German toast or armer ritter (Armer Ritter, meaning “poor knight”) is an easy throw together breakfast that is a crowd pleaser. The origin of the name refers to knights in medieval times not having enough money to buy meat, so stale bread or day old bread was dipped in eggs and fried. ) Similar to poor mans pudding (which is great for bread scraps that can not be neatly fried or baked), this meal is fast and nourishing. French toast as we all know is a very well known classic. In Europe I believe its been primarily a dessert and/or breakfast depending on whenever the stale bread is calling out for love. “French Toast” as we know it was originally a German delicacy. I’ve got this recipe in just about every European cooking book I own, and whether Austrian, German or even Scandinavian this dish is credited as being rightfully German. During WWII the anti German sentiment caused a name change. If you recall a brief period of time when we consumed “freedom fries”, it is the same concept but “freedom fries” just never stuck around. Not to mention … I do believe “French fries” are actually Belgian… I’m just saying.
This toast is traditionally made with left over rolls, or bread and can be filled with a slightly sweetened and softened farmers cheese (or cream cheese), and/or fruit spreads. Usually I prefer it left un-stuffed and topped with fruit. For me the “dessert” variation of the dish would be “Betrunkene Jungfrau” or “drunken virgin”. This variation is made using wine instead of milk, and seasoned with spices such as cinnamon, cloves or allspice and topped with a sweetened cream or ice cream. (Think Glühwein– translated as “glow wine”, typically sold around Christmas its a mulled German spiced wine) This dessert is really just another resourceful use of any leftovers, as if there’s such thing as left over wine? I suppose its possible right? Baked
French toast Armer Ritter is a super last minute throw together that even my picky husband will eat. I like to use slightly sweet sourdough like honey, oat & spelt sourdough a plain sourdough bread can be used. I prefer armer ritter topped with fruit compotes that are not overwhelmingly sweet. A homemade peach & honey compote or blueberry & maple compote is tasty. Of course you can always go with maple syrup and good quality butter.
Sourdough German Toast: (Armer Ritter)
Use the best bread you have around. Not white bread. Sourdough is a great option because it is a traditional, slow fermented bread that is tender and flavorful. Brioche, challah, pannetone etc. can be used as well. I almost always use sourdough because that’s what I have around.
Homemade Sourdough Bread (The full recipe makes two “loaves” worth. Two 8 x 13 baking pans if you are baking it.)
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup cream or whole milk
- 2-3 tablespoons raw sugar or brown sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- *fresh grated nutmeg
- Butter for frying
In a bowl combine eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. Place a skillet over medium heat and melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Submerge 1 piece of bread at a time in the egg mixture and flip over so both sides get evenly coated. Shake off any excess and fry in the skillet until both sides are golden brown. Repeat this process until you’ve used all of your egg mixture. Rinse and repeat if you still have bread on hand. ( left over egg mixture and bread can also just be used for dessert!)
Alternate Directions: BAKING, Baked French Toast is super duper easy to do. I have heard of people making this the night before and refrigerating it. Instead of Pan frying it, follow the directions below!
Place Bread slices in a baking dish, (a single 8×13″ pan is large enough for about one 9 x 5 loaf of bread.) Pour egg and milk mixture over top. Allow to rest for 10 minutes. Top with 2-3 tablespoons of butter and bake at 350F for 30 minutes or until golden brown.