09 March 2011

Pain perdu

On my recent visit to Woodfire Grill in Atlanta, there was one part of the meal that really sung. Sang? Singed? Right. There was one part of the meal that really knocked my socks off. The dessert. They made a pain perdu (what we call French toast in English). Except, they turned it into a dessert. I'd read about this before. Instead of a simple mix of milk and eggs, you first turn that milk and egg mixture into a custard. Then dip the bread in that and fry it. How could that *not* be delicious? At Woodfire, it was amazing. I do my interpretation of that dish here.

For the custard, I modified a crème anglaise from the Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft book. This will do enough custard to serve about 12 people:
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
½ tsp salt
½ cup sugar
8 large egg yolks
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
This is just like all the other custards I do (what can I say, I love custards). The trick here is to thicken the custard without curdling the eggs into scrambled eggs. This is accomplished by being careful about not heating the eggs to quickly, and not heating them past 175°F.

So we start with mixing the egg yolks and half of the sugar in a mixing bowl. Beat the egg yolks until they're light and foamy.

Now mix the milk, cream, salt and the remains of the sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. While mixing the eggs, slowly add the hot cream mixture. This is how you slowly raise the temperature of the eggs (tempering), by adding the cream slowly. Once you've added all of the cream, put it into a double boiler, and heat, stirring constantly. Now you'll want to watch the temperature. When it hits 175°F, immediately pour it through a sieve into a bowl.

If you start to make chunks in your beautiful sauce, you can still save it. Pour it into a blender, and blend in batches. Chill for a few hours.

Immediately prior to serving, start the banana topping. This is modified from a friend's recipe for bananas Foster:
6 tbsp butter
½ C packed dark brown sugar
fine zest of 1 lemon
¼ tsp cinnamon
4 ripe, peeled bananas, halved langthwise
¼ C dark rum
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the remaining material, save the rum, and cook over medium heat until the bananas are slightly softened, and the sugar is caramelizing.

Glazing bananas

Stir in the rum, and turn the heat down to low.

Slice 1 loaf of brioche and cut off the crusts.


Brioche is perfect for French toast, because it's so moist and spongy, and just sucks up the French toast liquid.

Pour the custard into a shallow bowl or plate. Heat some butter in a medium-hot heavy pan. Dredge the pieces of brioche in the custard, and place them gently in the hot pan.

Frying pain perdue

Flip after a couple of minutes.

Frying pain perdue

Cook 1-2 more minutes, until browned.

Serve hot. Pour some of the banana goo on top, and with a small scoop of ice cream.

Pain perdue

This. is. ridiculous. While warm, this is a ridiculous dessert. It's essentially fried custard cake with bananas Foster on top. Simply amazing.

We served with a Pillitteri cabernet franc icewine. What an amazing end to a meal.


Cara said...

I would like to eat this right now. Can you ship some to Baltimore for a pregnant lady?

Indirect Heat said...

Hmmm... I'll work on the shipping arrangements...

Probably best I just serve this the next time you're over. So. When you guys coming over for dinner?

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