There is nothing that Cream Puffs like more than long, slow, decadent Sunday breakfasts. Sometimes it’s pancakes, sometimes it’s waffles and sometimes, it simply has to be French Toast. Now that I have taken my first baby steps in the world of bread baking, I thought it was high time that I tried my hand at actually baking the bread that we’d use for Sunday morning breakfast.
Generally, I favour challah or sour dough bread for French Toast. Challah seems to be a favourite among Sunday brunchers, but I like the taste of tangy sour dough that’s a few days old and then dipped in an eggy/milky mixture and cooked in lots of butter. I suppose I’d like anything cooked in lots of butter.
But for my attempt at baking bread for French Toast, I decided to try my hand at a recipe for pain au lait from Linda Haynes’ The Ace Bakery Cookbook. As you know I’m featuring this book, as well as Linda’s newest, More From Ace Bakery, as the Cream Puffs in Venice Flavours of the Month for November 2006. The Pain au Lait is from Linda’s first book and forms the basis of many subsequent recipes in the book including bread pudding.
Pain au lait, as the title suggests, is bread made with milk. The bread begins with a starter of yeast, water and unbleached hard white flour (flour that is very high in protein). The starter is allowed to ferment for about six hours, at which point it is ready to use.
The dough for the bread consists of water, more unbleached hard white flour, semolina flour, sugar, butter, whole milk, eggs, yeast, salt and of course the starter. Once the entire mixture has been combined and kneaded to the point where the dough is smooth, you let the dough rise for a few hours, or until it has almost doubled in size.
The dough can be shaped and baked in loaf pans, or it can be shaped into boules (or whatever other shape you prefer). After another two to three hours of rising time, the loaves are baked in a hot oven for about 40 minutes.
The end result are very light loaves with a lovely golden crust. The crumb reminds me of brioche, but isn’t quite as eggy or heavy as brioche. The bread generally has a slightly sweet taste and is perfect for soaking up butter, jam or whatever else you choose to top it with.
I decided to use my pain au lait for one of my French Toast favourites: Coconut French Toast. Instead of mixing milk, eggs and sugar for the French Toast base, I like to use coconut milk, eggs and sugar. I also add a few drops of coconut extract to really emphasize the coconut flavour. I defrost a handful of the blueberries I squirrel away during the summer and somehow the little blue gems don’t make me feel so bad about all the butter and syrup!
Coconut French Toast
Adapted from Brunch by Louise Pickford.
- 8 slices of bread (I like to use challah or sour dough, but today used pain au lait), thickly cut (about an inch)
- 1 cup canned coconut milk (use full fat coconut milk)
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 2 tbsp. sugar or maple syrup
- 1 tsp. coconut extract (optional)
- 1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- butter (for the frying pan)
- icing sugar
- In a large bowl, combine the coconut milk, the eggs, the sugar or maple syrup, the coconut extract (if using) and the vanilla extract. Whisk until well combined.
- Melt a few tablespoons of butter in a large fry pan.
- Dip a slice of bread in the coconut milk/egg mixture, letting it soak up the liquid for about a minute on each side.
- Place the bread in the melted butter and saute until it’s nice and golden on each side (about 2 to 3 minutes). Transfer to a serving dish.
- Repeat with the remaining slices of bread.
- Once the bread has all been cooked, dust with icing sugar and serve with blueberries and lots of butter and syrup.
Note: Serves 4. The original recipe from Louise Pickford uses panettone as the bread of choice.
For some other posts about pain au lait, check out these posts: