Renaissance French Toast

“I went to a restaurant that serves ‘breakfast at any time’. So I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance.”

– Steven Wright

Pain perdu (lost bread) or fryed toast was made from stale or wasted (lost) bread. Recipes often call for ‘manchet’, fine, white bread. The recipe can be found in some Roman cookbooks. The earliest English recipe for French Toast comes from an anoymous 15th century cookbook. However, in the seventeenth century, the genius William Rabisha makes the crucial addition of strong alcohol.


4 shots of brandy or sherry,

4-6 slices white bread,

3 tsp cinnamon

3 tsp nutmeg

pinch of salt

6 egg yolks

100g butter for frying

For the topping


or 1/3 glass rosewater and 6 tbsp sugar


Beat the egg yolks with the salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Cut the crusts off the bread and dip it in sherry/brandy, first one side then the other. Let them wait on a plate a bit after dipping each side so they dry out a bit and don’t get too soggy. Dip the bread in the egg mixture so it is covered. Heat up the butter in a frying pan, and fry the bread, turning it once, until it is brown on both sides. It is best to let the bread soak up lots of butter and also get a bit crispy. Drizzle with rosewater-and-sugar, or honey (and extra butter if you want).

Ingredients for French Toast

Ingredients for French Toast

Bread dipped in brandy, and egg mix

Bread dipped in brandy, and egg mix

French toast

French toast

French Toast frying

French Toast frying

Rosewater and brown sugar

Rosewater and brown sugar

Early Modern French Toast

Early Modern French Toast

Inspired by various early modern recipes, but mainly

Take faire yolkes of eyren, and try hem from the white, and drawe hem thorgh a streynour; and then take salte, and caste thereto; and then take manged brede or paynman, and kutte hit in leches; and then take faire butter, and clarefy hit or elles take fressh grece and put hit yn a faire pan and make hit hote; And then wete the brede well there in the yolkes of eyren, and then ley hit on the batur in the pan, whan the buttur is al hote; and then whan it is fried ynowe, take sugur ynowe, and caste there-to whan hit it in the dissh. And so serve hit forth (Anon, titleless cookbook from 1430)

For Friday, to make a dish of fryed toasts.

Take a stale two penny loaf or two, and cut them in round slices throughout the loaf, soak them in Sack and strong Ale on the one side, then dry them on a pye|plate on that side, do so to the other side, then take the yolks of a dozen eggs beaten, seasoned with Nutmeg and Cinamon, dip your toasts therein, your pan being hot with clarified Butter, put them in and fry them brown on both sides, and dish them up, and pour on them Butter, Rose|water, and Sack drawn together, so scrape on Sugar (William Rabisha, The Whole Body of Cookery, 1661)

Rabisha's recipe

Rabisha’s recipe


Stewed plums

‘yes, yes, you deserve Sugar Plums’ – John Dryden

Early modern plum marmalade was often more of a dessert, eaten by itself. Another nice early modern thing you can make with plums is ‘quiddony’ or ‘quidoniacke’ which is more like jelly. This dessert tastes like a mix of pie filling, stewed fruit, and marmalet. Who knows how authentic it is, but it is the most delicious thing we have made so far. We promise that the next dish will be a highly authentic one (Tudor French Toast).

Ingredients Stewed plums

Plums cooking in rosewater

Plums cooking in rosewater


punnet of plums


1/3 amount of sugar as you have plums

2 tsp cinnamon

2tsp ginger

small glass of red wine

edible gold dust (optional)

To Make it:

Peel and slice the plums. Cover them in rosewater and boil. When they are getting soft, strain then, bash them with a spoon a bit, add sugar, wine, cinnamon, and ginger, and cook until the sauce is kind of sticky. Add some edible gold.

Thomas Dawson, The Good Huswife’s Iewell (1587)

You must boile your fruite, whether it be apple, cherie, peach, damson, peare, Mulberie, or codling, in faire water, and when they be boyled inough, put them into a bowle, and bruse them with a ladle, and when they be cold, straine them, and put in red wine or claret wine, and so season it with suger, sinamom and ginger.


WM, The Queen’s Closet Opened (1659) – ‘To Make a Marmalet of Any Tender Plum’

Take your Plums, and boil them between two dishes on a Chafing-dish of coals, then strain it, and take as much Sugar as the Pulp do weigh, and put to it as much Rose-water, and fair water as will melt it, that is, half a pint of water to a pound of Sugar, and so boil it to a Candy height, then put the pulp into hot Sugar, with the pap of a roasted apple. In like manner you must put roasted Apples to make Paste Royal of it, or else it will be tough in the drying.)