The origin of this famous French dish actually goes back to Ancient Rome. It became popular in France in medieval times when cooks needed to use all produce on hand, such as stale bread – hence the name, ‘pain perdu’, meaning lost bread.
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 150 ml milk
- 55 g (¼ cup) caster sugar
- 8 x 1.25 cm-thick slices brioche (see Note)
- 100 g unsalted butter
- Icing sugar, to dust
Strawberry and vanilla compote
- 500 g strawberries, hulled, halved
- 110 g (½ cup) caster sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Standing time 5 minutes
The strawberry and vanilla compote can be made ahead of time and will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
To make compote, combine strawberries, sugar, vanilla bean and seeds with 60 ml water in a saucepan over medium heat. Cover and bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low and cook for 2 minutes or until strawberries are soft but still hold their shape. Remove from heat and cool. Discard vanilla bean.
Meanwhile, place eggs, milk and sugar in a large shallow bowl and whisk to combine. Add 4 brioche slices to egg mixture and turn to coat. Stand, turning occasionally, for 5 minutes or until bread fully absorbs egg mixture.
Heat 25 g butter in a heavy-based frying pan over medium-low heat. Working with 2 slices at a time, pick up brioche, allowing excess egg mixture to drain, then cook for 3 minutes each side or until deep golden. Place on an oven tray lined with baking paper and transfer to oven on low heat to keep warm.
Wipe pan clean using paper towel and repeat soaking and frying process with remaining 4 brioche slices, egg mixture and 75 g butter.
To serve, top pain perdu with compote, dust with icing sugar and serve immediately.
• Brioche is available from bakeries.
Photography Chris Chen
As seen in Feast magazine, March 2014, Issue 29.