I don’t like pre-sliced bread. There, I said it. Back in the days of dieting, I used to buy this super low-calorie sliced wheat bread product that I thought could act as a base for sandwiches. It was very sad bread, mostly made of chemicals and air (as Alton Brown shows at 6:00 in this clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vlb9gHVeBR0z).
But real bread, you might say, goes stale so fast.
And you’re right. It does. Most real bread goes stale quickly because it isn’t full of flour conditioners and preservatives. But stale doesn’t mean bad or unusable. Fresh bread is pretty awesome, but stale bread is better for a variety of things: Panzanella (in salad or soup form), bread crumbs (seasoned or plain), croutons, bread pudding, egg stratas, toast, and pain perdu, or “lost bread.”
Pain perdu/French toast, one of the most delicious Sunday brunch foods, is best made with stale bread. Since bread that has gone stale loses a lot of moisture, it soaks up more of the custard and makes a much richer and more satisfying end product.
So grab your lost bread and get to reviving it!
- Eight ½ in. slices of day-old or stale bread. Country, French, challah and brioche loaves are all good options.
- ½ cup milk
- ½ cup cream
- 2 tbsp. maple syrup
- 3 eggs
- 1tsp. vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
- Dash of cinnamon
- Pinch of salt
- 4 tbsp. butter
Whisk the eggs, milk, cream, maple syrup, vanilla, and cinnamon together until thoroughly blended. You may do this a day ahead and store it in the refrigerator. When ready to dip the slices, pour the custard into a pie pan.
Preheat an oven to 375 degrees F.
Place a wire cooling rack over a baking sheet. Dip the slices of bread, two at a time, into the custard and allow them to soak for 30 seconds on each side. Move the dipped slices to the wire rack and allow them to sit while you prepare the others.
Melt 1 tbsp. of butter in a pan over medium-low heat. Place two slices of bread in the pan and allow them to cook until golden brown (about 2 minutes on each side).
Remove from the pan and place directly on a rack in the oven for 5 minutes. Repeat this process with the remaining butter and slices of bread. Serve immediately with maple syrup and fruit, whipped cream and berries, or powdered sugar and cinnamon.
The best thing about this dish is the texture contrast. You get the wonderful crisp outside from pan-frying and a custardy, but not mushy inside from a short bake in the oven. We had ours with the classic maple syrup, but also some of my prize-winning (!) blueberry-peach syrup with lemon basil and orange zest:
It’s been busy in the Neen’s Notes kitchen. After I made that wheel of gouda a few weeks ago, I realized that aging cheese in my refrigerator was getting pretty impractical. Since I’d already turned the downstairs closet into a curing cabinet for meat, it seemed only logical to take over the rest of the little room. Allow me to introduce my little kitchen extension:
On one side of the table, I have the meat grinder and on the other is a homemade cheese press (thanks again, Dad!). To the left of the table is a small refrigerator that I’ve made into a cheese cave. Kept on its lowest setting, the temperature hovers at around 50 degrees. With a bowl of water inside and the occasional spray of water along the walls, the humidity is around 75%. Ideally, I’d like to get it up to 80%. Right now inside you’ll find the aforementioned wheel of gouda and a wheel of montasio quietly aging. The curing closet is directly across from the refrigerator, out of view in this picture. To the right of the table is a small reference shelf. A second bookcase is at the other end of the room and it holds mason jars and other canning materials. The shelf above the table holds supplies (cheese mats, wax, curing salts…etc.), and the calendar is being used to mark dates and weights for cheeses and curing meats. It wasn’t an expensive project; mostly just a reorganization to use space more efficiently. The only new purchases I made were the refrigerator and a few hooks for the curing closet. It could use a few decorations, but all in all, it’s just a great little room that I’m looking forward to use for creating all sorts of fun, tasty things.
Ciao for now,