Pain Perdu (Real French Toast)

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Pain Perdu (pronounced pan pare-due) literally means “lost bread”, referring to this dishes’ magical ability to rescue stale bread that would otherwise be lost. It’s the original French Toast, and with a crisp buttery exterior and a soft custardy interior Pain Perdu makes for a sinful Sunday morning brunch.

Pain Perdu (

Unlike its American cousin French Toast, which is often made with sandwich bread, Pain Perdu is made with thick crusty French bread. I like using a Bâtard or Pain de Campagne for this because they have the perfect ratio of crunchy crust to pillowy center with enough structure to ensure the bread doesn’t fall apart, even after being soaked overnight.

Another difference with French Toast is that Pain Perdu—like many things French—includes cream in the custard. If you want to go really crazy you could even make this with cream alone, but I find that using pure cream makes it a bit too rich, which is why I prefer using a 50/50 mix of milk and cream. Be sure to soak the slices of bread for at least 24 hours, flipping them over a few times in between to ensure the custard has been fully absorbed.

Pain Perdu has a crisp caramelized exterior with a rixh custardy interior that's redolent of butter and vanilla.

One of the most important things to make this dish shine is to sprinkle flour and sugar onto the surface of the bread. This may sound odd at first, but it’s this small detail that makes the difference between a soggy piece of bread breading and a marvelous slice of Pain Perdu with a crisp shell that gives way to a rich tender custard on the interior. The flour, along with the butter from the pan helps form a crisp crust, while the sugar caramelizes on the outside of the bread, giving it a gorgeous mahogany hue and deep caramel flavor.

In terms of flavorings, I went with vanilla and Armagnac, a marvelously fragrant French brandy, but you could get creative here. How about an orange flavored Pain Perdu with Grand Marnier, that’s drizzled with an orange butter emulsion, or a Raspberry Pain Perdu flavored with Eau de Vie de Framboise and topped with fresh raspberries and cream, or perhaps even an Almond Pain Perdu with Amaretto and slice almonds.

Pain Perdu or

Pain Perdu (French Toast)

Yield:2slices

Prep Time:5minutes

Cook Time:15minutes

Total Time:1day20minutes

Ingredients

for custard

  • 1/2 cup
    whole milk
  • 1/2 cup
    heavy cream
  • 2 large
  • 3 tablespoons
    granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon
    Armagnac
  • 1 teaspoon

for Pain Perdu

  • 2 slices
    batard (sliced 2-inches thick)
  • 2 tablespoons
    cultured unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoons
    superfine sugar
  • 1 tablespoon
    all-purpose flour

Steps

  1. Make the custard for the Pain Perdu but whisk together the milk, heavy cream, eggs, sugar, Armagnac, and vanilla extract until the mixture is completely homogenous.
    The custard for Pain Perdu includes cream, eggs, armagnac and vanilla.
  2. Place the bread in in a deep dish or tray that is just large enough to hold the bread in a single layer and cover with the custard. If your dish is too large the custard won’t soak into the bread completely. If you don’t have a suitable dish, you can use a sealable plastic bag and press out the excess air. Cover and refrigerate for a day, turning the bread over a few times in between.
    Soak thick slices of french bread in custard overnight to make the best Pain Perdu.
  3. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (230 C). Remove the soaked Pain Perdu from the refrigerator and flip one more time.
  4. Mix 1 tablespoon of sugar with 1 tablespoon of flour and sprinkle half the mixture onto the tops of the bread using a small sieve(such as a tea strainer) to ensure the flour gets sprinkled evenly.
    Dusting the Pain Perdu with flour and sugar before frying in butter ensures that's crisp.
  5. Add the butter to a cast-iron skillet and heat over medium heat.
  6. When the butter has melted and the foaming subsides, add the bread with flour-sprinkled side down.
    Pan fry the Pain Perdu in butter first before putting the pan in the oven.
  7. Dust the Pain Perdu with the remaining flour/sugar mixture and fry until it’s well browned on one side (about 5 minutes). If your heat is up too high it will burn, so if it looks like it’s browning too quickly, turn the heat down.
  8. Flip the bread over and put the pan in the oven.
    Golden crust on thick cut Pain Perdu (French Toast).
  9. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Keep a close eye on it as the sugar will burn easily. You want the surface of your Pain Perdu to be very dark, but not burnt.

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