I first made French toast at my friend’s apartment in 2013, because we were running out of food ideas and money. After a long day at work on our movie set, we wanted to whip up a wholesome meal with minimal effort.
We scanned the kitchen and found some leftover milk-bread and eggs lying in the crate, and we knew we were going to have eggs for dinner. But not sure what to make of it. I opened the fridge, there was milk, too. We knew we were making French toast.
One of the advantages of being a food writer – I can eat my favourite dish, trace it’s origin and probably the person who first made it. However, French toasts have a debatable history, the name says French but many theories say that it was an American cook named - Joseph French after whom the dish was named. It is believed that he was an innkeeper in Albany, New York, and wanted to name the dish after himself. However, he missed adding an apostrophe after his name (‘) and since then it came to be known as French toast.
According to Apicius - a collection of Roman cookery recipes from the first century AD, bread (after removing the crusts) would be soaked in milk and beaten with egg and then fried in oil and drizzled with honey. Romans also referred to it as “aliter dulcia” (another sweet dish). It was much later that the savoury version with cheese and tomato was popularised.
While my first French toast in 2010, turned out be soggy, I took it as a challenge to perfect this egg-rich dish. And, as I learnt more about it – I was drawn to perfecting it. After many burnt, soggy and greasy trials, I made the near-perfect French toast. Where was I going wrong? I was soaking and cooking bread for too long. And I found my answer in a 1926 cookbook called Every Woman’s Cookbook by Chaz F. Moritz: “Do not cook more than two or three slices at one time. If cooked too slowly, toast will be greasy.” I followed this, used a timer, and my first perfect French toast was served hot, drizzled with some sugar and cinnamon mix.
The French called a version of the Roman toast as – pain perdu or lost bread. Stale breads were soaked in milk and eggs to prevent them from cracking up. It is believed that this egg toast was served during supper and later on became a breakfast staple.
What is French toast to Europe?
According to ‘The English Cookery Book’ and ‘The Complete Cook’ French toast is known as the poor knights of Windsor. In Sweden it is known as ‘Fattiga Riddare’ and ‘armer ritter’ in German and it is also served as a traditional winter dessert. Guten appetit!
UAE-based French pastry Chef David Crosier loves whipping up French toast for his kids at least two times a week. Speaking to Food by Gulf News he said: “They are so popular because they are easy and quick to make. It takes less than a minute to whip milk with eggs, slice the bread, dip and cook.”
They are so popular because they are easy and quick to make. It takes less than a minute to whip milk with eggs, slice the bread, dip and cook.
What is the right way to make a French toast?
It completely depends on the way you like it. The technique to making a good French toast is in whisking and dipping the bread (Brioche preferably, since it is rich and buttery). Mix the eggs and milk, sugar (castor preferably) and cinnamon powder (a good rule of thumb is 5 eggs to a litre of milk) and leave it aside for a few minutes. Strain the mix, so that any extra bits of unmixed eggs are separated. This can seem like a tedious process, but goes a long way to ensure there are no egg bits stuck to the bread.
If you do not have brioche bread, and would like to whip-up French toasts from any other leftover bread then use cream. Whisk eggs and keep them aside. In a separate bowl whisk milk, cream, cinnamon powder and sugar. Dunk the bread in the milk-cream batter first for about three seconds and then in the egg mixture for roughly the same time. You may choose to add vanilla flavour it you wish to. Brioche no brioche, you can make a good French toast using any bread now.
Chef Luisa Fernando at Cafe Mondoux Dubai, talks about how she first made French toasts at the age of 11. She said: “French toast was not so popular growing up in Columbia, but I remember making it at home when I was 11. I would experiment with it by watching cooking videos. Then the real deal was at 18 when I moved to New York, United States of America, where French toast was everywhere. That’s when I really fell in love with the dish.”
Then the real deal was at 18 when I moved to New York, United States of America, where French toast was everywhere. That’s when I really fell in love with the dish.
Here is a recipe to making French toast
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