Category Archives: French Toast

A Fall Flavored Brunch: Pumpkin & Cranberry French Toast with Cranberry Sauce

October 2013

Walking the hills of my neighborhood with my growing pup has made me acutely aware of seasonal changes: bright reds peeking under the lingering greens, spindly branches strewn across the sidewalks, crunching, crisp leaves underfoot and an increasing chill in the air. Mentally and physically, I retreat into hibernation mode, preferring to curl up under furry blankets rather than face the weather that gusts between nightlife and me.

Brunch Table for Two

My main defense against hibernation mode is to embrace and share the wonderful flavors the colder months bring. This defense isn’t fool proof. I still want people to come to my den, but at least it pulls me away from the cozy couch and ensures social interaction.

Foraged Florals

Foraged florals

Floral Table

Between the sunlight and the oven warmth, brunch is the perfect time to feature pumpkin, cranberry, maple, brown sugar and the spices so commonly linked to fall. Here’s to facing the increasing darkness, the colder winds and all the beautiful colors and flavors of the changing seasons!

Cranberries and Champagne

Organic Sparkling Cranberry Juice & Champagne with an Orange & Cranberry Twist

Honey and Cheese

Local Pears, Bellavitano Raspberry Wisconsin Cheese, Toasted Walnuts & Raw Honey

Fall French Toast

Fall Flavored French Toast with Cranberry Cider Sauce & Snap Whipped Cream

Fall Flavored French Toast

Ingredients

~10 slices stale bread (I used Seedless Rye + Sourdough)
Cardamom
Cinnamon
Nutmeg
8 oz organic Neufchatel cheese
3/4 cup organic pumpkin puree
1 cup organic dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

6 large organic eggs
2 cups local whole milk
1/3 cup organic heavy cream
1/3 cup + 1 Tablespoon organic brown sugar, divided
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons pure almond extract

Directions

Butter a 9×13 glass baking dish.

Arrange half of the bread slices in a base layer. Use smaller chunks to fill in any gaps.

Dollop and then spread the cream cheese over the base layer of the bread. Next spread on the pumpkin puree, then sprinkle with the various spices.

Add the dried cranberries and walnuts.

Cover with remaining slices of bread. Use smaller chunks to fill in any gaps.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the eggs, milk, heavy cream, brown sugar and extracts. Use a hand mixer to blend.

Pour the liquid over the bread layers, making sure it seeps into the top layer. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

*****

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Top with 1 Tablespoon of brown sugar.

Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes until top is golden brown. Cover with foil or parchment if the top starts to burn early.

Serve warm with cranberry sauce and homemade whipped cream.

Single-Grain

Cranberry & Cider Sauce

Ingredients

1 1/12 cups apple cider
1 cup pure cane sugar (raw sugar)
1/4 teaspoon salt
dash of ground cardamom
dash of ground cinnamon
dash of ground nutmeg

12 ounces fresh cranberries (or thawed frozen cranberries)
1 cup dried cranberries

zest of 1 organic orange (~1-2 Tablespoons)

Directions

Pour the cider, sugar, salt and spices into a medium-sized pot. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.

Add in the fresh cranberries and dried cranberries. Bring back to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes.

Remove from heat, and add orange zest.

Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Single-Grain

Snap Whipped Cream

1 cup organic heavy cream, chilled
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
dash of cinnamon
2 Tablespoons Art in the Age Snap

Directions

Combine the cream, vanilla, maple syrup and cinnamon in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on low until soft peaks form. Add the Snap and continue to beat until desired texture.

Voila. C’est tout! Bon appétit!

Citrus & Bourbon French Toast For A Brunch With Acadia

March 2013

We met over drafting boards, and we toiled over models. That was architecture school, and that was then.

Blood Orange Table Setting

This was now. This was brunch!

Cheers

We still had plenty of creative scheming to do, but with the focus on French toast, this scheming was far less stressful than the good ol’ architecture days.

Recipe for individual egg bakes pictured above will follow in a subsequent post.

Orange Apricot French Toast

Citrus & Bourbon French Toast

Ingredients 

4 Challah or brioche rolls (or 1 loaf) in 1-inch slices
orange honey butter (recipe below)
1 package (8oz) organic cream cheese
1/2 cup roasted, salted almonds, chopped
1 cup dried apricots, sliced

1/2 cup bourbon
3 cups organic whole milk
3 organic eggs
2 Tablespoons organic brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Generously grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with unsalted butter.

Arrange bread in a tightly-packed layer in the pan, using smaller chunks to fill in any gaps.

Spread the orange honey-butter over the bread. Follow with a layer of cream cheese.

Disperse the sliced apricots evenly over the cream cheese.

Add the final layer of bread slices, again filling in any gaps with smaller chunks.

Drizzle the bourbon over the top bread layer.

Whisk milk, eggs, sugar and salt and pour over the bread.

Sprinkle the chopped almonds over the surface.

Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight in order for the bread to absorb the liquid.

Bake at 425°F for 30-40 minutes, or until puffed and golden.

Cut into generous squares and serve with maple syrup and bourbon whipped cream.

Slice of Apricot Orange French Toast

Orange Honey Butter 

Ingredients

1/2 cup packed organic light brown sugar
3/4 cup orange zest (from about 4-5 oranges)

1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups honey
1 teaspoon pure orange extract
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions 

Use a mixer to beat softened butter, brown sugar, and zest in a bowl.

Add salt, honey, and extracts; beat until smooth, about 2 minutes.

*******************************************************************************

Bourbon Whipped Cream

Ingredients

1 cup organic heavy cream
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
3-4 Tablespoons Bourbon, to taste

Directions

In a chilled bowl, use chilled mixers to beat the heavy cream until soft peaks begin to form. Add the vanilla, maple syrup and bourbon and continue to beat just until incorporated. Keep chilled until ready to serve.

An Epic Brunch of Minis (Part II): Baked French Toast Cups

April 2012

My love of French toast, and conversely my inability to flip anything in a pan, leads to a lot of baked French toast at my brunching table.  The baked French toast is a blank canvas that can be painted with all sorts of colors and flavors, but for the Epic Brunch on my horizon, I sought to change the canvas as well!  I thought, “wouldn’t it be lovely if everyone felt like a little French toast had been made just for them?”  Thus another miniature menu item popped into my head (the first was the mini alliterative frittatas)!

(Bread from Left to Right)

Friendship Farms Buckwheat Barley Bread [available at Whole Foods PGH]
La Gourmandine’s Pain aux Cereales (Sesame, Flax and Sunflower seeds)
Ultimate Grains’ Double Fiber bread [available at Whole Foods PGH]

If you’re a Pittsburgher, do I have a bread tip for you!  The almond croissants in my eyes blinded me to a magical loaf of bread for far too long.  All these trips to La Gourmandine [my Pittsburgh salvation], and I was too pastry driven to notice the wonderfully grainy, yet pillowy loaf known eponymously as pain aux cereales.  If you’re in the neighborhood, pick up a loaf…on second thought… don’t pick up a loaf!  I want it!  It was only by restraint and a sheer desire for the utmost bread variety that any of that delightful purchase made it to the stale level of French toast potential.  My growing list of La Gourmandine obsessions will surely end in fisticuffs one fateful day!  Don’t let me see you snatch the last almond croissant before me in line.  You have been warned!

Individual Baked French Toasts
Makes 18 French Toast Cups

Ingredients

4 eggs (local/free-range)
2 cups organic buttermilk
5-6 chunks of bread/cupcake
~1 Tablespoon of [Bonne Maman] cherry preserves/cupcake
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract/cupcake
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract/cupcake
~1 Tablespoon of pure maple syrup/cupcake
Dash of cinnamon & nutmeg/cupcake
Slivered almonds
Organic brown sugar

Directions

Line a non-stick cupcake pan with natural parchment cupcake liners.

Add about 5-6 chunks of bread to each cupcake, followed by the cherry preserves, almond extract, vanilla extract, maple syrup and spices.

In a measuring glass, mix the eggs and buttermilk. Pour over each cupcake, making sure to fully saturate the top of the bread. Use additional buttermilk to saturate any dry pieces.

Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour, ideally overnight.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Sprinkle almond slivers and brown sugar on top of each cupcake.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

Serve with whipped maple mascarpone topping and Bonne Maman cherry preserves!

Whipped Maple Mascarpone Topping

Ingredients

1 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl. Use an electric mixer to beat until smooth and creamy.  ‘Tis all!

Stay tuned for the rest of the Epic Brunch of Miniature Proportions!

A Very French Baked French Toast & Roasted Pineapple

March 2012

It was the bright and sunny brunching hour at the special cabin in the woods, but more importantly, it was the last brunching hour of the long weekend, so we treated ourselves to a decadent baked French toast!

This decadence stemmed from the substitution of croissants for bread and a layer of Justin’s chocolate hazelnut nutbutter (more wholesome than nutella!), making for a very French, French toast!  One rather rich thought entered my mind as I was making this… can you even fathom a bite of baked French toast made with almond croissants?!?!  One bite would surely be heaven, and one bite would surely be enough! Perhaps I’ll try that one day!

Baked Croissant French Toast

Inspired by Bon Appétit

Ingredients

5 all butter croissants, cut lengthwise

2 Tablespoons Justin’s chocolate hazelnut butter
*1 cup homemade bourbon whipped cream (recipe below)

5 large eggs (local/free-range)
3/4 cup organic buttermilk
1 Tablespoon pure maple syrup

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 Tablespoon organic brown sugar

extra maple syrup

For the Baked French Toast

Grease an 11×7 glass baking dish with butter.

Create one layer of croissants using four bottom halves.

In a bowl, whip the bourbon whipped cream and chocolate hazelnut butter together until creamy.

Add the 4 croissants tops. Use the remaining croissant to fill in any gaps.

In a mixing bowl, beat together the eggs, buttermilk and maple syrup.

Pour the egg mixture over the croissants, making sure to fully saturate the top layer.

Sprinkle with the cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar.

Let sit for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Bake until golden brown and set in the middle, about 40 minutes.  Serve with maple syrup.

*Bourbon Whipped Cream

Ingredients

1 cup organic heavy cream
3 Tablespoons Bourbon (Buffalo Trace)
3 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 Tablespoon organic brown sugar

For the Whipped Cream

In a chilled bowl, combine all of the ingredients. Use an electric mixer to beat until peaks form.  Keep chilled until ready to serve.  Add a dollop to your brunch cup of coffee while you’re at it!

Roasted Pineapple with Pistachios 
Adapted from Bon Appétit 

Ingredients

1/2 cup (packed) organic brown sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 medium ripe pineapple, peeled, cored, cut into wedges or chunks
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/3 cup natural unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons torn fresh mint leaves

Preparation

Preheat oven to 450°.

Stir first 3 ingredients in a large bowl until sugar dissolves.

Add pineapple; toss to coat.

Let marinate, tossing occasionally, for 10 minutes.

Place pineapple, one flat side down, on a nonstick skillet; reserve marinade.

Roast pineapple for 15 minutes.

Stir/flip, brush with marinade, and roast until tender and caramelized, 10–15 minutes.

Drizzle with remaining marinade; let cool slightly.

Arrange pineapple on a plate.

Spoon Greek yogurt on top of the pineapple. Garnish with pistachios and fresh mint.

The sun was as warm and golden as that roasted pineapple.  When March hands you a warm, sunny day, there is no choice but to spend as much of the afternoon outside as possible, especially when that afternoon takes place at a cabin in the woods.

Oh that big hunk o’ man?!?  He’s my lumberjack boyfriend.  No big deal.

The grasses, trees and mountains began to yawn and stretch, as they gradually awoke from their winter slumbers.  For though the sun was quick to warm us that weekend, the grasses, trees and mountains had been dormant for many a cold, wintry month.  Their warmth was yet to come!

As a newcomer to that special cabin in the woods, part of my privilege is discovering the changes the seasons bring over the mountains, valleys and wooden beams.  I can’t wait to see how the cabin gussies himself with spring flowers and bright green grasses!

(…until the next, greener, sunnier times that is)

Header_leftovers and syrup

Leftovers and Inspiration

February 2012

The gray, somewhat snowy, somewhat rainy, altogether sludgy days are abundant in this part of Pennsylvania.  I often ask myself what I’m still doing here, since I have an inherent need for sun on my skin.  Despite my desires to be in a warmer, bigger elsewhere, I welcomed all the gray this day had to bring.  I’ve recently begun a sincere attempt to switch my thinking, to synthesize happiness and to find at least three positives in each day…

1.  A quiet, reflective consumption of delicious French toast leftovers from time well spent with a dear and crazy friend.

2.  You know the feeling the gray days bring- wanting to curl up with tea and a good book?  The union of that feeling and the ability to do just that is really perfect!

3.  A day to myself.  No place to go.  Nowhere to be.  Just me, a sheep skin, my arm chair, my window light, a good view, my tea and contentment.

Bonuses:  the perfect size and sentiment of grandma’s gradation mug, the warming effect of yellows, pools of pure maple syrup, the ease and payoff of making homemade whipped cream, finding a friend’s drawings in my reading material !!!

I’m really quite lucky!

To Happy Gray Days!

World Nutella Day Commemorative Brunch

February 5, 2012

Someday I’ll have a calendar marked with all the quirky, commemorative food “holidays” (does that calendar already exist somewhere?).  Last year, I discovered I had just missed World Nutella Day, but I did what any modern girl on a mission might do:  I marked my Google calendar and let technology take care of the rest for me!  Last year, I also discovered what I had always thought was the result of a flash of French brilliance was actually an Italian invention.

Fast forward to 2012, and my calendar reminded me I had a celebration in store!  When Italy is due kudos, it’s my time to queue Nina, the best gift Italy ever gave me (albeit it via America, but she does have the passaporto)!

I am not one to argue against the flavor combination of chocolate and hazelnut, but I do have a few objections to some other items on the Nutella ingredient list.  Thus, I made my own version…my own “rustic” version (my food processor is a bit on the tired side) and then put it in between layers of panettone bread for a really rich flavor and an additional nod to Italy.

Look what happens when we pretend!!!
(click on the image ↓ below ↓ to see us in action!)

We channeled the best of Italy- the curvaceous women of Fellini films, donned our sunglasses for a spell and proceeded to pretend we were sitting at an Italian cafe.

Little trays with a view certainly help the Sunday morning game of pretend…

Brunch beverages…

One Village Coffee (with a dollop of homemade whipped cream, perhaps?) and a cinnamon swizzle stick for a touch of fancy and spice!

Blood Orange Bellini and a toast… to our inner Sophias!

World Nutella Day Baked French Toast

I had some egg nog approaching its final days.  Being the daughter of invention, I used that egg nog for a really decadent milk source in the custard sauce.  Waste not, eat creatively!  Feel free to use regular milk instead.

World Nutella Day Recipe:  Baked French Toast

Ingredients

Organic, unsalted butter
1 loaf Panetonne bread in 1-inch slices,
1 cup homemade nutella
pure maple syrup
Goat cheese (Soignon), sliced
Mixture of cinnamon, raw sugar and cocoa
3 cups organic egg nog
2 eggs (local/free-range)
2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons Frangelico
1 Tablespoon AITA Root
2 Tablespoons organic brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Generously grease a 9×9-inch baking dish with butter.

Arrange bread in a tightly-packed layer in the pan.

Smooth a layer of homemade nutella over the bread, followed by maple syrup and the slices of goat cheese.

Use the remaining slices of bread to complete the top layer. Sprinkle with a mixture of cinnamon, raw sugar and cocoa.

Whisk egg nog, eggs, vanilla extract, Frangelico, Root, brown sugar and salt. Pour over the bread. You probably will have extra liquid, but make sure the mixture seeps into the top layer of bread.

Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight.

Bake at 425 degrees F for 30 minutes, or until puffed and golden.

Cut into squares and serve with maple syrup and homemade whipped cream.

Homemade Whipped Topping

Ingredients

1 cup organic heavy cream, chilled
1-2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
1-2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1-2 Tablespoons Kraken Rum

Directions

Step One:  Release the Kraken!

Step Two:  Combine all of the ingredients in a chilled bowl.

Step Three:  Use an electric mixer to beat until stiff peaks form.  Keep chilled until ready to serve.

Step Four:  Heap onto French toast and maybe even add a dollop into your cup of coffee!

Felice festa di Nutella!

[Mi dispiace io non parlo italiano.]

Finale.

Fall Back Brunch

November 2011

When you receive a gift of an extra hour of sleep somewhere between late night Saturday dancing and Sunday morning sunshine, the best way to celebrate is to preheat the oven and unwind with a lazy day of brunching.  It’s even better when a friend can join!

The Days Prior…

When I saw Kelly Carámbula’s concoction (I am also a fan of her site), I was so inspired I made a point to buy rum.  I’m no rum expert, so I allowed myself to be lured by the Kraken squid (watch the Kraken videos!!).

Though the recipe calls for a couple days of infusing, my busy schedule led to a quite thorough infusion.  My Fall Back Brunch was the perfect opportunity for the much anticipated fall flavor, and the result did not disappoint.  It was like sipping a pumpkin milkshake!  Much of my version was made according to my tastes, so the documented measurements are approximate.  Keep sampling little spoonfuls as you go and lookout for giant squid!

Infused Rum Ingredients

1 mason jar of dark rum, like Kraken
4 large cinnamon sticks

Cocktail Ingredients

7-10 ounces (about half a can) organic pumpkin purée
1 cup cinnamon-infused rum
7 ounces (about half a can) sweetened condensed milk
5 dashes Angostura bitters
Ground Nutmeg
Ground Cinnamon
Ice block or cubes

For The Infused Rum

Combine the cinnamon sticks and rum in a large mason jar.  Close with a lid and place in a dark area for 3-7 days, gently shaking daily.

For The Cocktail

In a large pitcher, combine the pumpkin purée, rum, condensed milk and bitters. Gently stir until fully combined.

Pour over a couple ice cubes, and sprinkle ground nutmeg and cinnamon over each glass.

Time for oven warmth…

As it turned out, my kitchen had plenty of fall flavors and leftovers lending to a very delightful baked French toast.

The Flavors of Fall French Toast (baked)

Ingredients

Layers
Unsalted butter for greasing baking dish
Organic brown sugar, to taste
4 Challah rolls from Mediterra Bakehouse & a few rolls from this friendly fella
1 cup organic pumpkin puree
1 cup mascarpone cheese
2-3 cups apple pie filling****
1 cup natural dried cranberries
2 cups toasted pecans

Liquid
Pinch of salt
4 eggs (local/free-range)
¼ cup chai concentrate
3/4 cup local whole milk
1/2 cup local maple syrup
2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract
Lots o’ local maple syrup for serving!

(Click the photo step by step to enlarge ↓)

Use the butter to grease a rectangular glass pan.

Slice the challah rolls and arrange the slices on the baking dish.

Follow with a layer of the pumpkin, followed by the mascarpone cheese, apple pie filling, cranberries and pecans.

Top with another layer of bread slices.

Whisk together the salt, eggs, milk, maple syrup and vanilla.

Pour the egg mixture over the bread, making sure it fully seeps into the top layer.

Let the bread soak up the liquid for at least 45 minutes, preferably overnight.  Drizzle any extra wine sauce from the pie filling over the surface.

Once properly saturated, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the baking dish on the middle rack in the oven and cook for 30 to 45 minutes or until the egg mixture is set, and the bread is golden brown.

Cut into squares and then drizzle generously with pure maple syrup.

How-To-Make-French-Toast

Time for the Brunch!

Welcome to my dining room table…

Time for the antics…
(this could very well be why people think I am legitimately crazy?!?  Nah…)

Fall-Back-Brunch-Antics

Time to dig in…

Time to play some more…

Time to adapt to darkness so early on a Sunday evening.

Fin.

I Love You Both, so Let’s Brunch!

July 2011

If there had been a heart shaped necklace split in two that said “Best” and “Neighbors,” Nikkie and I would have worn those necklaces “so hard,” as Nikkie would say!  Beeler Street brought us together, and our shared stoop made us the best of friends!  We sat on that stoop in all kinds of weather, but especially on the sunniest of days.  Nikkie and I were like the neighborhood watch, but not in a safety surveillance way.

We just enjoyed piecing together people’s lives based on what we could observe:  the girl’s progression through the typical college hippy stages; the girl hopelessly in love with her [attractive] male roommate only to be let down but visibly “brave” when his [rather unimpressive] girlfriend came for graduation; the nerdy boy who simultaneously attempted rollerblading and pushing a dolly for the first time, resulting in a flailing fall to the grass; the egos of the football players from the nerd school where only the football players cared about (or even knew about) the football team; [unfortunately] the neighbor who felt the need to parade around naked in his break with society; the robotic speed walker; so on and so forth!

We may have been watching the world, but we also learned so much about each other (and papier-mached together!). Nikkie is one of the most solidly rooted women I know.  She is sharper than a tack, creative, talented, humorous and wise beyond her years.  She knows exactly what she wants and how to take a stand for herself.  I truly valued her insights and support, and when I moved away from that stoop to another part of town, I was sad for one reason only:  no more stoop sessions with Nikkie.  We managed to talk in other ways and see each other every now and then, but the times were never the same quality as our stoop days.  Meanwhile, Nikkie had made quite a few big changes in her life and made a big decision:  a move to Atlanta!

I do declare that Nikkie and I will meet again.  I’m sure of it!  I even fancy a visit to the south to see her in a new context.  I couldn’t let her go without a proper send off, so I set the scene for a Sunday brunch and a third character entered stage left:  Deanna.

Deanna and I met through Nikkie.  What really took us from two friends of Nikkie to two friends was two particular circumstances.  The first was a particularly disappointing tree tending workshop, in which we sat in a community center room and looked at an excessive quantity of slides of diseased trees.  We had to find humor in that, or it would have just been sad.  The second circumstance was an encounter at the farmers’ market that led to a night of goodwill shopping.  Deanna had visions of channeling Dolly Parton via a zombie, and I walked away with an incredible print of a Native American in a tacky gold frame.

From then on, there were Afro-Carribbean dance classes, swimming in a man made lake, bicycle rides, a night at the symphony, so on and so forth.  Deanna has such an amazing spirit!  She is always trying something new, and she makes me laugh so hard my sides hurt.  When I fell for the song “Jolene” by Dolly Parton, I knew one person would understand my days on replay:  Deanna!

Imagine both of those smart, assertive, smiling ladies at one table, and you begin to understand why my focus is turning to Sunday brunches with the important people in my life.  For these lovelies, I really played with my ingredients.  Could bleu cheese really join French toast at the brunch table?  The combination of figs and bleu cheese was inspired by a memory shared with another smart, beautiful, sharp witted woman in my life:  Magali Duzant.

Back in our Paris days, we prepared a little indoor pique-nique of a similar palate but in a more savory sense.  I risked the combination for brunch, and I am ever so glad I did!  It was a delicious morning with delightful ladies!

Figgy Compote
Makes about 1-1/2 cups

Ingredients
14 ounces dried figs
Red wine
1/8 cup dried cranberries*
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Fresh juice and zest from one lemon

*I would have used ¼ cup dried cranberries, but that was all that the cupboard supplied.

For the Figgy Compote

Cut the figs into fourths and put in a bowl.  Add enough red wine to cover the figs.  Set aside for at least an hour and up to overnight.

In a small pot over medium-low heat, combine figs, cranberries and wine.

Cook until reduced to a jam consistency, about 20 minutes.

Remove from heat.

In a food processor, combine the fig jam, the lemon juice, the lemon zest and vanilla until pureed.

Toasted Walnuts

Ingredients

2 cups walnuts
A few squeezes from your local honey bear

For the Walnuts

Heat the walnuts over high heat until fragrant, stirring occasionally.

Add a splash of water.  Drizzle honey over the nuts.  Stir.

Remove from heat.

Cool. Chop.  Dance.  Sing if inclined.

Figgy Bleu Baked French Toast
Or…Baked Bleu Figgy French Toast (for more alliteration)

Ingredients

Unsalted butter for greasing baking dish
Organic brown sugar, to taste
2 Challah rolls from Mediterra Bakehouse & half a loaf (a rustic loaf, so some of the slices are smaller) of Honey Oatmeal Raisin wheat bread from Friendship Farms
2 cups fig compote*  (see above recipe)
2 cups toasted walnuts* (see above recipe)
Crumbled blue cheese
Pinch of salt
4 eggs (local/free-range)
1 cup local whole milk
1/2 cup local maple syrup
Lots o’ local maple syrup for serving!

Use the butter to grease a rectangular glass pan.   Spread a thin layer of the brown sugar on the pan.

Slice the challah rolls and arrange the slices on the baking dish.

Follow with a layer of the figgy compote, then bleu cheese, then the walnuts.  Here is where it starts to look like a bad, box, stuffing mix, but I swear, it all tasted delicious in the end.

Assemble the raisin bread slices, and then set aside.

Whisk together the salt, eggs, milk and maple syrup.

Pour the egg mixture over the bread, making sure it fully seeps into the top layer.

Let the bread soak up the liquid for at least 45 minutes, preferably overnight.

Once properly saturated, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the baking dish on the middle rack in the oven and cook for 30 to 45 minutes or until the egg mixture is set, and the bread is brown.

Cut into squares and then dust with powdered sugar and drizzle with maple syrup.

Mango Parfaits
(From the base to the top)

Layer one:  Puréed mango
Layer Two:  2% Greek Yogurt + a smidge of local honey
Layer Three:  Puréed mango
Garnish:  Crushed pistachios, raspberries, a little of squashed raspberry juice and a slice of mango

Chill the entire thing in the freezer before serving

I present to you le table

Cold brew coffee, a summer brunch necessity!

The final figgy French toast and the cocktail ingredients (Prosecco + Organic Cherry Lemonade + Fresh cherry/strawberry purée)

I mixed some of the remaining fig compote with pure maple syrup, in a sauce pan, over medium heat, to combine.

The brunching ladies in blue!  I didn’t even tell them what to wear, and we all matched the table!

C’est fini for the brunching portion of the day.

It was time to take these ladies to the neighborhood pool!

Gone swimmin’.  Leave a message.

Baked Freedom Toast

July 4th Weekend

I am a Francophile and a French toast lover.  This much is clair.  However, when red, white and blue are flying high for the fourth of July, I have to make semantic adjustments.  Thus, I present to you, a rare case of patriotism and a great excuse for brunching!

Red, White & Blue Baked Freedom Toast    

Rhubarb Compote

2 ½ cups 1-inch pieces fresh local rhubarb
¾  cup raw sugar
¼ cup Shiraz (The Accomplice 2009)

For the Compote

Combine all ingredients in heavy large saucepan.

Bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves.

Reduce heat to medium-low.  Simmer until rhubarb is very soft and begins to fall apart, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.

Transfer compote to a bowl or jar.

Refrigerate uncovered until cold, about 3 hours.

Freedom Toast Ingredients:

1 Tablespoons organic unsalted butter
¼ to ½ cup organic brown sugar, depending on taste
4 challah rolls
1 pint blueberries
1 quart organic, local strawberries, sliced
Cinnamon to taste
1 package Neufchatel cheese
3 eggs + 2 egg whites (local, free-range)
1 cup local whole milk
1/4 cup local pure maple syrup
2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract

Final Touches

*Rhubarb Compote
Chopped Pecans
Organic powdered sugar
Local pure maple syrup

Directions

Cut each challah roll into slices. Set aside.

Whisk together eggs, milk, maple syrup and vanilla.  Set aside.

Coat a rectangular, glass, baking pan with the butter and then sprinkle with brown sugar.

Assemble the first layer of challah into the pan.

Then assemble another layer directly on top of the first.

Pour the egg mixture over the bread being sure that it seeps into every crevice and covers each piece of bread on the surface.

Let the bread soak up some of the liquid for at least 45 minutes to overnight.

Prior to brunching time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the baking dish on the middle rack in the oven and cook for 30 to 45 minutes or until the egg mixture is set and the bread is brown.

Remove from the oven and spread a layer of the rhubarb compote and chopped pecans.  Return to the oven for 5 minutes, until the compote is warm and ready to serve.

Dust with powdered sugar.

Bring to the brunching table with the other delectables.

Serve and drench with maple syrup.

Salute your flag!

Very French Toast

March 2011

In all my days in France, I never ate French toast, but here in the U.S. of A it’s one of my very favorite things when made with a proper bread and the purest of maple syrups.  Usually while I am here in les États-Unis, I am dreaming of France.  Somehow, all these things come together in my mind, and it all makes syrup-drenched sense.

I sometimes wonder whether or not my subconscious is what stops me from eating all the bread when it is fresh.  A part of me is always plotting and pining for baked French toast.

First Step:  Place a layer of bread slices on the pan.

Second step:  Blend the 1/3 cup honey, 1 package of Neufchâtel cheese and pure vanilla extract in a food processor until smooth.  Add to the bread slices leaving enough for a second layer.

Third Step:  Follow by a layer of thawed blueberries and the rest of the cream cheese mixture.

Fourth Step:  Add the remaining bread slices to the layers.

Fifth Step:  In a large bowl, blend the milks, eggs, spices, salt and rum.  Pour the mixture over the layers, making sure the top layer is saturated.  Set aside for at least one hour or better yet, overnight.

Sixth Step:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bring the French toast to room temperature.  Bake for 40-45 minutes.

Serve to friends on a sunny morn with a side of homemade ginger applesauce, Black Forest Bacon, plenty of maple syrup and coffee with room for cream!

Fin.

Birthday Brunch Preparations: Boozy Baked French Toast

January 2011

I don’t have a waffle maker, and pancakes usually prove difficult for me for reasons already stated.  However, my brunch tastes lean heavier on the sweeter breakfast side of the mid-morning.  Thus, baked French toast is my sweet, sweet salvation, and I was quick to volunteer it for my birthday brunch.  There are so many possibilities, and this one was brand new in my book and a little bit boozy.  It’s my party, and I will have booze in my breakfast-lunch!

Ingredients

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 loaf Saint Vincent Gristmill Monastery Bread
1 jar of Bonne Maman cherry preserves
1 package of Neufchatel cheese
1 package of cream cheese
toasted walnuts and pecans
5 local, free-range, eggs
1 1/2 cups soured local whole milk
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon Frangelico
1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Mix in brown sugar and maple syrup, stirring until sugar is dissolved.

Pour melted butter mixture into a 9×13 inch baking dish.

Arrange bread in the baking dish in a single layer.

Spread the layer of Neufchatel cheese over the bread slices followed by the layer of cherry preserves.

Sprinkle the toasted walnuts and pecans over the preserves.

In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, whole milk, vanilla extract, Frangelico and salt. Pour over the bread.

Cover, and chill at least 8 hours, or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

Remove the dish from the refrigerator, and bring to friend’s home before brunch begins.

Bake uncovered 35 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven, until puffed and lightly browned.

Serve to good people with the rest of the good food and celebrate [again] 27 years of life!

The French Birthday Theme Continues

January 2011

Quelcy, what would you like for breakfast now that you are twenty-seven?

Easy!  Baked French Toast!

POST-BIRTHDAY, BAKED, FRENCH TOAST:  THE VISUAL RECIPE

Ingredients

Directions

Or …

POST-BIRTHDAY, BAKED, FRENCH TOAST:  THE WRITTEN RECIPE

3 challah hot dog rolls, sliced
Local Apple Butter
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, cut into cubes
1 lg. farmer’s market apple, peeled and sliced
ground cinnamon
ground nutmeg
ground ginger
dried cranberries
walnuts
maple syrup
6 local, free-range eggs
1 c. milk

Grease a rectangular glass pan.

Create the first layer of challah slices evenly across the pan.

Spread a thin layer of apple butter across the slices.

Disperse chunks of the cream cheese across the bread.

Top with the slices of apples.

Sprinkle the spices.

Toss cranberries and walnuts evenly on top of the mixture.

Drizzle maple syrup.

Cover with another layer of challah slices and any crumbs or chunks of bread that have formed in the slicing process.

Whisk the eggs and the milk together.

Distribute the egg and milk mixture evenly over the bread, making sure all the slices are saturated.

Set aside to soak for an hour or overnight.

Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven about 35 minutes, or until set and golden brown on the surface.

Serve with a healthy serving of local, real maple syrup, a side of hot chocolate and milk the 27th year of life a little more!

Meanwhile…

The best dog in the world enjoyed his treat from my fancy birthday dinner at Le Pommier: the bones from my shortribs!  He’s really a francophile at heart!

One Pumpkin, Part Two: Pumpkin Cranberry French Toast

November 2010

The carpenter’s Thanksgiving meal coma kept him deep in slumber, but I was alert with visions of brunch.  The heat from the lovin’ oven piqued the attention of the old dog, and he was steadily at the apron strings, awaiting a fallen bit of brunch.

Black Friday Baked French Toast

Ingredients

5 or 6 thick slices country bread (country seed + bread I made)
3 eggs + 2 egg whites (all local, free-range)
1 cup local whole milk
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ginger
½ cup toasted walnuts
1 cup fresh cranberries, sliced
pure maple syrup for serving

Directions

Cut each slice of bread in half and then in quarters.  Set aside.

Whisk together eggs, milk, maple syrup, pumpkin puree, vanilla and spices.

Assemble one layer of bread slices fitting it in like puzzle pieces. Then assemble another layer directly on top of the first. Pieces don’t have to fit perfectly, but it helps if they are all laying flat.

Sprinkle the sliced cranberries and chopped walnuts over the top of the bread.

Pour the pumpkin mixture over the bread being sure that it seeps into every crevice and covers each piece of bread.

In the time that it takes to clean the dishes and take an old dog on a short walk, let the bread absorb the liquid.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Bake the French toast on the middle rack for 30 to 45 minutes or until the pumpkin is set and bread is brown.

Cut into squares, dust with powdered sugar and drizzle with maple syrup.

Wake gentleman friend with promises of baked french toast and coffee!  Oh and bacon too!