Payn Perdu (French Toast)

Pain Perdu (Time 0_05_30;26)
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?

Pain Perdu (Time 0_01_20;19)
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 extremely important to survival in the 18th century, but what does one do when the 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.

Pain Perdu (Time 0_02_09;22)Karen Hess who transcribed Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery has this to about the recipe, “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.

French Toast

  • Any firm bread made stale
  • 8 Egg Yolks
  • 1 cup Cream
  • ¼ cup Sac
  • 2 tbsps. Sugar
  • Nutmeg
  • Butter

Sauce

  • 4 tbsps. Butter
  • 2 tbsps. Sac
  • 1 tbsp. Sugar

You can use any nice enriched bread. The no knead French bread like we made in a previous episode would be perfect. If you want to use a modern bread, you can use a challah bread or a brioche. Any firm bread will do.

Cut the crust off and let it set out overnight, so we start off with stale bread. Pain Perdu (Time 0_03_21;19)
In a bowl, take about 8 egg yolks; add about a cup of cream, about a quarter of a cup of sac, and two tablespoons of sugar. Finally, scrape in a little bit of nutmeg and whisk this all together.

Pain Perdu (Time 0_03_35;05)
Now let’s take our individual bread pieces and put them in the batter and let them set for maybe 15 minutes or up to an hour to get them a real good chance to soak in. It really depends on how stale your bread is. While the bread is soaking, you can go ahead and start on the sauce, because we want to have the sauce ready to put on it as soon as they’re cooked.

Pain Perdu (Time 0_04_26;08)We’re going to start off with about four tablespoons of butter and then once that’s melted, add in about two tablespoons of sac, and a tablespoon of sugar. Now you want to whisk this all together and set aside where it will stay warm, but won’t cook.

Pain Perdu (Time 0_04_56;19) Once the toast has finished soaking, melt the butter in your frying pan and put in the toast. 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. Cook them until they are golden brown on both sides, flipping once halfway through cooking.

Pain Perdu (Time 0_05_18;03)
This topping’s a little different from what you and I might expect or what we’re used to, but it’s taste is right out of the 18th century cookbooks. Maple syrup is a perfect North American variation on the same theme to replace the sugar.

Transcription of Video:

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 altogether, 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 SavoringThePast.net 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)

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This entry was posted in 18th Century Cooking, Bread, Historic Cooking, Ingredients, Recipe, Video and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Payn Perdu (French Toast)

  1. Judith Mullett says:

    What is ‘sac’?

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  2. Chuck H. says:

    The correct translation of “Lost Bread” in French is “pain perdue” not “payn perdue”.

    • isabelleflx says:

      Actually it’s pain perdu 😉 but who knows back in the days how they wrote it. I want to know what sac is though.

      • Kevin Carter says:

        Wow, I’m not sure how I missed your question! Sac is sherry. It was during the 18th century that standardize spelling really only began to take root. So while there may be a standard spelling today, there wasn’t back then.

  3. Chris says:

    How many uses do you get out of the straw whisks you use? How do you clean them? How did they clean them in the 18th century?

    • Kevin Carter says:

      Wow, I’m not sure how I missed your question! We have used our whisks dozens of times. They’re easy to clean with hot water and a mild detergent. They likely would have cleaned them in the 18th century by swishing them in hot water.

  4. cozydell says:

    sac? would that be “sack” as in sherry?

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