Recipe Sleuth: Bourbon Steak’s Pain Perdu With Lavender Streusel

Photograph by Chris Leaman

Growing up in Lake Tahoe, Bourbon Steak pastry chef Santanna Salas was treated to her father’s fresh bread and breakfast every Sunday. For this dessert, she was inspired by his French toast, or pain perdu. The recipe is similar to one for the brunch favorite, but Salas adds a couple twists: She spices her milk base with ras el hanout—a North African blend of cinnamon, cardamom, chili, and other earthy spices—and she adds a crunchy streusel with dried lavender buds.

You can find ras el hanout and lavender Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Safeway. While you’re there, pick up a pint of Ben & Jerry’s cinnamon-toast ice cream—a good substitute for Salas’s house-made homage to Cinnamon Toast Crunch. While Salas uses blackberries to finish off her pain perdu, she says that any fresh fruit will do.
Recipe Sleuth: Bourbon Steak’s Pain Perdu With Lavender Streusel

Serves 10 to 12

Make the pain perdu base:

2 cups sugar, divided
3 cups whole milk
3 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon ras el hanout
Pinch salt
3 eggs
1 large loaf brioche, cut into ¼-inch slices

In a medium saucepot set over medium-high heat, add 1 cup sugar plus the milk, cream, ras el hanout, and salt, and bring to a scald.

Take the pan off the heat, and using an immersion blender, whisk, or standing blender, whip for 15 seconds to break up the spices. Cover the pot with plastic and allow the flavors to infuse for 20 minutes at room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator until it’s cool to the touch.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

Once the mixture is chilled, blend in the eggs using an immersion blender, whisk, or standing blender. Pass the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer, and pour into a large bowl.

Pour half the mixture into a shallow pan, and lay the brioche slices in it. Pour the other half over, and allow the slices to soak for five minutes before flipping them over.

Place the other cup of sugar in a shallow dish. Pat the brioche dry on a napkin, and let rest on a paper towel while you lightly coat a medium sauté pan with non-stick spray. Warm it over medium-low heat. Coat the brioche in sugar, and working in batches, let it caramelize in the pan, about 2 to 5 minutes per side. Place finished slices in the oven to keep warm.

Make the lavender streusel:

1 stick butter
4 cups sugar
7 cups flour
½ vanilla bean, split and scraped
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon dried lavender flowers, buds kept whole

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Combine all ingredients in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. On the lowest speed, mix until small balls start to form. Pass the streusel through a mesh strainer before baking.

Bake the streusel on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, breaking it up every  2 minutes with a spatula or wooden spoon when it begins to appear dry. Bake until it’s a very light golden color, about 6 minutes.

Assemble the dish:

Place each slice of pain perdu on a plate. Top with streusel and a scoop of cinnamon-toast ice cream.

See all Recipe Sleuths here

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Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.