Cooking On A Budget: Pain Perdu

Monday, January 14, 2013

Pain Perdu

It is a little confusing because Wikipedia spells it Pain Perdu which means in French, "lost bread". However some chefs and food sites spell it Pan Perdu. Either way it is very simply, FRENCH TOAST. One of my all time favorite breakfast meals served in the morning, at a brunch or in the evening, french toast is so incredibly simple, easy, quick and ever so tasty.
A favorite bread among chefs to use for Pain Perdu is Brioche. Brioche is a bread that may require a two day process to make (letting it rest and rise in the refrigerator over night) letting the flavor develop further. Therefore you most likely won't see it in your local grocers bakery section. Brioche is made by independent bakers and generally they prefer to have some advance notice before making it and would want a fairly decent size order of the bread. Brioche has a very distinct flaky crust and yellowish hint to the crumb. Also there is a unique pan for making Brioche - not 100% necessary though.
Since we are all about cooking on a budget, my choice of bread for french toast and one that generally is available in most grocery store bakeries is Challah Bread. That would also be a professional chefs favorite after Brioche. However, you can use what ever bread is available and affordable on your budget.
One of the keys to a great french toast is to slice the bread on the thick side and let it rest and soak in the egg batter for about 15 minutes. The other is to be sure and flavor the batter. I have always used pure vanilla extract and cinnamon. Now I even grate a little nutmeg in the batter and add just a pinch of salt. You can dress the batter up by adding some grated orange peel, being careful to only get the flesh and not the pith.
The rest of my family likes to put maple syrup on the toast, me well I slather it with butter and simply sprinkle granulated white sugar on each piece. Diners will top it off with some confectioners sugar. Again, your choice.
If you decide to make french toast for dinner and you want to round it out for a more complete meal then a side of fruit does it. Also, for those who can not live without some kind of meat a slice of ham, some breakfast links or bacon goes well. I prefer a combination of fruit and meat. The french toast is very filling by itself which is why it makes good sense to do this occasionally as a dinner meal because it is so inexpensive. If you add in fruit and maybe some breakfast links along with bread, milk, eggs and spices you are looking at spending under ten dollars for the whole meal.
For making a lot of french toast:
  • Challah bread - sliced on the thick side (or any kind you like)
  • 8-10 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 - 2 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • butter for frying
  • maple syrup for drizzling over the toast
  1. In a bowl combine with a whisk or hand mixer all of the above ingredients except the butter.
  2. Place the slices of bread in a baking dish and pour the batter over. Let this soak for about 15 minutes if you are using a thick bread. About 2 minutes if you are using a thinner softer bread.
  3. Over medium heat, let a large frying pan or a flat grill pan come up to temperature. Spread some butter over the pan and add the slices of bread.
  4. Cook on each side until they are a deep golden brown.
  5. Serve with a breakfast meat and/or fruit on the side.
  6. As you do the french toast keep it warm in a 225 - 250 degree oven until all have been cooked.

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