Category Archives: breakfast

cranberry orange baked french toast

cranberry orange baked french toast As I see it, the ideal Christmas morning (or holiday morning, as in New Year’s Day, as in tomorrow) breakfast should be festive tasting, not requiring too much effort, and do-ahead, if possible. (Although I certainly don’t regret the New Year’s Day I made glazed doughnuts for breakfast.) I’ve made this baked french toast several times before, as it is a perfect do-ahead, delicious crowd-pleaser. This time, I included a few twists: boosted its festive appeal by adding orange zest, almond extract, and nutmeg to the custard, making it reminiscent of eggnog; dotted the french toast with tart, jewel-like cranberries; and added wintry spices to the streusel. You’ll notice that baked french toast is suspiciously similar to bread pudding, so it tastes accordingly decadent.
behind the scenes of the chaos[Above, behind-the-scenes of the chaos. Please note the stray cranberries and disheveled background. Christmas morning at its finest.]
streusel-ed and ready to be baked Today is the last day of the year, which means that everyone gets sentimental and says that this year has had its ups and downs but has truly flown by. Which, I must say, is true. Goodbye 2013, and cheers to a great 2014.
that went fast Christmas morning breakfast

Cranberry Orange Baked French Toast
adapted from the Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon baked french toast

As I’ve said, this is an excellent do-ahead; in fact, you must refrigerate it a couple hours for the bread to soak up the custard mixture, so overnight is perfect. I scattered the cranberries on top in the morning, but you could just as easily scatter them in the pan with the bread cubes if you want them more evenly dispersed. However, with the sprinkling-on-top method, I liked that the cranberries stayed tart.

Makes 9 x 13 pan of french toast, around 8-12 servings

1 loaf French Bread, or another crusty bread*
6 eggs
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream (half-and-half also works)
3/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2-1 teaspoon fresh orange zest, to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 ounces fresh cranberries, roughly chopped

Streusel Topping
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2  cup (1 stick) cold butter, cubed

Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with butter. Tear bread into chunks (or cut into cubes) and evenly distribute in the pan.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, cream, sugar, vanilla and almond extracts, orange zest, nutmeg, and salt. Pour evenly over the bread. Cover tightly and store in the fridge for several hours or overnight.

In a separate bowl, mix flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. Toss butter cubes into the dry ingredients and cut and rub them into the mixture until it starts clumping together and resembling streusel. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

When you’re ready to bake the french toast, preheat oven to 350° F. Remove french toast from the fridge and sprinkle chopped cranberries and the crumb mixture over the top. Bake for around 1 hour or until browned on the top and set in the middle.

*The bread is best if stale, as it’s better able absorb the custard mixture. If your bread is fresh, as mine was, stale by popping it in a low oven for a few minutes.


spiced pumpkin bread

spiced pumpkin bread with pecan streusel These pumpkin muffins/loaves are quick and simple, absolutely delicious, and… nothing new. The recipe is nearly identical in two of my favorite baking books (Pastry Queen and Baked, save for the major difference of a pecan streusel topping on the former, chocolate chips in the latter). However, I read that duplicity not as a lack of originality but as a recognition that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This recipe just works. It’s a classic, laden with rich autumnal spices (the usual pumpkin accompaniments: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cloves). It even looks like autumn, wearing a beautiful orange tinge thanks to the pumpkin puree. Incredibly moist and tender, due to the use of oil instead of butter, a generous dose of sugar, and, of course, the pumpkin puree, it’s the ideal morning (or afternoon)  pick-me-up.
spices spices spiceseggs, different huesadd the pumpkin, bright orangeloaf ready to be streusel-edgenerous scattering of streuselAs I’ve said, the Baked cookbook version features chocolate chips, but shockingly I withheld and used Rather’s streusel instead. Decide the bread’s fate as you will. I left the muffins plain but topped the loaf with a halved batch of streusel. The muffins disappeared quickly, but the loaf is stashed away in the freezer, waiting to be pulled out to liven up a dim, chilly morning.
muffins, coolingspiced pumpkin muffinsin loaf form with pecan streuselspiced pumpkin bread

Spiced Pumpkin Quickbread (Muffins or Loaves)
adapted from the Pastry Queen and Baked

Makes 24 muffins or 2 loaves

1 1/2 cups pecan halves*
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons allspice
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled a bit
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 toasted pecan pieces (reserved from above)

To make the bread: Preheat oven to 350°F. Toast pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet until golden brown and aromatic, 7 to 9 minutes. Let cool, roughly chop, and separate out 1/2 cup for the streusel.

Grease two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans or 24 regular muffin cups (I used a combination: one loaf, 12 muffins) with butter and flour or cooking spray or, in the case of muffins, use liners.

Whisk together the oil and sugar in a large bowl. Whisk in the eggs, pumpkin, water, and vanilla until combined.

In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, spices, and salt. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, stirring until just combined. Stir in 1 cup pecan pieces. Evenly divide the batter among the loaf pans or muffin tins (muffin tins should be filled almost to the top).

To make the topping: Stir together the sugar, butter, cinnamon, and remaining 1/2 cup chopped pecans in a small bowl. Sprinkle the topping over the loaves or muffins.

Bake the loaves until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour to 1 hour, 15 minutes. Keep in mind that the topping will remain gooey, so be sure to test the cake itself for doneness. Bake muffins for about 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Storing: Because these muffins are so moist, they’re great keepers, a few days in a airtight container at room temperature.

*Variation: Craving chocolate in the morning? (No judgments.) Swap the pecans for chocolate chips (1 1/2 cups), and omit the streusel. (Or make some really tasty bread with pecans, chocolate chips, and streusel…)

strawberry jam scones

mineLast time I posted here (March…), I mentioned that we already had Louisiana strawberries. Now, however, they’re practically gone (save for a few teeny specimen), so although we may get them unseasonably and unfairly early, they disappear unseasonably and unfairly early as well. I made these with California strawberries; it really doesn’t matter what you use when you combine them with sugar and cook into jam.
strawberries, washedjammycut roundsdimpled and egg washedfilled with strawberry jamstrawberry jam sconesTo celebrate summer/freedom, I baked these scones, which Bon Appetit may call biscuits, but in my book (3/4 cup sugar!), they are definitely scones. They’re essentially the breakfast version of a thumbprint cookie. The concept is ingenious: instead of having a biscuit/scone with jam, the (homemade) jam is conveniently provided. Since you make the jam first, it takes longer than your average scone, but it is well worth the wait. (Although the lazy/impatient can always resort to store-bought jam.) The scones are golden brown and buttery-crisp around the edges (thank you, egg wash), tender and light inside, flecked with a hint of lime zest, and filled with a dollop of jam.
golden brown and jammyscones with puddles of jamstrawberry jam scone

Strawberry Jam Scones
adapted from Bon Appetit, June 2013

Again, if you’re feeling lazy or impatient (or both), you can use store-bought jam.

Strawberry Jam
12 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled, halved or quartered if large (about 3 cups)
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon lime zest
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

3/4 cup sugar (reduce if desired; this is a sweet scone)
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 teaspoon lime zest
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 large egg, beaten to blend
1 tablespoon raw sugar

For the strawberry jam: Cook strawberries and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until jamlike in consistency, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in lime zest and juice (I added this before, whoops). Pour into a shallow bowl and let cool. To speed this up, set the bowl over an ice bath and stir occasionally. The jam can be make 3 days ahead; cover and chill.

For the scones: Preheat oven to 400° F. Whisk sugar, baking powder, salt, and 2 1/4 cups flour in a large bowl. Add butter and lime zest and blend with your fingertips until the butter is incorporated and coarse crumbs form. It shouldn’t look even. Add buttermilk and, using a fork or spatula, mix until just combined. Transfer to a lightly floured surface. Gently knead just until a shaggy, moist dough forms, about 4 times.

Roll out dough about 1/2-inch thick. Using a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter or inverted glass, cut out rounds. Gather scraps and repeat rolling and cutting until all dough is used.

Place scones on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Using your thumb, make a large indentation in the center of each scone. Brush with egg and sprinkle liberally with raw sugar. Spoon a scant 1 teaspoon strawberry jam into each indentation.

Bake scones until golden brown, 18–22 minutes. Serve warm, and with jam (if any’s left).

multigrain blueberry buckle

multigrain blueberry buckleWhat kinds of fruit desserts did you grow up with? For me, it was cobblers, usually blueberry or peach, sometimes blackberry. But I’m fascinated by all the different kinds, often regionally-based, of homey fruit desserts. Crisps and crumbles are cousins of cobbler (alliteration much? whoops), but there are also slumps, grunts, pandowdies, brown bettys, and buckles. (I’m eying this book to show me the ropes on the more unfamiliar desserts.) And although each can be generally described, most people individually ascribe what they consider its hallmark characteristics to their beloved classics.
sifting dry ingredients for the streusel toppingadd an egg to streusel toppingclumpy streusel blueberriesThe buckle is a friendly cake with a name that describes exactly what it does as it bakes: the batter rises to partially cover the berries and peeks out through the streusel, so the cake looks as if it’s buckling. Kim Boyce (no stranger around here)  has the most perfectly rustic (oxymoron? I’m all lit devices today) looking buckle in her book. In the picture, the dark indigo berries splatter the soft, crumbly buckle, which has a bronzed streusel-laden lid, dotted with berries. The Seuss-sounding name of “huckle buckle” drew me in further, though, being boring, I used the more widely available blueberry.
layer of blueberries in the middleblueberries peeping outbaked buckleblueberry buckle, close-upIt’s a very comforting, warm-tasting cake due to the spices and whole-wheat flour. Spelt flour is Boyce’s unique twist. I hadn’t worked with it before, but as I used white spelt flour (as opposed to whole-grain) it was very mild (see headnotes of recipe). The streusel almost camouflages into the the cake, contributing to the buckling effect. And as for it being a “friendly” cake? It’s welcome at whatever time of day–you’ll see what I mean.
take a taste

1 year ago: Watermelon Lemonade

Multigrain Blueberry Buckle
adapted from Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain

I used white spelt flour here, just because I wanted to try out a milder version before I went for the whole-grain spelt. I’m not sure which type Boyce had in mind; I think either would work. White spelt is very mild. When it was paired with whole-wheat (pastry) flour here, which has a much bolder taste, I couldn’t distinguish it from regular all-purpose flour, which I suspect you might be able to use instead, but as I haven’t tried it, I can’t give any definite answer.

This streusel is quite moist, almost like a very thick batter (due to the addition of an egg, which acts as a binder), so don’t expect your usual crumbly streusel. As I’ve said, it nearly blends into the cake once baked, helping it to buckle.

1/2 cup (2 1/4 ounces / 60 grams) whole-grain pastry flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour)
1/2 cup (2 ounces / 56 grams) spelt flour (see headnotes)
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
1 egg

Dry Mix
1 1/4 cups (5 ounces / 142 grams) spelt flour
1 cup (4 1/2 ounces / 127 grams) whole-grain pastry flour
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 stick (4 ounces / 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, very soft

Wet Mix
3/4 cup whole milk
1/3 cup plain yogurt (I used low-fat)
4 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups blueberries (or huckleberries, tossed in some )

1. Preheat oven to 350° F and butter a 2 1/2 quart baking dish.

2. For the streusel: sift together the flours, sugars, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt into a large bowl, dumping into the bowl any bits that remain in the sifter, and whisk to combine completely. Cut the 3 tablespoons of cold butter in 1/4-inch bits and toss them into the mix. Using your hands (the best method) or a pastry blender, rub the butter into the flour, breaking the butter into small pieces. The mixture should be coarse and be mostly the texture of rough cornmeal with larger bits. Try to do this quickly, as you want the butter to remain cold.

3. Make a well in the center of the streusel mix. Crack in the egg, and whisk the egg to blend. Switch to a spatula to mix the egg into the dry ingredients. When the mixture starts to come together, use your hands to finish mixing, making sure to incorporate all the dry ingredients. Squeeze bits of the streusel together–it should be in large clumps. Put the streusel in the fridge while you make the buckle.

4. For the batter: Over the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients, (dry mix), dumping any bits that remain in the sifter into the bowl, and mix to combine thoroughly. Add the softened butter using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer or a hand mixer, blend the butter into the dry ingredients until combined. The mixture should be in uniform crumbs.

5. In a bowl or a large measuring cup (my preferred lazy method), mix together the wet mix (milk, yogurt, egg yolks, and vanilla) until combined. Pour the wet mix into the dry mix and blend just until the batter is smooth.

6. Spread half the batter into the buttered baking dish, and sprinkle half the blueberries over the batter. Dollop the remaining batter over the berries and spread evenly. Sprinkle the remaining berries over the batter. Break the streusel into small bits (about the size of hazelnuts or almonds) and sprinkle evenly over the berries.

7. Bake the buckle for about 45 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through so it bakes evenly. When the cake is done, it’ll be browned and spring back when lightly touched; a toothpick should come out clean. Cool the buckle in the pan. Eat warm or at room temperature.

Storing: The buckle can be kept, tightly covered, at room temperature (or in the fridge) for up to 3 days.

Do Ahead: The buckle can be made (assembled-complete step 6) the night before. Keep in the fridge overnight, and bake it in the morning (just add a few minutes to the baking time).

brown butter peach cobbler

mine Last weekend I was in Baton Rouge for a swim meet and came upon a charming open-air produce market with neat towers of fresh summer bounty on display. My mom and I couldn’t resist picking up a carton of local Louisiana blueberries, tomatoes for my dad, and these deeply red-blushed Alabama peaches.
alabama peacheshalved peach, backlitsliced brown butter, poured into baking dishready to make cobblerpour batter on top of brown butter
I imagine that these peaches forgot to apply sunscreen while they were ripening, unlike their lightly-tinged grocery store counterparts, and in turn got a little burned. They were almost completely red-orange, with streaky accents of yellow and traditional peachy orange. I happily ate one, dripping with sweet juices, over the kitchen sink. As they all began to ripen at once, I somehow managed to exert some self control by not greedily devouring them and decided to bake up peach cobbler.
arrange peaches on topsprinkle brown sugarflecks of brown butterI’ve made this cobbler a handful of times over the past few years. My first foray was made directly as written in one of my favorite cookbooks.  I loved the nutty brown butter paired with peaches; but as peaches are already sweet, a full cup of granulated sugar in the batter and a half cup brown sugar sprinkled atop was overly sweet. And shockingly, the full stick of butter was also unnecessary. Don’t worry, I love butter and sugar, but I didn’t want to mask the fresh flavor of the peaches. On this latest go, with right amounts of butter and sugar, these fresh Alabama peaches could shine.
baked peach cobbler, overheadbrown butter peach cobblerserving the cobblerbrown butter peach cobbler, servedbite of peach cobbler

Brown Butter Peach Cobbler
adapted from Rebecca Rather’s Hill Country Peach Cobbler in The Pastry Queen

For those of you not familiar with cobblers like this, it may seem like an unusual method. It is–it’s as simple as layering–no mixing required. Brown butter on the bottom, then a loose “batter,” a tight layer of peaches, and finally a sprinkle of brown sugar. While the cobbler bakes, the batter will rise with the help of baking powder and encase some of the peaches in a caramelized, crispy-edged topping. Warm out of the oven, it’s almost creamy.

As I said before, I reduced the butter and sugar and added salt and vanilla extract. I was tempted on a whim to also add some almond extract but decided not to. Don’t let that deter you; almond extract would be a fine addition. Some lemon zest (about 1 teaspoon) would add some brightness. Hmmm, looks like another excuse for me to make this!

Makes a 8- or 9-inch baking dish

3/4 stick (6 tablespoons / 3 ounces) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (3 3/8 ounces / 95 grams) granulated sugar
1 cup (4 1/2 ounces / 128 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce / 15 grams) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk (whole or low-fat)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract or 1/2 teaspoon of each
3 cups (1 pound) sliced (about 1/2- to 3/4-inch slices) fresh peaches (about 4 medium peaches), peels on
1/3 cup (2 1/2 ounces / 70 grams) brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Brown the butter: Melt the butter in a medium saucepan until it bubbles, foams, and turns a deep brown color. Dark flecks are good, but be careful not to burn the butter. It browns and will burn quickly! Pour the butter into an 8-inch or 9-inch square baking dish. (I like Pyrex for this.)

Make the cobbler: In a medium bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir the extract(s) into the measuring cup with the milk. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the milk. Stir together until just mixed. Small lumps are fine; you just don’t want large lumps of unmixed flour. Using a large spoon or ladle (for even distribution), pour this batter on top of the brown butter. Do not stir! Gently and evenly arrange the peach slices on top of the batter. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the cobbler in an even layer.

Bake: Bake cobbler for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the top is brown, the cobbler is bubbling, and the edges look crispy. Some of the batter should have covered the peach slices partially. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Storing: Store any leftovers in the fridge.

Variations: Swap the peaches for raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, nectarines, cherries, or a combination. Frozen fruit, defrosted and drained, can also be used. Along with the fruit, you can add/switch up citrus zest (orange or lemon), add spices (such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger), play around with vanilla and almond extracts, etc.