Pain perdu is the French French toast. If you haven’t yet tried making French toast with stale (or dried out) bread, you‘re in for a real treat. Going back to antiquity, people have been reviving stale bread by saturating it in milk and egg, then frying and covering it in sweetness (honey, sugar, syrups, etc.). One of the keys to great French toast is to use bread that has dried out so it soaks up more of the custard mixture and becomes a more sturdy sponge.
Of course the French, being the pragmatic people they are, consider this dish to be a dessert, but don’t let that stop you from eating this for breakfast. And snack time. And a decidedly decadent dinner. Oh yes, and dessert.
If your baguette is not pre-sliced, cut into 1 – 1 ½ inch thick slices. Place slices on cooling racks and allow to dry overnight.
For the quick dry method: preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place bread slices in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 15 – 20 minutes (or until lightly browned), turning slices halfway through baking time.
Pull the eggs out of the refrigerator and allow them to sit out until they reach room temperature (about 30 minutes).
Measure your milk and butter and allow them to arrive at room temperature with the eggs.
Using a food processor or spice grinder, grind the dried orange peel to a fine powder.
In a small saucepan, heat syrup over low. Stir in the following ingredients:
ground orange peel
ground kaffir lime leaf
butter (2 tablespoons)
Keep warm over low heat, stirring occasionally, while making the French toast.
Cut a 4 inch piece of Tahitian vanilla bean (or more if you really like vanilla). Use a sharp knife to slice open the bean lengthwise down the center. With your blade, scrape the caviar out of the bean and set it aside. Discard the pod or use it in other recipes.
Mix until well combined. Use a sieve set over a bowl to strain custard liquid and discard any lumps that don’t filter through.
Preheat skillet or griddle to medium, melting 2 tablespoons of butter.
Soak dried bread slices in the custard for 10 – 15 seconds per side, then place in heated skillet. Fry until golden brown on both sides, flipping over halfway through cooking time (about 1 – 2 minutes per side).
Place pain perdu slices on serving dishes and drizzle with warmed syrup. Optionally, sprinkle sugar over tops just you drizzle with syrup.
Note: tastes differ when it comes to vanilla. Use more or less, depending on your preferred level of pure vanilla flavor.