Here we are. Day seven: on the smaller side of the countdown now. For today, I wanted to share with you two small, simple & magical French recipes. For every special occasion (meaning every time we had extra baguette was “a special occasion”) last year, I made pain perdu, the true French toast.
Perdre: the French verb for “to lose.” Pain Perdu: Lost bread. A recipe to use up the remains of leftover, “lost”, stale ends of baguette.
The golden, vanilla-infused exterior of the slices is outstanding. Plus, the vanilla adds such a sweetness that you need less syrup. Plus, the slices are smaller than American French toast. You feel like you get to eat so much.
Like the Grinch on that magical Christmas, each time I make this recipe my heart grows a tiny bit. It marked the first morning of many vacation periods last year & our first Christmas as the Betzes.
It also introduced me to a French baking staple, sucre vanillé. Vanilla sugar. Never once in a French recipe have I read the words “vanilla extract.” Partly because of the French territories that produce vanilla beans & partly because of the amazing flexibility of vanilla beans, extract is rarely used.
Before I explain pain perdu, allow me to explain how to make your own vanilla sugar. In France, you can buy it in little packets, each containing about a tablespoon of golden, fragrant sugar. You’ll need one vanilla bean for each two cups of sugar.
Slice the beans open, from tip to tip. Pour your sugar into an airtight container; scrape the insides of the vanilla beans into the sugar. Mix well. Bury the shells in the sugar. Seal up. Let sit two weeks, stirring every few days. Use with sugars. (As in, each time I need a cup of sugar, I’d use 3/4 regular & 1/4 vanilla or less.)
Now. With our vanillla sugar, let’s make some pain perdu.
- 1 baguette
- 2 tablespoons vanilla sugar
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup milk
- Let your baguette sit on the counter overnight. The baguette is important here. If your baguette is squishy, like deli white bread, it may need to sit for more than a day. If you have a baguette with a crispy, your instinct may be to wrap it up or put it in a bag. Do not. Let your baguette sit in the air. It needs to get hard & really stale.
- Get a sharp knife. Slice your baguette into inch-thick slices.
- Whisk together your two eggs. Add the sugar, & whisk well. Slowly add in milk, continuing to whisk.
- Start heating up a skillet with a gooood amount of butter. Remember. This is a French recipe. Do not fear butter. It helps the toast get golden.
- When the skillet is good & warm (the butter melted & foamy), dip slices of baguette into the egg mixture. Drop into skillet.
- Cook two minutes or until golden, then flip & allow other side to become golden. The exterior should be crispy, but the slice should have a bit of squish to it (like heavy, thick French toast you’ve had before).
- Enjoy with just a drizzle of syrup, more butter or chestnut spread. (These are my favorite chestnut spreads, with the Bonne Maman being the one I can find in the States.)
My goal for this Christmas is to introduce both sides of my family to this recipe. It’s perfect with a strong, tiny cup of coffee, with your favorite family members & with some Christmas carols on low. I hope you’re still wearing your slippers & flannel when you sit down at the table. Bon appetit.