Boozy Baked French Toast

The only thing better than delicious brunch is brunch that you do not have to get up early in order to pull off well. This baked french toast is least stressful thing you could make while hosting brunch or lunch. I made this while preparing for a friend’s baby shower and this was definitely the easiest part – cut slices of old Challah, and let them soak in the custard overnight. In the morning, just bake it and serve! I went with a very citrusy flavor here with lemon zest and cointreau, but you can definitely go with a wide range of flavor combinations – Frangelico (hazelnut liquer) and nutella or cookie butter, Chambord (raspberry liquer) and fresh raspberries, bourbon and toasted pecans., Calvados and apples – just name a season, and there’s an apt combination to devour. This french toast also puffs up beautifully, so you should plan on baking it right before it’s supposed to be served, so you can get all the ohs and the ahs!

Boozy Baked French Toast

Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 and 1/2 loaves supermarket Challah bread in 1-inch slices
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp Cointreau

Directions

1. Generously grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with salted (my choice) or unsalted butter.
2. Arrange bread in two tightly-packed layers in the pan. I cut one slice into smaller pieces to fill in gaps. If you are using any fillings of fruit or nuts, this is the time to get them between the layers or sprinkled atop.
3. Whisk milk, eggs, sugar, salt, lemon zest, and cointreau and pour over the bread. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.
4. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The bread will absorb all of the milk custard while you sleep.
5. Bake at 425 for 30 minutes, or until puffed and golden. This will take longer if you have additional layers.
6. Cut into generous squares and serve with maple syrup, fresh fruit, powdered sugar or all of the above.

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Apple Brandy Bread Pudding

One of my favorite desserts to make over the holidays is bread pudding. It is a great way to use up old bread because the drier that a bread is, the more it will soak up the custard. You also do not have to be extremely precise unlike other desserts – you can easily use more or less bread or custard depending on your preferences. You can also pretty much go any route with it – sweet or savory. And if it’s the holidays, I think having a brandy/whiskey/rum/bourbon sauce to go along with it is essential!

I have made a bananas foster bread pudding with a vanilla rum sauce in the past, so I decided to go with a different one this time. While looking for recipes over the holidays, I fell in love with Food and Wine’s Yearly Compilations that have the recipes from every month together in one place. Though I subscribe to Bon Appetit, I have to confess that the amount of advertising in that magazine really detracts from the recipes, and having a yearly compilation means that I get a giant cooking magazine, with just recipes and no ads. I finally ended up settling on this apple bread pudding from  Food & Wine’s website. You can alter the level of sweetness in this recipe depending on your taste – I personally like a little less sugar, letting the sweetness of the apples and raisins complement the warming flavors of cinnamon and brandy. My two main tips  for bread puddings are – 1) you should cut the crust off the bread, and then cut the bread into cubes and leave it out to dry overnight. Then it’ll be sure to absorb more of the custard, 2) if you are using raisins or fruit, you can infuse them with the brandy (or whatever else the recipe calls for), to ensure that the raisins soften a little bit, get more plump, and get more flavor.

Apple Brandy Bread Pudding

Recipe adapted from Food & Wine Magazine

Ingredients

  • 1 pound brioche, cut into 1-inch pieces without the crust
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 Granny Smith apples—peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup Calvados or other brandy (I used Calvados)
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
  • 1/2 cup raisins, soaked in brandy
  • Whipped cream or crème fraîche, for serving

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
  2. If you did not leave the bread to dry out overnight, spread the brioche on a large rimmed baking sheet and toast for about 15 minutes, stirring once or twice, until lightly golden and dry. If you did, you can skip this step.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt the butter; reserve 2 tablespoons of the melted butter in a small bowl. Add the apples and 1/4 cup of the sugar to the skillet and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the apples are golden and softened, about 15 minutes. Stir in the cinnamon. Remove from the heat and add the Calvados. Return the skillet to the heat and cook until the sauce is syrupy, about 1 minute. Apple Brandy Bread Pudding
  4. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the milk and the remaining 3/4 cup of sugar. Scrape the vanilla seeds into the custard (save the vanilla bean for another use). Add the brioche, raisins, and apples and toss until evenly coated. Let stand for 5 minutes to allow the brioche to absorb the custard.
  5. Brush an 8-by-8-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the reserved melted butter. Add the bread pudding and drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon of melted butter on top. Bake for about 50 minutes, until the custard is set and the top is golden. Let the bread pudding cool slightly, then serve with whipped cream or crème fraîche

 

Pão de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread)

I was first introduced to Pão de Queijo by one of my Brazilian friends, and I wanted to try making it because after all, who doesn’t like bread and cheese? Crispy outside but soft and chewy inside, this is a perfect snack or breakfast food. It’s also free of gluten – its biggest difference from any other kind of bread is that it is supposed to be made with sour cassava flour instead of all-purpose flour. However, sour cassava is typically hard to find in most other countries, so our best bet is to use tapioca flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill finely ground tapioca flour).  The insides are kind of hollow, so you shouldn’t expect something like a dinner roll. The cheese flavor is present most in the middle, so pick your cheeses wisely! I was told that using only Parmesan cheese would be a bad idea as it would make the end product too dry. So I decided to use a mixture of half-parmesan and half-Mozzarella, so as to make it more moist. If you like stronger flavors, I would suggest using sharp Cheddar in the cheese mixture as well.

pdq2

Recipe adapted from The Kitchn

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups (10 ounces) tapioca flour or sour cassava flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup Mozzarella cheese
  • 2/3 cup Parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a baking pan with parchment and set aside.
  2. Combine the milk, oil, and salt in the saucepan, and whisking occasionally, bring it to a gentle boil over medium heat. Remove from heat as soon as you see big bubbles coming through the milk.
  3. Add all of the tapioca flour to the saucepan and stir until you see no more dry tapioca flour. The dough will be grainy and gelatinous at this point.
  4. Transfer the dough to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  Beat the dough for a few minutes at medium speed until it smooths out and has cooled enough that you can hold your finger against the dough for several seconds.
  5. Whisk the eggs together in a small bowl. With the mixer on medium, beat the eggs into the dough in two additions. Wait until the first addition has been fully incorporated into the dough before adding the second. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  6. With the mixer on medium, beat in the cheese until fully incorporated. The resulting dough will be very sticky, stretchy, and soft with a consistency between cake batter and cooke dough.
  7. Using an ice cream scoop, a tablespoon measure, or a dinner spoon, scoop rounded portions of the dough into mounds on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Space the mounds an inch or two apart. Dip your scoop in water to prevent sticking.
  8. Transfer the sheet with the puffs to the oven and immediately turn down the heat to 350°F. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the puffs have puffed, the outsides are dry, and they are just starting to color. Cool briefly and eat. Leftover puffs can be kept in an airtight container for up to a week and re-crisped in a warm oven or toaster oven.

Bananas Foster Bread Pudding with Vanilla Rum Sauce

What happens when you combine bananas, rum, raisins, toasted pecans and custard? A decadent dessert that is perfect for the holiday season. One of the best bread puddings that I’ve ever had was at Bonton Cafe in New Orleans, which was served with a whiskey sauce. However, that whiskey sauce was way too strong for me, so this recipe, with its mild rum sauce is perfect for those of us who don’t like a particularly strong whiskey or bourbon taste in our desserts.

This recipe gives around 12-14 servings, so feel free to cut it in half. However, you’re gonna regret it the minute it gets over, so I would suggest making this large a batch. The rum sauce can be made up to 2 days in advance, and can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days. Just warm it up and drizzle on the bread pudding to serve!

bbp_opt

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit, March 1995

INGREDIENTS
Banana Bread Pudding:

  • 2/3 cup raisins or currants
  • 4 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup dark rum
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
  • 6 bananas, peeled, halved crosswise and then lengthwise
  • 10 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 cups whipping cream
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extracts
  • 2 large baguettes, dried, with crusts off, cut into cubes
  • 1 cup chopped toasted pecans

Rum Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 tablespoons dark rum

DIRECTIONS

FOR BANANA BREAD PUDDING:

  • Combine raisins and 4 tablespoons rum in a small bowl. Let stand 20 minutes.
  • Melt 4 tablespoons butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add bananas and 4 tablespoons sugar and cook until bananas are tender, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from heat.

    Cooking the bananas until they get tender

    Cooking the bananas until they get tender

  • In a different bowl, combine whipping cream, eggs, vanilla extract and remaining 1/2 cup rum and 6 tablespoons sugar and whisk to blend.
  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 17 x 11-inch loaf pan. Arrange 1/3 of bread strips cubes in bottom of prepared pan. Make sure the bread cubes are packed tightly. Arrange 6 banana pieces atop bread. Sprinkle with half of raisins and half of pecans. Arrange 1/3 of bread cibes atop bananas. Pour half of egg mixture over. Arrange remaining banana pieces atop bread. Sprinkle with remaining raisins and pecans. Arrange remaining bread cubes atop bananas. Pour remaining egg mixture over. Press gently on top layer to compact. Let stand 15 minutes.

    Topping the first layer of bread cubes with the cooked bananas, rum-soaked raisins and chopped toasted pecans

    Topping the first layer of bread cubes with the cooked bananas, rum-soaked raisins and chopped toasted pecans

  • Bake bread pudding until puffed and golden and knife inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool slightly.
  • Cut bread pudding into slices. Arrange on plates; drizzle with warm Rum Sauce and serve.

RUM SAUCE (Makes about 2 cups):

  • Melt butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add cream, sugar and salt. Bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves.

    Making the rum sauce, waiting until the sauce starts to bubble

    Making the rum sauce, waiting until the sauce starts to bubble

  • Remove from heat. Stir in rum. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over low heat, stirring constantly.)  

    Mixing in the rum after taking the sauce off the heat

    Mixing in the rum after taking the sauce off the heat

Drizzle a tablespoon (or more, if you like!) of warm rum sauce on a serving of bread pudding. Hope you guys had a lovely Christmas and have a great rest of the holiday season as well 🙂
Ready to be served!

Ready to be served!

Pumpkin-Raisin Bread

The semester’s finally over and I could not be more relieved! After a  brutal few months, I’m really looking forward to some relaxing, guilt-free baking sessions. I was still missing pumpkin pie from Thanksgiving, so I tried to recreate something with pumpkins that was a lot healthier.

Try making this pumpkin-raisin bread – with only half a cup of sugar, this bread substitutes oil with a healthy applesauce, making a great morning or afternoon bite. It would probably taste much better with fresh pumpkin puree, so go ahead and use that if you have fresh pumpkin lying around! I also threw in some semi-sweet mini chocolate chips, and other options include chopped walnuts and pecans.

Recipe adapted from Allrecipes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce (you can also use an equal amount of vegetable oil as a substitute)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 – 2/3 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9×5 inch loaf pans.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the pumpkin, applesauce, sugar, and eggs. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg; stir into the pumpkin mixture until well blended. Add the raisins and chocolate chips and mix well.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour. The top of the loaf should spring back when lightly pressed.
Pumpkin Bread with Raisins and Chocolate Chips

Pumpkin Bread with Raisins and Chocolate Chips

Cranberry-Orange Bread with Orange Glaze

What did I do when Hurricane Sandy’s arrival was imminent and I was trying to procrastinate? Bake, of course! The hurricane itself was underwhelming, but we were also one of the luckier ones as large parts of Connecticut did lose electricity. Fortunately, a large part of New Haven seems to be doing fine except for a few fallen trees. The New Haven-New York lines are however currently out of power, so I hope it gets taken care of fast so that people commuting to/from work and home do not face much problem.

Since I was baking during a hurricane, I didn’t have much option as there wasn’t much lying around the house. I did however have a bag of cranberries lying around, so I decided to use those. This bread isn’t very sweet (courtesy cranberries) and you should be careful to chop them up, otherwise you might end up getting an entirely bitter bite. I threw in some chocolate chips as well, and so you could probably add some nuts of your choice if you wanted to make it even healthier. Since it uses yogurt instead of butter, this recipe is already pretty healthy.

Ingredients

For the Loaf:

  • 1 1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt or Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 teaspoons grated orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup chopped cranberries (if you put in whole cranberries, you might get entirely bitter bites!)
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips (optional, I only added them to counter the bitterness of the cranberries. You could also increase the sugar)

For the Lemon Glaze:

  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2/2.5 tablespoons fresh orange juice

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease bottom and sides of one 9 x 5-inch loaf pans; dust with flour, tapping out excess.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sugar, eggs, orange zest, vanilla and oil. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix the blueberries with the remaining tablespoon of flour
  5. Take 2/3 of the cranberries and gently fold them into the flour. Pour 2/3 of the batter into the bread pan. Then add the remaining 1/3 of the cranberries and sprinkle them on top of the batter in the bread pan. Top up with the remaining 1/3 of the batter. (This step ensures that all the cranberries do not sink to the bottom)
  6. Bake 50 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing loaf to a wire rack on top of a baking sheet

    Warm out of the oven!

  7. To make the orange glaze, in a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and 2-3 tablespoons of the orange juice. The mixture should be thick but pourable. Add up to another tablespoon of orange juice if the mixture is too stiff. Pour the orange glaze over the top of the loaf once it has been cooling on the wire rack for a few minutes and let it drip down the sides. Let the orange glaze harden, about 15 minutes, before serving.

Lemon-Blueberry Bread with a Lemon Glaze

And my love affair with lemon continues! Having made cookies and bars, my next stop was some kind of a bread. I wanted to mix things up a little bit though, and given that I just bought a bunch of frozen berries that were on sale, I settled on a lemon-blueberry bread. Though I ended up drizzling a lemon glaze on top of it at the end, it would be perfect even without the glaze (especially if you want a breakfast bread).

Recipe adapted from Sweet Pea’s Kitchen

For the Loaf:

  • 1 1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (approximately 1 large or 2 small lemons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups blueberries, frozen, thawed and rinsed (presumably it turns out even better with fresh blueberries)

For the Lemon Glaze:

  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease bottom and sides of one 9 x 5-inch loaf pans; dust with flour, tapping out excess.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sugar, eggs, lemon zest, vanilla and oil. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.

    Getting the ingredients together

  4. In a separate bowl, mix the blueberries with the remaining tablespoon of flour.

    Remember to coat the blueberries in flour so that they don’t sink to the bottom while baking

  5. Take 2/3 of the blueberries and gently fold them into the flour. Pour 2/3 of the batter into the bread pan. Then add the remaining 1/3 of the blueberries and sprinkle them on top of the batter in the bread pan. Top up with the remaining 1/3 of the batter. (This step ensures that all the blueberries do not sink to the bottom).
  6.  Bake 50 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing loaf to a wire rack on top of a baking sheet.

    The bread straight out of the oven! Let it stay in the pan for 10 minutes before taking it out and placing it on a wire rack to cool off

  7. To make the lemon glaze, in a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and 3 tablespoons of the lemon juice. The mixture should be thick but pourable. Add up to another tablespoon of lemon juice if the mixture is too stiff. Pour the lemon glaze over the top of each loaf and let it drip down the sides. Let the lemon glaze harden, about 15 minutes, before serving.