Do you know why Pain Perdu (aka French Toast) is best eaten using stale bread? It’s all about how quick the bread soaks up the egg mixture and this the trick I am talking about. Without further ado, let’s get cooking!
What is Pain Perdu ?
Pain Perdu literally translates as ‘lost bread’ and it is basically French toast. Originally people used their day old stale bread to make pain perdu so the bread would not go to waste. Traditionally the dish is made by dipping stale bread slices in a mixture of egg and milk then fried in butter. It is mainly enjoyed at breakfast but you can also have it at tea time or as a dessert.
Pain Perdu for me brings back lots of childhood memories. My mum would be in the kitchen making this sweet toast for me and my siblings to enjoy at tea time. I loved the warm vanilla scented aroma that filled the kitchen whenever this was on the menu. It is my favourite dish to make when I have leftover bread. This beautiful French Toast can be enjoyed at breakfast, tea time or even as a dessert. It can be made using fresh or stale bread. Brioche can also be used to make pain perdu as it gives this melt in the mouth texture, richness and sweetness.
Why is stale bread best?
Day-old bread gets harder due to the starch crystallising, turning the bread stale. This results in the bread being tough which is the perfect characteristic for absorbing flavours while maintaining the texture.
What ingredients you need
Bread – Use day old bread and slice it into medium slices so it can have more surface area to toast.
Eggs – The eggs allow the bread to have this crispy texture and browned look when fried.
Whole milk – You would want the richness and creaminess of whole milk for this recipe. Alternatively add cream to the milk to make it richer.
Sugar – If you prefer eating the pain perdu on its own use enough sugar to sweeten it.
Vanilla extract – I always use vanilla when I make sweet egg recipes as it enhances the flavour, making it taste like custard.
Butter – Bread fried in butter makes it even more delicious!
Optional toppings are: Fruit compote, icing sugar, maple syrup, fresh fruits, ice cream, seeds and nuts, cream, chocolate and more.
Bread used for Pain Perdu: baguette, brioche, bloomer bread, sandwich bread
Tips and tricks for the perfect Pain Perdu
- Use bread with no preservatives. Additives extend a bread’s life, but we want the bread to go naturally stale. Commercially produced bread tends to go mouldy before it stales, which is not ideal for re-using the bread.
- In order for the bread to brown evenly and remain moist inside, keep it well soaked in the mixture before frying.
- Do not overheat your skillet as you will end up with burnt butter. The first time I attempted to make pain perdu in a rush I heated my skillet on high and the smoke alarm went off. This was my butter burning!
- If your butter is burning, lower the heat, wipe the pan with a kitchen towel, and add fresh butter before frying your next batch.
How best to store Pain Perdu?
If you would like to make Pain Perdu ahead of time, you can keep it in the refrigerator for up to a week. You can reheat in in the oven at 180c for 10 minutes, or on the griddle pan for 2 minutes on each side.
Leftovers can also be frozen in an airtight container for up to a month. You can defrost in the microwave or by using the defrost function on your toaster, and reheat as above.
Alternative recipes with the same ingredients
If you have leftover batter you do not want to throw away, you can use it for crepes! Add enough flour for a thicker consistency. Whisk the batter and spoon onto the skillet to make crepes.
How to make Pain Perdu (French Toast)
- 1/2 baguette or bread loaf sliced
- 125 ml milk
- 30 g sugar
- 15 g unsalted butter
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Blueberries optional
- maple syrup optional
- flaked almonds optional
- ice cream optional
- Make the egg mixture: Add the eggs, milk, sugar and vanilla in a bowl and whisk until smooth.
- Soak the bread: Dip the bread slices into the mixture and leave for a few minutes until the bread has soaked up the liquid. Meanwhile preheat the skillet.
- Fry the bread: Add the butter to the skillet and once melted fry the bread slices for 2 minutes on each side until golden brown. You may need to fry them in 2 batches if they do not all fit in the skillet.
- Serve: Plate up and serve with your favourite toppings. For this recipe I have used a combination of blueberries, flaked almonds, maple syrup and ice cream. I then garnished with fragrant basil leaves.