The French influence on many Caribbean islands is unmistakable – especially in the cuisine. Martinique, St. Barts and Guadeloupe are all a Francophile’s tropical dream. This sweet and delicious bread recipe, pain perdu, is a classic French dish that translates to “lost bread.” The warming twist from the West Indian spiced caramel syrup also makes it the perfect recipe for chilly autumn days.
West Indian Spiced Caramel Syrup
3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 cup heavy cream
1 whole vanilla bean
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of white pepper
Pinch of allspice
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 tablespoon lemon zest
Juice of 2 lemons
1 pound butter, room temperature
1 cup orange juice
½ cup heavy cream
2 eggs, whisked
½ tablespoon Chinese five-spice powder
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 loaf brioche bread, cut into 1½-inch-thick slices and dried on a wire rack overnight
5 tablespoons clarified butter
1½ cups West Indian Spiced Caramel Syrup
½ cup crushed macadamia nuts
Fresh tropical fruit (such as mango, pineapple or banana), for garnish
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
FOR THE WEST INDIAN SPICED CARAMEL SYRUP: In a large, heavy pan over medium heat, cook the sugar until caramelized to a dark amber color, about 15 minutes. Break the caramel with the vinegar. Whisk in the heavy cream and blend. Add the vanilla bean, cinnamon, pepper, allspice, ginger, lemon zest and juice and bring the sauce to a boil. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sugar crystallizes. Whisk in the butter.
Pour through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl and keep warm until needed.
FOR THE PAIN PERDU: In a large bowl, whip together the orange juice, cream, eggs, five-spice powder and ginger. Whisk until well blended and frothy. Pour into a 9-by-13-inch pan. Lay the bread on top of the egg mixture for 1 minute. Turn the bread and let stand for 5 minutes.
In a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat, melt half of the butter. Place half of the bread in the skillet and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Remove and set aside to keep warm. Heat the second half of the butter and cook the second batch of bread. Serve the toast hot with caramel syrup, macadamia nuts, and fresh tropical fruit. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and enjoy a little taste of the French Caribbean.