Every Tuesday, Italian expat Emiko Davies is taking us on a grand tour of Italy, showing us how to make classic, fiercely regional dishes at home.
Today: Give your French toast an Italian makeover with this fried bread from Friuli.
Day-old bread is a staple ingredient across the whole of Italy. It never goes to waste in peasant cuisine, perhaps because loaves of bread were traditionally blessed in religious ceremonies (making it sacrilegious to throw it out). In Tuscany, it's turned into thick soups or torn into salads. In Trentino, it's made into dumplings. It is whizzed into breadcrumbs and it's made into focaccia-like cakes, both sweet and savory, from north to south.
This is just another way to not waste good stale bread. But, as traditionalists note, use bread that is one day old, not more. Known as pane fritto in Italian or schnitte in dialect, this snack or dessert (or breakfast, depending on how you look at it) from the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia is as simple as can be. Think of it as French toast, but with a few small tricks.
There are two main ways this is enjoyed in Friuli. One is a version known as pan dorato (golden bread), where the day-old bread slice is passed first through sweetened milk, then beaten egg, and then finally coated in breadcrumbs. It's fried and has a super crunchy texture outside, thanks to the breadcrumbs.
The second way to do this is the classic schnitte; the bread slice is passed through sweetened milk, then placed in a mixture of egg, lemon, and white wine. The bread is then fried in butter, oil, or lard, and then served hot, sprinkled in sugar. It's delicate, fluffy, and wonderfully tart. Another traditional way to do this is without the lemon -- and the plain pane fritto is then drizzled in the Friulian version of vincotto (“cooked wine”, a sweet, dark, thick reduction of must, the leftovers of the wine harvest).
4 thick slices of day-old bread (a rustic country loaf with a dense crumb is best)
3/4 cup or 200 milliliters milk (or as needed)
1/4 cup or 50 grams sugar, plus more for serving
Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
A splash of white wine
2 tablespoons butter
Photos by Emiko Davies