As I write this, I’m scooping spoonfuls of buttery toasted bread bathed inside a bowl of warm cinnamon sugar milk into my mouth, a.k.a. milk toast. Dating back to Civil War America when the ethos of preservation was a matter of survival, milk toast found its way into American cookery books written by Fannie Merritt Farmer, M.F.K. Fisher, Irma and Marion Rombauer nearly a century later.
Served to the weary, sick, young, and old for its mild and soothing digestive properties, it wasn’t necessarily a dish to celebrate. Especially when it’s served with soft or inferior bread. The bread must be good to start. Hearty yeast and sourdough breads yield crisp toast with chewy middles that hold up nicely under the weight of milk.
Until now, that is. As Maurice Sendak might exclaim in an alternate take on the much-loved children’s book, “In the Night Kitchen,” Milk, milk. Milk for the morning
I didn’t learn to make milk toast from a book. Rather I learned from my grandmother who learned from her mother. She taught me that toast soaked in warm milk is among the finest (and cheapest) forms of comfort food to relish in under any health conditions and even daily, if desired. Her recipe began with bread and milk swathed in butter with a pinch of sugar and dash of salt added to the bowl. The first time she served milk toast to me at the breakfast bar, I inscribed the recipe to memory. Then I went home and reclaimed it, eating it in the middle of the day for the shear pleasure of it.
Aside from the bread and milk, the rest of the ingredients are up for give and take. This milk toast version is like deconstructed french toast meets milky cereal dregs with enough cinnamon sugar almond milk left to ditch the spoon and drink from the bowl. Either raisins or cocoa powder could be added as well. Other milks could be swapped for the vanilla almond milk and the flavored milk, sugar, and brown sugar could be replaced with dairy milk, salt, and pepper with a slight pinch of cayenne.
“It was a small modern miracle of gastronomy, certainly not worth having illness for, but worth pondering on, in case milk toast might help.” —M.F.K. Fisher from An Alphabet for Gourmets
It does, indeed.
Here’s to the milk toast revival, serve as desired.
Brown Sugar-Cinnamon Milk Toast
1 cup vanilla almond milk (or plain almond milk with 1/8 teaspoon pure vanilla)
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ tablespoon light brown sugar
2 slices good sourdough bread
½ tablespoon unsalted butter
Gently heat the almond milk, cinnamon, and sugar in a small saucepan until simmering; remove from heat. Toast the slices of bread until they are light golden brown with an ever so slight crunch to the exterior, while remaining soft inside. Butter the warm toast. Leave the toast whole or break it into chunks and place inside a bowl. Pour the warm steaming milk over the toast and serve at once with a knife (for whole slices) and spoon.