Pain perdu, which means lost bread in French, refers to stale bread that is brought back to life by dipping it into a mixture of milk and beaten eggs, then fried quickly in butter and dusted with cinnamon sugar. Eggy bread, which is what my kids call it, can be as simple as just that, or you can pull out all the stops and make the bread yourself with the recipe here. You can also use brioche, white bread or even stale croissants for French toast.
Among the toppings I enjoy are peaches that have been roasted for a short time in a 190C oven. This method removes the skin and only slightly cooks the fruit, leaving it firm and fresh flavoured.
I also love the delicious caramelised bananas in this recipe. Spiced bread, also known as pain epice, has such an amazing aroma that when you pull it from the oven it it is unlikely much of the loaf will go stale. The caramel is the finishing touch that makes this breakfast dish such a memorable start to the day.
SPICED BREAD WITH CARAMEL BANANA
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
150g candied peel
200g rye flour, sifted
300g plain flour, sifted
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground anise
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground coriander
100g castor sugar
60g ground almonds
100g plain sugar
200ml thickened cream
2 eggs, beaten
6 tbsp butter
Preheat the oven to 170C and line a 28-cm by 12-cm loaf tin with baking paper. Put the milk and honey in a small saucepan and warm gently over low heat until lukewarm. Whisk egg yolks with the lemon zest in a large mixing bowl, then pour in the warm milk and honey, whisking all the while.
Stir through the candied peel. Add flours, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, spices, castor sugar and almonds to the bowl and mix until smooth. Transfer to the prepared loaf tin and bake for one hour. To check if it is done, pierce with a skewer or small knife - it should come out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Place plain sugar in a small heavy-based saucepan, add 50 millilitres of water and cook on high heat until mixture turns a golden caramel colour. Add the cream - be careful, as it will spit as it comes in contact with the sugar. Set caramel aside for later. Cut six two-centimetre-thick slices from the loaf and keep the rest of the loaf for later. Put beaten eggs in a shallow bowl, dip a slice of bread into it and let it soak for a minute.
Heat a frypan and add one tablespoon of butter. Fry the bread slice for one minute on a medium heat, then turn it over and add a banana, cut in half lengthways, to the pan. When the banana is caramelised on one side, turn it over and cook for another 20 seconds. Remove banana and bread from the pan, slice bread in half and place on a plate, top with the banana and drizzle some caramel sauce over the top. Repeat for the other five slices.