So what would you get if you took some very eggy, buttery brioche, cut it thick, dipped it in a custard of eggs, cream and sugar, fried it up in butter and served it dusted with powdered sugar? One mighty happy family is what. Talk about a breakfast worth climbing out of the rack for, this is it: pain perdue. What the French call “lost bread”, just an extra-indulgent form of French toast.
Why is it “lost”? Because it’s made from stale (i.e., useless) bread (or brioche as the case may be). It’s a modern name for a very old treat that’s at least as old as the Romans:
Slice fine white bread, crust removed, into rather large pieces. Soak in milk and beaten eggs. Fry in oil, cover with honey and serve.
-Apicius Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome
Almost exactly the recipe most of us use on Sunday mornings, eh? Of course pain perdue takes the whole thing to the next level fat-wise (gotta love those French). Yet it’s a surprisingly light meal if you use a little moderation, skip the bacon slices and syrup, and serve single slices with fruit. Like a lot of rich things made at home from good honest ingredients, a little goes a long way. One piece pretty much does it for a full-grown person.
Oh, and if you’re wondering where the round slices of brioche came from, It’s leftover dough that I baked up in a tomato can:
Ah, brioche. Just about the most adaptable dough known to man. Just fill a can half-way with unrisen dough, spray it with cooking spray, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise until it’s extremely poofy to the touch. Then bake at 375 for about half an hour. Cool it, refrigerate it, slice it into 1-inch slabs, and leave it out to stale on a rack overnight (preferrably 18 hours).
The next day make up your custard. Heat two cups of half-n-half long enough to dissolve 6 tablespoons of sugar. Allow to cool, then stir in 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla, plus two eggs and two egg yolks that you’ve beaten lightly. Dip in the brioche slices and fry in butter on a griddle or cast iron skillet. Serve sprinkled with powdered sugar, with fruit or a fruit compote. Makes a great dessert too.