Pain perdu (French toast) is my way to save day-old bread but today I added a twist to my plain recipe. I turned it into pain perdu cupcakes and flavored them with bananas and figs. To give them a unique flavoring, I used fennel seeds, which pair incredibly well with the ripe fruits.
I'm preparing for an upcoming food project these days (I'll tell you more about it soon) that requires focusing on bread, so we end up with loads of untouched baguettes. Given my aversion to waste, this dessert hits the spot. Pain perdu literally translates to "lost bread” and I can assure you that none of it was lost!
Servings: 10 cupcakes
1 day-old baguette, diced
1½ tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 fresh figs, coarsely chopped
5 ounces crème fraîche (or a substitute; see tips)
1½ cups milk
3 tablespoons hazelnut powder (or almond flour)
¾ cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon fennel seeds, dry-toasted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Grease the cavities of a cupcake pan with butter. Set aside.
For the fennel seed powder: In a mortar and pestle, grind the toasted fennel seeds. Crush all the nits and gather the fennel powder.
Dice the baguettes into about 1
½" cubes. Put the diced bread into a food processor and pulse several times; it's okay if there are remaining chunks of bread. The moisture from the dairy liquid will soften the bread. Transfer into
a large mixing bowl. Add the and milk. Soak for about 15-30 minutes.
Separate the eggs.
For the custard, beat the egg yolks in a mixing bowl with half the amount of granulated sugar until you get a pale yellow foam; the texture of the egg yolks will be thicker. Add the fennel powder, vanilla extract, chopped figs and hazelnut powder.
Combine the egg yolk mixture and the bread mixture.
In another bowl, add salt to the egg whites and whisk for about 2 minutes at low speed. Add the rest of the granulated sugar, increase the speed of your mixer and keep beating for another 2-3 minutes until it forms stiff peaks. Don't over-beat or the texture will become grainy.
Using a silicone spatula, mix 1/3 of the whipped egg whites into the egg yolk mixture to soften it. Add the rest of the whipped egg whites and gently fold them in to get an airy batter.
Pour the bread mixture into the cupcake pan; even it out using a spreader. Top with sliced bananas. Bake for 5 minutes at 375°F; lower the temperature to 350°F and bake for another 30-35 minutes. The texture of the bread pudding should be very soft and moist.
Depending on your preference, you can use any dairy products such as sour cream, heavy cream, half and half or milk.
I didn't have any, but you could add toasted sliced almonds to the pain perdu cake for more crunch.
How to make hazelnut flour: You can either buy ready-made hazelnut flour online or make it yourself. Place whole hazelnuts in a metal bowl and cover them with boiling water. Let sit for no longer than 2 minutes. Strain and transfer them into a cold water bath. Pat them dry on a towel, and the skins should come right off. Then grind them with a food processor or spice grinder. Make sure you stop before it turns into nut butter. I use the VitaMix Dry Blade Container. The result should be a fine mill. You can store the remainder of the nut powder in the freezer for future use.