Arme Riddere, an old-fashioned family favorite
Norwegian comfort food at home and at the cabin
Taste of Norway Editor
The Norwegian American
French Toast goes by many different names across the globe, including Pain Perdu or “lost bread” in France and Poor Knights of Windsor in the United Kingdom. In Norway, the term “Poor Knights” translates to “Arme Riddere.” But where does the term Poor Knights come from? Some say that it has some connection to the Crusades, a series of religious wars that took place during the medieval period, but no real proof of this has been found.
A more likely explanation is that it refers to the Knights of Windsor, a group of impoverished retired knights who lost their estates in battle or by other means. These “poor” knights were given a salary and lodging at Windsor Castle, and in exchange they were asked to pray for the royal family and the country’s armed forces.
I found no evidence in my research to suggest that the Knights of Windsor actually ate French Toast, but many believe that the “poor” refers not only to the financial state of this group of unfortunate knights but also to the simplicity of this peasant dish, which originated as a way to use up stale pieces of bread.
While Arme Riddere may be a humble dish consisting of milk, eggs, sugar, and leftover bread, it makes a deliciously simple meal, perfect for Sunday brunch at the cabin or even an easy Easter breakfast. Americans tend to slather their French Toast with butter and a drizzle of maple syrup, but in Norway you are more likely to see it topped with jam, preserves, fruit compote, fresh fruit, and/or a dollop of whipped cream.
NORWEGIAN FRENCH TOAST
- ¾ cup milk
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tbsps. packed light-brown sugar
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp. ground cardamom
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- Butter for frying
- 6 slices of bread (if it’s a little stale, that’s all the better)
- Powdered sugar for dusting
- Jam, preserves, fresh berries, fruit compote, and/or whipped cream for serving
- In a large shallow bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt.
- In a large nonstick skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Dip the bread, one slice at a time, in the egg mixture.
- Place 3 slices in the skillet; cook two minutes per side or until golden brown. Repeat with remaining bread slices. Dust with powdered sugar and serve immediately with jam, preserves, fresh berries, and whipped cream.
To serve the Arme Riddere all at once, transfer the first batch to a baking sheet and keep warm in a 200-degree oven while the second batch cooks.
This article originally appeared in the March 2023 issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.