“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).
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)