le pain perdu and braided brioche

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Diva Oven won Round 1 yesterday: 25 minutes of shielded baking at 450 was perfect; 15 minutes unshielded baking at 450 was…not. The brioche came out slightly burnt deeply caramelized. It mattered little: that loaf is now resting within the tummies of my children, in the form of toast, le pain perdu and plain slices off the loaf. This morning, I won Round 2, this time trying the braid I spoke of previously. Given that the braid was longer than my loaf pan, I baked it (shielded) on a pizza pan for 20 minutes at 450, then unshielded at 350 for 10 minutes. Musings and a foolproof custard for French toast after the jump.

I have yet to figure out what to do with the braid, but the burnt caramelized loaf was an easy choice. What was fresh bread days prior in a French country kitchen was rarely wasted – it became a breakfast of stale bread slices, moistened in custard then baked or pan-fried until the custard was cooked through. ‘Le pain perdu‘ – literally ‘the lost bread’ – began as a lesson in Home Economics and has become (on one end) a monstrosity of gluttonous indulgence or (on the other end) a mockery of its origins. The French toast of my childhood was a fake syrup-drenched, Wonder Bread-based horror of tastelessness. Today, with my nearly-lost loaf in hand, I turned to Alton Brown and adapted as my larder dictated. This was enough to soak 3 slices of bread, about 3/4″ thick each – you can scale up as desired:

15g heavy cream
65g whole milk
1 extra large egg (large is fine)
2t maple-flavored agave syrup (honey or maple syrup works, too)
pinch of salt
few dashes of cinnamon (omit of you want to be a purist)

My children are a bit strange, in that they prefer their le pain perdu without adornment. You can certainly use it as a base for whatever culinary ode to pure indulgence suits your fancy. Perhaps stuffed with créme pâtissiére and some banana slices, or a lightly-sweetened cream cheese/whipping cream mixture (whip until fluffy) with fresh strawberries folded in and a bit of powdered sugar dusted on top. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination and glucose tolerance. Enjoy!

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