Caballeros Pobres (“Poor Knights”) is a dessert popular in the Yucatan peninsula, very similar to another dish known as “Torrejas” in the rest of the country. You could think of it as a Mexican version of French toast, but with a twist, since we also add a special syrup on top. The syrup itself has many versions: some like to add nuts like almonds or pine nuts, and others like to add a little bit of brandy.
One of the main differences I’ve found between “Caballeros Pobres” and “Torrejas” is that the first one uses eggs that are beaten until they form stiff peaks (similar to a meringue), while the latter only uses mixed eggs and is then dusted with sugar and ground cinnamon after frying. Torrejas is also the given name to other desserts that use the same cooking process, but use yams or fruits instead of bread, like the yuca or plantain torrejas. There is even a version where the bread is moistened in sherry wine or another type of liquor.
Even though this recipe (like many other desserts we claim as our own) has a lot of European influence, it has been in our country for centuries, appearing in cookbooks since the 1880’s.
I hope you try our version and enjoy it as much as we did. Also, the syrup can be used over pancakes, buñuelos or ice cream as well!
- 1½ Cups of milk
- 2 Tablespoons of sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 6 Thick slices of day-old French bread
- 4 large eggs, yolks and egg whites separated
- 1 cup of vegetable oil, for frying
For the Syrup
- ¾ Cup of water
- 1 Cup Shaved piloncillo*
- ½ Stick of Mexican cinnamon
- 1 Clove
- ¼ Teaspoon anise seeds
- 1/3 Cup of raisins
- If you can’t find Piloncillo, you can use brown sugar or just regular sugar.
- You can make this dessert several hours ahead of time, this way the bread will absorb the syrup better.
- You can serve this dish cold, at room temperature, or warm.
1. Mix the milk, sugar, and vanilla in a medium size bowl.
2. Dip the bread slices one by one into the milk mixture until they are completely moistened. Set aside over a cooling rack to drain, or over paper towels, so they can absorb any excess milk.
3. Mix the egg yolks in a small bowl and set aside. With a mixer, beat the egg whites in a large bowl until they form stiff peaks. Slowly add the egg yolks until they are completely mixed in with the egg whites (use the mixer in the low setting for this step).
4. Heat the oil in a medium size frying pan over medium high heat. Gently dip the bread slices into the egg batter one by one, and then proceed to fry them for about 1½ minutes per side. Make sure there is no excess milk on them, that way the oil won’t splatter when you dip the slices in it. When they are done, they will have a light golden brown color. Remove from the oil and place on paper towels to absorb any excess oil.
5. To make the syrup: Place the water, piloncillo, cinnamon, clove, and anise seeds in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer until the syrup starts to thicken (about 6-8 minutes, depending on whether you use piloncillo, brown sugar, or regular sugar). Strain the syrup, return to the saucepan, and stir in the raisins. Keep cooking on a low temperature until the raisins look plump.
To serve, cover the bread slices with the syrup and allow them to absorb it, then enjoy!
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