French-Toasted Brioche Recipe

Brioche Façon Pain Perdu

[French-Toasted Brioche]

After a main course of cider-stewed pork served with pasta gratin, this is the sweet note on which my last dinner party ended. Inspiration sprung, again, from my recent meal at Le Caméléon, where the Amaretto cherry pain perdu was enchanting.

In its most basic incarnation, pain perdu — literally “lost bread” — is stale bread that one recycles into a simple treat by soaking it in a sweet egg batter and browning it in the skillet. I love this sort of waste-not-want-not recipe, but what I had in mind here was something with just a hint more sophistication, so brioche, rather than ordinary bread, was in order.

Ideally, I should have bought the brioche the day before and let it turn stale the slow food way, through the natural action of time, but I didn’t. I showed up at my corner bakery in the morning of, and asked if they had any pain de mie brioché* leftover from the previous day. The salesgirl looked at me as if she was on candid camera (caméra cachée in French), and said that no, they didn’t keep old stuff around. All right. Fresh would do. I got home, sliced the slices, and left them out on the counter to dry.

Pain perdu normally gets eaten right off the skillet, but there were too many of us for that to work (if I wanted to sit down and eat with everyone else, that is), so I dipped and browned the slices in late afternoon, and reheated them in the oven before serving.

The plan was to serve the French toast with mango coulis and vanilla whipped cream. The mango coulis was simply mango flesh whizzed in a blender with a drop of lime juice, and for the whipped cream I was going to use the fancy N2O-powered whip I’d laid my hands on over two years ago — it’s a long story — and never once used. I was going to flavor whipping cream with fresh vanilla, pour that into the bottle, and effortlessly crown the golden slices of brioche with weightless dollops of whipped cream. My friends would be so impressed.

Turns out you should always test your weapon before you go hunting. Or, at the very least, read the manual. You would then know that you should to fit the top onto the bottle before you screw in the gas charger (oops, there goes the N2O) and that the whole thing needs to be refrigerated for a few hours if you want to produce anything more spectacular than a sputtering gurgle of unwhipped cream. Ah well. My friends love me whether or not the cream is whipped.

* A type of brioche that’s slightly less rich than the classic brioche and is baked in a loaf pan.

Brioche Façon Pain Perdu

– 1/3 liter (1 1/3 cup) milk
– 1 vanilla bean
– 4 eggs
– 100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar, plus extra for sprinkling (I use unrefined cane sugar)
– 10 thick (3 cm or 1 1/6 inch) slices from day-old brioche or challah bread (I use pain de mie brioché from the bakery), about 450 grams (1 pound) total
– Butter for greasing

Serves 6 to 8.

Pour the milk in a saucepan. Split the vanilla bean, scrape the seeds with the tip of a knife, and put bean and seeds in the milk. Bring to a simmer, remove from heat, and let cool. Scrape the last of the seeds from the bean, stir them into the milk, and discard the bean. (If you’re in a hurry, just stir a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract into the milk and skip this step.)

Whisk together the eggs and sugar in a medium salad bowl. Add the milk and whisk to combine.

Line a baking sheet with foil. Melt a pat of butter in the skillet you’re going to use to sear the brioche (it should be large enough to accomodate two slices). When the butter is melted, remove from heat, and use a pastry brush to butter the foil lightly.

Dip two of the brioche slices in the egg batter and stir gently to soak well and on both sides. Return the skillet over medium heat and melt a little more butter. When the butter starts to sizzle, transfer the soaked slices to the skillet and cook for a few minutes on each side until golden-brown.

Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and repeat with the remaining slices. Let cool, cover with foil, and refrigerate until time for dessert, up to three or four hours.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Sprinkle the brioche slices with a little more sugar, and bake for 15 minutes, until heated through, then switch to broiler mode for 5 minutes, until lightly caramelized, keeping a close watch on the slices.

Serve immediately, one slice per guest, with fruit coulis or fruit sorbet, and a bit of whipped cream.

  • hmm, delicious!

  • yum! i enjoy making this classic with croissant as tasty variation well!

  • Here you have also one with cinnamon and aples..

  • J’ARRIVE… Tu habites où?

  • Jen

    In my house, we enjoy pain perdu for breakfast with sausages and (real) maple syrup.

  • funny anecdote on the whipping cream. i suppose the whipping cream is already cold to begin with… just bring out the bowl and a whisk. ;)

  • amy

    How weird! I made almost exactly this dish for lunch today (using stale Challah instead of brioche).

    Also, your Gratin de Pates came out very well last week.

  • Nina

    actually, I’ve owned and used similar contraptions for the whipping cream for the past 5 years and you don’t have to chill it for hours. the cream is already chilled so you just put it in with whatever flavorings (vanilla, splenda, sometimes cinnamon but not much) and then shake it. shaking is the key to get the whip cream fluffy. if its coming out runny, the seals aren’t tight and the air all got out or you need to shake more. shake for at least a minute. do keep in mind, this will not keep for more than 3-4 days so you have to use it up fast – I use excess to make delicious hot chocolate – slightly airier than usual – and make sure to immediately clean out the container or it smells and is practically impossible to ever get non-smelly again- says the person who knows from personal experience hence the having used several of these in the past 5 years! ;)

  • flo

    You should ALWAYS make pain perdu with brioche, it is so much better! But as you said the waste-not-want-not thing sometimes makes it COMPULSORY to go with just bread and that is really tough ;-) Anyway, I am very impressed that you did this in advance, I would never have thought this would work, you are giving me ideas, as always!

  • We make a version of this with Orange Brioche. Then top it with Bananas Foster and shredded coconut. I am still working on the recipe, but so far it is this:

    3 eggs
    1/3 cup cream
    1 tsp. Orange flavor (real stuff)
    zest of one orange
    3 tbs. juice of orange
    1/2 tsp Ceylon cinnamon
    1 loaf Orange Brioche, sliced
    1 recipe bananas Foster (follows)
    flaked coconut
    powdered sugar

    Heat butter in skillet. Mix the first six ingredients with a whisk. Dip both sides of the bread slices in the egg mixture. Cook the bread slices in the skillet until golden brown on both sides. Keep warm.

    Prepare the bananas Foster. Heat 4 tbs. butter in skillet, add 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon, and 1 tbs. of dark rum. Heat until sugar dissolved. Saute 3 sliced bananas in this.

    Top toast with the Bananas Foster, a sprinkle of coconut and powdered sugar. Someday I will write this out with completely tested results, but this is the working recipe. When I do that I will post it to my recipe blog.

  • Sounds delicious, especially with the addition of vanilla bean.

    It sounds very similar to what I make and call, French Toast. A rose by any other name is still a rose. :-)
    I like how you did prep work ahead. I’m glad to see that it works and is just as yummy.

  • Max

    Sounds deliciously simple! And as a big fan of eating breakfast for dinner, it sounds like a fancy French toast that I would love!

  • Amelia

    Clo dear Clo, why do you think your friends LOVE you? I think your friends like you but not love you. You are a bit too much in love with yourself, I am afraid.

    A bientot

  • Katrin

    I have never posted anything before but now Amelia’s comment needs a comment itself I am afraid. I find it utterly rude and would erase it if I were you, Clotilde.
    Quite obviously she needs some English lessons or pity for that matter if she doesn’t have any friends who LOVE her.
    Your blog and your writing is very refreshing and I have been enjoying and recommending it for a long time now. Congratulations to all the success you have with it!

  • I stand by Katrin, I am shocked by Amelia’s comment… unless its some kind of a joke…

    Friends love each other, in a friend like way. I’m sorry for you Amelia if you never experienced that.

    I really enjoy your blog, I think its one of the best out there. Hence your cook book successes.

    All the best, and take care,

  • Amelia

    Oh, give me a break. This is someone’s blog, not a hothouse where delicate flowers have to be protected. Clo claims her friends love her, and I simply inject some reality into her fantasy: friend do not love their friends, they like them. The word “love” is used too much and as such, it is abused, as evidenced by friends parting with each other and saying the meaningless “love ya” followed by “love ya too”.
    Read her blog and do the cooking, do not feel you have to serve as a police officer for Clo. Clo has written many unpleasant things about the Americans, she took that part of the blog down. I am sure it is *completely* unrelated to her book coming out in the US. I am sure her publisher never advised her to take down comments that were unpleasant for Americans to read.
    She is a grown up and I am sure she needs no defending. I have no problem with her blog, I just made a comment that I feel was fit. And so you all libs, stop having fits about friends loving one another. See some Woody Allen’s movies and see how he feels about this friends’ love. Give me a break.


  • rob

    Clotilde, your food is gorgeous, as usual. Pain perdu is one of my favourite weekend breakfasts. I also own an iSi whipper, and I love it. I recently made whipped cream with a mixture of coconut milk and 35% cream, and I used it with mango spheres. It’s a wonderfully versatile tool.

    I’m sure I don’t need to say this, but don’t be bullied into changing your writing. I’ve had people threaten me and call me horrible names for my latest post, but I’m determined to stand my ground. I hope you do too.

  • Regis

    There’s nothing quite like writing a spiteful comment and then deliciously coming back to see how others responded to it’s negative implication. Well done Amelia, you are a true-to-heart two-horned commenter.

  • Greg

    Hi Clotilde, The NO2 whipping cream works fairly well. Some chefs claim the NO2 changes the flavor of the cream more than they like, but I don’t notice it. Make sure you have more than one cartridge to pressurize the canister. Sometimes I need to use two, but usually one works fine. You don’t need to chill the container in the fridge, just use cold water or ice water before pouring in your cold cream. Add the gas, then shake. I haven’t had the cream go bad in a few days as the other poster. The cream lasts as long in the can as it would in the carton.

  • I loved French Toast, as we call it in the States, but I haven’t made it since living in France. I was surprised to find out that it actually began in France unlike somethings such as French Dressing or a French Twist(hair do). Or at least I think that is true as my French husband didn’t know what I was talking about when I mentioned them. I hadn’t thought of making it for dessert. Good idea!

  • Katrin

    I simply meant to say that there is a difference between criticism and offensive commenting, the latter being absolutely inappropriate. I am aware that Clotilde most likely needs no defending, I just took the freedom to post a comment – as you were, Amelia. In any way you seem to be enjoying it to stir things up.

    Let’s get back to the food though, shall we?

  • Andrea-Michelle

    I’m always interested in food history – does anyone know if there’s credibility to the story that French Toast was originally called German Toast?

    Some say that post-WWI, Americans changed the name to “French” toast due to political affinities…

  • Richard

    Are your sure it’s your friends who love you?

  • TheBigTuna

    I was pleased to read Amelia’s comment, though surprised that it was posted. Several days ago, I made the totally food-related, but not positive comment that a meal of stewed pork, cheesy pasta gratin, baked cheese, with pain perdu for desert sounded quite heavy to me. Clotilde either deleted it or declined to post it (I don’t know how these things work–whether she looks at all comments first or not). In any case, this blog has lost its charm for me because it is not a forum for discussion about food. Rather it is a stage for Clotilde to show how cute and clever she is, and for lots of strangers to reinforce that impression.

  • Pat

    I think some people need to get a life. If you don’t like this blog, there are plenty of others for you to read. Go spill your venom somewhere else.

  • Rachel

    I must admit I’ve never been a big fan of pain perdu (at least the stuff made with ordinary bread), but I do like brioche so if I get my hands on one and manage to leave some for the next day (now THAT will take some effort) I’ll give this a whirl.

    A shame about the posters who felt the need to lower the tone of this ordinarily lovely blog, though. I agree with Pat – if you don’t like C&Z, surely the obvious thing to do is find one you do like rather than leaving mean-spirited comments here.

  • TheBigTuna

    Why is it mean-spirited or venomous to say that a meal sounds rich or heavy? To censor such comments means that the blog is NOT a food discussion site.

  • randall

    Hi there.

    I must say that I am not a big fan of bread pudding. This seems to be like some kind of bread pudding a la francaise. Doesn’t change the fact that it is still bread pudding!


  • Monkey – I’ve never done this with stale croissants, as they are more likely to be turned into croissants aux amandes at my house, but it does sound like a great variation.

    Nina, rob, and Greg – Thanks for sharing your tips on the whip, they’ll be very helpful next time I give it a try. I’m determined to make it work!

    Andrea-Michelle – I had never heard of the “German toast” theory, but perhaps this story will answer your question?

  • I’m 3 months pregnant, and this past Tuesday night, I had a urgent craving for what we Québécois call “pain doré” — pain perdu.

    This sounds deliiiiiicious to me! However, right now my cravings do not allow me the patience to plan my meals and go out for some brioches before I can make them… Will keep the idea for future use, though!

    Oh, and the pain doré was amazing — although this is normally eaten as breakfast here! :)

  • Cappucine

    **Ah for goodness’ sake you lot, lighten up! It’s not the end of the world if a blogger is criticised – and it’s not the end of the world if some commentators defend him/her (be it necessary or no!)**

    I adore Brioche ^_^ I have tried to make it a few times, never wholly unsuccessfully, but it is pretty hard going! And the result never seems to be quite SOFT enough I am sad to say. And I always add enough butter…I think it might be due to my fan-assisted oven??

  • MaxMillion

    As far as I am concerned, the *only* way to make Pain Perdu — aka French Toast — is with pain brioché or challah.

    I love it with vanilla and rum in the eggy mixture and topped with real maple syrup and fresh blueberries or strawberries.

  • Kristen Morse

    hee hee, isn’t the internet grand? we can all discuss and rant with faceless people, stir emotions through print on a screen. And, then we see its not all that democratic or uncensored! such is the bigger reality around us! Its great to “read” democracy on a sterile screen–
    Cheers to robust discussion and robust food!

  • kw

    Another way of enjoying this without standing over the pan turning out slice after slice while everyone else eats is to make it like a bread pudding: lay the slices of bread in a buttered pan, pour the custard mixture over it, and bake. Then it is all ready at the same time.

  • Ian

    Wow this comments page rocks! Noticed on Nina’s comment she recomends splenda as a flavoring, avoid this like the plague. Don’t believe me? put splenda into your favourite search engine and after all the splenda add pages you will learn the truth. It gave my wife really bad health problems. As an alternative to the whipped cream why not try creme anglaise? There is a great recipe for it at

  • I served this as breakfast & it was wonderful with some banana butter!

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