If an almond croissant made love to French toast, this raspberry almond pain perdu would be their delicious offspring. Pain perdu (lost bread) can either be just a fancy name for French Toast or it can be a custardy, soft set dream that honors the nuances of French cuisine. This raspberry almond pain perdu strives to be the latter and I hope it finds a permanent place on your brunch table.
There are things I’ve been certain of most of my life.
I loved New York before I even set foot on Manhattan. People would tell me, “it’s not as great as you think, just wait until you visit.” I happily found out they were wrong and NYC exceeded my wildest big city dreams. I’ll save my New York love for another post but it was worth a mention.
I’ve always loved the U.S. South. It felt decidedly American and the culture seemed vastly different from my Silicon Valley upbringing. My first trip to the South was to New Orleans and it did not disappoint.
I am a lifelong Francophile. Growing up in Germany, our family trip to Paris is the first big city memory I have. My affinity for France grew with adulthood and Paris is the one city I would return to again and again.
Knowing these things about myself, my first trip to New Orleans was so much more than a couple drunken nights on Bourbon Street. I was fascinated by the culture, dove into the history, and loved engaging with the people. Not to mention the strong French influence in NOLA excited me to no end!
As a cook with these cultural affinities, New Orleans food captivated my soul (evidence of my obsession: gumbo, jambalaya, miscellaneous). That trip to NOLA in 2014 exposed me to flavors and foods that influence my cooking to this day. One dish in particular still haunts me and I’ve wanted to recreate it for the past seven years.
My first taste of this blueberry pain perdu rocked my world and I would never look at French Toast the same way again!
French Toast vs Pain Perdu
Unlike the cinnamon-y American French Toast I grew up with, this pain perdu had a subtle vanilla sweetness. The outside was crisp from the oven and the center had a delicate custard that I’d never tasted in wonderbread French Toast. Not to mention, it was made with chunks of day old croissants!
My raspberry almond pain perdu is the reimagined version of that life changing breakfast I had in November 2014. I use thick slices of soft, buttery brioche and fortify the custard with an extra egg yolk. The almond paste not only tastes amazing but also uses up the leftover egg white from the extra yolk. A tart raspberry compote pairs perfectly with the sweet almond flavors and brings the whole dish to life.
I recently made this dish for my sister (aka resident French Toast aficionado) and she LOVED IT! I hope you cook this for someone you love and share the same joy we had while devouring the entire pan. Bon appetit!
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, preferably at room temperature for greasing the pan
1 cup half and half (can also use whole milk)
1 egg yolk (reserver the egg white for the almond paste)
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla paste (or vanilla extract)
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound thick sliced brioche loaf (you won’t use the two end pieces)
¾ cup blanched almond meal (also called almond flour)
1 egg white (leftover from the yolk you used for the custard)
2 Tablespoon granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon almond extract
Small pinch of kosher salt
8 ounces frozen raspberries (unsweetened, no sugar added – check the ingredients list)
2 Tablespoon granulated sugar
Zest of 1 fresh lemon
Juice of ½ fresh lemon
Thoroughly butter the bottom and sides of a 9.5 inch square baking dish, set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the half and half, eggs, egg yolk, granulated sugar, vanilla paste, and salt. Whisk until fully combined. Set aside.
Make the almond paste by combining the almond meal, egg white, sugar, almond extract, and salt in a medium bowl. Mix with a fork until a paste forms. Set aside.
Without using the two end pieces of bread, line the greased baking dish with one layer of brioche slices (cut a slice in half if necessary to fill the cracks). Slowly pour half of the egg and milk mixture over the first layer of bread (be sure to wet the edges).
Dot half of the almond paste over the first layer of bread and use clean fingers to spread the paste out as much as possible. Be careful not to tear the bread.
Place another layer of bread slices over the almond layer. Gently pour the rest of the egg and milk mixture over the top, covering as much bread as possible.
Spread the rest of the almond paste over the bread.
Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerator for one hour.
Make the raspberry compote while the pain perdu chills in the refrigerator.
In a medium saucepan combine the raspberries, sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice.
Place the saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the raspberries defrost and the sugar starts to melt, about 4 minutes.
Bring the compote to a simmer and cook over medium heat until the mixture is combined and slightly thickened, 10 minutes. Remove the compote from the heat and set aside.
Remove the pain perdu from the refrigerator and let the dish come to room temperature while you preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Bake the pain perdu on the center rack until the custard is baked and the internal temperature registers 160 degrees on an instant read thermometer, 20-25 minutes.
Spoon some raspberry compote over the top of the pain perdu and scoop portions onto serving plates. Serve with extra raspberry compote and whipped cream if desired.
Pain perdu should be soft and custardy, yet cooked and set, in the center. If you prefer a more American style french toast casserole, bake the dish for 5-10 minutes longer than recommended.