Poor Knights of Windsor

Why does Most of Europe Name it after a Poor Knight?

These Knights of Windsor represent those retired miiitary from centuries past, often poor and were given lodging in Windsor Castle. One of heir jobs was to pray for the king and the military to be successful in battle.

So how did a dish like French Toast get named “Poor Knights of Windsor”?

“French toast is a dish we have borrowed from the French, who call it “pain perdu”, or lost bread…It is known in England as the poor knights of Windsor, which is the same phrase used in many countries: “fattiga riddare” in Sweden; “arme ridder” in Danish; and “armer ritter” in German. One theory about how the latter name came about goes as follows: In olden times, one of the symbols of distinction between the gentry and the common herd was that the former were expected to serve dessert at dinner. Knights, of course, were gentry. But not all of them were rich. Those who were not, in order to maintain their status, made do with “armer ritter’,” often served with jam.”
—Craig Claiborne’s The New York Times Food Encyclopedia [Times Books:New York] 1985 , Craig Claiborne (p. 178)

Another from A Taste of History, explanation for the Poor Knights was that in the 1346 battle of Crecy in France, many knights had been captured and needed to sell their estate for their release. Edward the 111 gave them housing in Windsor castle in trade for labor around the palace.

1658 Recipe for Poor Knights of Windsor
Original Receipt in ‘The Compleat Cook’ by ‘WM’, 1658 (WM 1658)

To make poore knights.

Cut two penny loaves in round slices, dip them in half a pint of Cream or faire water, then lay them abroad in a dish, and beat three Eggs and grated Nutmegs and sugar, beat them with the Cream then melt some butter in a frying pan, and wet the sides of the toasts and lay them in on the wet side, then pour in the rest upon them, and so fry them, serve them in with Rosewater, sugar and butter.

Penny Rolls

These are penny rolls, centuries ago in England they were a penny a piece. I couldn’t find any so I made my own with dough about a golf ball size, let it rise to double it’s size, then bake.

Cut the end crusts off the penny rolls. Add the Sherry or white wine like I did and sugar to the milk.

Pour the milk into a baking dish that is about the size of the penny rolls. Put in the rolls and let them soak up the milk. Flip them and let them soak up the remaining mix.

To the eggs I grated a bit of nutmeg in it. That is a keeper idea. I like it better than cinnamon.

Then heat your skillet on medium low and melt the butter. I used a cast iron skillet but you can use what you like. I just caution not to use to high a heat or you will burn the butter. Next dip the penny rolls in the egg………

Then put them in the skillet and brown.

Flip them over carefully. I use 2 implements. In this case a thin turner and another cake spatula but you can use a rubber one it doesn’t matter. Lift up the toast with one implement, then you can slide your turner underneath a bit. Then steady the other end like in the picture and slide the turner the rest of the way underneath. pick up the toast and flip still using both implements,

When the other side is browned a bit combine the left over egg and milk mixture and pour into the pan. You can then cover it and finish cooking or you can finish it in a hot oven (400 degrees F) or broiler if you watch it close. It should take only 5-10 minutes to finish cooking.


One thought on “Poor Knights of Windsor

  1. Gertrude Wells

    Very interesting article. Nice to know how recipes got there name and where it all started from. Waste not want not I use in my home. There’s a place for everything.

    Gertrude Wells

    Do you have a story for marrow ball soup which uses star bread or crumbs. My mother made these and served them in clear broth. Brings back memories and a headace from the smell of the beef marrow. Still can smell it today. Just for laughs.

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