Earlier this year I had the chance to travel to Wellington, New Zealand, and I was amazed by the breakfast and brunch options that were available at the coffee places there. At one of them, which was highly recommended, was Sweet Mother’s Kitchen where I tried Pain Perdu for the first time. It was such a great breakfast dish that I needed to learn to make it myself. It has now become one of my favorite breakfast foods.
Pain Perdu (aka French Toast) translates to “lost bread” and it’s a good way to use stale bread to make something extremely tasty out of it. Although the recipes for French Toast vary, they use the same common ingredients: Eggs, Milk and/or Cream, Sugar, and Vanilla extract. However, I decided to go one step further and jazz it up a bit.
It took me a few tries, but after some experimentation I ended up with a recipe that I was happy about! Here are some notes based on my experience:
Whisky: I love it when recipes include alcohol without overwhelming the taste of the dish, and this worked really well with this recipe. Adding whisky to the mixture elevates the French Toast to a whole new level! Even if you don’t like the whisky flavor itself, I would highly recommend trying it here; adding just a little bit makes for a very subtle but noticeable difference!
Soaking the bread: One really important step in the execution is to let the bread fully soak up the mixture. This takes about ten minutes, depending on the thickness of the bread. The bread should be soaked up all the way to the center of the slice, otherwise there will be a part of stale bread in the middle which will ruin the soft and eggy texture of the toast.
Cooking method: Most of the recipes for French Toast suggest cooking the bread in a pan over medium heat, which works really well. However, I did experiment with cooking the bread in the oven and also to brown the bread in a pan and finish it in the oven. The difference between the three methods is the crispiness of the outer crust. Cooking the toast all the way in a pan creates a lightly crispy crust. I would recommend this method if the time for preparing the toast is limited. However, using both the pan and the oven created a crispier crust while preserving the soft bread in the middle. I liked this method the best but it does require more cooking time. Finally, the bread cooked in the oven had a really crispy crust, which was nice but it felt like the bread had lost its soft core. So I would only recommend this method if you are planning on using the toast with a spread.
Sides: Although French Toast is great to eat plain, adding sides creates a whole new beast. Crispy bacon, honey, and walnuts creates a complex dish full of different textures, with sweet and savory flavors that complement each other.
- French Baguette (About 12 slices)
- 4 Eggs
- 1/2 cup Cream
- 1/2 cup Milk
- 6 Tbsp Irish Whisky
- 1 tsp Vanilla extract
- 4 Tbsp Brown sugar
- 1 pinch of salt
- Some butter for the pan
- 4 slices of crispy bacon
- Icing sugar
- Preheat the oven at 200°C.
- In a deep bowl add all the ingredients for the mixture and whisk until everything is incorporated.
- Cut the bread in slices of about 1cm.
- Soak the bread in the mixture for about 10mins.
- In a pan over medium heat, melt some butter and lightly brown the bread slices for about 2 mins on each side. Be careful because brown sugar tends to brown faster than white sugar.
- Transfer the bread slices on an oven tray covered with baking paper.
- Cook in the oven for about 8 mins on each side or until golden brown.
- Cook the bacon until crispy from both sides or according to preference.
- For serving: Arrange the french toast and the bacon on a plate and dust with icing sugar. Spread some walnuts around and drizzle everything with honey. Serve warm.
- If you want a richer flavor you can use 1 cup of cream instead of both milk and cream but this also increases the calories of the dish. On the other hand for a light version use only 1 cup of milk but then the result will be a bit weaker in flavor but still really tasty.
- If you don’t like the taste of whiskey or if you are cooking for children you can use half the amount of whiskey and you’ll get a subtle flavor.