Many historians claim, besides many other reasons, the Queen of France Marie Antoinette was executed during the French revolution for making the remark, “If they do not have bread, let them eat cake.” For whatever reasons such a remark was made, but I am sure bread is bread and no cake or pastry can substitute the humble ‘double roti’.
I love my bread and always thank God for my daily bread (no pun intended). My breakfast has to include bread in any form—it may be a simple toast with butter, bread pakora, sandwich or the heavenly French toast.
The column began with reference to France, and French did revolutionise the way we cook. Their cuisine has always been celebrated globally, and let’s discuss French toast in this week’s column. It is one of my favourites. It can be eaten for breakfast, evening snack or even substituted for a simple dessert.
As the story goes, the medieval European cooks, who used every bit of food to feed their families, invented this humble recipe which found its way to high tables of the rich and famous. Of course, the wealthy made it by using the finest bread in the bakery cutting off the edges of bread, which was unimaginable by the poor who used “pain perdu” (meaning lost bread). French chefs knew old stale bread could be revived by moistening and heating it. It reminds me of how my grandfather at Motimahal invented the butter chicken in order to revive the chicken tikkas which dried up while sitting by the tandoor waiting for their place on the table of the customers.
French toast is a dish the world may have borrowed from the French. It is known in England as the ‘poor knights of Windsor’, which is the same phrase used in many countries: ‘fattiga riddare’ in Sweden, ‘arme ridder’ in Denmark and ‘armer ritter’ in Germany.
In olden days, a symbol of distinction between high gentry and commoners was that the former were served dessert at the end of a meal. Knights, of course, belong to high gentry but some of them were poor and could not afford dessert, so as a substitute they were served ‘poor knights of Windsor’ with jam. During my past culinary visits to Paris, I came across a small cafe near the Triumph de Arch , where I ate this most delicious French toast with blue berry preserve.
Every one has their unique recipe of French toast but the classic recipe is when the bread squares are dipped in a mixture of sweetened milk and egg mixture and browned on a skillet or a pan with butter. So, here is the classic recipe with my twist, which I am sure will win you praise once you serve it.
- 1 egg beaten
- 4 slices of sandwich bread with edges cut off
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1 tbsp Sugar
- 1/4 tsp Cinnamon
- 1 tsp Butter
- 1 tbsp Sherry
- 2 tbsp Mixed nuts crushed
- blue berry preserve
- In a bowl beat egg and add milk, mix well
- Add sugar and cinnamon, Add sherry
- Cut off the edges of the bread and dip in the mixture. In a heavy bottom pan add butter on low heat
- Place the bread pieces and brown them on both sides. Remove on a serving dish
- sprinkle nuts and keep the blue berry preserve beside. Serve hot
- Alternatively, for serving as a dessert, you may compliment it with a dollop of vanilla or coffee ice cream.