A sweet French version of eggy bread, pain perdu is the perfect accompaniment for ice-cream, served with a slice of caramelised bacon as a sort of breakfast-cum-dessert. But it’s also delicious with caramelised apples or any cooked fruit. The bread is refrigerated for 12 hours, because cold speeds up the rate at which bread stales. Starch granules crystallise at around 4C, and these granules help the bread to keep its shape during cooking and allow it to hold on to more of the soaking liquid, making for a richer pain perdu. This recipe serves six.
1 white loaf, crust removed
For the pain perdu mix
1 vanilla pod
280g whole milk
30g unrefined caster sugar
4 large egg whites
3 large egg yolks
For the bacon
125g unrefined caster sugar
¼ tsp salt
25g maple syrup
6 slices of smoked streaky bacon
To serve (per portion)
50g clarified butter
2 bread triangles
100g unrefined caster sugar
1 slice of caramelised bacon
Cut the bread into six slices, each 2cm thick, lay them in a container, cover with cling film and refrigerate for 12 hours. For the pain perdu mixture, slice the vanilla pod in half lengthways and scrape out the seeds, reserving the pods to use in another recipe or to flavour sugar. Combine the seeds with the milk, sugar, egg whites and yolks. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved, then refrigerate until needed.
To start the bacon, preheat the oven to 180C. Boil the sugar, 100g cold tap water and the salt together and allow to cool. When cool, add the maple syrup. Brush one side of each bacon slice with the syrup, then place brushed-side down on a heavy baking tray. Brush the top of the bacon with more syrup, then place a sheet of baking paper on top. Cover with a second heavy baking tray to keep the slices flat during cooking. Place the bacon in the oven for eight to nine minutes or until the bacon has caramelised. Remove the bacon from the tray and allow to cool completely before placing in an airtight container between pieces of parchment paper.
When the bread is dry, cut each slice to a 10cm square, then cut these squares into two triangles. Place in a container and cover with the pain perdu mixture. Cover with cling film and place in the fridge for 20 minutes until the bread has soaked up all the liquid. Remove the bread triangles from the liquid, place on a cooling rack and allow to drain for three to four minutes.
To finish and serve, heat the clarified butter in a non-stick pan over a medium heat, then fry the bread until both sides are golden brown. Remove from the pan and trim off any frayed edges. Drain the pan and wipe clean. Add enough sugar to coat the bottom of the pan and heat until it starts to caramelise. Quickly add the bread and coat each side with the sugar. Remove from the pan and place on a silicone mat. Using scissors, snip off any stray caramel around the edges. Repeat this step with a second batch of two triangles but clean the pan and make a new caramel for the next two batches and so on.
Transfer the bread triangles to a plate, two per plate, and place some bacon and egg ice-cream on top. Finish with a slice of caramelised bacon.
Text © 2011 Cape Press Ltd. Taken from ‘Heston Blumenthal at Home’ by Heston Blumenthal, published by Bloomsbury, £30