Pardon My French… Toast!

Lovely Carol of carolcooks2.com says that today is a National French Toast Day. I don’t know which nation, but I do have a delicious recipe to offer you, Beautiful People.

One of those names that varied from country to country, it was called Spanish Toast in Germany, German Toast in Italy, Nun’s Toast in Spain, Amarilla in South America, and Poor Knights of Windsor in England, with translations of the latter into Swedish, Danish, and some more European languages. The reason for it, presumably, is that in Medieval England, knights, contrary to common folk, were supposed to be served dessert after dinner. Not all of them possessed the shining armor, though, and some knights were as poor as the proverbial mouse. Dunking bread into milk, enriching it with eggs, and frying it was their innovative way of solving the problem. They slathered it with jam, and – voila! – dessert was served.

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You are witnessing history in the making: King Arthur is sick and tired of pizza, and Sir Lancelot is about to give instructions to the cook to make the toast!

But what about France? After all, “French toast is a dish we have borrowed from the French,” insists Craig Claiborne in The New York Times Food Encyclopedia (1985). That may be so, but don’t expect to find French Toast on a menu in France. There it is called pain perdu – lost bread, which is a French euphemism for stale bread.  Apparently, frugal medieval cooks went out of their way trying to save every crumb and, with fabled French culinary savvy, created this delicious breakfast treat. Originally, though, they called it Pain a la Romaine – the Roman Bread.  And now we are getting closer to the true story.

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Roman emperor Tiberius started out on the cusp of the millennium as one of the greatest generals Rome has ever seen. No wonder his father-in-law, who was also his step father and adoptive father (it’s pretty confusing, I know, but ancient Romans adoption laws were designed to serve political purposes, rather than children’s welfare), made sure Tiberius succeeded him  on the throne. Papa Augustus wanted, and Tiberius dutifully obliged, but the luxury and decadence of imperial Rome circa 1st century C.E. was not to his liking. While trying to do his best among plots and intrigues, he gradually became “the gloomiest of men, ” according to historian Pliny the Elder.

His son Drusus, though, was gallivanting around Rome with an infamous “lover of luxury,” whose name eventually became synonymous with “gourmand,” Marcus Gavius Apicius. Flashing massive rings with huge precious stones, drunken Drusus ate up Marcus’ undisputed culinary judgments regarding, for instance, cabbage tops which were not fitting to be eaten by patricians since they were “common food.” Apicius was “born to enjoy every extravagant luxury that could be contrived” (Pliny the Elder). According to the philosopher Seneca, he spent 100 million sestertii to build his kitchen, then he spent all the gifts he had received from the Imperial court (courtesy of his buddy Drusus) on a spectacular housewarming party. Waking up the morning after, Apicius toted up his bills and realized he had only 10 million sestertii left to his name. Poor guy! Having found himself on the brink of poverty (10 millions – pocket change!), he poisoned himself.

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Drusus also died of poisoning which was quite a common malady in those times, although it was unclear whether he was poisoned by his loving wife Livilla or accidentally overdosed on bitter almonds he used to gobble up as a remedy for drunkenness. Almonds or cyanide, emperor Tiberius’ only son was dead, and the emperor went into total depression, left Rome, secluded himself , and adopted his grand-nephew Caligula as his grandson and heir. Inimitable Peter o’Toole portrayed the last days of the aging emperor, mad with grief (and possibly syphilis as well) in the film Caligula. You might have met Malcolm McDowell as Caligula in one of my earlier posts (please see here).

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It is pretty obvious that this kind of decadence and depravity (Caligula is not a film for family entertainment!), signaled the beginning of the end, “decline and fall of Roman Empire,” aptly named so by Gibbon. Apicius, claimed Seneca, “corrupted the age with his example,” thus adding a weighty stone to a grave of the once glorious empire. Before poisoning himself, though, he supposedly managed to author a cook book filled with recipes some of which are still used today. To be honest, it is unclear that he actually wrote it, but it has been circulating under his name for two thousand years, and under the title “Another Sweet Dish” we find the following:

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” (The Food Timeline).

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Let’s do what the famed gourmand said, with a few modifications: take a few slices of my homemade spelt bread (if you are allergic to gluten or have a celiac disorder, you can use gluten free bread), coconut milk and coconut creamer (hazelnut flavored creamer adds a nice nutty nuance), agave for sweetness, and a dash of vanilla extract for flavor. Because it’s my kitchen, and not the Apicius’ 100 million sestertii one, I make my own rules, and Rule #1 states: It’s not a dessert if it’s not chocolate. Therefore, I add cocoa powder.

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Instead of eggs, I whip aquafaba into foam, gradually add the rest of the stuff, and whip it together, then I soak bread slices in this foamy liquid. *Aquafaba is the liquid left after cooking chick peas.

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Meanwhile, I melt coconut oil on a preheated frying pan and fry the slices for about 2 – 3 minutes on each side.

Since my Rule #2 is: The more chocolate, the better, I serve these choco-coco slices with chocolate syrup, garnished by toasted coconut flakes and fresh berries. Ah, to taste the decadence of Rome right before it fell!

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 slices of spelt, multigrain, or gluten free bread
  • 1 cup aquafaba (liquid left after cooking chickpeas)
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup coconut creamer
  • 1/4 cup agave (adjust sweetness to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • Chocolate syrup to taste
  • Toasted coconut flakes and fresh berries to garnish

PROCEDURE

  • Whip aquafaba with a pinch of salt to foam, add the rest of ingredients, whisk together. soak bread slices.
  • Preheat shallow frying pan, melt coconut oil. Fry each slice on medium heat for 2 – 3 minutes on each side until golden brown.
  • Serve hot with chocolate syrup, garnish with toasted coconut flakes and fresh berries.

Enjoy!

57 Comments Add yours

  1. SAM VOELKER says:

    Another good history lesson but I like pain perdu as I have known it all my life and I am afraid to change. However Shirley, my wife had another step, and that was to cut a round hole in the center of the bread and put a whole raw egg in it to fry. Good memories~!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve seen that trick with raw eggs; it’s cool. However, we are trying to avoid eggs because of cholesterol; that’s why I am using aquafaba.
      Thank you for stopping by and commenting, Sam!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. CarolCooks2 says:

        Awww, Sam, I call that a one-eyed sandwich my mum used to make that and I sometimes make one for the grandkids 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    2. We call this Man in the Moon!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. SAM VOELKER says:

        Growing up we often had grits at dinner time (supper to us). Never had liver without it. And most Yankees think that it has no flavor, but with butter on it, it is great. But the way I liked it best was the next day…. It is spread out in a flat dish and by the next day it has congealed. Now to fix a great breakfast. Cut it into small squares and dip in the same egg mixture as is used on French toast and fry it….. Great to have as a kid~!

        OH Fried Grits~!!! need to fix that for old times sake~!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Correct me if I am wrong, but grits is a mushy polenta, isn’t it? And congealed grits is the Bessarabian mamalyga, which is delicious with feta cheese,

        Liked by 1 person

      3. SAM VOELKER says:

        I never had it that way, but sounds great.

        I had a large bunch of Texans on a crew in Rocksprings Wyoming and all of the women in the crew went to this one grocery store asking for grits. of course they had never heard of it. But the grocer must have ordered a very big supply of grits thinking that it would be a great seller. About the time it arrived and we moved the Texans out of town… I often wonder what happened to all of that grits because no one up there even knew how to fix it.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I wanted to say they called it polenta and sold as fancy Italian food, but they have probably never heard of polenta either. Poor grocer!

        Like

      5. As a yankee, I never cared for grits until lived down south and had some delicious shrimp and grits. When I was growing up, my mom did the same thing as your grits growing up. Mom would fry squares of the solidified cornmeal squares in bacon fat, then drizzle a little maple syrup over all at breakfast.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Fascinating history, and another recipe i hope to try soon.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much, dear Mimi; I am so glad you like it!

      Like

  3. Doug Thomas says:

    I always learn something interesting and new here! Aquafaba is something I never knew as anything other than “juice off the can of chickpeas”! Who – me, at least – knew it actually had a use as a egg whites substitute?

    French toast is a favorite breakfast of mine, and I try different fruit and spice variations to make up for the dreary regularity of just egg-drenched fried bread drenched in maple syrup. The variation you posted today sound interesting.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am pleased you found it interesting, Doug. when my husband’s cholesterol went off the scale, I started buying Egg Whites or Egg Stirrer, and both were somewhat out of my budget at the time. So I started looking for egg substitutes and discovered this magic substance – aquafaba.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. It’s a great ingredient! I’ve made meringues and Pavlova with aquafaba and you’d swear it was made with egg whites.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I did too, and everybody was fooled.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. French toast is one of those childhood pleasures. 😍🍃

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am pleased my post inspired nice memories, dear Gail.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. -Eugenia says:

    I just love your history lessons and how you tie them in with your recipes, Dolly! We love French toast and never thought about chocolate syrup! My hubby will love this!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Chocolate rules in my kitchen, dear Eugenia! Thank you for a lovely comment.

      Like

  6. You do take us on wonderful rambles with the slenderest of prompts. Well done

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am pleased to have entertained you, Derrick.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I adore your chocolate rules!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, dear Dorothy! Chocolate rules!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. ShiraDest says:

    So, pain perdu is actually Roman!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:
    GOOD FOOD AND GREAT HISTORY! A RECIPE OF DELIGHT!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for reblogging and a wonderful comment, Jonathan!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. CarolCooks2 says:

    Thank you for the mention dear Dolly and the walk through history…Love it! x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My pleasure, dear Carol.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Garfield Hug says:

    I love french toast but never get it right😅

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You have to soak your bread just for a few seconds, almost dredge it through liquid. It has to be springy to the touch, yet not mushy.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Garfield Hug says:

        HA! Till I figure it out then as mine is not soaked and the bread is eggless in layer below the egg soaked part.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. What do you mean, in layers? You have to do every slice separately.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Garfield Hug says:

        LOL! Gotcha. Thanks for the tip. I can write better than cook as you now know. LOL!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I know you can write, sweetheart, but I have never tasted your cooking, so I reserve judgement on that. 😻

        Like

  12. Such a yummy, informative and cute share! ))💗((

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, darling; I am so glad you like it!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Best for the new month and heading into another year!🍂💗☕️☕️

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Same to you, dear friend, and let’s hope and pray that 2021 will be an improvement!

        Like

  13. Your toast is definitely the premium version of toast i ever have seen before, Dolly!:-) The historic information is funny as always. You are wonderful in this too. Thank you for making me hungry, just on 01.00 a.m. Lol Michael

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am sorry, Michael, I didn’t mean to make you hungry in the middle of the night! LOL

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lol – Dont worry, Dolly! At 2.00 a.m. or later i am always hungry. Therefore in the fridge i have stocked only yoghurt and carrots. 😉 Have a beautiful weekend! Michael

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Very smart, Michael. I stock berries for this purpose – less fiber, more vitamins.
        Have a great, weekend, dear friend.

        Like

  14. jkaybay says:

    Great history lesson! It brought me back to my classical studies class in high school (we had a good teacher who would bring these stories to life, as you did).
    Very nice that you used aquafaba – how would you compare the final result to French toast made with eggs?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I found no difference in taste using aquafaba, as opposed to eggs, not only in French toast, but also in other recipes. It’s a life saver!
      Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting, dear friend!

      Like

  15. Lulu: “Our Dada has a recipe for this stuff that he got from a local restaurant called Brockton Villa, except his is called ‘Coast Toast’.”
    Charlee: “Ooh! Dada is a poet and doesn’t know it!”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So you tell him, Charlee!
      Meows and Purrs from The Cat Gang.

      Like

  16. Rohvannyn says:

    I’ll have to try the dessert version sometime. My own higher protein, breakfast version I use because I’m losing weight is as follows – take some kind of hearty bread, whether rye or spelt, and slice. Whip an egg with just a bit of water and any spices you want in it. Soak the bread in same. Heat a non stick skillet (or well seasoned cast iron one) and fry. Sprinkle a bit of low fat mozzarella on top. It’s so very good that way! Very simple too. I haven’t tried it with aquafaba but I will next time I use some garbanzos.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your recipe sounds like a winner, darling! Let me suggest that if you use a few drops of any nut-based milk (soy, almond, or coconut), you both enrich the taste and add protein.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Child Of God says:

    You have a lot of nice interesting posts, thank you. I am glad I had the chance to stop by.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, dear friend!

      Like

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