Pain Perdu a Quick & Easy Sweet or Savoury: French Toast Recipe

Serve with ice cream and decorate with edible flowers
Serve with ice cream and decorate with edible flowers | Source

French toast - what do you think?

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French Toast or Pain Perdu

Not long after we moved to France my (then) five year old son came home from school asking me to make 'pain perdu'. I gathered from him that this was a sort of bread, but had to ask around the other French mothers to find out exactly what it was and how to make it. Eventually I realised that Pain Perdu, literally 'Lost Bread', is a sweet version of the French Toast that my mother used to make for us when we were children and living in the north of England. Ah, the story begins to come together!

Children love this sweet recipe and I often make it for my son as a quick supper, or as a 'gouter' (snack) for him and his friends when they come around to play. I have never met a child yet who doesn't like it. A couple of years later, however, I was served pain perdu in a local restaurant specialising in traditional Limousin cuisine. Limousin, being a poor, rural region of France in the past, has many recipes which include old or stale bread and I love their thriftiness and abhorrence of waste. I'm taking this opportunity to pass on these delicious, quick and easy ways of using up your old bread!

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Eggs, bread and milk for the basic French Toast
Eggs, bread and milk for the basic French Toast | Source

Basic Savoury French Toast Ingredients

The basic ingredients couldn't be simpler:

  • Old bread (of course you can use fresh bread if you like!)
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • A little butter or oil for frying
  • Pepper and salt for seasoning

There are many variations and you can ring the changes in so many ways. This is a real opportunity for creativity!


Soak the bread in the milk and egg mixture
Soak the bread in the milk and egg mixture | Source
Saute the soaked bread in a little butter or oil
Saute the soaked bread in a little butter or oil | Source

The Basic Method

  • Slice your bread and, if necessary, cut into manageable pieces for frying and serving.
  • In a bowl beat eggs together with milk. I use about half and half. Prepare enough liquid to more or less cover the bread.
  • Soak the bread in the milk and egg mixture although you can just dip and move the bread around to coat it. Depending on time I sometimes just leave it a few minutes or for much longer. It doesn't seem to really matter but you must allow the milk and egg to soak in. If your bread is very stale, it might take longer.
  • Put a little butter or oil into a frying pan and saut√© until the bottom starts to turn golden, turn and repeat on the other side.
  • The bread should fluff up an become very light and soft. Serve straight away while still hot.


Savoury Pain Perdu is great for breakfasts and lunch
Savoury Pain Perdu is great for breakfasts and lunch | Source

Savoury French Toast Variations

Ring the changes! Add herbs such as Herbs de Provence, rosemary, thyme or oregano. After that you could use your imagination! Add a dash of chili or Worcester Sauce. I wonder if mustard or even peanut butter would be nice. I'll try these out and let you know.

To Serve

  • At breakfast either alone or with sausages, beans, bacon, black pudding, mushrooms, fried tomatoes.
  • As a brunch or light lunch served with salad
  • As a quick and easy supper dish served with baked pototoes and vegetables.
  • Mustard, ketchup, chutney and relish can help to spice up this dish
  • Sprinkle on grated cheese.
  • Serve as a starter for a dinner. You could put a slice of blue cheese or goat cheese on each slice after you have turned them over. Let this melt a little and serve on a bed of lamb's lettuce, rocket or other greens

No wonder the professionals use coloured mashed potato instead of ice cream when taking food photos!
No wonder the professionals use coloured mashed potato instead of ice cream when taking food photos! | Source

Basic Sweet French Toast Ingredients

The basic ingredients are the same as for savoury French toast, but add sugar:

  • Old bread (of course you can use fresh bread if you like!)
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Sugar
  • A little butter or oil for frying

Sweet French Toast Variations

Instead of sugar, you could add honey or other sweeteners, maple syrup, golden syrup etc. You could also add vanilla, cinnamon or caraway seeds, grated lemon zest, vanilla and other flavourings. Have a look at this Hub for a few more ideas.

To Serve

  • As a children's snack I just put it on the plate. You could add maple syrup, rose hip or Golden syrup. Any sweet sauces you like.
  • Serve with fresh fruit, creme fraiche, cream or ice cream (but you must be fast and deft to serve this hot bread with cold ice cream! (See photo!)
  • Try adding chopped nuts, mint, crystallized or dried fruits, crystallized ginger and edible or sugared flowers

I'm sure you'll come up with lots of your own ideas!


Chocolate versions of the French toast recipe

Why not try putting chocolate chips into the mixture or serving the toast with a chocolate spread? Serve with cocolate ice cream or a chocolate sauce. Everyone, (nearly), loves chocolate.

More delicious and thrifty ways to use old bread

Spicy winter version of summer pudding
Spicy winter version of summer pudding | Source
Hard to believe it all started with bread left over from breakfast!
Hard to believe it all started with bread left over from breakfast! | Source

© 2010 Les Trois Chenes

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