When my sister and I were children, my mother would serve us French toast as a rare and special treat. My sister learned the technique and we feasted many more times on them. It is a luxury I enjoy sharing with my dinner party guests and have here served it with two other luxurious flavours of chocolate and macerated strawberries. Chocolate as a soup is as delicious as it sounds and quite easy to prepare.
The earliest reference to frying bread that has been dipped in milk comes from the 4th century Roman text of ‘De Re Coquinaria’ compiled at the decline of the Roman empire but romantically attributed to the celebrated Roman gastrophile Marcus Gavius Apicius from the reign of emperor Tiberius in the 1st century AD. The bread is described as being decrusted, dipped in milk, then fried in olive oil and topped with honey.
The term ‘pain perdu’ is French for ‘lost bread’ and refers to the way that bread that has been dried out can be revived by dipping it into milk and eggs and then fried.
I have been generous with the recipe quantities for the chocolate soup in case there are demands for more from your guests. Prepare all the ingredients on the day. The warm strawberries, warm soup and vanilla cappuccino are prepared just prior to serving the guests.
For the pain perdu
10 thick slices brioche cut into 4 inch (10 cm) discs
1 cup (250 gms) caster sugar
1 1/2 cups (350 mls) milk
1 tbsp cognac
3 tbsp unsalted butter
First create the batter by whipping the eggs, sugar, milk and Cognac. Soak the brioche discs in the batter for about 5 minutes. Heat the butter in a skillet and fry each coated disc for about 2 minutes each side. keep the pain perdu dry.
For the macerated strawberries
30 strawberries, quartered
1/2 cup (100 gms) caster sugar
1/2 cup (125 mls) Cognac
1 tbsp butter
Coat the strawberries in the sugar and Cognac then let them rest in a bowl for 5 minutes. Heat a skillet with butter then fry the strawberry quarters for 30 seconds or until they begin to caramelize.
For the chocolate soup
3/4 cup (125 gms) 75% cocoa dark chocolate
1/2 cup (125 mls) milk
1 1/2 cups (350 mls) double cream
Combine the milk, cream and sugar in a pan and heat gently, whisking until the chocolate has melted
For the vanilla cappuccino
3/4 cup (125 mls) milk
Seeds of 1 vanilla pod
1 tsp lecithin granules
Place the milk and vanilla seeds into a pan then warm it gently to about 120 F (50 Celsius) stirring all the time. Overheating the milk will prevent the froth from forming. Add the lecithin granules and froth the flavoured milk using a stick blender, holding the blender in such a way as to incorporate as much air as possible. Wait a few moments for the froth to form.
Constructing the dish
Young mint leaves
Arrange the pain perdu disc eccentrically on a rectangular or oval dish and add layers of the macerated strawberries in the centre. Arrange the mint leaves and dust over with icing sugar through a tea strainer. Pour the warm chocolate so it reaches about 4/5 of the way up a shot glass. Layer the vanilla cappuccino froth to the top of the glass. place the glass next to the pain perdu and serve.