French Toast is not French.

The original French Toast, Pain Perdu (French for “Lost Bread”) was originally a recipe created out of necessity. The treat dates all the way back to ancient Rome. Allow us to help you raise your restaurant’s breakfast game by showing you the best way to prepare this indulgent ancient treat.

French Toast isn’t French

What we commonly think of today as French Toast, dates all the way back to 4th century Rome. Due to this origin, some say it was originally called Pain a la Romain. The first written recipe for it was penned by Apicius, Roman gourmand and king of indulgence. His ancient recipe is surprisingly similar to the way in which we still make French Toast today.

“Another sweet dish: Break [slice] fine white bread, crust removed, into rather large pieces which soak in milk [and beaten eggs] Fry in oil, cover with honey and serve.”

While originally this recipe was intended for the wealthy being made out of “fine white bread” with the “crusts removed.” It soon became popular among the lower classes throughout Europe as the perfect way to revive a stale loaf. Perhaps that’s why the term “lost bread” was employed not only throughout France but also England. This was the perfect way of saving what would otherwise have been inedible.

A Toast By Any Other Name

Every country seemed to have had its own version of French Toast and many of them went by the country in which they were made. There was Spanish Toast, Bombay Toast, Gypsy Toast, the list is virtually endless. Though almost certainly apocryphal, some claim that French Toast originally made its way to America under the name “German Toast.” During WWI when all things German became verboten, the name was switched for patriotic reasons to the allied “French Toast.

Pain Perdu the Lost Bread

Ingredients

  • ½ pint fresh strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons Sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons Grand Marnier
  • 6 eggs
  • 1½ cups of whole milk
  • 2 Tablespoons of honey
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 2 teapoons kosher salt
  • 1 large brioche loaf or challah
  • Unsalted butter
  • Vegetable oil
  • ½ cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • Whipped cream

Instructions

In a small bowl combine your washed and sliced strawberries with 1 Tablespoon of sugar and 1 Tablespoon of the Grand Marnier, toss together and set aside for later use.

Preheat the oven to 250F then turn your attention to the toast.

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Slice the loaves into thick pieces approximately 3/4 -inch thick. In a large bowl combine eggs, milk, honey, vanilla, orange zest, salt, remaining sugar, and Grand Marnier. Whisk vigorously until everything is well combined and homogeneous. Transfer the egg mixture into a large shallow dish like a hotel pan and begin to soak the bread, about 2 minutes on either side is ideal.

Heat butter and oil in a very large pan over medium heat. Take each slice of soaked bread and dip one side into the toasted almonds then place directly into the pan, almond side down. In the name of efficiency continuously add more bread to your egg mixture to soak while you’re frying the rest. Cook each slice for 2-3 minutes on either side then transfer to a large sheet tray and hold in a warm oven until ready for service. Serve with freshly whipped cream and your macerated strawberries.

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Hannah Abaffy

Hannah Abaffy

Pastry Chef & Recipe Development

Hannah Abaffy is a pastry chef and an active member of the culinary community. From working in kitchens to developing recipes, and creating menus for restaurants, she has been involved with food in one capacity or another for the past decade. After starting a food history blog, Hannah has been continuously writing and learning about the ever-changing realm of cuisine, its history, and its future. Since then her appetite to learn about and share all things that touch upon the world of food can only be described as voracious.

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