À la Recherche du Pain Perdu

Today your narrator, just like the narrator in Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way, has eaten something that so reminds her of many a lost afternoon.  Can you guess?  It was pain perdu.

Pain perdu translates to lost bread or wasted bread as it is made from yesterday’s now stale remnants.  Though this sweet egg-soaked dish is made in many countries, I think pain perdu is the most poetic of its titles.  French toast seems a misnomer and eggy bread is too infantile for me to want it on my plate–even if it is nursery food.

Proust was the first person to coin the term involuntary memory.  It was the theme of his most prominent work, À la Recherche du Temps Perdu or In Search of Lost Time.   In the famous episode of the madeleine, he writes about flavors and textures summoning memories from decades past.

There is magic in the senses.  There is magic in food.  And sometimes they blur when we remember.  That’s why I wonder if my daughter will come to associate her mother’s pain perdu with rainy days as that’s when I always make it.  Kind of like how the rain reminds me of watching Hannah and Her Sisters for the first time years ago and discovering E.E. Cummings.

“nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands.”


sliced stale bread

1/3 cup milk per egg is the ratio I use

2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

pinch of salt

*you can also add 1 teaspoon of orange zest per 1/3 cup of milk and egg if you like

a plate of blanched slivered almonds

powdered sugar to dust the toast at the end

butter and syrup for serving



Put the milk, egg, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla bean paste, and salt in a wide shallow dish.


Whisk them together until well blended.

egg mixture

Dip your bread slices into the mixture.  Coat both sides then lay one side onto the plate of slivered almonds.

almond dipped

Place the almond side down in a lightly oiled frying pan.  Cook over medium-low heat on both sides.

frying pain perdu

Use a sifter to dust the pain perdu with powdered sugar.  Serve with butter and syrup.

pain perdu


And once you’ve finished your pain perdu, be sure to go out for some serious puddle splashing.

about to jumpkitty boots

jumpsplashdouble jump    falling in water  punim   snail

thinking girlHelenafall


Things That Stick to Your Ribs (A Profiteroles Recipe)


Yesterday, I walked a mile uphill in English rain just to drop an essay in the post to a magazine that does not accept submissions via email.  I got soaked along the way as I carried no umbrella.  Couldn’t.  I was pushing my stroppy daughter who bandied her legs about under the dryness of her stroller’s plastic cover.  In protest, she doused the inside with apple juice.  Spill-proof sippy cup, my eye.

This journey into the local village made me feel like an aspiring woman writer from yesteryear.  It was all very “Gosh, I hope the ink doesn’t run off the envelope in this storm and jeepers, wouldn’t it be swell if I heard back from the editor soon?  Note to self: don’t forget milk for the baby on the way home.”

When I came out of the post office, the downpour had stopped and there was a rainbow in the sky.  At the end of it was something better than gold.  It was Hand Made Food.  Hand Made Food is the best cafe and shop in Blackheath and their cheese selection is tops.  I decided to stop in and see if I could find any special ingredients as our friends, Alexei and Linda, were joining us for dinner.

Lucky me.  I found the creamiest Stichelton to substitute for the Iowa Maytag I knew I couldn’t get for my blue cheese dressing.  It was extremely subtle for a blue cheese and perfectly tangy.  Nothing at all like Roquefort whose piquancy borders on the rancio.  It was the perfect accompaniment to one of my favorite salads, that ubiquitous iceberg wedge of America in the 1950s served with piccolo tomatoes and crumbled bacon.

The rest of our menu was equally brawny.  Rump steak, wilted spinach, buttered potatoes with parsley, with bottles of Dao and Barolo to drink.  For dessert, I couldn’t help myself.  Perhaps I should have made something lighter but I didn’t want to.  Summer has left and England is going cold.  Besides my flirty, 60 year old, Cockney butcher with glinty eyes and a shiny smile made even sparklier because of a few gold teeth, told me I looked like I was wasting away and he’d make it his business to build me up before winter so I wouldn’t fade away.  Yeah, I made profiteroles.

Aptly described by a friend of mine as “Godless bundles of temptation,” profiteroles have always been more seductive to me than forbidden fruit to Eve.  Last night, they proved the same for Henry and our friends.


For my choux, I use Ina Garten’s profiteroles recipe.  Though the chocolate sauce I make is a little different from hers.  The recipe is below.  I hope you like it as much as our friend, Linda, did.  She gave it the thumb’s up.

baking cooling




100g bar of dark chocolate (I use Chocolat Menier), chopped

3 tablespoons Lyle’s golden syrup

3/4 cup double cream

1 teaspoon cinnamon

pinch of sea salt

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract



Place the chocolate and syrup in a double boiler.  Or if you’re like me and haven’t got one, place them in a bowl atop a gently boiling pot of water.  Once they begin to melt, add the cream and stir constantly to emulsify.  Before taking the syrup off the stove, mix in the cinnamon, salt, and vanilla.

Spoon the sauce over the profiteroles then garnish with toasted slivered nuts and soft fruit.

Store the remaining pastry in an airtight container.  Pour the chocolate sauce into a glass jar and refrigerate.  I promise this dessert is just as delicious and beautiful a day later as evidenced below.

a day later