French Toast History & Recipes

Nothing makes you feel more pampered at breakfast time than French toast. This delicious treat is made using slices of bread dipped into a mixture of milk, beaten eggs and flavorings and then fried. It’s very easy to make, and you can put your own spin on it to create a unique dish.

Where Did French Toast Come From?

It’s certainly possible that it came (in part) from France, where it’s called pain perdu, or “lost bread.” That’s because in France, French toast is made as a way to use up leftover, day-old bread that has started to go stale. But the treat itself actually dates back to the Roman Empire, and many cultures have a history of similar fried sweet breads.

The name French toast was first used in the 1600s in England, so the breakfast treat probably migrated across the English Channel about that time. Early settlers brought French toast from England to America shortly thereafter. Originally, pain perdu was considered a dessert, but in the U.S., it’s a favorite main dish for breakfast and brunch.

How to Make French Toast

You can use virtually any kind of bread, from raisin bread to leftover English muffins, as the basis for your French toast. Thicker bread tends to work well, and some Jewish families use up their leftover Sabbath challah, a rich eggy bread.

  • Mix together 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, and 2 tablespoons sugar.
  • Whisk together 4 eggs, 1/4 cup milk, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, then stir in the cinnamon mixture. Pour the mixture into a pie plate.
  • Melt 1/4 cup butter in a heavy skillet or griddle.
  • Dip each of 8 pieces of bread into the egg-cinnamon mixture. Set them in the skillet and fry them until they’re golden brown on each side, flipping them halfway through cooking.
  • Serve the French toast with warmed maple syrup and powdered sugar.

french toast with strawberries

French Toast Variations

Add a little Grand Marnier or other favorite liqueur to your egg mixture before you dip your French toast. You can also bake it in a mixture of butter, corn syrup, and brown sugar to produce a French toast that has a creme brulee feel to it.

Make a delicious French toast casserole by layering in a baking dish — one layer of dipped bread, the filling, and another layer of dipped bread. When you’re done, just pop it into the oven to bake until cooked through.

Eat your French toast the New Zealand way by topping it with caramelized banana slices and crumbled bacon before you pour maple syrup over it, or enjoy a savory version of French toast if you follow the Australian example and serve it with melted cheese and tomato sauce or ketchup on top.

Make your French toast extra special by starting with cake rather than bread. A firmer cake, such as pound cake or angel food cake, works best for this variation. Consider topping it with sliced strawberries and whipped cream as an added delight.

Opt for a healthier version of French toast by using nonfat milk and substituting egg whites for all but one of the eggs in the basic recipe. Using whole-grain bread adds to the health value of the recipe.

Make French toast for brunch and delight your friends and family with your creativity. Start with the basic recipe and change things up to create a signature breakfast treat.

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