Whenever Andrew takes too long to eat his bread and it goes stale, I get really excited because it means I get to make one of the things that remind me most of my childhood: pain perdu.
Pain perdu is probably the recipe that makes me think the most about my paternal grandmother. She made so many amazing things whenever we visited, but her pain perdu's simplicity and wholesomeness just really stuck with me over the years. It was always so unpretentious, and was one of those "wrap you up in a warm comfy blanket" type foods. When you bake it, the warm smell of cinnamon and milky bread will take over your whole kitchen. I love it. It's also one of the first things I remember making with her, so it holds a special place for me.
I know that traditionally pain perdu, is actually just French Toast, but you know how sometimes your family calls something by the wrong name and it just sticks? Yeah, well this one is kind of like that. Pain Perdu is actually the French name for French toast, aka. old bread dipped in an egg and milk batter. However, my grandmother would always make a kind of reconstituted bread loaf pudding thing out of our old bread, and pain perdu just became our name for the stuff. I suppose in the end the ingredients were all the same so technically we weren't "wrong."
I love that both my grandmothers never waste anything. Whether its my Chinese grandmother who puts basins under taps to collect the couple drops of water that fall after you turn off the tap, to my French (well, Polish actually) grandmother would always turn stale bread into the best thing ever, pain perdu.
I've made so many versions over the years, some following almost exactly the recipe my grandmother used to use, to progressively more vegan versions. At this point, I know I've gone a little far afield, but it's mostly in proportion of ingredients rather than what's in it. Here's the latest version I've made, so next time you have stale bread, don't toss it out. Feed it to the birds, sure, that's a very good cause, but if you want to eat, here's the absolutely tastiest way how:
Grandmere's Veganized Pain Perdu
2 C old bread, torn or cut into small pieces
1 1/2 C milk (I used hemp milk)
1 tablespoon of cinnamon
3 tablespoons of raw cane sugar
1 tablespoon of maple syrup
2 tablespoons of arrowroot powder (optional)*
dash of cloves, nutmeg, and allspice (optional)
dash of salt
1/3 C raisins
*I thought this really helped solidify the stuff
1. In a bowl, let the bread pieces sit in the milk until it's gotten soft and mushy again (sometimes it can take a couple hours)
2. When the bread is soft, preheat oven to 350.
3. To the soggy bread, add in the sugar, maple syrup, salt, spices, and arrowroot powder and blend with a hand mixer, electric beater, food processor, what have you.
4. Gently mix in the raisins.
5. Pour into a 8 inch round pan or a loaf pan, and bake for 45-ish minutes.
6. Let cool, the top should be crusty and the inside should still be a bit gooey.
7. Serve on its own, or it tastes fantastic with either (or both) applesauce and ice cream!