When I lived in France, I asked my employers what the French is for French toast. Not "us toast," surely. Turns out they call it le pain perdu: the lost bread.
Baguettes are a staple in French kitchens. People bring them home fresh from the bakery every other day. Baguettes, having no preservatives, go stale within a day — but lost bread can be found again. Soak it in custard and fry it, and it's not stale anymore. What a brilliant idea.
I didn't learn the following recipe in France; I made it up. And we love it. I use this one every other week or so.
|1 baguette||6 eggs|
|1/2 c. milk (or a big splash)||Dash cinnamon|
|1 tsp. vanilla||Sugar — enough to cover egg yolks|
|Salt — lots||Butter for the skillet|
Serves: 2-3 · Prep time: 1 hr
Preheat the skillet, medium low.
Crack eggs into baking dish. Sprinkle sugar onto each yolk. Add milk, cinnamon, vanilla and salt.* Whisk.
* A word about salt. In my observation, when people go to salt their food, they put a few sprinkles (shake-a-shake-a) and that's it. My friends, you only do that because you've grown accustomed to highly-processed foods, which contain ungodly amounts of sodium. If you're adding salt to, say, your mashed potato flakes, even a shake-a-shake-a is too much. However. When you're cooking from scratch, your palate must rule. Well-salted food won't taste salty; it'll taste good. But here's the thing. Until you've actually pushed it too far, you will be tempted to stop too soon. Do not fear. Resist your urge to resist. I've got a good salt shaker — it lets down a generous amount with every shake — and when I make this recipe, I give it like 30 to 50 shakes. That's a guess. I am a tacit salter. I don't stop till a feeling in my wrist tells me, yes. Yes, that's right.
Slice baguette. If you hold the knife diagonal to the loaf you'll get longer rounds.
Set 5-8 slices into the batter. Soak them on both sides as the pan preheats. When they're soft and moist all through, butter the skillet a little. Set the soaked slices in the pan, and at the same time, set a new batch of dry slices into the batter. Flip the slices in the pan; flip the slices in the batter. Remove the slices from the pan and transfer the soaked slices in. Repeat.
Butter the skillet a little every time you add new slices; that's the part I always forget. Butter gives them crispiness and color.
Note: don't let the baby use the knife.
This is one of my favorite meals to make with a small person around. My own small person stands on a chair by the counter. Today, he added the cinnamon and sugar, and he cracked the eggs too. He likes watching the rounds cook — it makes him forget he's hungry — and we both love eating them right as they come off the griddle. They are so good — buttery, lightly sweet, crispy, nice and salty, scrumptious.
I find I don't really like French toast made with sandwich bread anymore. That's a recent development for me. The baguettes are better. I love how small they are. And I love how they're so good.