This is not your typical French toast recipe. Originally from New Orleans, Pain perdu is made with thick slices of French bread soaked in a sweet dough. First it is lightly cooked in a pan, then baked until golden brown.
Pain perdu literally means "lost bread". The recipe was created as a delicious solution to what to do with breads that were about to be “lost” or thrown away. It's a smart way to use up leftover bread you might have at a family dinner or on a party cheese platter. The breakfast dish is just one of countless French-influenced dishes and one of the most delicious.
3/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
12 thick slices of French baguette (of the day works best)
3 tablespoons of butter
Optional: powdered sugar
Steps to do it
In a large bowl, combine the eggs, milk, salt, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and allspice.
Cut the French bread into slices that are at least 1 inch thick. You can use a whole grain French bread, but any French or Italian bread should work fine. Cut at a slight angle to make a longer piece of bread.
Soak each slice in the egg cream mixture. Turn the slices until all the mixture has been absorbed by the bread. Depending on how hard the bread is, this can take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. The secret of this recipe is to completely saturate the bread. This is why thick slices of stale bread are used, as thinner fresh bread would fall apart easily. Make sure to flip the bread so all sides can soak evenly.
Preheat oven to 200 C. In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, lightly brown the slices in the butter and oil for about 2 minutes per side. Don't make it too dark as it will bake too.
From skillet, transfer to baking sheet or saucepan. Bake for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove it from the oven, flip it over, and put it back in the oven for another 5 minutes to brown on the other side.
After 10 minutes on one side and 5 minutes on the other, the custard should be cooked on the inside and the French toast will be crisp on the outside.
If it seems like it needs more time, bake it longer, but be careful not to cook it to the point that it is too dark. You don't want the egg cream to turn sour, which can occur with overcooking.
Traditionally, Pain perdu is served with powdered sugar sprinkled on top. If you want it to look like the French Quarter, dust it off and dig. You can also top it with maple syrup or fruit sauces like jellies or jams.
Serve and enjoy!
By John Mitzewich
Original recipe (in English)