My mom is French. Her mother and father were both 100% French. French toast was invented as a way to make use of leftover (read slightly stale) bread. The French call it pain perdu (or lost bread) since the recipe lets you reclaim older or forgotten bread.
When it comes to making french toast, my mom is nonpareil. Even her own mother, Mary, would put on her fast shoes to get across the street to our house when my mom was making french toast. And even after we moved from East Bradenton to Palma Sola — quite a drive — my grandma would show up magically whenever my mom was making french toast, “I knew you were making french toast, why didn’t you call me?” she would demand. Well as you can see, there was really no need. No need to pick up the phone when she had a built in automatic Audrey-french-toast-making detector.
So yes, my mom is unparallelled when it comes to making french toast. But still I try. For the longest time she had a secret ingredient and she was holding out on me with that. Finally after much wheedling (begging) she claims she told me what that secret ingredient is and yet — my french toast does not turn out like hers. Hers is always more delicious.
So if on a lazy summer Sunday you have a hankering for some delicious golden french toast, served with butter and syrup and sprinkled with powdered sugar, I suggest you just ask my mom to make you some. But if you are set on making some yourself and you do not yearn for gustatory perfection, you might try a variation of the following recipe which comes down to us all the way from medieval times.
(French toast is basically slices of bread drenched in an egg
and milk mixture, and fried to a golden crisp in a pool of melted
butter or your choice of cooking fat. You can add vanilla extract, orange juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, eggnog, or flavored liqueurs. The key is to use day-old bread so that it soaks up all that egg mixture without breaking apart. Some people leave the bread out overnight to stale it up a bit.)
Suppe dorate [Gilded sippets]
Take slices of white bread, trimmed so that they have no crusts; make
these slices square and slightly grilled so that they are colored all
over by the fire. Then take eggs beaten together with plenty of sugar
and a little rose water; and put the slices of bread in this to soak;
carefully remove them, and fry them a little in a frying pan with a
little butter and lard, turning them very frequently so that they do not
burn. Then arrange them on a plate, and top with a little rose water
colored yellow with a little saffron, and with plenty of sugar.
—The Medieval Kitchen, Recipes from France and Italy, Odilie Redon et al, (p.207)
(recipe translated from Libro de arte coquinaria, Maestro Martino ) Source book available at Amazon.com
I think the real secret ingredient that is missing for me is the love
that my mom adds as she makes her french toast and so my french toast is
lacking that authentic essential — it needs more Audrey. And so do I.
Missing my mom who is 1,700 miles away in Florida. ❤