I know you’ve been waiting for this recipe! Trust me, it is AMAZING. Simple, yet amazing. How can that be? It’s the beauty of French cooking! Somehow, it just happens. If you make this dish for yourself, you will see what I mean.
There is a wonderful description of the concept of pain perdu (literally meaning “lost bread”) in the French Farmhouse Cookbook. The author recounts how, on the French farm, nothing ever goes to waste. For those who grow their own food to sustain their families, bread is “never lost but transformed into something else.” Leftover chunks of bread are always turned into a dish of some sort, and whatever the dish, it is always called pain perdu. Hmmm. What a concept!
Anyways, french toast is one of my absolute favorite breakfast meals. I’m a little picky about the bread, though. I prefer for it to be slightly crisp on the outside and definitely not soggy on the inside. Given that the bread has to soak in a milk mixture, the latter can be difficult to accomplish. So, for this dish, I was excited to use the brioche that I had made a day before. This recipe also comes from the French Farmhouse Cookbook.
Brioche French Toast with Carmelized Apples (Pain Perdu a la Brioche et aux Pommes)
For the Apples
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 medium-sweet to sweet-tart apples, such as Jonagold or Golden Delicious, peeled, cored and cut into thin slices (I used Jonagold)
1/4 cup sugar
For the Bread
1 large egg
1 1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon sugar
1 loaf Quick Brioche (see below)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Heaping 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Creme fraiche (heavy whipping cream), for serving (optional)
Cook the apples: Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the apples and toss so they are coated with butter. Then sprinkle with the sugar and continue cooking, shaking the pan and flipping the apples by sharply jerking the pan, or by stirring them with a wooden spoon, until they are tender and golden, 10-15 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and keep warm.
Prepare the bread: Whisk together the egg, milk, and sugar in a large shallow bowl until thoroughly combined. Slice eight 1/4-inch-thick slices from the brioche, discarding the end piece. Cut out a 3-inch round from each slice.
Soak 4 rounds of the brioche in the egg mixture, turning them if necessary, until they are saturated but not falling apart, 3 to 4 minutes.
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the soaked brioche rounds and cook until they are golden on one side, about 3 minutes. Turn and cook on the other side until they are golden, 2 to 3 minutes.
Transfer to a warmed serving platter. Continue soaking and sauteing the remaining rounds of brioche. Sprinkle the rounds lightly with cinnamon.
To serve, arrange the apples on top of the rounds of brioche on the platter. Or make individual servings by placing two rounds of brioche on each of four warmed dessert plates, and top each with an equal amount of apples. Serve the creme fraiche alongside, if you like.
My success with this recipe on a school morning definitely proves that it is not difficult to make! My son stumbled into the kitchen, a bit bleary-eyed, and asked if he could help. So, I have him to thank for sprinkling the sugar on the apples and breaking the eggs for the soaking mixture. He also cut the brioche into rounds with a biscuit cutter.
As for the soaking mixture, it is mostly milk and only one egg, which at first seemed strange to me. Only one egg? Really? I even took the liberty of adding in some ground nutmeg. It was after eating the french toast that I realized the simplicity of the ingredients created a very delicate taste. Adding more eggs to the batter would have ruined the lightness of the dish.
We have a lovely, large griddle which made cooking the brioche rounds extremely easy. It certainly would take longer if you had to cook them in batches. And lastly, one note about the apples…I was worried they might burn, so I probably did not cook them as long as I could have. In reality, they really need to cook for a while to become caramelized. So, when I make this dish again, I will definitely cook them a little longer.
This french toast was divine! The brioche was airy and light, with no sogginess at all. The flavors were magnificent and the texture was perfect. Absolutely, without a doubt, some of the best french toast I’ve ever had!
Until next time,