People love sweets, especially at this time of year when many are thinking of pumpkin pies, holiday cookies, and jelly doughnuts. This ancient Roman dish is good to make on a cold night, as the baking bread will fill your house with warmth and comforting aromas.
As much as the Romans loved sweets, our friend Apicius’s fourth-century text 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, to be sure, including this “French” toast recipe, which is an odd mix of sweet and savory, but it is possible many more were lost to the ravages of time.
Unlike today’s French toast, this Roman version does not contain egg and requires a specially baked loaf of bread. The bread is simple; if possible, it is important to weigh the flour, as it ensures the right consistency (baking is a science after all). If you do not want to make the bread, you could buy a loaf (perhaps an Italian or French loaf), but baking it yourself does add a bit of authenticity to the recipe. The additions of pepper and cumin are a bit odd to our modern palates; I suggest liberality with the honey.
We hope you enjoy this Roman “French” toast with your family and friends.—J.D.