The basics of making French Toast involve whole egg and milk being mixed together. Slices of leftover bread are dipped in the mixture, then fried until browned on both sides. It ends up with a custardy texture, and is served hot.
After these basics, though, the debate starts. Should any sugar be added to the egg and milk mixture, or any salt and pepper, or all three? A flavouring extract such as vanilla or almond? Some say the bread should be cut thinly; some like it cut thickly. Some people swear that French Toast should be deep fried.
Though all agree stale bread is the best, because fresh bread will get too soggy, there is no general agreement on what kind of stale bread. Enthusiasts will propose sourdough bread; Francophile purists will counter with brioche.
Equally, there is no agreement on how it should be served. On its own, with just butter? As a sweet, with a syrup or jam? Or as a savoury dish, with bacon and ketchup?
The dish provides a way of using up leftover, stale bread and making it appealing.
There are many different recipes and versions for French Toast, or “Pain perdu”, one of its other names.
The cooking can’t be too fast, because you need to allow time for the soggy middle to cook.
More elaborate versions might be soaked in wine, dipped in egg, sugared, fried, then sugared again before serving.
You can freeze uncooked French toast — just set out on a cookie sheet in the freezer to freeze individually, then wrap separately and freeze. It’s hard to see any advantage to this, though, given that while it is so quick to make on the spot, the frozen pieces need at least half an hour to thaw before you can use them.
In Middle English, the French “pain perdu” became payn purdew, panpardie, and panperdie.