French toast – pain perdu or “lost bread” – is one of those “love food / hate waste” ideas that has stood the test of time. A way of upcycling stale bread, it has become a popular breakfast or afternoon tea item around the globe.
It is one of the first things that many home cooks learn to prepare as it is also the easiest. Crack an egg into a bowl; whisk well with some milk and sugar. Soak in a few stale slices of bread. Heat up some butter in a frying pan and cook the soaked slices till browned on all sides.
Making French toast is my second favourite way of dealing with leftover bread. (Longtime readers know that my actual fave involves transforming stale bread – and cake – into a rich, killer-diller bread pudding that goes down a treat with vanilla ice cream.) The eggy bread method is best for breads made with lean dough, which is to say that the bread was made with little to no fat, as these soak up the whisked custard beautifully and the resulting texture is crisp outside and fluffy within. That said, you can’t go wrong with an old-school baguette or slices of crusty pain ancienne or pain de campagne.
I don’t like my French toast too sweet, so I use a bare amount of sugar in my recipe. Likewise, I also like to liven things up by adding lemon extract or lemon zest to my toast as it gives the finished product a citrusy zing that is just lovely on the palate.
Pain Perdu au Citron
- 8 slices from a baguette or pain ancienne (I get my pain ancienne from Paul Boulangerie. The French-style loaves over at Wildflour and Tous de Jours are also excellent.)
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract or finely grated fresh lemon zest
- butter for frying
Whisk together the egg, milk, and lemon extract. Soak the sliced bread, making sure that all sides are properly battered. Set aside.
Put a frying pan over medium heat. Add the butter and swirl it around the pan as it melts to evenly grease the surface. Once the butter starts to brown at the edges (you want a beurre noisette thing going on here), add the soaked bread. Cook until browned on both sides; remove to a serving plate and serve immediately with your choice of spreads or syrups.