the quintessential Lent and Easter sweet .At this time of year it is rare not to see it in the windows of pastry shops, as a dessert on the menu of any restaurant, or home-prepared. Associated with the scarcity and use of food in our daily lives, its history is as old as it is curious.
Torrijas, also called ‘torejas’ or ‘tostadas’ depending on the area, were already spoken of in Roman times. Recipes from the 1st century AD written by the Roman gastronomist Marcus Gavius Apicius already mentioned a sweet very similar to French toast.
Although the torrijas, more similar to how we know them now, haveits origin in the fifteenth century and are born as a custom that has no relation to the celebration of Holy Week. These sweets made from hard bread, eggs, sugar, milk or wine began to be prepared to relieve women in labor by to give birth and promote her postpartum recovery back in the year 1600. At first the torrijas were prepared with small slices of bread, and were served accompanied by a glass of wine.
But how did they become a Lent and Easter sweet
It is not known for sure how torrijas have been established as a typical dessert on these dates, but the truth is that being a satiating and caloric food that provided energy,They began to be included in Lent to compensate for periods of abstinence from certain foods.Although the truth is hard to believe that in the Middle Ages there was a lot of stale bread left over and eating meat was so abundant as to miss it during Lent.
Torrijas are associated with difficult times and economic hardships, in which having a cheap and affordable item such as the remains of the previous day’s bread made it possible to eat a sweet from time to time without spending much. In fact, to prepare torrijas, the ideal is for the bread to be somewhat hard, two or three days old.They are also made from sweet wine, because popular tradition tells us that the torrijas represent the body and blood of Christ.
Later, at the beginning of the 20th century,Torrijas lost a bit of their religious connection and became common in Madrid taverns, accompanied by a glass of wine.
But not only in Spain are French toast consumed; other countries in Europe also have their own version of traditional French toast. In France they call their version pain perdu , that is, the lost bread. In Great Britain and Germany they are called something similar, poor knights of Windsor and Arme Ritter respectively. The Portuguese know them as rabanadas, although they are more of a typical Christmas sweet. Americans call French toast French toast., the Swiss call them fotzelschnitten , the Austrians pofesen, bundas kenyer in Hungary and wentelteejfe in the Netherlands.
Torrijas are a very old and traditional sweet with as many versions as there are places where it is prepared. So you just have to choose the recipe that you like the most, accompanied by honey, milk, sweet wine and even sugar, because it is time for French toast and there is no Easter snack without them.