As I'm sure almost everyone knows by now, pain pendu (literally, "lost bread") was invented by the French as a way to salvage stale baguettes, which is handy since baguettes seem to go stale about 10 minutes after they come out of the oven. (Not joking here: many French visit the bakery twice a day to get their morning and evening baguettes.)
Here's the recipe -- ridiculously simple. If you don't have a vanilla bean (or don't want to sacrifice to French Toast the one you paid 5 bucks for at Williams-Sonoma), you can substitute -- never mind, you can't; it won't be the same. In the photograph, the dark strip at the top of the slice on the right is a wayward piece of bean.
8 1-inch-thick slices day-old baguette
About 1/4 cup of milk
A tablespoon or so heavy cream
1 vanilla bean
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons butter
- Slice one side of a vanilla bean from end to end, so you can fold it open like a book. Then, using a paring knife, scrape off the interior of the bean.
- Add the milk, egg, cream, a dash of salt, and bean scrapings to a bowl and stir thoroughly. Cut the bean casing in half and toss that in as well.
- Warm the mixture in a microwave or on the stovetop, remove from heat, and let sit for at least 10-15 minutes.
- Soak the baguette slices in the mixture while preheating a large skillet, turning frequently. Soak until all the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes.
- Add butter to skillet, and saute the bread at medium heat, being careful not to burn the bread.
- Serve with maple syrup.