A savory and sweet dish from biblical times to make at home
People love sweets, and the Romans were no different. However, Apicius and his De Re Coquinaria (On the Subject of Cooking) does not contain an abundance of what we would term sweet dishes or dessert recipes. A few survived, including this “French” toast recipe, which is an odd mix of sweet and savory. It is possible many more were lost to the ravages of time.
Apicius’ recipe and its modern adaption were sourced from Around the Roman Table: Food and Feasting in Ancient Rome by Patrick Faas. It is an easy recipe to be sure, although a bit time-consuming.
Roman “French” Toast
Aliter dulcia: muteos afros optimos rades et in lacte infundis. Cum biberint, in furnum mittis, ne arescant, modice. Eximes eos calidos, melle perfundis, compungis ut bibant. Piper asperges et inferes
Another sweet dish: cut the crust from the best African mustaceum bread and soak it in milk. When it is saturated, bake it in oven, but not for too long to avoid drying it out. Remove the bread when it is hot, and pour honey over it. Prick holes in it so that it absorbs the honey. Sprinkle with pepper and serve.
Unlike modern French toast, this Roman version does not contain egg and requires a specially baked loaf of bread. The bread is simple: if possible, it’s important to weigh the flour, as it ensures the right consistency (baking is a science after all). The additions of pepper and cumin are a bit odd to our Western palates; I suggest being liberal with the honey.
We hope you enjoy this Roman “French Toast” with your family and friends.
Ingredients for the Bread:
One packet (about 2¼ tsp) of yeast
1 Tbl honey
Water (about ¼ cup, but follow instructions on the packet)
500g (about 4 cups) flour
2 tsp ground anise seed
2 tsp ground cumin
1½ cup white wine or white grape Juice
(3) Use white wine/white grape juice to moisten the dough. Add about ½ cup at a time. I used 1½ cups. Knead the dough. Then leave it to rest for 2–3 hours.
(4) Preheat the oven to 350° F and bake for 30 minutes. (The crust should not be too firm when you take it out.)
Ingredients for the French Toast:
Milk (about 2 cups, depending on your dish size. Enough to soak the bread thoroughly)
Pepper (to taste)
Honey (to taste)
(1) Once the bread has cooled, remove the crust and cut the loaf into slices or cubes. Soak in milk until soft.
(2) Remove from milk and bake at 350° F until brown (about 20 minutes)—be careful they don’t dry out.
(3) When done, remove from oven, drench with honey, and sprinkle with pepper. Bon Appetite!
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