icon Pain perdu

Pain perdu, a.k.a. French Toast in America, is the ultimate breakfast comfort food. It consists of slices of sweet bread high in high egg and butter, such as the brioche, dipped in milk and eggs, fried in butter, and served topped with powdered sugar. Definitely not a low-calorie diet ...

The brioche is a pastry similar to a highly enriched bread, and whose high egg and butter content give it a rich and tender texture. The crust is dark golden and flaky, frequently accentuated by an egg wash. It is similar to the Czech vánočka. The key is not to use sourdough bread for this recipe.

The brioche is generally thought of as being from France, but its origins are in fact Austrian. Its introduction to Parisian cuisine is the work of one August Zang, a 19th century Austrian entrepreneur known as a press magnate (founder the Viennese daily "Die Presse"), banker and mine owner. But before he did all this, he started the Viennese Bakery (Boulangerie Viennoise) in 1838 or 1839 on 92, rue de Richelieu. He started introducing Parisians to Viena-style baked goods made in a steam oven. The term pâtisseries viennoises first appeared in 1877 in a book by Alphonse Daudet. And so the baking tradition of the Viennoiserie was born.

viennoiserie pastries (brioche, pain aux raisins,
Beside the brioche, Viennoiserie includes things like the croissant, Pain aux raisins or Danish pasty. In the last three, the use of puff pastry to make them came later, however, and is a French, not Viennese, twist. Viennoiserie is made in the same basic way as bread, but has the richer aspect of a pastry because of the extra eggs, butter, milk or cream, and sugar.

Pain Perdu

  • Lightly stale bread i.e. brioche
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 sachet of vanilla sugar
  • 2 glasses of milk
  • Sweet butter


  1. Cut 6 slices of bread about 1.5 cm thick.
  2. In a bowl, beat the eggs with the milk, powdered sugar, and vanilla sugar.
  3. Stack the slices to keep them wet by stacking them on each side until they have absorbed all the liquid.
  4. Heat the butter in a frying pan and brown the bread slices on both sides.
  5. Serve warm, topped with strawberries and sprinkled with sugar.

New Orleans style French Toast at Brennan's
In New Orleans cuisine, the local version of French Toast is made with stale New Orleans French bread. Along with New Orleans Bread Pudding, this is a way of using up leftover bread. New Orleans French bread generally looks like the Parisian baguette but upon closer examination seems to be more of a relative to the Austrian Weckerl and to the Czech veka. All three have a thinner crust and larger diameter in contrast to the baguette. This is not accidental, given that the tradition of the New Orleans French bread was started in the 19th century by bakers such as Alois Binder and Georg George Leidenheimer who immigrated to the United States from Central Europe where they would have been exposed to things like the Weckerl and the veka.

New Orleans French bread (from Seriouseats.com)
New Orleans French bread is generally similar to the Austrian Weckerl and to the Czech veka in that they are all types of white long and round bread. Like New Orleans French Bread, the Czech veka has a thin crust and a roughly similar cross section, but in contrast to the French bread it is denser and the crust is soft.

In the New Orleans style French toast, nutmeg is added into the egg mixture, the bread is fried in butter and oil, and sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar. Louisiana cane syrup, honey, maple syrup or fruit syrup is used as a topping.

Pain perdu in Paris,
served as afternoon dessert
In New Orleans cuisine (and in North American cuisine in general) Pain perdu is eaten for breakfast, but not so in France. There it is eaten as a dessert or an afternoon snack with tea.




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Last updated: March 3, 2017