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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Ellen's Test Kitchen--French Toast

So I am in the middle of testing those two recipes I mentioned in my last post--baked brioche french toast and polenta mushroom diamonds.

Finished product.  Delish! 
The baked brioche french toast is amazing.  I am pretty impressed that the bread machine made such nice brioche.  I made only a half recipe of the french toast to try it out.  Not because I was unsure what I would do with all that french toast, but because I know exactly what I would do -- eat it.  That said, after having what the recipe said was one serving for breakfast this morning, I am wondering if I should have just had half.  It's fabulous, but filling.  A slice of french toast that is an inch thick is a lot. 

I was a little concerned this was too brown!
Last night I cut two thick slices of brioche, cut those in half, made the custard mixture and drenched the bread on one side.  Before heading off to bed, I turned the bread in the custard and put it in the refrigerator.  This morning I transferred those slices to a baking sheet, on which I had put my silicone baking sheet.  I was worried about them sticking.  When the buzzer rang and I pulled out the french toast I was a bit concerned that the silpat was a mistake--that side was really brown.  But once I flipped them over for a couple of minutes and got it ready to serve my skepticism abated.

Boy, is it good.  The outside was just a little bit crispy and the inside was custardy, soft and moist.  And no frying!  But, I think for my brunch I am going to cut those slices into quarters.  People are welcome to more than one, but for a brunch buffet people often want to have a little of this and a little of that.  This french toast is rich and lovely, so maybe people will just want one quarter--or maybe since it is so good they'll want more!

Bread Maker Brioche (1 1/2 pound loaf)
Admittedly, I got this recipe from the internet and made it just as directed, but it is good enough to share here.  This is probably the only way in Spokane to get organic brioche anyway.
The first slice of the brioche.  Warm brioche, yum.

3 large eggs
1 stick of softened butter
1/3 cup warm milk
3 tablespoons of warm water
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups bread flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast

Measure the ingredients into your bread machine pan in the order suggested by the manufacturer.  Process of the sweet bread cycle if your machine has it.  If not, process on the white or basic machine cycle.  Use the lightest crust color option available.  Remove bread from pan and cool on wire rack or wrapped in a clean dish cloth.

Baked Brioche French Toast
The recipe for the custard for the french toast is my own, but the method for baking it rather than frying it is from a ugh, I am going to admit this, a Martha Stewart recipe.

For four servings (that, might more reasonably, be eight).

4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups of milk (even skim works fine!)
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
dash of salt
4 1 inch thick slices brioche

In a large baking dish whisk together eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, salt and cinnamon. 

Soaking the bread.
Arrange bread in dish in a single layer.  Let soak 15 minutes.  Turn bread over, cover, and refrigerate over night (preferable) or at least 30 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed.

Preheat over to 350 degrees.  Oil a rimmed baking sheet or line with a silicone baking mat.  Carefully transfer the sliced to the sheet.  Bake french toast until it is set in the center about 25 minutes.  Flip slices and bake for another 5 minutes.

Serve with butter and syrup.  For an extra treat, stir a little cinnamon and brandy or orange flavored liquor into the syrup.

Eager to get the second recipe tested I found myself mincing onions and mushrooms in the food processor before 10:00 am on a Sunday morning.  I used my oven method for making the polenta (so much easier than stirring, stirring, stirring and completely indistinguishable in taste and presentation).  The polenta is now cooling on a baking sheet and so is the mushroom filling.  I am anxious about this recipe.  It is pretty much new and I am really wanting something savory that is vegetarian for this brunch.  I hope to have a positive report on this one later in this afternoon!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Recipe Review

I am throwing myself a birthday party.  I know, it is sort of sad, but I decided long ago that since I am a single adult, if I want to do something for my birthday, I had better plan it for myself.  In years past I have invited people out for drinks or brunch, but I always feel a little awkward asking people to pay for themselves at a party I invited them to.  So, this year I have invited some folks for a "drop in" brunch.  My apartment is not big enough for a sit down anything for a lot of people, so this is the plan I came up with.  And it requires me to do some do-ahead cooking if I am going to host people over the course of several hours.  And it is only a couple of weeks away.

So, now is the time to test out some recipes.  It's brunch, so there need to be some sweet things, some savory things.  I've invited some omnivores and some vegetarians (some stricter than others) so this is going to be an interesting endeavor.  This weekend I am going to try to make one sweet thing and one savory thing--not entirely new recipes for either, but modified or adjusted for this kind of event.

The plan is for this weekend to test making brioche in the bread maker for french toast -- my favorite brunch item.  And to make broiled polenta and mushroom sandwiches.  I make french toast every once in a while, but the brioche in the bread maker is a new thing.  Polenta is something I make frequently when serving vegetarians or vegans, but I rarely serve it firm or broiled.  I have found some recipes online to test out, but I am sure I will modify them as I usually do.

I will fill in around these two dishes with other brunch items if they work out well.  If not, I will have to go back to the drawing board coming up with a menu.  I think there are going to be a lot of "breakfast for dinner" nights over the next couple of weeks.

There will surely be a lot to report on both this weekend and over the next couple of weeks about my adventure in brunch.  Stay tuned!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Back on the Wagon with Half an Egg

I'm back from my Christmas hiatus and visit to the east coast, which included Christmas, New Year's, a blizzard and 50 degree temperatures.  And a lot of eating with my family, which means I do bend to their tastes, which has become more apparent to me now than ever.  I probably eat more processed and packaged food while I am home than I do the rest of the year.  I have made few in-roads with that.  I do still only drink fair trade coffee when I am home and made a few remarks about what my parents were feeding my niece and nephew.  But, perhaps it is not my place to say.  I did cook for my parents once -- the roasted beef and barley soup I featured a few posts ago, but my brother wouldn't eat it, he claimed it was too wet (duh, it's soup!).

But, I am back now and have to get back on the wagon--cooking the way that is important to me and making choices that reflect that.  And maybe figuring out a few ways to make my ways more appealing to my family my next visit home.  Yesterday I made my Mother's tuna noodle casserole, but with only organic, sustainable or local ingredients.  It was just as good, just as easy.  (Yes, I said tuna noodle casserole was good.  I love the version my Mother makes, except I use peas instead of carrots.  I know, it is crazy, but it is comfort food to me.)

Now I am baking cookies instead of working on my syllabi for the semester that starts Tuesday.  I found a new recipe for oatmeal peanut butter cookies.  I love oatmeal cookies and peanut butter cookies, so combined it is a no-brainer.  Except for one thing--the recipe must have been to make enough for a bakery to sell.  So, I wanted to cut it in half, but that left me with a dilemma--the original called for three eggs.  Do I use one?  Or two?  Or, do I do what I do in almost every situation (and about which I actually teach in my ethics classes) refuse to see it as a dilemma--isn't there a third choice?  Of course -- use half an egg!

Now you are thinking, is this woman really suggesting I use half an egg?  This woman who writes about ethics and food certainly can't be suggesting I waste something like half an egg!  No, I am not suggesting you waste something like half an egg.  Actually, I am suggesting you save that half an egg and use it in something else tomorrow.  Really.  That is what I am suggesting!  Half an egg can be used in an egg wash, an omelet, scrambled eggs, french toast, frittatta, or, in a small-batch baking recipe (I have included one of my favorites below).

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies (this is the regular sized recipe for the cookies I baked today, photo above)
3/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup peanut butter (creamy, regular not all natural)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 eggs (yes, really!)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups oatmeal
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
9 ounces chocolate chips (I used 9 ounces since that is the size package my fair trade chocolate chips come in)
white sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a bowl cream together butter and peanut butter, add brown sugar, egg and vanilla.  Mix well.  Combine oats, four and baking soda.  Add and mix well.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Drop by rounded teaspoons onto baking sheet.  Flatten with fork or juice glass dusted with white sugar.  Bake 12-13 minutes.  Let cool on sheet for 2 minutes before transferring to wire rack.

Small Batch Oatmeal Cookies (for that darned half an egg!)
3 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons oatmeal
3 tablespoons white sugar
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons softened butter
half an egg :)
3 tablespoons raisins or dried cranberries or chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking liner (or, in a pinch, lightly grease the baking sheet).  Combine dry ingredients except for raisins.  Stir.  Add egg, butter and vanilla.  Stir to combine.  The dough will be stiff.  Add raisins.  Divide dough in half, separate by 4 inches on the baking sheet (they will spread during baking) and bake for 15 minutes.

Now I had better look over those syllabi!