French Toast isn’t really French at all. Historically, it can be traced back to the Romans, who would soak bread in milk and egg, then fry it in butter or oil. Pan dulcis they called it. The name “French toast” first appeared in England, in the 17th Century, when it had morphed into the dish now regarded as a brunch staple the world over. And the French? They call it pain perdu – literally, “lost bread” – on account of it being a great way to use stale bread that would otherwise be thrown away.
Some people think of French toast as merely “eggy bread”, but while it’s a little more complex than that, it’s still super easy to make. There are five key ingredients – bread, milk, egg, cinnamon, and vanilla. It’s the latter two that make French toast what it is, but some add other spices or flavourings such as nutmeg or cardamom. With regards to the bread, thick slices are required – too thin, and they’ll fall apart. Stale bread does actually work wonderfully well, as it holds its form and texture better, but if you must, you can use fresh (just make the slices extra thick). And pick your favourite too – white, brown, whole wheat, or, if you’re after a little decadence, brioche. (our buttery, hand-braided brioche is perfect!)
It’s super simple to make as well. Combine the egg, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon in a bowl, and beat gently. Dip the bread in the egg mixture, turning to coat both sides evenly. You can leave the bread to sit in the mixture for 10 minutes or so; some recipes even call for leaving them in the fridge overnight. Meanwhile, heat a non-stick griddle or skillet pan over a medium heat, melt a good dollop of butter, then fry the bread slices until golden brown on each side. And that’s it!
To serve, top with a dusting of icing sugar, a spoonful of mascarpone, and some fruit. Berries, such as strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries work well, but so do pears, peaches, and banana. For extra sweetness, drizzle with some organic maple syrup, or a scoop of ice cream; savoury fans can pair French toast with bacon, grilled sausage, or a spoonful of peanut butter.
Be careful with the ratio of milk to eggs – too much dairy, and the toast will be soggy. The aim is for the French toast to be dry on the surface with crisp edges, but soft and fluffy on the inside. Try adding a 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour to the egg mix for extra fluffy French toast.