Lost Bread (Pain Perdu)
“Pain perdu,” as the Old Creoles like my mother called it, got its name from its use of day-old stale French bread. Lost for most purposes to which French bread is usually put, these crusts are soaked in eggs and milk, fried or grilled, and served for breakfast. It is, you’ve noticed, quite like French toast, but a good deal richer.
This is another one of those dishes for which my mother’s version remains definitive for me. She soaked the bread in the custard until it was almost falling apart, and then (hold your breath) deep-fried it. The most outstanding characteristic of this stuff is its oozy richness. It is not oily in any way.
- 4 eggs
- 2 Tbs. sugar
- 1 Tbs. vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup half-and-half
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 2 dashes nutmeg
- 18 slices of stale French bread, about 3/4 inch thick
- 1 cup vegetable oil
1. In a wide bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar, vanilla, half-and-half, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
3. Soak the slices of bread in the egg custard. Lower two pieces at a time into the oil and fry about two minutes on each side. Let it cook to a darker brown than your instincts might tell you.
4. Remove the lost bread as it’s cooked, and drain it on paper towels. Use another towel to blot the excess oil from the top, and to keep it warm. Continue cooking the rest of the bread in small batches, allowing the temperature of the oil to recover between batches.
5. Serve immediately with powdered sugar. Warn your guests about the lava-like heat of the insides!
Serves six to eight.