French toast is popular as a breakfast entree in North America. It usually is served with maple syrup, though it can also be served with fruit syrup, whipped cream, powdered sugar, or nutss such as pecans.
It is also popular in China, where it is called 西多士 and usually served with honey.
French toast is made with bread (generally pre-sliced) and eggs ; some also prefer to add milk or orange juice and spices. To make basic French toast, whisk one egg until well-beaten. Add 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and about two tablespoons of milk, and beat again. Soak bread slices in the mixture and fry on a hot, pre-heated skillet or griddle, flipping to ensure that both sides are grilled. Serve hot with warmed syrup.
The precise origins of the recipe are unknown, but similar dishes have existed in many countries and under many names. In medieval Europe, it was called suppe dorate in England and tostees dorees in France; more recent French terms are ameritte and pain perdu ("lost bread"); in Spain it is called torriga, fattiga riddare in Sweden, arme riddere in Danish, arme ritter in Germany, and "poor knights of Windsor" in England. In America, it has also been called "Spanish," "German," and "nun's" toast.
It has been said that the dish was renamed from "German toast" to "French toast" in the US during World War I, and it is likely that the latter term gained in popularity in that time, but the term "French toast" can be found in print in the US as early as 1871. Other sources suggest that it was named after Joseph French, who served it in the 1700s at his tavern in New York State. The Oxford English Dictionary cites usages of "French toast" in English as early as 1660 (toasted bread with wine, orange juice, and sugar), and cites an egg-based recipe of the same name from 1882. It has also been called "American" toast in the US, where there is a story that it was invented in 1724 by a man named Joseph French in a roadside tavern near Albany, New York. In early 2003, the name of French toast was changed again to "freedom toast" in the White House, the US Congress, and in a few US restaurants, this time due to anti-French sentiment stemming from France's refusal to vote for a war in Iraq. (A similar thing happened to French fries, which are now called freedom fries in those places. As a reaction, the French embassy merely commented that french fries are in fact from Belgium.)
- Odilie Redon et al., The Medieval Kitchen: Recipes from France and Italy (Univ. Chicago Press, Chicago, 1998).
- John F. Mariani, The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink (Lebhar-Friedman, New York, 1999).
- Craig Claiborne, Craig Claiborne's The New York Times Food Encyclopedia (Times Books, New York, 1985).