Ever wonder what the heck Pain Perdu is? That’s a fancy shmancy French way of saying “French toast.” I thought it would be a cute alliteration for everyone. It rolls off the tongue much nicer than (in a HEAVY Canadian ALBERTAN accent,) “Pan I Tony French Toast.”
However, If you extend the “u” sound, you might even sound hoity-toity as them Franch Peoples. (Say it like, “Pan I TONY Pain Pear Doo!) Nothing beats sounding like an Anglophone while speaking the language of Amour!
I have a love/hate relationship with Panettone. I can never remember how to spell it, the origins of it’s name change depending on who you speak to, and it can last a freaking year in the cupboard if you aren’t careful. It’s a large loaf from an Italian origin that is studded with dried fruits and lemon peel that looks like someone got drunk and forgot they were already proofing a Christmas loaf in the pan.
It tastes great, don’t get me wrong, it just never disappears in time. I’m sure if I didn’t intervene over the years, I’d still be eating it. (Not that I mind – but it’s on the same level as drinking eggnog year-round. It’s not going to happen!)
I’ve got to warn you; what I am about to show you is something that received mixed reviews at my abode. While it wasn’t the BOMB, it certainly didn’t stink either. What’s important is the method I am about to show you. With it, you will make French toast that people will pester you for recipe – to the end of your days. The best part? There is no real recipe – just a set of steps to follow.
For my family the combination of dried fruit, eggnog (Mmmyah! Had to get rid of it, see?) and custard base was too rich. I fault them, not me. Laugh. It’s a bit of a sophisticated taste.
See, I don’t like the dunk method of French toast. You know it. Mix a bit of eggs together with milk and that vanillin stuff, dunk a thin slice of bread into it, then fry it quickly – and voila! Café style French toast. (We call it Pain Doré around here.)
No, my way is to cut it thickly, and let the custard soak into the bread. This has the magical ability to transform a stone-hard bread into a succulent, creamy, pillowy-soft bite bursting with flavor. We’re talking sophisticated tastes here, perhaps too far out there for the 5 year olds to appreciate. (More maple syrup please Daddy???)
Since the Panettone might not be a hit for everyone, I’ve also included a bonus footage of some rock-hard baguette transformation for your viewing pleasure. The process remains the same.
Here’s how you get started:
That Panettone loaf is much too large to just slice up the normal way. Plus, it’s in an awkward cylinder shape. Great for conversation, sucks for our purposes. What I did was cut the loaf into quarters, then sliced them thickly into 1 inch pieces. Thicker is better here. If the pieces are too thin, they will disintegrate when you cook them later. You won’t be able to make them drunk.
Here I’ve made a custard mixture. Made with milk, coffee cream and the obligatory eggnog – because I want to get rid of that stuff. You can leave that out and just use cream instead. The ratio is around 2:1 for milk and eggs. In this case that amounted to 2 cups liquid, 6 eggs. Whisk thoroughly, but don’t get too crazy about making sure it’s homogenous. The idea is to combine, not beat the eggs into oblivion. (You’ll make this dish tough that way.)
Next place the custard mixture into a flatter dish. Why did I do this? You can see I tried to mix the egg in this pie dish. The result? You can see egg on the counter. That drove me nuts, and counters my clean as you go philosophy. An extra dish for the dishwasher isn’t so bad. Is it?
Let the bread soak for a good 20 to 30 seconds and really get the custard into there. The nickname of this old dish is “eggy bread” for a reason!
Melt a good knob of butter over medium high heat. (Not too high, just a smidge over medium, or the toast will burn.) Put your toast in a nice layer, careful to leave spaces in-between each piece. Give it room to cook, so the heat will transfer nicely.
Make sure you don’t get too excited and turn your PAIN over too quickly. What you will be left with is an insipid yellowish mess that no one wants. You want a nice, golden crust that will hold up well to the maple syrup you are about to drench all over it.
There you go! Now you’re talking! With the proper amount of space between each piece, the heat will allow a decent caramelization of the proteins in the milk, cream and eggs. That is what makes French toast smell so awesome. Plus, it just looks… better.
Remember when I was talking about an alternative to the Panettone? Here is my club… er… bread. It was a day old, and from this lovely Italian bakery that ONLY took cash on Christmas Eve. The lineup was out of the door, and the whole place was closed down just to sell these baguettes and Pizza Focaccia. When I got this baguette, it was still steaming from the oven, and near burned my fingers off through my gloves. See why Pain Perdu is such a good idea? Who wants to lose that yumminess?
Cut those bad boys into 1 inch slices on the bias. They are going to make the best Pain Perdu you ever saw. After their bath in the custard, of course. Lay them out like I showed you above…
Look at that deliciousness! All that is left at this point? Onto a plate and dress them like you want to.
Now, I know that Brunch isn’t about recipes – but I do want to give you an idea of what I used. The idea is that it’s a guideline to be used. Not a straightjacket. Don’t think that you have to measure things out or they won’t turn out okay. You can definitely free-hand this one. What I’m giving you below is just a start.
Today’s Brunch Ingredients:
- Leftover Panettone bread, sliced 1 inch thick, (at least half a loaf)
- 250 mL (1 cup) milk
- 125 mL (1/2 cup) eggnog (or just use more milk and/or cream)
- 125 mL (1/2 cup) 10% coffee cream
- 6 eggs
- 5 mL (1 teaspoon) vanilla extract (the real stuff!)
- 30 mL (2 tablespoons) butter
There you have it. A nice brunch dish to hang your coat on. Bring it out on those festive occasions, and it will certainly be a conversation piece – like all good food deserves to be.
So, are you for or against Panettone French toast? Let me know in the comments!
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