Festive Flavors: Le Pain Perdu
(Brioche Bread Pudding)
Food historians trace bread pudding back to Europe as early as the 11th and 12th century. The French call this Pain Perdu (lost bread), since the recipe asks for stale bread. A yummy tradition at brunch buffets, this dish is also a hit when served for dessert with ice cream, or crème Chantilly (whipped cream).
The best versions of the recipe use leftover bread. Executive Chef David Bastide prefers brioche, but challah or even a French baguette will work well as alternatives.
A note about the sauce: Bourbon – a barrel-aged whisky made exclusively in the United States – has a sweeter flavor than other types of whiskey, with notes of vanilla, oak, caramel and spicy pepper. Feel free to substitute the bourbon for a good brandy, whose aromas are also perceived as sweet and nutty, with caramel often coming to the fore.
Makes 8-10 servings. (Any leftovers keep well in the refrigerator for the following day!)
For the pudding:
- 1.5 lbs. store (or bakery) bought brioche loaves
- 6 eggs
- Optional: 2 or 3 egg yolks, for extra richness
- 1.5 cups granulated sugar
- 2.5 cups milk
- 2.5 cups heavy (or whipping) cream
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tsp. orange blossom water (available from Amazon or at a specialty food store such as Williams Sonoma)
- Unsalted butter (to grease the pan)
Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.
Grease the baking dish with butter. Cut the brioche into large cubes (approximately 1.5″). In a large bowl, whisk the whole eggs, egg yolks (if using), and sugar until the mixture turns pale. Add the milk, cream, vanilla and orange blossom water, mixing well.
Add in the brioche and stir to ensure it is well-soaked. Pour the contents into the greased pan and bake, uncovered, for approximately 25 minutes or until done. (Pro-tip: to test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the brioche to see that it doesn’t come out wet. The brioche should be crusty on top, and if the pan is tilted no liquid should run to the side. This means that the batter is set!)
For the bourbon sauce:
- 2 egg yolks
- 4 oz. unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup bourbon (or to taste)
- 9×12 baking dish
In a saucepan, melt the butter and sugar together, being careful not to let the mixture boil.
Whisk the egg yolks until pale, then slowly pour the hot butter and sugar mixture into the egg yolks – whisking constantly. Important: add the mixture in small amounts to avoid breaking down the sauce and scrambling the yolks!
In the absence of any nut allergies, including toasted, chopped pecans to the mix adds wonderful texture and flavor. These can be prepared in advance and added to the sauce just prior to serving. To toast, place on a sheet pan in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 5-10 minutes. Stir or shake the pan occasionally so the nuts brown evenly and don’t burn.
Just before the sauce is complete, place the brioche in individual shallow dessert bowls or plates. Pour the mixture over the brioche and serve immediately. For an extra-decadent dessert, add vanilla or caramel ice cream or a crème Chantilly.