On a cold snowy day, nothing beats baking to warm the house and heart. Not to mention it can be an enjoyable way to pass an otherwise dreary day. I did just that yesterday, baking up a decadent loaf of hot, buttery brioche with the intent of experimenting with a few pain perdu recipes I have been toying around with.
Pain Perdu, to the layman, is the proper French name for what us Americans typically call French toast, in honor of its origin. Broken down to its French essence, pain perdu translates to lost (stale) bread. The stale bread is brought back to life by bathing it in a fabulously rich concoction of egg and milk. (Or cream if you really want to take it over the top!)
When it comes to breads, nothing can be more French than Brioche. Many a French chef has coveted their own personal formula for this buttery treat. When on can master the balance of butter to air and not over work the dough, an airy bread that is both light to the feel but heavy on taste is the optimum result.
Having achieved a decent facsimile, my next goal was to produce a pain perdu with an orange liqueur sauce that would taste like a bite of sunshine. Using freshly squeezed orange juice and a few splashes of both rum and triple sec, I managed to transport us directly to the grove stands and orchards of Florida. Leslie gave me the thumbs up with her approval, so I think we have a winner.
This recipe takes some juggling to get it just right and have everything arrive at the plate in the appropriate time frame, but here it goes…
Brioche Pain Perdu with Orange Liqueur Sauce and Honey Vanilla Whipped Cream
1 inch thick slices of stale brioche
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup crushed graham crackers (about 6 squares)
2 teaspoons roasted cinnamon
2 teaspoons raw sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place graham crackers in a bowl or food processor, crushing the contents being careful not to turn the cracker into dust. Add the cinnamon and sugar, gently blend with a fork and set aside.
In a small saucepan, heat heavy whipping cream with vanilla. Bring to a slow simmer. Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks and sugar until it turns a pale, yellow color. Gradually whisk the hot cream mixture into the eggs. Transfer to a shallow dish.
Take one slice of bread and dip it into the mixture, about 7 seconds on each side. Transfer to a cookie sheet and repeat the process until you have no remaining slices. TIP: This works best if your bread is really hard and stale. If your bread is fresh, you can recreate the same texture by placing your brioche slices in the oven for 5-7 minutes at 350 degrees.
Dredge each soaked slice of brioche in the crust mixture, making sure all sides are evenly coated. Transfer back onto baking sheet.
Place skillet over medium heat. In a small bowl, mix the melted butter and oil together. Dip a ball of paper towel into the oil mixture and coat the skillet. One by one, grill each soaked slice of brioche until it is slightly brown (approximately 1-2 minutes per side). Transfer back to cookie sheet. Bake the french toast in the oven for 10 minutes. TIP: Between grilling each slice, use the paper towel to swipe the skillet clean and reapply another thin layer of oil mixture each time.
Serve by glazing the plate with Orange Liqueur Sauce. Place Pain Perdu over top and glaze with another light layer of Orange Liqueur Sauce and a drizzle of Grade A Maple Syrup. Dust with confectioners sugar and place a dollop of honey vanilla whipped cream. Garnish with fresh orange slices and a sprinkle of grated orange zest.
Orange Liqueur Sauce
-Makes 1 cup
1 cup fresh squeezed Orange Juice
1 oz. Spiced Rum (Sailor Jerry’s is our rum of choice!)
2 teaspoons Triple Sec Orange Liqueur
1 tablespoon cornstarch
¼ cup raw sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon orange zest
In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, whisk together orange juice, rum, triple sec, cornstarch and sugar until thickened, about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in butter and zest. Serve warm.
Honey Vanilla Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp honey
½ teaspoon vanilla
In a chilled bowl, using chilled beaters, beat all ingredients until well thickened and peaks begin for form. Place immediately in refrigerator until ready to use. Whipped cream can be spooned into peaks onto chilled plate and flash frozen for 15-20 minutes to keep them from running upon serving with hot foods such as French toast, pancakes or waffles.