April 18

Pain Perdu

One of my favorite recipes to make. It’s easy and worth the wait. Perfect for a holiday or just an indulgent weekend!

When I was working in Paris for a Michelin-starred chef, we used to do a version of this pain perdu, but it was smaller, daintier, and made with baguettes. We served it for dessert, dusted with vanilla sugar and accompanied by a quenelle of vanilla ice cream. It was both elegant and comforting—and our guests just couldn’t get enough of it. When I came back to the United States, I wanted to do a really decadent French toast, but instead of serving it for dessert, I wanted it for brunch. Quickly scan the recipe and you’ll see there’s no restraint here: nine eggs, a quart of heavy cream, a quarter cup of brandy—just throw caloric caution to the wind! We put it on the Landmarc menu when we opened 15 years ago, and it’s consistently been one of our most popular brunch items. While dead simple, this pain perdu takes some planning on your part. Start it the day before, and give the bread twenty-four hours to soak up the custard—it makes a difference. Take the time to find bread with a hearty crust—soft, delicate breads like challah or Pullman loaves will not work here and will fall apart in the process.

4 (2½-inch-thick) slices country bread, such as filone
9 large eggs
1 quart heavy cream
1 cup Vanilla Sugar, plus more as needed
¼ cup brandy
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
All-purpose flour, for dusting
Confectioners’ sugar, for serving (optional)
Pure maple syrup, warmed, for serving ( I love DOC’S maple)

NOTE: For this particular recipe, it’s important to use the right kind of bread. Filone has the perfect texture: a nice, rustic crust, and a soft, airy, moist crumb. Breads like challah or brioche are too soft and spongy and lack the proper crust to stand up to a 24-hour soak. French country breads, such as a miche or pain de mie, have a too-thick crust and a too-dense crumb. While looking for the right bread might seem complicated, the results you get with this pain perdu are so delicious; it makes it completely worth it.

Cook’s Note: To make vanilla sugar, split a vanilla bean and bury it in 1 cup sugar. Let sit at room temperature for 2 days.