Early evening and my grandmother is cutting slices of an old bread. She beats the eggs in an old enamel plate and soaks the bread into the mixture. The generous slices are fried to a delicious orange crust and topped with cheese when still hot. The kitchen smells wonderfully and the child at the table is waiting eagerly. The bread arrives pipping hot, crispy and the melted cheese makes filaments in the small hands which cut the bread in halves. Almost 20 years later, this child found itself in France. The country where food is an important part of life and where talks about food and wine can go on endlessly. It has been a while since I had my grandmother make a this savoury version of French toast and I’ve been often thinking about those happy evenings at her home. But in France, this version of French toast is not known. Nonetheless, frying a piece old bread is done in many countries, so is in France, but instead of salt they put sugar in the egg and instead of cheese they top it with fresh fruit or drizzle chocolate sauce over it.
The other morning I found slices of old brioche in the pantry which made a perfect excuse to prepare French toast for breakfast, or pain perdu meaning lost bread.
While I was dipping the brioche in the milk I thought about those days in my grandma’s kitchen. I recalled her putting oil in the pan, I’ve put butter. The smell spread in the kitchen, sweet and mouthwatering and resembling the smell that used to spread in my grandmothers kitchen. The smell a child engraved in its memory, not only a smell of bread in the pan but the one of love and happiness.
Pohani kruh (savoury French toast)
4 slices of old bread, cca 2 cm thick
4 tbsp milk
pinch of salt
sunflower oil for frying
4 slices of cheese (emmental or other)
Beat the eggs, milk and salt in a wide bowl until foamy. Cut the bread in slices and then soak in the egg mixture on both sides. Heat up the oil in a pan and and then add the bread slices to the pan. Fry the bread on both sides for a couple of minutes until golden brown. Take out the bread and place it on a paper covered plate to eliminate excess oil. Put the cheese on top of each bread slice while the bread is still hot. Enjoy immediately.
Pain perdu (sweet French toast)
4 slices of brioche or bread
4 tbsp milk
1 tbsp cane sugar (I use cane sugar from Mauritius)
1/3 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
2 tbs of butter for frying
Fresh fruit for topping
Beat the eggs, milk and sugar and vanilla in a wide bowl until foamy. Cut the bread or brioche in slices and then soak in the egg mixture on both sides. Melt the butter in a pan and then add the bread slices. Fry the bread on both sides for a couple of minutes until golden brown. Place the bread on a paper covered plate to eliminate excess grease. Top with your favourite fruit and enjoy immediately.