two brunch dishes courtesy of Martha

Since it has been so long since I’ve posted I thought I’d give you two recipes for the price of one.  Bargain!

Amongst other tasty delights for Easter brunch I made a spinach and fontina cheese strata.  I’d never made a strata before but it was so easy I’m not sure why it took me so long.  A strata is a cross between a bread pudding and a lasagna, in other words, cheesy carb-y deliciousness.

4-14-13 057

I began by cooking down some spinach and onions in a little olive oil, slicing pieces of a slightly stale loaf of French bread, and grating cheese.  (Apologies for the poor quality of the photos.  I forgot my camera so used my phone.)

4-14-13 059

Then, like you would do with a lasagna, you start to layer everything up.

4-14-13 061

Then you mix up some milk and eggs and pour them over the whole shebang.

4-14-13 064

One of the things that is great about this dish is that the milk and egg mixture needs to soak into the bread for at least eight hours which means you can assemble it the night before you serve it thereby making it a breeze the next morning when you want to serve it.  You just add a little more milk and egg mixture and bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.

Unfortunately I did not have a photo of the strata after it baked but I can assure you it was golden and bubbly and lovely and well-enjoyed by all.

4-14-13 069

The second recipe I am sharing with you is a bit of a cheat as I shared a similar recipe with you previously.  But one can never have too many candied bacon recipes…

4-14-13 066

This is even simpler than the strata.  You lay bacon strips over cooling racks placed in parchment-lined baking sheets and then sprinkle with brown sugar and freshly cracked black pepper and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes until crispy.  Voila!

4-14-13 075

It was the first dish we ran out of at brunch!

Spinach-And-Fontina Strata (from www.marthastewart.com)

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt, divided
  • 2 pounds spinach, stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Unsalted butter, for dish
  • 1 pound challah loaf, sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 8 ounces young Italian fontina cheese, grated, divided
  • 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (1/3 cup), divided
  • 8 large eggs, divided
  • 2 2/3 cups whole milk, divided
Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and saute until translucent, about 3 minutes. Fill pan with as much spinach as will fit; cook, stirring, adding remainder a handful at a time as space allows. When all the spinach is wilted, stir in pepper and nutmeg. Drain spinach in a sieve. When cool enough to handle, squeeze excess moisture from spinach by hand.
Butter a 3-quart baking dish. Place a third of the bread in a single layer in dish. Top with half the spinach mixture and a third of the cheeses. Repeat layering with a third of the bread, remaining spinach mixture, and a third of the cheeses, then top with remaining bread.
Whisk together 6 eggs, 2 cups milk, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and carefully pour over bread. Cover with parchment, and gently press down with hands until egg mixture soaks through top of bread. Cover parchment with foil, and refrigerate at least 8 hours and up to 2 days.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, remove strata from refrigerator, uncover, and let stand 30 minutes. Whisk together remaining 2 eggs and 2/3 cup milk, and pour over strata, gently pressing between layers of bread with a spoon or spatula to ensure that egg mixture seeps to bottom. Sprinkle with remaining cheeses. Bake until puffed and golden brown in places, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes before serving.
Brown Sugar Glazed Bacon (from www.marthastewart.com)

  • 16 slices (about 1 pound) bacon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground pepper
  • 1/3 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 10-by-15-inch rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper; place a wire rack on top of each sheet. Arrange bacon in a single layer on the two racks. Evenly sprinkle with pepper and sugar.Bake until bacon is crisp and browned, rotating sheets halfway through, 30 to 35 minutes. Pat dry with paper towels.

caramel pecan cinnamon rolls

As promised in my first post of the new year, the recipe for my Aunt Sarah’s cinnamon rolls, aka the best cinnamon rolls ever.

1.6.13 002

She told me the original recipe came from the back of a bag of flour and she has tweaked it over the years to get it right.  In fact when I asked for the recipe she had to translate it for me because she was still using the original cut-out from the back of the flour bag which was in rough shape and didn’t have any of her modifications noted on it.  Point is, this recipe is time-tested and a proven winner.  Trust me on this one.

1.6.13 004

You begin by making the sweet dough which then gets divided in two and is kneaded and then sits for a little while to rise.

1.6.13 009

Next you roll the dough out into two rectangles and spread with softened butter (I microwaved the butter for about 30 seconds so it was partially melted and that seemed to work well) and then sprinkle with a brown sugar/cinnamon mixture.

1.6.13 011

Then you roll the dough up.

1.6.13 025

Once the dough is rolled up you use a sharp knife or kitchen twine and cut the dough into 1 1/2″ sections.  I got a little too generous with a few rolls and they wound up being closer to 2″ which messes up the caramel-to-roll ratio in the end so I advise you get don’t cut them any wider than 1 1/2″.

1.6.13 013

Next you put 4 to 6 tablespoons of melted butter in the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ pan, then drizzle 1/2 of light corn syrup over the top, followed by 3/4 cup of brown sugar, and finally pecans if you are using.  I decided to make half the pan with pecans and half without.  Another tip here that I wish I had thought of before I baked the rolls: butter the sides of the pan so the rolls don’t stick and therefore drop out of the pan easier when you get that point.

1.6.13 016

Then you place the rolls into the pan on top of the buttery-sugary goodness and let rise in the fridge for 2 to 48 hours.  Once they have risen in the fridge you then take them out and let them rest on the counter for another 1 to 2 hours.  Do not do as I did and stuff the pan quite as full as the below picture shows.  I forgot to take into account that the dough nearly doubles in size so it threw off the baking time of the rolls since they were too close together and a few rolls in the middle of the pan did not cook all the way through.  I think I would have been okay if I had taken 3 rolls out of the 9″ x 13″ pan and placed them in a separate pan to bake.  Live and learn.

1.6.13 027

After the rolls bake for approximately 30 to 40 minutes (I recommend checking after 20 minutes and if they are browning already, cover with aluminum foil for duration of baking time) you flip the pan over (away from you) into prepared foil with upturned edges so you do not get caramel all over your counter top.  The caramel from the bottom of the pan coats the rolls in a beautiful golden brown and the scent is heavenly.

1.4.13 098

Alas, because I did not butter the sides of the pan and then stuffed a few too many in, my rolls did not come out the pan in an attractive manner.  They still tasted wonderful but were not so much photo-worthy so I am instead substituting with a photo of the rolls my aunt made at Christmas.  As they say, practice makes perfect…

Caramel Pecan Cinnamon Rolls (CoolRise Rapidmix Sweet Dough Recipe)

Dough:

  • 4 – 5 cups bread flour
  • 1 ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • ½ cup (1 stick) soft butter
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ cups very hot tap water
  • 2 eggs at room temperature

Filling & Caramel:

  • ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) butter
  • 1 ½ brown sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons cinnamon
  • ½ cup light corn syrup
  • ½ cup pecans, optional

Make dough:

Combine 2 cups flour, undissolved yeast, sugar & salt in large bowl (use pedestal mixer if you have one).  Stir well to blend and add softened butter.

Add hot tap water to ingredients in bowl.  Beat with electric mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes.  Scrape sides of bowl occasionally.

Add eggs and 1 cup more flour.  Beat with electric mixer at high speed for 1 minute or until thick and elastic.  Scrape sides of bowl occasionally.

Stir in remaining flour gradually with wooden spoon.  Use just enough flour to make a soft dough which leaves sides of bowl.  (I only used about 4 and ½ cups bread flour.)  Turn out onto floured board.  Round up into a ball.

Divide dough into two equal portions.  Knead 5-10 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic

Cover with plastic wrap & then a dry towel.  Let rest 15-20 minutes and punch down.

Make pecan rolls:

Roll each ball into a 12” x 18” rectangle (approximate size).  Spread with 1 stick of softened butter and sprinkle with a mixture of ¾ cup of the brown sugar and all of the cinnamon.  Starting at the longest side, roll up the dough leaving the seam side down.  Using a sharp knife or twine, cut each roll about 1 ½ inches deep.

Butter sides of a 9” x  13” pan and then put 4 tablespoons of melted butter in the bottom of the pan, swirl light corn syrup over butter, and sprinkle remaining ¾ cup brown sugar on top.  Add whole or chopped pecans to the pan and then lay cinnamon rolls on top.  Lightly brush rolls with melted butter, cover loosely with plastic wrap, then a dry towel and refrigerate 2 to 48 hours.

Remove rolls from the fridge and uncover, letting them rise at room temperature for approximately 1 to 2 hours, or until nearly doubled in size.  Bake at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until done (making sure the rolls aren’t doughy in the center).  Cover lightly with foil if they brown too quickly while baking.

Remove from the pan onto a large sheet of heavy aluminum foil with edges that have been turned up (to prevent hot caramel from spilling onto the counter).  Make sure to tip the pan away from you to prevent caramel from splashing on you.

berry season is here!

I hadn’t been to the farmer’s market for a few weeks so was pleasantly surprised to see loads of strawberries, raspberries, and even a few tart cherries on Saturday.  Allegedly there are some local blueberries that are coming in too but alas, I bought mine on sale at the supermarket last week and they originated in California.  Never mind.  The season is upon us no matter where the berries may have grown!

I had been craving blueberry muffins ever since I brought the blueberries home so this morning got to quick work making it happen.  I tried a Barefoot Contessa recipe that sounded interesting due to the streusel topping (I’m a sucker for streusel toppings) and use of lemon zest in the batter.  I know Ina is a big fan of using lemon zest to bring out other flavors in baking (or adding coffee to chocolate baked goods to deepen the chocolate flavor) and it really works here.  It brightens the flavor of the muffin, if that makes sense.

They were a cinch to make and they made a lovely second breakfast this morning.  The first breakfast of steel cut oats was hearty and all but not the most exciting.  (No offense steel cut oats, we’re still bros.)

Blueberry Streusel Muffins (from “Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics” by Ina Garten)

  • 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 4 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups buttermilk, shaken
  • ¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 ½ teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 2 extra-large eggs
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries (2 half-pints)

For the streusel topping:

  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners.

Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl and blend with your hands.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, butter, lemon zest, and eggs.  Stir the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture with a fork, mixing just until blended.  Fold the blueberries into the batter.  Don’t overmix!  With a standard (2 1/4-inch) ice-cream scoop or large spoon, scoop the batter into the prepared cups, filling them almost full.

For the topping, place all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until the butter is in very small pieces.  Pour into a bowl and rub with your fingers until crumbly.  Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the streusel on top of each muffin.  Bake the muffins for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown.

awesome gluten free pumpkin muffins

Yesterday it was sunny and in the 70’s.  I sat in a backyard and enjoyed the sun whilst food grilled behind me.  There was frisbee tossing and cold drinks and small children running around in shorts.  What a difference a day made… today it was gray and in the 40’s.  I had to turn my heat on for the first time in over two weeks!  Boo.  But I also made you some weather-worthy pumpkin muffins that almost make the return to typical spring temps worthwhile.

A few months back, before Thanksgiving, I roasted some pumpkins from my parents garden and pureed them up.  I then conveniently froze the pumpkin puree in one-cup portions so that I could thaw them out whenever I felt like baking up a taste of fall.  (You can certainly use canned pumpkin here, I’m just bragging because my foresight was pretty awesome last November, though it was kind of a pain to puree up the pumpkin to be honest.  Do yourself a favor and buy it canned… unless of course you grow pumpkins in your garden and have a few spare hours next fall.)

These muffins are the perfect antidote to gray days like today.  A little spicey, sweet, and best served warm with butter.

Pumpkin Muffins (adapted slightly from Apple-Pumpkin Muffins recipe from “Blackbird Bakery Gluten-Free” by Karen Morgan)

  • 1 cup sorghum flour
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • ½ cup tapioca flour
  • 2 teaspoons guar gum
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
  • ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • One 15-ounce can solid-pack unsweetened pumpkin (or 1 ½ cups pureed pumpkin)
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Position an oven rack in the center of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line muffin cups with paper liners.  (Makes about 18 to 24 muffins.)

In a medium bowl, combine all the dry ingredients, including the sugars and spices, and stir with a whisk to blend.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium-high speed until soft.  Add the dry ingredients all at once and mix on low speed for about 2 minutes.  Add the eggs, pumpkin, and vanilla and mix on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl several times.  Using an ice-cream scoop, fill the prepared muffin cups three-fourths full with batter and bake for 25 minutes, or until cracked on top and browned on the edges.  A wooden skewer inserted into one of the muffins will come out clean.

a tasty start to the new year

When I lived in New York I would sometimes motivate myself to workout by promising myself a trip to a bakery or takeout place on the way back from the gym.  It’s a lot easier to get up extra early before work or drag yourself after a ten-hour-workday if there is a reward waiting for you in the form of delicious food.  It works for me every time.

Sunday mornings I would often take a free class at the local Lululemon (Sidenote: those people are brilliant to offer free classes in their stores before business hours; people shopped with their eyes while doing warrior-one and downward-facing-dog.) which was within a few blocks of a then new place by the City Bakery people.

On my first visit to this bakery I was completely sold when I saw Maple Bacon Scones on their menu.  Um, yes please.

And I figured what better way to start the New Year then with a breakfast of champions where I would recreate said scones?

I started out by candy-ing some bacon.  Then I hunted all over town for pure maple extract.  That part wasn’t easy, but the hunt for the real stuff as opposed to the artificial stuff was well worth it.  I suggest you do the same as the imitation kind alters the flavor of the scones and doesn’t in fact taste much like maple at all.

Then I mixed together some flour, a lot of butter, some sugar, the usual baking suspects (baking powder, soda, and salt), an egg, a little cinnamon, buttermilk, and the star ingredient.  Once the dough was kneaded and formed into scone shapes I brushed them with the remaining buttermilk and dusted them with raw sugar and baked them.  Afterwards they got glazed with a little confectioners’ sugar and maple syrup.  Very tasty.  And better yet, no strenuous yoga was necessary to enjoy them this time!

Happy New Year!!!

Maple Bacon Scones (adapted slightly from Maple Walnut Scones recipe in “Baked: New Frontiers in Baking” by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito)

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons pure maple extract (do not use imitation extract as the flavor is not the same)
  • 1 cup candied bacon (or walnuts if candied bacon is not your thing)
  • ¼ cup raw sugar
  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  Whisk until combined.

Add the butter.  Use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour until the butter is pea-sized.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, ¾ cup of the buttermilk, and the maple extract.  Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and then gently knead the dough with your hands until the dough starts to come together.  Add the candied bacon (or walnuts) to the dough and knead gently to incorporate.  Move the dough to a lightly floured surface.  Use your hands to shape the dough into two discs (about 1 ½ inches in height.)  Do not overwork the dough.

Cut each disk into 6 wedges with a knife.  Place the wedges onto the prepared baking sheet.  Brush each scone with the remaining buttermilk and sprinkle with raw sugar.  Bake in the center of the oven for about 25 to 30 minutes (rotating the baking sheet halfway through the baking time) or until the scones are golden brown.

Transfer the scones to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place the wire rack with the cooled scones over the baking sheet.

Whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and maple syrup until the mixture is smooth.  Slowly pour the glaze over each scone in a zigzag pattern.

Allow the glaze to set (about 10 minutes) and serve immediately.

Scones can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

the best pancakes in the whole wide world

February can be a very long and bleak month, but I never minded it too much when I lived in NYC for two reasons: hot chocolate month at City Bakery (more on that in a future post) and pancake month at Clinton Street Baking Co.  Clinton Street makes the best pancakes I’ve ever tasted and lucky for me, they have a cookbook in which they share their magical recipe:

I’ve never not had to wait for a table at Clinton Street, even on a weekday morning after a huge snowstorm, and I think the above images illustrate why.  It seems that the secret to their pancakes is the fluffiness, and this fluffiness is a result of separating the eggs and whipping up the egg whites before mixing.  Genius.

This process takes a little longer than your typical pancake batter but it is well worth it.

After pouring the batter onto the hot griddle you can add blueberries if you like:

Or raspberries:

Or you could add blackberries.  Or chocolate chips.  Or… you get the picture.  Have fun with it!

And then enjoy them without ever having to wait for a table.

“Neil’s Pancakes” from the Clinton Street Baking Company Cookbook by Dede Lahman and Neil Kleinberg

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder, plus 1 teaspoon
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • ¾ cup (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted, plus 2 teaspoons unmelted for the griddle
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Blueberries or raspberries, optional

Measure and sift all the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl: flour, baking powder, sugar, salt.

In another bowl, whisk together the yolks, milk, melted butter, and vanilla until combined.  Whisk the wet mixture into the dry mixture.  The result should be slightly lumpy, yet combined to form a batter.

Whip the egg whites in a medium mixing bowl with an electric mixer until they reach medium peaks (soft in the middle).  Be careful, you don’t want to overwhip the egg whites.

Gently mix half of the whipped whites into the batter with a large rubber spatula.  Then gently fold the remaining half into the batter.  Remember: this batter should be slightly lumpy and have large parts of egg whites not fully incorporated: it should look like whitecaps in the ocean with foam on top.  (The batter will last a few hours in the fridge without deflating too much.)

Heat a griddle to 350 to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease the hot griddle with the remaining butter.  Drop ¼ cup (approximately 4 tablespoons) of pancake batter on the griddle and cook to set.  Add berries if desired.  Never add the fruit to the mix; always add
the fruit to the pancakes once they’re on the griddle.  When you see bubbles start to form on top, lift the pancake halfway up to see if it’s golden brown and crispy on the edges.  If ready, flip the pancake.

When the pancake is golden brown on both sides, remove with a spatula.  Repeat with the remaining batter and filling, cooking several pancakes at a time.