This is not your typical French toast recipe. Originally from New Orleans, pain perdu is made using thick slices of French bread soaked in a sweet custard batter. It's lightly cooked in a pan first, then baked 'til golden brown.
Pain perdu literally means "lost bread." The recipe was created as a scrumptious solution for what to do with stale loaves that were about to be "lost" or thrown out. It's a smart way to use up any leftover bread you may have from a family dinner or party cheese board. The breakfast dish is just one of the countless French-influenced dishes found in the Big Easy and one of the most delicious.
- 3 eggs
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 12 thick slices French baguette (day old works best)
- 3 tablespoons of butter
- Optional: powdered sugar
Gather the ingredients.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and allspice.
Slice the French bread into slices that are at least 1-inch thick. You can use a whole-grain French loaf, but any French or Italian bread should work nicely. Slice at a slight angle to make a longer piece of bread.
Soak each slice in the egg custard mixture. Turn the slices until all of the mixture has been absorbed into the bread. Depending on how stale the bread is, this may take from 5 to 10 minutes. The secret to this recipe is to completely saturate the bread. This is why thick slices of stale bread are used since thinner fresh bread would fall apart too easily. Make sure to flip the bread so all sides can soak evenly.
Preheat oven to 400 F. In a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, very lightly brown the slices in the butter and oil for about 2 minutes per side. Don't make it too dark as it will also be baking in the oven.
From the frying pan or skillet, transfer to a baking sheet or casserole dish. Bake for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove from the oven, turn over, and put back in the oven for another 5 minutes to brown on the other side.
After 10 minutes on one side and 5 on the other, the custard should be cooked on the inside and the French toast will be crisp on the outside.
If it looks like it needs more time, bake it longer, but be careful not to cook it to the point that it gets very dark. You do not want the egg custard to become bitter, which can happen with overcooking.
Traditionally, pain perdu is served with powdered sugar sprinkled over the top. If you want it to look like it would in the French Quarter, then dust away and dig in. You can also top it with maple syrup or fruit sauces like jellies, jams, or marmalades.
Serve and enjoy!