Pain Perdu is French for “lost bread.” In New Orleans, the two terms are used interchangeably to describe the City’s decadent take on French toast. Our version reflects one of many ways we breathe new life into stale bread, bread that would otherwise be “lost” or trashed. That new life comes by way of a custard bath and patient pan frying. Although it doesn’t look like much on paper, the ingredients and the process come together to create an extraordinary breakfast treat. When properly prepared, Lost Bread will have a creme brulee-esque bite to it. The subtly sweet, crisp exterior will give way to an amazingly creamy and lush interior.
I’m sharing my mom’s Lost Bread recipe with you because it’s superior to all others. Hers is vanilla-centric and void of the cinnamon and nutmeg common to most recipes. Don’t get me wrong, I like the cinnamon and nutmeg combo. But I find those spices better suited for dessert-worthy bread puddings. The vanilla in mom’s makes a strong statement from the minute the custard-drenched bread slices hit the hot pan. And it continues to dominate your senses through the last bite. Another point about mom’s recipe is that she always makes it with stale white sandwich bread. Growing up, it was Bunny Bread. She has never prepared Lost Bread with leftover French bread, although that’s the favored choice among many locals. Mom also fries hers in cooking oil and serves it with just powdered sugar. If you dare to push the richer or richest buttons on this dish, by all means fry it in butter and serve it with powdered sugar and syrup. I hope you like it!
Lost Bread Recipe
2 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
8 slices stale white sandwich bread
1/4 cup canola oil
Powdered sugar, for serving
In a large shallow dish, whisk the eggs with the sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Whisk in the milk and vanilla. Add the bread slices and soak until all the custard is absorbed. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Working in batches of two, fry the bread until golden brown on both sides, about 4 minutes total. Remove from pan and keep warm in a 200 degree oven. Repeat process with remaining bread slices. Serve warm with a generous dusting of powdered sugar. Makes 4 servings.