Holiday Breakfast: Panettone French Toast

December 22, 2010 § 1 Comment

I am a huge French Toast fan and am always looking for ways to spruce up the classic.  I am always pondering ways to give the classic a twist – whether it be by using a new kind of bread or croissants.  Given that we are in the middle of the winter holiday season, Italian Panettone seems to be the natural choice to stand in for the trusty French bread.

Panettone are a traditional Italian sweet bread that is made for Christmas and New Year (Italians out there, correct me if I get any of this wrong).  It traditionally takes on a round cake or cupola shape and weighs about one and a half pounds.  I dream of the day I find myself in Milan around Christmas time so I could enjoy a fresh baked Panettone in its natural habitat.

But even here in the states, Panettone are easily acquired if you know where to look.  You can seek out an Italian family member or friend to ship you the original (I am still working on this option myself), pick one up at your local Italian deli (I am fortunate to have this option) or grocery store (some have them handy in time for the holidays), or you can order them online.

I used my usual classic French toast recipe for the egg mixture — whenever trying new recipes I like to switch up one major ingredient at a time so that I know which substitution yields which result.  My husband was the guinea pig this time and I he was certainly not complaining.  The Panettone is so fluffy and soft that it absorbs the egg mixture perfectly.

The final result is one of the fluffiest French toast textures I have ever tasted – the delicate texture is a perfect accompaniment to the raisins in the Panettone and the fruit topping gives it that little something extra.  There is almost a bread pudding type of quality to the middle sections of each slice.  In fact, I might try this as a bread pudding next time.  Will share when I do…

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did — let me know how yours turns out!

Ingredients:

French Toast

  • 1/2 of a Pannetone cake, sliced into evenly cut slices
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2-3 tablespoons of unsalted butter

Topping

  • 1 cup frozen mixed berries
  • 3 tablespoons sugar (or raw sugar)
  • powdered sugar

Directions:

French Toast

Topping

To serve

White Chocolate, Macadamia Nut, Coconut, and Cranberry Cookies

December 21, 2010 § Leave a comment

I made these cookies several months ago for my husband and his friends.  The cookies are golden and crisp on the outside with a fluffy center.  The perfect balance.  I filled a huge cookie jar with these cookies and thought to myself , “There is no way that all of these cookies will be eaten.”  I was right, by the end of the night only 1/4 of the jar was left.  Success.

Unfortunately, I did not write down the recipe as I was making the cookies.  I decided to try to recreate the original recipe.   Thank goodness I wrote the recipe down this time.

Ingredients:

1.  Preheat your oven to 350 °F.  Add your butter, at room temperature, and both granulated and brown sugars to the bowl of an electric mixer.  Cream the butter and sugars on medium speed for about 2 minutes.

2.  Mix in the eggs, at room temperature, one at a time.  Make sure each egg is incorporated into the batter before adding the next egg.  Once the eggs are mixed in, add your vanilla extract.

3.  Sift your dry ingredients together, and then add it to your butter mixture.  I add the flour mixture 1/2 cup at a time.  Mix the dry ingredients in until incorporated.  Do not over mix the batter.

4.  Turn the electric mixer off and add the white chocolate chips, dried cranberries, coconut, and chopped macadamia nuts to the batter.  Stir, by hand, to evenly distribute all of these goodies throughout the batter.

5.  Place large tablespoons of batter on a rimmed baking sheet lined with a nonstick mat.  Bake the cookies for 16-18 minutes.  Let the cookies cool, on the sheet, for about 2 minutes before you transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Purple Pig in Chicago

December 18, 2010 § Leave a comment

A few weeks ago, my hubby and I found ourselves in Chicago and wanting to be dazzled by dinner.  Alas we stumbled upon The Purple Pig, which was voted as one of the 10 Best Restaurants in America by Bon Apetit Magazine.  That was not for nothing.  The food was incredible!

I am a big fan of ordering many small dishes instead of one grandiose entree and this is just the place to share numerous concoctions from the kitchen (which is, by the way, visible to those sitting at the bar).

This is a place like no other — from the Roasted Bone Marrow with Herbs (served with perfectly grilled crispy bread) to the Octopus with Green Beans, Fingerling Potatoes, and Salsa Verde, the menu provided a never-ending cornucopia of surprises.  From where we were seated at the bar, we saw a very large volume of Milk Braised Pork Shoulder with Mashed Potatoes plates exiting the kitchen — something I will most definitely order the next time around.

A perfectly delightful ending to our feast was the Panini con Nutella (pictured above), the name of which my husband STILL murmurs in his sleep.

What we ordered:

The Purple Pig posts a Recipe of the Month on their website, which is exciting because this month the recipe is for the Milk Braised Pork Shoulder:

Milk Braised Pork Shoulder:
1 3 to 4 lb. Pork shoulder bone removed and cut into 8 oz. Pieces
1 small bunch fresh thyme
5 bay leaves
2 onion, peeled and quarted
1 carrot, peeled and kept in large pieces
2 gallons milk
2 gallons pork stock
salt
pepper
1 rib celery, cut into 3 large pieces
Tie a piece of string around each piece of pork to maintain a nice shape while cooking. In a large pot sear off pork shoulder (season liberally first). Add vegetables and herbs after meat is browned, add liquids and bring to a boil. Season and place in a 350° oven to braise. Should take 2-3 hours.

(Mashed Potatoes)
1 1/4 lbs. Peeled russet potatoes cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
1/4 c. warm cream
4 teaspoons butter warm
salt and pepper
Place potatoes in a large pot, add cold water to cover and season aggressively with salt. Bring to a boil and cook till potatoes are tender. Drain potatoes, mash while still hot with rest of the ingredients, season and reserve.

I can’t wait for my next visit to Chi-town!

Pain au Chocolat from Sweet Lady Jane

December 17, 2010 § 2 Comments

If you have ever been to Paris and tasted a freshly baked croissant there, you undoubtedly have pangs of nostalgia and longing for the buttery layers that exude steam when pulled open. The smell and taste that define the very essence of an early morning in Paris. I remember the early morning coffee with croissant that was still warm from the closest bakery to the hotel I was staying in many years ago. The very thought of that first bite, accompanied by a sip of espresso, makes me want to go back for even just a sliver of a second.

Now I live in West Hollywood, which is a little far from one of those magical croissants, but I am luckier than most because I live walking distance from Sweet Lady Jane, a divinely tiny little bakery that serves up gorgeous cakes, cupcakes, and (YES!) freshly baked croissants.

It just so happened that this morning was one of those morning when I was reading this mouthwatering article concerning croissants in Paris by David Lebovitz and I simply needed to have a chocolate croissant. I remembered the proximity of that dangerously delightful venue down the street and resolved that this was a morning that I would have a freshly baked chocolate croissant. It was still early enough that I thought any freshly baked pastries would still have a glimmer of warmth in the middle.

I had never bought a croissant from Sweet Lady Jane’s before — I typically go there for a very special cake or cupcake (because I know how one thing can lead to another and my daily ‘walking’ routine could quickly become a visit to the pastry fairy). Today was the day that I would have a chocolate croissant from Sweet Lady Jane. I knew that if their croissants were anything like their cupcakes, I would at least be the “Parisian chocolate croissant” zip code that would feel somewhat like a mini Paris excursion.

I was totally right — while it is, in my opinion, impossible to replicate the elusive Parisian croissant, it is possible to make an homage to the original. The chocolate croissant from Sweet Lady Jane was delightful and it was ever so slightly warm and the chocolate was gooey and … yes, it was enough to keep me from purchasing a one-way ticket to Paris. For how long, is another question. But I certainly recommend the croissants at Sweet Lady Jane, along with a cup of tea by the window. You will not regret it.

Gratin of Spinach

December 16, 2010 § 1 Comment

I usually open the Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1 by Julia Child just to get inspiration for a special dinner that I am going to prepare – in this case Christmas dinner.  However, such parousal always turns into a desire to make something RIGHT NOW from her many recipes.  As luck would have it, the time was getting dangerously close to dinner.

Most of the things in the book are very technical and time consuming (at least for the non-professionals, like myself), but I just had to share this Gratin of Spinach recipe that I adapted from Julia’s Spinach Quiche recipe (found on page 153 of Vol. 1).

I have to first note that a gratin is simply a quiche without the pastry shell.  And if you have ever made a quiche, you know that the pastry (assuming you are making your own from scratch) is the more time consuming portion of the whole process.

Ingredients:

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Butter an enamel or ceramic oven-safe baking dish.

Prepare the spinach mixture:

Prepare the egg mixture:

Pour the entire mixture into the baking dish.  Place into the upper third of preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes until the gratin has “puffed” and browned.  You will know its finished when you can stick a knife into the middle of the gratin and have it come out clean.

This dish makes a truly special brunch or lunch.  The texture is incredibly fluffy and the spinach is the perfect accompaniment to its smoothness.  If you like to live on the dangerous side of things, you can serve this for dinner.

A note on the Julia Child cookbook mentioned above:
Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child is available in a smaller one volume or a two volume set.  Either is a fantastic investment.  This is one of the few cookbook staples that I cannot live without.

Baked Apples

December 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

Two smells that define the holiday season are: the smell of a Chrismakkuh bush and the smell of cinnamon and apples wafting through the air.  The best part is that this might be the easiest warm dessert to make.  Topped with a scoop of vanilla, it is the perfect ending to a winter meal.

Ingredients:

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Core the apples from the top so that there is a cone shaped opening at the top of each one. Arrange apples in a deep pie pan.  Place 1/4 teaspoon of butter, 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, and a sprinkle of cinnamon into each cored apple.

Bake on the highest rack of the oven for 25-30 minutes or until the apples are thoroughly soft.

Serve apple by itself or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  The hot and cold combination is truly amazing.

 

Wild Mushrooms and Cream Pasta

December 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

There is something about the cold winter nights that makes me want to warm up with something creamy and woodsy.  Mushrooms and cream pasta are perfect for a cozy dinner in without too much prep time.

Ingredients:

Directions:

Once combined, the final dish will look like this:

It was so good that it deserved a close up! 🙂

Bon apetit!

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