Toast is one of the simplest and most commonly eaten staples in the Western diet, and one suspects that this has been so since the very earliest leaven breads were made thousands of years ago. One of the facts about bread is that it will quickly go stale over a few days; toasting, and adding butter or oil to it revive it, particularly if it was quickly soaked in water, or later on, in wine, is one of the best ways of dealing with stale bread. These recipes for ‘toasted bread’ come from Robert May, who published his book, ‘The Accomplisht Cook‘ in 1685. These are very simple, (hardly recipes at all in the wider sense) using only a few ingredients, but they do tell us about the commonality of the food served in this period – the traditional bread to use, as prescribed by Robert May, is the ‘round manchet‘.
Toasts of Divers Sorts by Robert May ‘The Accomplisht Cook‘ 1685
First, in Butter or Oyl.
Take a cast of fine rouls or round manchet, chip them, and cut them into toasts, fry them in clarified butter, frying oyl, or sallet oyl, but before you fry them dip them in fair water, and being fried, serve them in a clean dish piled one upon another, and sugar between.
Toste them before the fire, and run them over with butter, sugar, or oyl.
Cut fine thin toasts, then toast them on a gridiron, and lay them in ranks in a dish, put to them fine beaten cinamon mixed with sugar and some claret, warm them over the fire, and serve them hot.
Cut French bread, and toast it in pretty thick toasts on a clean gridiron, and serve them steeped in claret, sack, or any wine, with sugar and juyce of orange.
Toast From 1685
This recipe combines the methods outlined by Robert May to make toast, as was commonly expected from early recipe books, but if you wish, toast the bread without butter and either leave the cinnamon out for French Toast or leave the orange juice out for the Cinnamon Toast.
- 4 slices of thick cut Bread (make a Manchet Bread here)
- 50ml of Red Wine (claret)
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 4 tsp of sugar
- 3 tbsp of clarified butter (ghee)
- 1 small orange
In a small saucepan add the red wine (claret), the sugar, the cinnamon, and the juice of the small orange – mix thoroughly and heat to dissolve the sugar – reduce this on a medium simmer for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat. Cut the manchet bread into thick slices, toast the bread until golden brown in a frying pan with the butter (on both sides). Put the buttered toast on to two plates, two slices each, then pour over the red wine and spices, and sprinkle over a little more sugar.