18 April 2009

Pain Perdu aka French Toast

French Toast is a fairly common breakfast item at many homes across the United States. In Louisiana French Toast is known as Pain Perdu, which translates to lost bread. It is a way to save bread that would have been too hard or stale to eat otherwise. The bread is softened in an egg/milk mixture that includes vanilla and sometimes cinnamon. I've also been known to add a couple of gratings of nutmeg. Then the slices are pan-fried on a griddle. Pain perdu is topped with syrup or fresh fruit or dusted with confectioner's sugar.

No one really knows the origin of this dish, but it was written about in ancient Rome. It's often attributed to Apicus, a collection of Roman recipes that was compiled in the 4th century A.D. In that variation it was known as Pan Dulcis - wheat bread soaked in milk and fried, then served with honey. It's mentioned in a 1660 version of the Oxford English Dictionary and was first found in print in 1871 in our country. Whatever you call it, it's delicious.

When I was growing up, any type of day old wheat bread was used. After all, the recipe was for saving the lost bread. Now most recipes call for baguettes sliced on the diagonal. You can also find versions that are stuffed. Those are created by cutting a pocket in a thick slice of bread and filling it with cream cheese, jam, marmalade, etc. before frying. Brioche is also a good choice. Today I used some sliced wheat bread that was getting a little past its prime to eat fresh.

This week's veggie box had 2 gallons of fresh Alabama strawberries. Yesterday I cut up some of them to macerate with some sugar in the refrigerator. They made a wonderful topping for our pain perdu this morning, all served on a chartreuse Fiesta plate. Accompanied by a cup of French press coffee, we had a breakfast that couldn't be beat.

Pain Perdue with Strawberries
fresh strawberries
granualted sugar

2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/4 tsp vanilla
4 slices day old bread
oil or butter

Hull and slice strawberries. Sprinkle with sugar and put in refrigerator to macerate overnight.

Mix eggs with milk and vanilla. Dip bread slices into egg mixture, coating well. Cook on hot oiled griddle, turning once. Top with strawberries to serve.

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Margie said...

Namaste to you too! Two gallons of Alabama strawberries in your veggie box in April? I've never heard of Alabama strawberries up here in WI. And our CSA's don't start delivering boxes till June. Can you tell I'm jealous! Btw, the french toast looks fab.

Becky said...

Thanks Margie. The strawberries are divine! So different from anything you can buy at the grocery. These are our first of the season and I was thrilled to see them on our list. I'm planning to bake a pound cake Sunday and serve more of them on top of the cake. So good.

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