Month: March 2014

Lazy Weekend French Toast

I’m thinking about the upcoming weekend, starting with Friday, March 14, otherwise known as Pi Day.   To celebrate will require the making and consuming of pie, so I’m on a mission to find one incredible pie to bake.    It has to be something epic so I can share it and give away a LOT of it.  I love most any pie so keeping it around the house is not so good for the waistline.

I mention the pie because that has me thinking of the weekend, and I like to incorporate one lazy morning if at all possible.  Lazy mornings include a late breakfast.    Now you’ve been exposed to my way of thinking, which often resembles the wildly twisting dotted line from a Family Circus comic showing the child’s “direct” path home.   It makes sense to me anyway!

So on to the French Toast.  French Toast is one of those breakfast comfort foods that can be just ok when made quickly and poorly, but when made properly it can make for a delicious meal.   Probably the most important ingredient is the bread.   Basic white sandwich bread just can’t hold up, so something more robust is necessary.   If you saw my last post about Simply Good Bread and made a loaf, you’ve got a good choice at the ready (if you haven’t eaten it all already.)

This started with one of those recipes that can’t quite be simply cut in half.  A good example is that the original recipe uses 3 large eggs.  Hmm, how do you half an egg?  See my answer to the delima in the recipe below.
Lazy Weekend French Toast for Two

Ingredients:
1/2 tbsp butter
1/2 tbsp oil (any kind you prefer except olive oil)
1 whole egg
1 egg white (or if you’re not concerned with calories, 1 egg yolk)
3 oz heavy cream
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp nutmeg (or more, to taste)
1/8 tsp cinnamon (also to taste)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 thick slices of bread, at least a couple of days old

Instructions:

Mix together egg, egg white (or yolk), cream, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla.  Pour into a shallow dish big enough to hold two pieces of bread at a time.

Heat the butter and oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat.

Place two pieces of bread into the soaking dish for about 10 seconds, flip them over and soak about another 10 seconds.   It should soak in some but not become saturated.

Place the two pieces in the skillet and cook about 3 minutes.  Flip the bread, and the now visible side should be nicely golden.  Cook another 2 minutes and flip to brown each side a little more as needed.  Remove these from the skillet, stash them on a place covered with a towel and repeat with the other two slices.

When all four pieces are done, top with a little powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar and serve with maple syrup.  (NO “pancake” syrup pretty please.  I’m a maple syrup purist.)

Adapted from King Arthur Flour’s Rich French Toast recipe.

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Simply Good Bread

In recent years I’ve gone from a yeast-o-phobe to a bread baking fool.   Even after I felt I had a good grasp on cooking, any attempts I made to create a bread product involving yeast came with a forgone conclusion: guaranteed failure.   Finally, one day I got a wild notion to make english muffins, and thanks to the guidance of a book from the good cook Alton Brown, I was able to overcome my yeast fears.

Since then, I started making my own bread on a regular basis.  It’s often enough now that I rarely buy bread at the grocery store.   As usual, most recipes make more bread than two of us will eat within a week, so I have devised several good uses for what remains of the bread later in the week.   (More on that later.)

So for those fearful of the yeast, who don’t have a bread machine, or simply would like to know exactly what is in the bread they eat (such as no preservatives), here’s my go-to recipe for a good bread that pares well with, well anything really!

Simply Good Bread

Ingredients
4 cups all purpose flour  (500g)
1 1/2 cups water (warm, about 100 degrees F)
1 tsp active dry yeast
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp wheat bran or wheat germ

Instructions
Mix the flour, salt, honey, and wheat bran in a mixing bowl or the bowl for your stand mixer.  Pour the water over the top, and sprinkle the yeast onto that.   Let it sit for about 2-3 minutes, or until you can smell the yeast.    Mix either with a spoon or a dough hook if using a stand mixer.  Knead either by hand or by mixer with a dough hook until the dough becomes fairly smooth.   (With my stand mixer it takes about 5-7 minutes.)

While the dough is kneading, turn your oven on the lowest heat setting possible and leave it on for one minute, then turn the oven off.   Once the dough is kneaded, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the oven.  Let it rise for 1-2 hours, until it doesn’t spring back if you press it with your finger.

Remove the dough from the oven and bowl, and knead it slightly.  Reshape it into a ball, cover with a not-fuzzy towel and let it rest for about 10 minutes.  (Towel fuzz in your bread does not add fiber!)

Lightly coat the inside of a dutch oven (if you have one) or spray a sheet pan with oil.   Roll the dough into a tight ball and place it into the dutch oven or on the pan.   Cover with lid or lightly oiled plastic.    Let it rise for another 30 -60 minutes, this time not in the oven.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.  Lightly rub a bit of oil onto the top of the bread and sprinkle it with kosher salt.   Cut an X or # into the top of the bread, no more than about 1/4″ into the bread’s surface.   Bake for 30 minutes (leave the lid on if using a dutch oven).   Drop the temperature to 375 degrees F and remove the lid.   If baking on a sheet pan, after 30 minutes, drop the temperature to 375 degrees F, and watch so it does not become too brown.  If it appears perfectly golden brown, you can cover it loosely with foil.

Bake until the bread is about 200 degrees F inside and browned on the outside, about 10-15 more minutes.)   Cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes prior to cutting.

Simply Good Bread by Lorrie- thefoodie.wordpress.com

This is some good bread!

Recipe adapted from Dutch Oven Bread by Michael Ruhlman – His books are a valuable asset to my cookbook collection.  Ratio is one of my favorites, and you can pick it up at your local bookstore or order it from Amazon.

This bread is great with soups, for toasted sandwiches such as a panini, or just served alongside a meal.  It has a rustic look to it, so every time I make it looks and tastes slightly different.    Adjust the ingredients as you like for your tastes.   Here’s a few ideas:

  • Use bread flour in place of all-purpose.  It creates a somewhat different texture, and is good for thick slices.
  • Swap the honey for olive oil.
  • Use ground flax, oat bran, or your choice of similar ingredients to enhance the texture and increase fiber.
  • Replace up to half the all-purpose flour with wheat flour.  If you use more than half, you’re on your own!

While this does make more than two people likely will eat in one meal, it can be used in so many ways that I thought it a good choice for this blog.   Coming up… a use for some of the leftover bread!

What you will find on this blog and why it is there

I like to cook.

I like to eat.

And I usually am cooking for just my husband and I, and occasionally the dog.

After countless times of saying “That was just half the recipe!” as I put away the leftovers from dinner, I have determined that I can’t be the only one cooking for less than the typical recipe will feed.  I don’t need a meal that serves six to eight most nights.   I’m not sure even where they find these mysterious six people with gargantuan appetites.  Six to eight means it will provide us with a couple of good meals, followed by a couple more, then a few more just to firmly plant into my brain this recipe makes vastly more food than we will eat before deciding that if I see it again this year, it’s too soon.

I’ve learned how to cut recipes at least in half, sometimes down to a fourth of the original.  It’s not always a matter of simple math, or even bizarre fractions.   For example, dishes that include a pan sauce sometimes require an amount of some oil or fat that falls between half and the whole recipe.    It has involved a lot of trial and error, and after a good deal of practice, there’s less error, or rather less drastic errors.  (Drastic ones require a Plan B, usually involving take-out Chinese or pizza.)

I’ll also include some recipes for the dog.  Yes, the dog.   All I needed to give me the nudge to cook for him was that tainted dog treat scare and it was off to the kitchen, armed with my doggie bone cookie cutters in one hand, cookbook for dog treats in the other.  He hasn’t turned his nose up to anything I’ve made for him yet.   If you don’t like dogs, just skip over those.  I won’t be hurt, and neither will doggie.

And on to the cooking …!