French food is perhaps the most fascinating, glamorous, creative, process oriented and absolutely delicious ! France was a seat of culinary revolution and most French restaurants are considered to be fine dining places. Adding the word French to any dish creates that aura of exquisiteness about the dish. Result of which is dishes like French fries and French toast! Yes it is true that French fries and French toast as available in today’s form do not have French origins.
Well, history suggests that French Toast existed even before famous French cuisine came around. Infact, there are references to a dish like French toast in Apicius, a collection of Roman Cookery recipes that was said to be compiled in 1st Century AD and was written in a language that was a variant of Latin. The dish was then called ‘Aliter Dulcia’ meaning another sweet dish. In fact, France did not even exist as a country at that time!
Almost every country around the world has its own variation of French toast. In France it self it is called pain perdu or lost bread because the recipe uses stale or otherwise lost bread. Another story goes that an American innkeeper by the name Joseph French, reproduced this sweet treat and named it French toast rather than French’s toast. And it is said that this grammatical error is what gave this dish the name French Toast!
Around the world this dish goes by different names like Spanish toast, Eggy bread(UK), German toast, Gypsy toast, Poor knights of Windsor(UK), Torrija(Spain). India has its own version too called Bombay toast. Basically, french toast is nothing but slices of stale bread soaked in egg custard and shallow fried or baked. It can be flavoured with cinnamon, nutmeg or vanilla essence and dusted with powdered sugar or confectioner’s sugar at the time of serving. Typically, pullman loaf or slice bread is used, but one could also use rich breads like brioche, challah. Baguettes can also be used but the texture is more chewy. To make the egg custard, whole eggs are mixed with milk and/or cream and sweetened. They are flavoured with essence of choice like vanilla or cinnamon or nutmeg powder. The bread slices are cut in desired shape and then soaked in the custard enough till custard is absorbed. Over-soaking can break the slices as they become soggy. These slices can either be panfried or baked till golden brown. They have to be served hot either dusted with sugar or drizzled with sweeteners like honey or maple syrup. Fresh tart fruits like strawberries, raspberries can also be served along side. Savoury version of French toasts are also served, however they are not as popular as the sweet ones.
I have chosen to make this breakfast item into a restaurant style delicacy by flavouring it with orange zest and triple sec liqueur and serving it with drizzled chocolate sauce and a dollop of cream. Also to add more crunch, I prefer sprinkling brown sugar on the pan fried toast and then burning or caramelising the top layer with a blow torch or just in the top rack of a preheated one. That one is definitely a French touch and I choose to call this dish French Toast Brûlée ( brûlée means burnt in French). Here is the recipe :
French Toast Brûlée
- Eggs – 4
- Milk – 1 cup
- Amul cream – 1/2 cup
- Fresh Orange juice – 1/4 cup
- Triple sec – 2 tsp
- Orange zest – 1 tbsp
- Vanilla essence – 1 tsp
- Powdered Sugar – 1/4 cup
- Brown Sugar
- Bread Slices – 8-10
- Chocolate sauce
- Whipped cream
- Fresh fruits to serve
- Mix together eggs, milk ,cream, orange juice, zest, triple sec and sugar till the sugar dissloves.
- Cut the bread slices into triangles and soak them in the above egg custard till absorbed. Do not over soak as the bread will fall apart.
- Heat a pan and grease it with ghee or butter. Place the triangles and shallow fry them till golden brown and till the custard just cooks. Alternatively, you could shallow fry the triangles for half a minute till golden brown and then finish the cooking by baking in a preheated oven for about 8-10 minutes.
- After the triangles are cooked, they can be dusted with icing sugar at the time of serving. Alternatively, for a crispier finish sprinkle brown sugar on top of it and caramelise it with a blow torch or by simply placing them close to the upper heating rods. Another great way of serving them is by drizzling chocolate sauce or honey or maple syrup with a dollop of cream by the side.
French bread is perhaps one of the best ways to put stale bread to use. But my family loves it so much that I do not wait for the bread to stale. Here is an interesting tip, you can stale the bread by just leaving the slices in the refrigerator or exposed to air at room temperature. Another way of staling the bread is by lightly toasting it.