Traditionally, pain perdu, the actually french french toast, is made with stale bread, because its a way of salvaging the otherwise unusable bread. Here in the mid-atlantic region, bread does not get a chance to go stale before it goes moldy, so we usually use fresh bread (although if you are hoping for the bread to soak up more of the egg mixture, place it on a baking sheet and dry it out in a warm oven before dipping the bread in the mixture and frying it). At home, we use regular sandwich bread, and at my grandmother's house, she makes it with bread from the Fenwick Bakery, where my grandfather worked for years before retiring. (Grandmom's is better, both because of the bread and because she won't let us do anything but sit there and eat, so the toast goes straight from the pan to our plates, no waiting, and no cooling of the food.)
Today I made french toast with brioche, a buttery, eggy bread with an almost cake-like crumb to it. I picked it up at work, so its sort of an Americanized version, with sparkling sugar melting into the crust. Making french toast out of brioche follows the same steps as using regular sandwich bread but it yields a subtly different result.
My grandmother taught me to make french toast without making any measurements, so this is more a method than a recipe, but here is how we do it:
for a single serving of two pieces of store bought sandwich bread sized toast, use one egg. Beat it until the yolk and white are combined. Add enough milk to lighten the yellow from yolky to a sort of sunshiney semi-pale yellow. Not as pale as butter, but a couple shades lighter than it had been. Add about half a teaspoon of vanilla, a dash of salt and a spoonful of sugar. Beat, and then soak the bread. Fry the bread until it is brown on both sides (we go a little darker than golden, but not burnt--a molasses color.) To serve, pour a tall glass of chocolate milk (for me) or regular milk (my brother), spread butter all over the hot toast and then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
Yes, I said cinnamon sugar. I know most people use maple syrup, powdered sugar, or fruit, but we have always used cinnamon sugar. The first time I ordered french toast in a restaurant, boy was I disappointed! Syrup is for pancakes, in my opinion. I never questioned why we use cinnamon, until this morning. I asked my mom, and she told me that when she was a kid, maple syrup was way too expensive for her family to afford, especially when feeding 4 children, 3 of whom were boys, hearty breakfasts every day. They bought King Syrup, a locally produced molasses-based syrup for their pancakes, and used cinnamon-sugar on their french toast just like they did on their regular toast. My grandfather still likes to put karo syrup on his pancakes sometimes, although they buy regular maple syrup for their grandchildren to use. When I was a kid, I remember trying pancakes with the Karo and liking it, though its a very different flavor than maple syrup, but I tried it a few years ago and no longer enjoy it. As my grandmother loves to point out when one of her grandkids doesn't want to eat something, tastebuds change.
The brioche, unsurprisingly, yields a slgihtly eggier, more buttery french toast, and despite the slices being much smaller than regular sandwich bread or the Fenwick bread, they're more filling. At home I'll eat two pieces of sandwich bread, at Grandmom's I'll eat 4 to 6 pieces of bakery bread. I made 5 pieces of brioche french toast, but could only eat two and a half. It's very good, but very filling. A rich treat for the occasional brunch.