Norway’s answer to French toast

“Poor Knights” was typically a dessert in Norway, but it also makes a tasty breakfast

Photo: Daytona Strong

Daytona Strong
Taste of Norway Editor

I love how many classic Norwegian recipes require only a handful of ingredients that are likely already available in a well-stocked kitchen.

Arme Riddere, also known as “Poor Knights,” is no exception. Much as with the French toast that Americans are familiar with, Arme Riddere is a great way to use day-old bread, as it gets puffed up and moistened with sweetened milk before being fried in a generous pat of butter. What might seem different, though, is the use.

Though today it seems to be widely considered appropriate to eat it for breakfast or brunch, the impression I get from older, classic Norwegian cookbooks is that it was more commonly considered a dessert.

As a dessert, it’s traditionally served with red sauce and also can be served with berries and cream, perhaps a scoop of ice cream. But if you’re in the mood for breakfast, then by all means pour on some maple syrup, spoon on a mound of jam, and eat up.

Photo: Daytona Strong
Many cultures have a version of what we call French toast. Interestingly, according to The Sweet Beet (www.thesweetbeet.com), “The French don’t eat French toast—they eat ‘pain perdu,’ (or lost bread, meaning stale bread, salvaged by soaking it in egg and milk), the English eat ‘Eggy Bread,’ the Hungarians, ‘Bread with Fur’ (I don’t think ‘fur’ when I see French toast but then again, I’m not Hungarian), and the Germans, ‘Poor Knights’ (the lowly cavalry had limited access to fresh bread). The practice of soaking stale bread actually dates to the fourth or fifth century with the Romans (from whom the French plucked the idea)—so for proper attribution, call it ‘Roman toast.’”

Arme Riddere (Poor Knights)
4 thick slices day-old white bread
2 eggs
2⁄3 cup milk
2 tbsps. sugar
1 tsp. vaniljesukker or vanilla extract*
¼ tsp. cinnamon
1⁄8 tsp. ground cardamom
1⁄8 tsp. kosher salt
1-2 tbsps. butter
powdered sugar, for dusting

Arrange the bread slices on a dish large enough to hold them in one layer. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, sugar, vaniljesukker or vanilla extract, cinnamon, cardamom, and kosher salt until smooth. Pour the mixture over the bread and let sit for 20 minutes, carefully flipping the slices halfway through (alternatively, dip the slices in the milk mixture and lay them in a dish to rest). Heat butter in a large skillet and add the bread, working in batches if necessary to avoid crowding them. Fry until golden, 2-3 minutes on each side. Dust with powdered sugar and serve immediately with your choice of toppings.
Serves 2.

*If you don’t have vaniljesukker, Scandinavian vanilla sugar, go ahead and use a little vanilla extract. I’m a big fan of vaniljesukker—which is completely different from the vanilla sugar you might make by infusing granulated sugar with a spent vanilla pod—as it imparts a subtle yet distinct flavor. It’s available at stores like Seattle’s Scandinavian Specialties, which also sells it online.

This recipe was originally published on Outside Oslo (www.outside-oslo.com).

Daytona Strong is The Norwegian American’s Taste of Norway editor. She writes about her family’s Norwegian heritage through the lens of food at her Scandinavian food blog, www.outside-oslo.com. Find her on Facebook www.facebook.com/OutsideOslo; Twitter @daytonastrong; Pinterest @daytonastrong; and Instagram @daytonastrong.

This article originally appeared in the Aug. 25, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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