Mmm. Who doesn’t like a nice big plate of
French toast? Nice firm bread soaked in eggs with milk, maybe garnished with a little bit
of fresh fruit, some cinnamon and slathered over the top with maple syrup. Have you ever
wondered where this dish came from? What genius mind created it and who throughout history
savored this delectable dish? Well that’s what we’re going to look at today in 18th
Century Cooking with Jas. Townsend and Son. We’re wrapping up our second series of 18th
Century Cooking with Jas. Townsend and Son. Most recently we’ve been looking at 18th
century breads and we thought it would be appropriate to conclude this series with a
little sweet treat made with bread. The earliest recipe for French toast can be
found in the Apicius. It’s a 4th and 5th century collection of Roman recipes. The dish
is simply titled A Sweet Treat and the translation reads thus, “Break a slice of fine white
bread, crust removed, into rather large pieces, soak in milk and beat in eggs, fry in oil,
cover in honey, and serve.” Bread was known as a staff of life. It was
a dietary pillar, but what does one do when one’s bread goes stale? In an old English
cookbook from about 1430, we find a recipe for bread that’s sliced, dipped in eggs,
fried in butter and then sprinkled with a little bit of sugar. The name of this recipe
was Payn perdu, a French word that means lost bread or wasted bread, suggesting that this
recipe was meant to use up stale bread. Karen Hess who transcribed Martha Washington’s
Booke of Cookery has this to say in a recipe after Payn Perdu. It says, “The English
early took to Payn Perdu and made it their own. It was rarely omitted from a cookbook,
usually listed under made dishes. Made dishes are any dish that amuses the cook or shows
off her skill.” Let’s make French toast or Payn Perdu in
a true 18th century fashion. We’re going to start off with a nice enriched
bread. The no knead French bread like we made in our last episode would be perfect. If you
want to use a more modern bread, you can use a challah bread or a brioche, any firm bread
will do. We’ve cut the crust off this and we’ve
let it set out overnight, so we’re starting off with a nice stale bread. I’m going to
start off here with about 8 egg yolks and to that I’m going to add about a cup of
cream and I’m also going to add some wine, some sac here. We’re going to use about
a quarter of a cup. Now I’m going to add about two tablespoons of sugar and finally
I’m going to scrape in a little bit of nutmeg and we’ll whisk this all together. Now let’s take our individual bread pieces
and put them in the batter. I’m going to let these set for maybe 15
minutes or up to an hour to get this a real good chance to soak in. It really depends
on how stale your bread is. While these toasts are steeping, I’m going to go ahead and
start on our sauce, because we want to have the sauce ready to put on it as soon as they’re
cooked. We’re going to start off with about four
tablespoons of butter and then once that’s melted, let’s add in about two tablespoons
of sac, and after the sac we’re going to add about a tablespoon of sugar. Now you want to whisk this all together, then
you want it to get nice and warm, but we’re really not cooking it, we’re just really
mixing it together, so what I’m going to do is set this aside where it’ll stay nice
and warm waiting for us to put it on. I’ve got the butter going in the pan, let’s
put in our toasts. If your bread’s really stale, sometimes it can be very fragile so you might have to be careful as you put it in the pan. These look done. Let’s get them out of here. Here’s our Payn Perdu, an early version
of French toast. Let’s give it a try. Mmm. That is excellent. This topping’s a
little different from what you and I might expect or what we’re used to. Very nice.
Right out of the 18th century cookbooks. Maple syrup as a topping is a perfect North American
variation on that same theme. They’re substitute for sugar, maple syrup. Excellent.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of 18th Century Cooking with Jas. Townsend and Son.
Be sure to watch for more episodes in the near future. Also, make sure to check out
our new cooking blog for today’s recipe as well as other documentation
and discoveries in 18th century cooking. All the clothing you’ve seen here today
and all the cooking accessories, all these things are available in our print catalog
or on our website. I want to invite you to subscribe to our YouTube channel and follow
us on Facebook and I want to thank you for joining us as we savor the flavors and the
aromas of the 18th century. Here’s our Payn Perdu an early version of
French toast. Let’s give it a try. That is excellent. You know, It is, it’s
really… {Beep} Mmm. That is excellent. Tha… the… the….
Gosh… {Beep} So that’s why you see maple syrup in so
many different… mmmm… that was stupid…{Beep} Ahh, that is, that is super {Beep} This would be used as a dessert, not as a
brexst, breakfast… {Beep} Mmm, that is excellent. This topping’s a
little bit different than what you and I mi(cough)… Here I get it stuck in my throat and I can’t
talk. {Beep} Have you ever wondered where this comes from?
I have. (Laughing)