French Toast 101: A Brief History, How to Find Great Recipes
Surprise: French Toast Isn't Exclusively French
Forms of French toast date back to the Romans, according to Smithsonian.com. "French toast" in French is "pain perdu", which means "lost bread." The French called it "lost" because the bread most often used was stale, either by accident or default.
Other names for French toast include:
- Bombay toast
- Eggy bread (chiefly British)
- Poor knights' pudding
- German toast
- Freedom toast
Records of the British tradition of frying bread and then soaking it in wine just before serving, or soaking bread first in wine or some other sweet/savory fluid and then frying it, date back to the 14th century.
This 14th-century cookbook titled "The Forme of Cury," compiled for Richard II, includes a recipe for Payne Fondew, which calls for
- Frying bread in grease or oil
- Soaking the fried bread in red wine cooked with raisins
- Finishing the dish with sugar, spices, and candied white coriander seeds
Modern Variations on French Toast
These days, French toast connotes a cooking technique and not necessarily a specific French toast recipe. However, most contemporary recipes call for soaking bread in a concoction of milk and beaten eggs, which agrees with a 4th century Roman recipe, the earliest recorded.
Credited to Apicius, the recipe suggests:
- Breaking bread with its crusts removed into large chunks
- Soaking these chunks in milk mixed with beaten egg
- Frying the bread in oil
- Covering the fried bread with honey to serve
You can use whatever bread you like, such as
- Stale basic white bread
- Fresh homemade white bread (sliced the night before and allowed to dry)
Kelli Foster from theKitchn also recommends baguettes or a pullman loaf for their density, structure and strength.
Recipes For: French Toast
There is an abundance of French toast recipes online and in cookbooks at your local library. It is one of the most popular breakfast items worldwide, and both professional and amateur chefs have their own versions.
You can easily find French toast recipes with a keyword search online. You can also search by your favorite chefs' names, within virtual recipe libraries and online cooking magazine recipe databses.
Websites for cooking and household supply chains are also great sources of French toast recipes, such as Sur La Table and Crate and Barrel.
Top 5 Routes for "French Toast"
- FoodNetwork.com FoodNetwork.com is your source for all things related to your favorite celebrity chefs. If you're after a French toast recipe by Ina Garten or Ree Drummond, this is the website. You don't have to sign in or be a member. A user friendly search field returns results by chef, ingredient or recipe.
- MarthaStewart.com Martha Stewart is the original domestic goddess, and her recipes never disappoint. With an emphasis on accuracy and accessibility, Martha Stewart has French toast recipes for all occasions. Stewart offers her own recipes and compilations of best recipes from past guest chefs. Just type your search terms into the nifty keyword search field.
- McCormick.comMcCormick, makers of spices, soups and mixes, host a free library recipe on their website. Navigate quickly using the search field available on every page, denoted by a magnifying glass icon. McCormick's recipes blatantly plug McCormick products, but it's okay to use any substitutes you have in your pantry or brands that you prefer.
- SeriousEats.com This website caters to accomplished home chefs, dedicated foodies and individuals who want to churn out an impressive, delicious yet easy-to-make French toast recipe. Serious Eats develops and tests recipes in a lab and makes them available to website visitors for free.
- Gourmet.com Although seemingly geared at professionals, Gourmet magazine is equally accessible to everyday cooks. Gourmet magazine's website features step-by-step recipes that incorporate basic techniques and familiar ingredients. The print version of this magazine no longer exists, but the website endures.