Brioche French Toast: "lost" bread at its best

brioche french toast

“Vive le pain perdu!”

That’s the headline on the email that delivered this blog to your inbox.

That is, if you get our emails; and if you don’t, what are you waiting for? Online-only specials, links to the latest recipes and blogs… c’mon, sign up!

But back to that pain perdu.

The Web team was reviewing upcoming emails recently, and got to this one, with its “pain perdu” head.

Teammate 1: “Pain perdu? Chickens in pain? What’s that all about?”

Me: “No, nothing to do with Frank Perdue; and not THAT kind of pain. Pain as in French pain, as in bread. Pain perdu. ‘Lost bread,’ you know, French toast.”

Teammate #2: “Is anyone going to get that? Kind of obscure, isn’t it?”

French… obscure? Well, perhaps not that many kids routinely take French in high school anymore. Maybe the droning repetitions of je suis, tu es, vous êtes have gone the way of typewriters and home ec.

But most people who’ve spent any time reading cookbooks have come across French – baguette springs immediately to mind. Croissant. Chocolate éclairs. Foie gras.

Apple pie à la mode.

See? You can speak French. Foodie French, anyway.

Which means that pain perdu won’t conjure up uncomfortable chickens, but rather a luscious, egg-and-cream soaked square of bread, crisp on the outside, creamy and soft within, gilded with a bit of butter and maple syrup…

French toast. Pain perdu.

Enough ado. Mon dieu! Let’s make it. We’ll start with the brioche.

 

Place the following in a mixing bowl:

2 3/4 cups (11 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup Baker’s Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast
3 large eggs
1/4 cup lukewarm water

Isn’t brioche just full of butter? Where’s the butter?

Right here. Cold butter, pounded flat with a rolling pin.

The pros in our bakery make brioche with “pounded butter,” so I thought I’d try it.

They mix all the ingredients EXCEPT the butter; then add it, bit by bit, to the already developed dough. They say it makes higher-rising brioche, with better texture.

Well, I tried it that way, side by side with the standard method, which simply adds the butter right along with everything else.

Result? It was a big pain trying to add that cold butter to an already developed dough; and when both loaves were baked, I couldn’t see any difference.

I’m sure it works well for our King Arthur Flour Bakery bakers, with their major-league Hobart mixers; but it just didn’t translate well to me and my little Viking.

So – add 10 tablespoons of cold butter to the ingredients in the bowl.

Why not use warm butter? Isn’t it easier to mix in?

I’ve tried that, too. To me, it makes a greasier dough. Cold butter seems to be absorbed more readily.

Using the flat beater, mix for 5 minutes at medium-high speed, then scrape the bowl. Mix for another 5 minutes until the dough starts to come away from the sides of the bowl – scrape the bowl again.

Switch to the dough hook, and knead for another 5 minutes, until the dough really starts to come together nicely.

It’ll look wet and greasy at first, but as you continue to knead, “greasy” should become glossy.

The finished dough is still very loose, but it’s cohesive; and when you pick it up to transfer it to its rising container, it shouldn’t be ridiculously gloppy/sticky.

I like to track how well my brioche is rising, so I put it in an 8-cup measure.

Cover the container, and let the dough rise for 1 hour. It’ll puff up a little, though not much.

Refrigerate the dough for several hours, or overnight. This will slow the fermentation and chill the butter, making the dough easier to shape.

I let this dough chill overnight. As you can see, it continued to rise a bit, even in the fridge. This long, slow rise helps develop flavor.

And the yeast is working, too. Cold brioche dough feels like cold clay – it’s not elastic at all. But I pulled off just the top of the risen dough, and look at all the air bubbles inside.

Knead the dough a few times, to gently deflate it and smooth it out. Shape it into a 9″ log.

Next: choose your pan. I’m using a small (9″ x 4″) covered pain de mie pan, because I’m going to use this loaf for French toast, and the pain de mie pan makes a fine-grained loaf that yields beautifully square slices.

If you don’t have a small pain de mie pan, use a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.

Or divide the dough in half, and make two short braids to put in a couple of 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pans. For complete instructions, check out our Brioche recipe.

Place the log in the lightly greased pain de mie pan. Pull the cover closed, and let the dough rise for up to 5 hours or so; remember, it’s cold and needs to first warm to room temperature, then rise.

This egg- and butter-rich dough won’t be a high-riser. But let it get to within 1 3/4″ to 1 1/2″ of the rim of the pan.

Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Bake the bread with the lid on for 45 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven, remove the lid, and test the bread; it should be golden brown, and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read 205°F to 210°F. If the loaf isn’t done, put the lid back on, and return it to the oven for several minutes to finish baking.

Turn the bread out of the pan onto a rack to cool.

It’s tempting, but let it cool completely before slicing. You’ll find the interior is a really pretty golden yellow.

French toast is best made with bread that’s a bit stale, so wait until the loaf is a couple of days old. Or cut 3/4″ to 1″ slices, and let them sit on the counter, uncovered, for several hours.

At last! Pain perdu.

Susan Reid, editor of our Baking Sheet print newsletter, came up with a method for making sure the cinnamon and nutmeg in the batter for French toast don’t clump together, as they’re wont to do. Try this –

Whisk together the following in a measuring cup or small bowl:

4 teaspoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 teaspoons King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

In a separate bowl, whisk together 2 large eggs, ½ cup cream or milk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Add the mixture to the dry ingredients.

Whisk to combine.

If you haven’t already, cut six 3/4″ to 1″ thick slices of brioche.

I think the easiest way to coat them in their batter is individually, on saucers. Soak the bread for about a minute or so on each side.

Preheat a griddle, a skillet or, as I’m doing above, a single-serve skillet. Cook the French toast for 2 to 3 minutes on the first side, or until it’s golden brown; adjust the heat so it’s not cooking too slowly or too quickly.

Turn the toast over, and cook the second side until golden brown, about 2 minutes.

Spread hot slices with butter, and drizzle with maple syrup.

If you’re baking in an individual skillet, the syrup/butter will sizzle dramatically… and smell delicious!

Serve right from the skillet.

Now obviously, this single-skillet thing works well for 1 or 2 people.

But if you’re serving a crowd, cook French toast the normal way – in a frying pan, or on a griddle. Transfer to plates to serve.

I think you’ll find that brioche makes le pain perdu très savoureux!

Read, make, and review (please) our recipe for Brioche French Toast.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. Gloria Natale

    I am an 80 year old retired Home Ec. teacher and hate to think that it has gone the way of typewriters etc. I think it is needed to show students that you can prepare healthy meals a lot cheaper than the salty, cholesterol laden processed food in the supermarkets.

    Reply
  2. AnneInWA

    Well I was wondering what I should do in between homeschooling my kiddos today…and I am making brioche! Then I am making french toast with it! I make french toast all of the time, but I have never used your method. What does the flour do for the french toast? I usually just make a custard, dunk the bread, cook it on the griddle, slather it with butter, let it melt and then top it with cinnamon and sugar then top with my favorite Grade B maple syrup. And another question before I get started…does this double easily? Also, can I use the KAF bread flour in place of the all purpose? (The bread flour is cheaper than the all purpose at my market!) Thanks again PJ! I will be having some fun today…and tomorrow!
    Hi again Anne,
    The flour helps keep the custard mixture together so that it doesn’t clump and separate. For the flour, bread flour will make this tender bread a bit too tough. If you can, stick with the all purpose for this recipe and use the bread flour to make a nice big batch of pizza dough. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  3. AnneInWA

    One more question…my pain de mie pan is 13 x 4. Should I 1.5x the recipe to make it fit in the pan?

    Thanks PJ! I cannot wait to surprise my husband with this tomorrow morning for breakfast!
    Hi Anne,
    Try increasing all the ingredients except the yeast and salt by 1/3. That should produce enough dough to fill the larger pan nicely. Have fun with your dear one. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  4. dmonroe15471

    Wow, PJ!
    I’m gonna save this and make it at Christmas; won’t my favorite King Arthur Praline French Toast be THE BEST with this homemade brioche?!

    Thanks so much,
    deede

    Reply
  5. reet1113

    Do you have this recipe in gluten free form with your gluten free flour?
    We use you bread mix at least once a week and it is wonderful!! We add shredded cheddar, sun dried tomato, chopped jalopenos, and minced garlic for another version of your delicious bread. Lightly toasted and used for sandwiches is fantastic!!
    Unfortunately we do not have a gluten free brioche recipe at this time. French toast made with bread from our gluten free mix is fabulous as would be the same made from this recipe. ~Amy

    Reply
  6. N. E. Johnson (San Diego)

    Thank you, P.J. – with this post, you took me right back to childhood. My mother sometimes made her pain perdu even more aromatic by adding finely grated orange zest to the egg mixture at the end. Your European orange zest would be wonderful.

    Reply
  7. harveyscohen

    Please get in the habit of giving the temperature of the pan or griddle. Some of us have electric griddles with thermostats, and some of us have infrared thermometers to read the temp of a hot surface. I understand that it may be necessary to tweak the temp as we’re cooking, but at the very least it would be convenient to know where to start.
    Thanks for the feedback. We’ll definitely try to keep that in mind. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  8. ebenezer94

    I read the headline on that e-mail and remembered enough of my high school and college French to know it was about some kind of bread and that we should “live” for it or wish it a long life or some such, but perdu was new to me (or lost in the many years since that high school and college French). Looks delish. I don’t suppose you can make Brioche with whole wheat flour?
    I’m sure recipes do exist for a whole wheat brioche, we just don’t happen to have one right here. You could try adding a small amount of WW to your brioche and see how you like the results. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  9. argentyne

    I generally make huge batches of french toast specifically so that I can freeze most of it. but what I do eat, I slather first with peanut butter and then pour syrup on top of that. :D

    yeah, i think there’s a reason that I’m larger than considered “average”… but hey, die happy. :D

    Reply
  10. french34

    “I am from France and the “pain perdu ” was never made originally with brioche. Pain perdu which mean lost bread was a way to reuse old bread. French bread is to be eaten the day you buy it otherwise the next day it is very hard. therefore we kept the left over bread, put it in a cloth bag and use during the week for pain perdu. Nothing was lost that way. When I was a child “pain perdu ‘ was not for breakfast but as a “gouter ” (a snack”) when we came back from school or on our day off as a treat.I till make “Pain perdu” the way my mother taught me and I am 77 years old. My grown up children still enjoy it the same old way. J. Baca

    Reply
  11. Brenda

    Love some of those French words–pain perdu (lost bread)=French toast, vin aigre (sour wine)=vinegar. Haven’t had French toast for a long time; sounds like a good breakfast for Friday if this yucky wet weather’s still around then!

    Reply
  12. junglejana

    There is no stale bread form my kitchen. Any tips for hidding this yummy looking bread? Or can I slice it and lay it out to force stale?
    Yes, slice the bread and leave it out on the counter overnight. Perfect bread for french toast. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  13. AnneInWA

    I made this bread, and when I took it out of the fridge, it was very stiff, almost like pie dough. I am hoping that this was the correct firmness. I did use KAF AP flour, and followed the recipe to a T. I made two loaves, each separately, and baked in a 8.5 x 4.5 in pan. The crust was pretty tough, and not tender like I thought it would be. Also, I only baked until my thermapen said 190 and the loaves were done. Is there a way to get a more tender crust? I am wondering if I did this correctly, I bake bread almost every day, and I am puzzled with this loaf. The french toast came out wonderfully (I just had to trim off the crusts for my family). Do you have any tips or ideas of what I did wrong? Thanks for the help!Sounds like there may have been a bit too much flour in the dough. Try holding back on a bit of flour so that the dough is soft and slightly sticky to the touch instead of dry. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  14. nancymorris

    I am so happy to have a recipe for brioche made in a pain de mie pan!!!!!!!!! I ABSOLUTELY LOVE MINE and bake ALL bread in them. I have both sizes. I have been wanting to make cinnamon raisin bread from a brioche dough recipe in this type of pan, but knew there was going to be some guessing and estimating going on. Now all I have to do is follow this recipe. THANK YOU!!

    It is our pleasure! Please let us know how the bread turns out for you!-Jon

    Reply

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *