Mango Season 2008: The First Wave

The lead photo is entered in this month’s CLICK event hosted by Bee & Jai at Jugalbandi, where the theme for April is Au Naturel.

Like the surf that gained Hawaii its fame, mango season rolls in wave sets — spread throughout the year as different varieties and locales around the Islands blossom, fruit, and ripen. Although many trees here are still in full bud,we found these red beauties a couple of weeks ago, beckoning at us from a lone stand at the farmers’ market in our town. Sometimes even the most gorgeous, perfumed mangos can be stringy on the inside, making them difficult to cut or present in any fashion. These, however, were perfect — firm, fully-ripe flesh that cut cleanly and easily from the pit. This is a Hayden variety, and was an epitome of its specimen. Not only sweet, but redolent of mango juciness and flavor. I ate this first one as soon as the photo op was over. Hmmm, maybe T would be expecting some, too. Better not cut the second one until he was in the vicinity or it would be proverbial toast, too.

After living here for 3 short years, I’m only just beginning to develop the self-discipline to even consider doing anything with a mango except just eat it. Why cover up that succulent flavor with spices, or herbs, or anything!? In the last few months, beginning with the Double Mango Bread that was conceived for my first foray in the world of blog events, I’ve experimented with fresh mangoes with meat dishes, oatmeal, salsas, etc., but to be honest, I’d rather enjoy the mango au naturel — naked, if you will.

But last weekend I did venture to make a stuffed french toast with fresh mangoes. It was deemed a worthy use of this most noble fruit. I love egg-y french toast, or pain perdu (if we’re being picky about it). I prefer to leave the bread to soak overnight in a copious egg-mik sop, heavy with vanilla and a bit of cinnamon. But with the mangoes, I wanted something lighter, something less bread-pudding-ish, that would showcase the fruit itself.

The trick to this preparation is to leave the interior of the bread slices dry so the result is a creamy yet light toast that allows the fresh fruit to star. A crumb topping provides a contrasting crunch. We loved this lighter french toast — it tasted sinful without leaving us feeling weighed down afterwards. Make this with any seasonal fruit. I don’t really like cinnamon with mango, so I didn’t use it or any other flavoring except a kiss of vanilla. With other fruits, though, I would think of complementary flavor combinations: almond extract and nuts with peaches, cherries and other stone fruits; stronger vanilla or even banana with strawberries; cinnamon and cloves with apples or bananas; lemon with blueberries; etc.

This recipe is made with whole grain wheat bread because we are trying to eat more healthily (and that’s what we had on hand that morning). (Made with whole wheat, this is something I would serve my dad on his gout-maintenance diet, so it will go into the GDC.) No question you could substitute an egg bread, such as Hawaiian sweet or challah, for a truly decadent feast.

This recipe goes out to Mansi, the genial host at Fun and Food for her “Balanced Breakfast” theme for the 20th ed. of Weekend Breakfast Blogging. Have a wonderful weekend!

(for 2 persons, double or triple recipe as needed)

Fruit from 1-3 fully ripe mango (if using a meaty Hayden, you may only need one if you can refrain from sneaking too many nibbles as you prepare the fruit; from the smaller Champagne (Ataulfo) or Pirie varieties, you may need as many as 3)

You can mash or dice the mango, especially if it shows any signs of being stringy. I left it in slices because this particular mango cut like butter anyway, and we like the texture of the fruit this way.

Pre-heat oven to 400F (200C). A countertop or large toaster oven is perfect for a 2-person serving.

2 large or 3 medium eggs
1/2 cup (120ml) almond milk (or soy or low-fat milk)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. raw sugar
4 slices of whole wheat bread

Beat together eggs, milk, vanilla and sugar. Dip each side of bread in this mixture, then leave bread to soak up remaining milk while you prepare the topping.

1 slice of bread
1/4 cup (40g) macadamia nuts, chopped
2 TBL. raw sugar

Process bread, nuts and sugar in small bowl of food processor or blender.

To assemble:
2 TBL. (30g) unsalted butter, melted
2 tsp. raw sugar, or to taste

Butter a small baking dish. Lay 2 slices of soaked bread on the bottom. Top with mango slices (dice, or puree). Sprinkle fruit with 1 tsp. of raw sugar. Top with second slice of bread. Liberally sprinkle bread-nut topping, then drizzle with melted butter.

Bake in pre-heated oven for 5 minutes, then turn oven down to 325F (for another 25 minutes). If top starts to brown to quickly, cover with foil to protect crust.

Serve while hot, with whipped cream or creme fraiche.

See also Double Mango Bread (yeast bread)
and Double Mango Wholewheat Quickbread