Testing the Cheese Toast Recipe from 1559

This weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting good friends to go to the Normans exhibition in Mannheim, and in the evening I used the opportunity to turn them into test eaters for two of my recipes. The first was the Fledlein from the Kuenstlichs und Fuertrefflichs Kochbuch I posted in December:

One left … it did not last long

34 To Make Good Fledlein

Take semel bread and cut it like for golden slices (tostes dorées, like French toast), and take grated cheese as though for frying kuechlein. Break eggs into it and do not make it too thin, but thinner than for cheese fritters (keßkuechlein). Spread it on one side, one finger thick. Then make a batter as though for baking strewblein (a type of fritter) and dip it into the batter on the other side that has not been spread (with cheese). Set it into the fat so that the cheese is above. Thus it gains a poitlein (crust?) like a fledlein. Spoon (hot fat) on top assiduously, thus it will be brown like the fladen should be.

This sounded quite promising. I started with plain wheat bread, cutting off the crust as was commonly done in medieval and Renaissance recipes, but in retrospect I think it would be better to not do that. The best medium would likely be a relatively dense white bread, not as airy as most Brötchen or baguette are. I also learned it is a good idea to keep the pieces small enough. I used some large ones, a little less than the size of postcards, and they were hard to manage in the pan.

The cheese mix used here is just cheddar and egg put together in a blender, three eggs to 250g of cheese which easily covered about twenty palm-sized pieces of bread. It is quite sticky, but spoonable and easy to spread on the bread slices, and it could definitely have used some extra spices. I was worried the bread would be harder to handle with a thick coating of cheese, but instead it became easier. And again, I would say that leaving on the crust would have helped even more, making it possible to move the pieces into the batter and the pan by hand rather than resorting to forks and a spatula as I did.

Spread with cheese, ready for the pan

The bottom coating was just egg, flour, and a little water, roughly the consistency of pasncake batter. After quickly dipping the bottom of the bread in a shallow bowl, I moved them to a pan full of hot oil. Since you should not turn them, spooning oil over the top of them is necessary to get them to brown at all. I think I used too little heat and will try a higher setting yet next time.

The third batch in the pan, almost done.

Altogether, though, the result was very satisfying. I expected them to soak up fat, but the batter on the bottom seems to have sealed them pretty well. They only left a few spots on the paper towels I put them on to drain and did not taste oily at all. They were very rich, though, as you would expect. The slightly melted, soft cheese topping contrasted nicely with the crunchy base and chewy bread. We ate them with pickles, vegetables, and fruit (including, heretically, pineapple) and they proved universally popular.

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