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Food History 101: French Toast

on November 15, 2017
For such a seemingly simple food, French toast can evoke a sense of history, cultural significance, and even nostalgia in an individual. Like many dishes dating back to medieval times (and much earlier, even), it is one born out of necessity; with resources scarce, society had to find ways to use every bit of food, often needing to revitalize “lost” items like bread and other goods. In France, they obviously don’t refer to the dish simply as toast. They call it “pain perdu,” which literally means “lost bred.” This is yet another example of a centuries-old technique in the culinary arts and sciences which has had little to no need for improvement over time. Even back in the 17th century and prior, chefs from all around the world have known they could breathe new life into bread by grilling it and providing moisture. Being the binding ingredient that they are, eggs provide the perfect liquid for giving stale bread a second life. Nowadays, in our culture of high-volume food production, many people prefer to make their French toast on fresh breads, with popular varieties coming on challah, various artisan breads, and even croissant. The common recipe is simple enough, and a much better use for your old bread than taking up space in the garbage or compost. Beat a couple eggs with some cinnamon and a dash of vanilla, then just grill the bread in a cast iron or non-stick pan until it’s brown on both sides to your liking. It’s the same basic technique utilized in homes, dorms, and apartments around the country, often referred to as making Texas toast. Here, however, the salt and pepper tastes are replaced with a savory, buttery flavor profile. The bread, being dipped in egg, takes on a chewy inner texture and a fluffy mouth feel. Typically, in North America, French toast gets topped with some combination of butter, powdered sugar, and syrup or jam. Each establishment looks to find the right balance between the classic and a unique take, but it seems simple enough to serve this recipe, which goes back hundreds of years, with one of nature’s finest offerings: Real maple syrup. Side note: Did you know it takes about 40 gallons of tree sap to make a single gallon of maple syrup? We call it French toast because that’s the name England passed along to us, but the fact is that this eggy, bready dish is a treat for any season and a truly delightful way to start off your day’s diet – and it’s enjoyed by people of all walks of life, from all corners of the globe. Here in the northeast, it’s getting colder and colder by the day. But, you shouldn’t let that stop you from starting your morning off with a warm and comforting breakfast! Every weekend at Atlas Steakhouse we serve one of the best brunches in Brooklyn, with signature cocktails and dozens of dishes inspired by international cuisine in our sophisticated, yet cozy space. Next time you’re in the area, stop by for our classic French toast or any of the many delicious items from our brunch menu!