pain perdu with vanilla figs

August 22, 2018 Portland, OR, USA


It's been about two and a half weeks since I turned in the photos for #weeknightbakingbook, and I'm happy/sorry to report that I have done absolutely nothing in that time. The first week was intentional; I gave myself that time off to recover. And recover I did — I stopped waking up at 6AM to bake before the day turned too hot, sleeping in until 8AM before rolling to the gym. I binged that Lifetime TV show, UnREAL, in a matter of days. I barely Instagrammed, and tried not to panic when nobody showed up to like any of my paltry posts about the farmers market or the happy hours I've been attending in celebration of my book. But then the week stretched on to another few days, and the next thing I know, it's been almost half a month and I've got nothing to show.


So here I am, easing back into things with this quick and easy recipe for French toast (that's what pain perdu is, in case you haven't figured it out already). It's funny — after I turned in all the materials for my book, it was like I was out of all my creativity and I had no ideas for any new recipes of my own. To combat this creative block, I've been flipping through the massive pile of beautiful cookbooks I've mostly ignored while writing my own. There are cookbooks of every shape, size, and kind. Some, like mine, are there to instruct and to hold your hand as you tackle recipes. Others are there to tell stories through food. The best of the latter are able to transport you to another time and place.


Amber does exactly that in her cookbook, For the Love of the South (which is named after her beautiful blog), in which she chronicles beloved recipes from her Southern upbringing in Louisiana, Texas, Tennessee, and more. This recipe for pain perdu comes directly from her grandfather (she fondly calls him Paw-Paw in her book) and is served with vanilla-infused figs. The figs were so wonderfully aromatic that their floral, vanilla scent wafted next door; my neighbor called out across her garden to ask what I was making. When I gave her a fig to try, her eyes lit up and told me it was one of the most delicious things she'd ever eaten.


As a fun little bonus, I'm doing a giveaway in partnership with the feedfeed of the Le Creuset items you see in this blog post:


To enter the giveaway, please head over to my Instagram account, like the photo featuring this recipe and these Le Creuset items, and read the rules for entry in the caption. Please note that the giveaway is open to U.S. only and will end on August 29th, 2018 at 11:59PM PST — more information is available on my official giveaway page. For an additional chance to win even more Le Creuset items, check out the feedfeed's own giveaway on their site. Good luck!

A big thanks to the feedfeed and Le Creuset for providing the cookware and props you see in this post!


Some baker's notes:
  • To save time, you can make the figs up to 3 days in advance; store, drained, in an airtight container in the fridge. Don't discard the syrup though — it's plenty tasty on its own and works wonderfully in place of maple syrup. Don't worry if it seems too watery; Amber specifically highlights that in her recipe. You can also reduce the syrup by half for a thicker syrup.

  • Like any French toast recipe, this recipe works best with stale bread that's 2 to 3 days old. Challah works wonderfully, but you can use any thick sliced bread of your choice. 


Pain Perdu with Vanilla Infused Figs

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Ingredients

For the Vanilla-Infused Figs:
(makes around 3 cups)
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) hot water
  • 1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • a pinch of ground cinnamon
  • a pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 vanilla bean pod
  • 1 pound fresh figs, stems removed

For the Pain Perdu:
(makes 8 slices)
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) whole milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • "tightly packed" 1/3 cup (2.5 ounces) dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • a pinch of kosher salt
  • 8 slices challah bread, sliced 1/2- to 1-inch thick
  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
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Recipe

For the Vanilla-Infused Figs:
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine 1 cup water, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, a pinch of ground cinnamon, and a pinch of kosher salt. Whisk to combine. Slice 1 vanilla bean pod lengthwise and use the tip of the knife to scrape vanilla beans into the mixture; throw the pod into the mixture as well. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low. As soon as the syrup settles to a simmer, add the figs and cover with the lid. Simmer the figs in syrup for 30 minutes, or until the figs soften and puff up like balloons. Use a slotted spoon to carefully fish the figs from the syrup being careful not to pop the delicate skins.

For the Pain Perdu:
  1. Center a rack in the oven and place an overproof serving plate in the oven and preheat to 200 (F). 

  2. In a shallow dish, whisk together 1/2 cup whole milk, 3 large eggs, 1/3 cup dark brown sugar, 2 tablespoons honey, 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and a pinch of kosher salt. Dip two slices of bread into the mixture.

  3. Place a medium skillet over medium heat; place 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in the center of the pan and swirl to melt and coat the bottom of the skillet. 

  4. Once the mixture begins to soak through the bread, flip both slices. Allow to soak in the custard for 1 to 2 minutes. Place both slices of custard-soaked bread into the preheated skillet. Immediately place two more slices of bread into the custard to cook.

  5. Once the bread is deeply golden on one side, flip and cook the other side. Flip the slices that are soaking in the custard too. Reduce the heat if you notice the bread browning too quickly.

  6. Place the cooked pain perdu onto the preheated serving plate and return to the oven — this will keep the bread warm while you finish frying the remaining slices. 

  7. Place the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in the skillet and repeat the process of melting and coating the pan. Repeat the process of soaking and cooking the remaining bread slices until all our golden.

  8. Once all the bread slices are cooked, remove the plate from the oven and dust with powdered sugar. Serve immediately with vanilla-infused figs.
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