Sunday, August 24, 2014

Baked French Toast with Nutella

Every Sunday I try to make special breakfast for my family because Sunday morning tends to be the most relaxed morning of all mornings.  Usually there's nothing going on that we have to wake up so early, making it the perfect day to have a more elaborate breakfast dish.  Our favorites are pancakes (blueberry, banana, chocolate chip flavors are on the top list), waffles, cinnamon rolls, sticky buns, crepes, omelet, well, the list can go on.  I actually enjoy making these type of breakfast items, it seems to set the day in a good mood.  

Even though my son likes most of my breakfast dishes, he is still reluctant to eat French toast.  His reasoning is that it's weird to eat bread with syrup.  Syrup is for pancakes and waffles according to his taste.  But he likes this baked French toast (yay!).  Powdered sugar is a good enough topping for him.  I didn't use store bought white bread because I happen to have made homemade bread earlier in the week.  My bread is usually quite sturdy and didn't fall apart when the filling was spread.   It's not a fancy breakfast and I just have to serve this alongside a cold glass of chocolate milk and everyone is happy with a full tummy.

A variation of this French toast is to use jam instead of Nutella with the cream cheese.  I haven't tried it yet, but will do since Sunday is coming soon! :)

Baked French Toast with Nutella 

Makes 4 to 8 servings

4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tablespoons Nutella, at room temperature
8 slices white bread

4 eggs
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Powdered sugar
Maple syrup

To make sandwich:  Mix cream cheese and Nutella until combined.  Spoon mixture on 4 bread slices and spread all the way to outside edges, then top with remaining slices to make sandwiches.  Place in resealable plastic bag and refrigerate until ready to bake.

To make custard:  In flat container with an airtight lid large enough to hold a bread slice, beat together eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, and nutmeg.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

To assemble:  Preheat oven to 350F.  Mist a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with sides with nonstick cooking spray.  Dip sandwiches into custard, turning once, for 2 minutes on first side and 1 on the second to soak up as much of the custard as possible.  Lay drained slices on pan and bake for 15 minutes, then turn them over and bake for 20 minutes more, or until toast is golden brown on both sides.  Sprinkle lightly with sifted powdered sugar and serve with syrup.  Recipe can easily be doubled.

Source:  FoodDay The Oregonian

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Blueberry-Coconut Crumb Bars

Here's another post about blueberries but don't look away because these bars are so good that you'll want to make it now, especially when the blueberries season will end soon.  

I sneaked in some coconut in the bar because I wanted to have extra texture in the crumb, and also because I had leftover coconut in the fridge.  I think I made the best decision to include coconut in the recipe.  The bars have a hint of coconut, sweet and lemony blueberry taste with buttery crunch top and bottom.  They are good warm, straight after baking, but also delicious cold.  Make sure to store bars in the refrigerator to keep the texture crisp.  They will keep for a few days.  

Blueberry-Coconut Crumb Bars

Makes 24

3 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
½ cup sweetened grated coconut
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks, plus more for pan
1 large egg

¼ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 cups fresh blueberries (about 12 ounces)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375.  Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with foil or parchment paper, overhanging edges to serve as handles.  Lightly butter foil.

For bars:  In a food processor, pulse flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, lemon zest, and coconut until combined.  Add butter pieces and egg; pulse until dough resembles crumbly wet sand.  Pat half of dough into the prepared pan.

For filling:  In a medium bowl, stir together sugar and cornstarch.  Gently fold in berries and lemon juice.  Spread blueberry mixture evenly over crust, leaving a ½-inch border around the edges.  Crumble remaining dough over berries.

Bake for 40 minutes, until top is golden brown and crust is firm.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Use foil handles to lift bars from pan.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Cover and store in refrigerator.

Source:  adapted from Debbie Macomber's Christmas Cookbook

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Peach Melba Shortcakes

I had a great day yesterday.  It's my birthday and I got to spend it with my favorite people in the world: my family.  I received two candles from my son, who obviously picked the gifts with his dad since dad knew about  it.  I didn't know how they pulled it off this year, bought gifts without my knowledge and completely surprised me.  Next year my son suggested that I give him a list of gifts I'd like to get so he'll know what to buy for me.  Great idea!

And I want to declare that I absolutely will have peaches every time my birthday comes around.  The peaches this year are plentiful, flavorful, and super juicy.  Twice I bought peaches from my son's friend's orchard.  His parents own a peach orchard in Canby and they grow great peaches.  Early in July I bought a handful which we ate and ate.  Just last weekend I bought some more, this time I poached some, froze some, and left a bunch in the fridge to eat fresh.  

I didn't intentionally make this shortcake for my birthday but it might as well be my birthday cake since I have plentiful left.  I made a genoise cake base instead of using biscuits for shortcakes.  I then poached the peaches using sugar water and vanilla bean to give it a flavor.  Honestly, it's a bit of work poaching peaches because I had to peel them first.  The lazier method will be to just cut the peaches and macerate them with peach schnapps.  But in the end, those poached peaches taste so good that I didn't mind doing it again if I have to.  The raspberry sauce is simple; it's simply done by crushing fresh raspberries, which then got strained to remove the seeds.  I made just enough sugar water to incorporate the crushed raspberries with it; a little lemon juice is added to it to give a nice finish.  

To serve these shortcakes in Mason jars, I grabbed a few small and different size jars.  The components were layered until full;  these were ready right away or could be stored in the fridge for a few hours.  Everybody got his/her own serving of shortcake and it's sooo good!

Don't they look adorable in the jar like that?  Pretty enough to be a birthday cake!    

Peach Melba Shortcakes

Makes one 9- x 13-inch cake

2 sticks unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly, plus more for buttering the dish
6 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons milk, at room temperature
1 ⅓ cups granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt

Poached peaches:

12 medium firm-ripe peaches
2 ⅔ cups sugar
4 cups water
1 piece vanilla bean

Raspberry sauce:

1 (12-oz.) package frozen raspberries (not in syrup), thawed
½ cup granulated sugar
⅓ cup water
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 cup heavy cream
½ cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Make the shortcake:  Preheat the oven to 375F.  Generously butter a 9- x 13-inch glass baking dish.  Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs with the milk until frothy.  Add the 1 ⅓ cups of granulated sugar; beat at high speed until the mixture is thick and pale, 7 minutes.

In a bowl, sift the flour with the baking powder and salt.  Fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture; fold in the melted butter until incorporated.  Spread the batter in the prepared dish; bake in the center of the oven for about 30 minutes, until golden.  Transfer to a rack and let cool.

Make the poached peaches:  Cut a shallow X in bottom of each peach with a sharp paring knife and immerse fruit in a 6-quart heavy pot (preferably wide) of boiling water 30 seconds, then transfer with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice and cold water to stop cooking.  Transfer peaches to a cutting board and peel, starting with cut end, then cut in half, discarding pits.

Combined sugar and water in cleaned pot.  Halve vanilla bean lengthwise with a paring knife and scrape seeds into pot, then add pod and bring mixture to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved.  Add peaches, pitted sides down to sugar syrup, then reduce heat and poach, covered at a bare simmer 6 minutes.  Turn peaches over and continue to poach, covered, until tender, 5 to 6 minutes more.

Cool peaches in poaching liquid in pot, uncovered, 1 to 1 ½ hours.

Make the raspberry sauce (while peaches are cooling):  Force raspberries through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, pressing hard on solids.

Combine sugar and water in a small heavy saucepan.  Cover pan (so condensation will wash any sugar crystals down side of pan) and bring to a boil, then remove lid and boil 2 minutes.

Immediately stir sugar syrup into raspberry puree and cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.  Stir in lemon juice.

When ready to serve the shortcakes, whip the cream with confectioners' sugar and vanilla in a bowl until firm.  

To serve shortcakes in jars:   I used some 8-oz. and 4-oz. jars, but you can also use a bigger jar.   You just have to add more layer into it.  Cut the cake into small squares, enough so they can fit into the jars.  Cut the peaches the same size as the cake squares.  Add these on top of the cake.  Drizzle some raspberry sauce.  Spoon some whipped cream onto the sauce.  Repeat the process until you reach the top of jar.  Ideally, you'll want the whipped cream to be on the top layer.  Garnish with some diced or sliced peaches and drizzle more raspberry sauce.  This recipe will make quite a bit shortcakes in jars; I didn't use all for it, instead we ate the rest like regular shortcakes.  Simply cut the cake into bigger squares and serve with sliced peaches, whipped cream, and raspberry sauce.