OK, it’s French toast, and maybe even particularly un-French -- it just sounds better with all those lovely, lined-up Gallic rimes. Spirits in pastry can be the sort of novelty that’s both over- and mis-used, but there’s something almost pre-determinedly perfect about this combination: the vanilla, spice and custard notes so common to Kentucky bourbon coincide serendipitously with the dish’s classic ingredients. Fate that they should meet.
The rub here is personalizing the proportions to play off of, and into, the particular character of your favorite Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.
In our case, it’s Buffalo Trace: we go light on the vanilla to let the natural sweetness of the spirit shine through, but it’ll definitely hold up to our heavier hand on the spices, especially if you like your morning on the savory side.
Bourbon Pain Perdu
Serves 2 to 4
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 shot (a little over 1/8th cup) Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky of your choice (lower-proof whiskeys work better)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon or smoked cinnamon, ground
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 whole baguette or challah on the fresh-ish side, cut on the bias into half-inch pieces
maple syrup, to serve
Preheat the oven to 200ºF. Combine cream, milk, cream, eggs, bourbon, vanilla and spices in a large mixing bowl or baking dish. Beat until frothy. Soak the baguette pieces in the mixture, turning after a minute to coat both sides. Do it in batches if necessary, but give the mixture a quick re-whisk between each round. In a large, medium-hot skillet, melt the butter until the foam settles down. Working in batches again, pan-fry the baguette pieces -- flipping once and adding another pat or so of butter -- until dark golden brown, about three minutes per side. Transfer finished pieces to a baking sheet in the oven to keep warm.
Serve with warm maple syrup, and not with the leftover bourbon. Let’s just not be those people.
Chris Koch is a spirits journalist based in St. Louis, where he writes about scotch, whisky, and anything that's ever been bottled or bartended.