Our typical weekend breakfast rotation used to go a little like this: pancakes, waffles, French toast, eggs and bacon, on repeat. Recently, however, it looks more like this: French toast with berries, French toast with whipped cream, French toast with maple syrup, French toast with apples, etc. It seems like the kids ask for French toast almost every day. I don’t blame them – if there was a definitive list of the most heart-warming “Comfort Foods,” this would certainly be near the top.
There’s no shortage of recipes and variations on French Toast out there. It’s one of the most searched-for recipes on Google. Most of us have grown up eating some form of this treat, whether for breakfast or for dessert. French toast’s appeal comes from its ability to blur the lines between these two meals. In France, French toast, or pain perdu, is almost always served as a dessert. The name literally means “lost bread” because it was a way to salvage stale bread that would otherwise have gone to waste. But is French toast really? Mais non! Almost every country and culture has a method for reinvigorating stale bread with a mixture of eggs and milk. With most things that are falsely attributed to France (French fries, French doors or le French kiss) the adjective only serves to make this dish all the more appealing.
I have so many fond memories of this dish! I grew up eating it for both breatkast and dessert. At home, my mother made it on special Sunday mornings with nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. When we visited my grand-mère, she would serve it for dessert, made with thick slices of fried pound cake, topped with stewed summer peaches from the tree that grew in her garden.
In the last few weeks I’ve made French toast more often than I can count. We’re all craving a bit of comfort food these days. Waking up to the scent of vanilla and cinnamon is so nostalgic and reassuring in the morning. To make it even more decadent I like to use a loaf of bakery brioche. The toasty aroma of the sweet, warm bread wafting from the kitchen draws the whole family from their beds. While many recipes call for heavier spices like nutmeg and clove, I like to keep it simple. They can very quickly overwhelm the other more delicate flavours.
Like Paris in autumn or a glass of Champagne in the afternoon, dessert for breakfast is always a good idea.
Pain Perdu (French Toast)
- 1 loaf brioche, cut into thick slices
- 4 eggs
- 1/3 cup whole milk
- 2 TBSP brown sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- pinch of salt
- 3 – 4 TBSP butter, for the pan
- maple syrup to serve
- raspberries and blackberries, to serve
Let the brioche sit out on the counter to dry for a bit while you’re making the custard.
In a shallow dish like a pie plate or casserole dish, whisk together the eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and salt.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. When hot add 1 tablespoon of the butter. Working with only as many slices as will comfortably fit in the pan without crowding, dip each slice in the egg custard, saturating both sides, then place in the hot, buttered pan. Cook, turning often, for approximately 5 minutes.
Transfer the cooked slices of toast to a sheet pan and place in a low oven to keep warm.
With a paper towel, wipe out the pan to remove any burnt butter or crumbs. Add another tablespoon of butter to the pan and repeat with the remaining bread.
Dust powdered sugar over the toast and serve with fresh berries and maple syrup.