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.
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.
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!
Fall Flavored French Toast
~10 slices stale bread (I used Seedless Rye + Sourdough)
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
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.
Cranberry & Cider Sauce
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)
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.
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
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!