Ask your grandparents what they ate when they wanted something simple and comforting, maybe when they were sick, and they'll probably tell you about milk toast. Back in the 1800s, you could find a milk toast recipe in many cookbooks since it was considered a sick room food, good for invalids, and those recovering from illnesses. It was also considered a simple, inexpensive meal. It's mentioned in the novel Little Women, where the March sisters give their fancy Christmas breakfast to another family and come home instead to have bread and milk.
It's still a popular comfort food today. Nigella Lawson talks about a bowl of white bread and warm milk being a favorite dish of her mother's and something she finds comfort instill. In the American South, especially in Appalachia, you might find a more savory twist with cornbread and cold milk served as comfort food.
Originally milk toast was most often simply served with a bit of salt, but over time, a cinnamon-sugar mix has become more popular (and if you think that sounds like Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, well, the idea had to come from somewhere).
The milk toast recipe isn't so much a recipe as it is combining a couple of key ingredients in a way that tastes best to you. The basic combination is a slice or two of hearty bread, toasted, buttered, and crumbled in a bowl of milk.
While the bread is toasting, heat at least a half cup milk in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until you see steam coming off the milk. Add white sugar or brown sugar, ground cinnamon, and vanilla extract to taste and then pour the hot milk over the toast.
A couple of tips on what makes the best milk toast recipe:
Use some kind of white bread, either store-bought or homemade bread is fine. Some folks like brioche, some like sourdough (although a thick crust doesn't work best in this dish), and some folks like plain white bread. Thick slices work better.
Toast the bread to your preferred amount, butter each bread slice well, and then tear the bread into small chunks. Sure, you can chop it, but the point of this dish is comfort and ease, so there's no need to get another knife dirty.
Milk toast is a recipe that's perfect when you want breakfast for dinner. It is also great when you're getting over a stomach bug and want something easy. Whenever you eat it, it's truly comfort in a bowl.
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