do it halfway, but you’ll need less if you slice thinly)
6 large eggs
½ cup (125ml) milk
Butter for the frypan
Set your oven to 200⁰C (combination steam). If your oven has variable steam settings, use 80% or 100% steam. Line a perforated tray, if you have one, with baking paper (otherwise a normal tray is fine).
Make up four ham and cheese (and mustard, if you like) sandwiches. I’m sure you don’t need step by step instructions for sandwich making (!).
Whisk the eggs and milk together in a wide, shallow dish which will fit a whole sandwich easily into it. Season this mix with salt and pepper.
Place a frypan over medium high heat and add a little butter to coat the bottom. Soak each sandwich in the egg mix until it’s absorbed enough to go right through the bread but not so much it falls apart. You’ll probably have to carefully turn them over to get both sides soaked. Transfer the soaked sandwiches straight into the frypan – I can fit two at a time, and I don’t soak the remaining sandwiches until those ones are done. Cook for a minute or two each side until browned, but don’t worry about cooking through.
Transfer the fried sandwiches to the baking tray and cook for 10 minutes, or until they’re puffy, oozy and golden all over. Serve immediately.
*But I don’t have a steam/combi-steam oven! Cook these all the way through in the frypan. Make sure you use a lower heat so they don’t brown too quickly, and a lid will help a lot with making sure the egg is cooked and ham and cheese are hot enough in the middle.