2 French Toast Recipes to Make Mother’s Day Brunch Unforgettable

This sheet-pan French toast, rich with brown sugar, couldn’t be much simpler.Credit…David Malosh for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.
A cross between bread pudding and soufflé, this take on French toast features a lemon-scented sugar sprinkled on top.Credit…David Malosh for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

Humans have been rehabilitating rock-hard, stale loaves into edible food since bread was first invented. But the recipe that has become irrevocably rooted in American breakfast culture is French toast.

Based on the French “pain perdu,” or lost bread, French toast is traditionally made from old, leftover slices softened in a mix of milk and eggs, then fried until golden and crisp on the outside and creamy inside.

Recipe: Brown Sugar Sheet-Pan French Toast

While the dish may have originally been a way to rescue old bread, the costly milk, eggs and butter it calls for made it far from thrifty. In “The Oxford Companion to Food,” Alan Davidson writes that, although French toast is iconically represented as a strategy for using up stale bread, its expensive ingredients suggest it was “more frequently regarded as a delicacy.”

Mr. Davidson’s list of historical variations includes an ancient Roman example from Apicius (using wine and honey); its Anglo-Norman cousin (served with almond milk); and their Spanish relation, torrijas (adorned with syrup and cinnamon). I’ve seen (and created) modern iterations that include peanut butter and condensed milk, streusel crumbs and pears, pumpkin spice and pecans.

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