The French are credited with an awful lot of dishes, and rightfully so. It was and continues to be one of the most food-centric nations in the world. However, is this sweet breakfast treat really French? Let's give this battered bread a thorough frying today on WTF Wednesday!
Let's start at the beginning, as is necessary with this dish. Bread. That is literally the base of this dish, and when the first forms of this dish showed up in early history books (medieval times), bread went stale QUICK! That's because this was a lean time in history. There wasn't much room for experimentation in the kitchen, as food could not be wasted.
In modern times we have discovered that adding several different variations of natural ingredients to our flour or dough produces a consistent product that will stay fresh for an extended period of time. These natural ingredients are call dough conditioners. Each component can do different things depending on what you want to happen to your dough.
It can emulsify the gluten molecules, making a more consistent dough.
It can add oxidants to the dough to encourage gas retention (bigger air pockets in the dough).
It can be enzymes that break down certain molecules in the dough in order to better feed yeast and expedite the proofing process.
Lastly, it can break down proteins in the flour, reducing the mixing and proofing time of the dough.
Ok, now that we're done with our science lesson, back to our toast! When bread would go stale, there was very little you could do with it. Aside from gnawing... I guess that was an option. However, some genius lost to history decided to batter the bread in an egg concoction and deep-fat fry. The earliest mention of this dish in history books is in middle age England. The dish was known as suppe dorate.
However, there is another legend out there —a young innkeeper in the British colonies of America named Joseph French. In a stroke of rudimentary marketing, our buddy Joe advertised Frenchs Toast in 1724. One little caveat... he had yet to learn about apostrophes. Grammar always gets the last laugh.
The actual French version of this dish is called "pain perdu." Literally translated, this means lost bread. This is ironic because no one really knows the true origins of this tasty way to break your fast. Now, please pass the maple syrup.