Friday, April 1, 2016

Overnight French Toast

Dear Lauren,

I have dearly loved French Toast my entire life. I've seen overnight French toast recipes from time to time for years but thought, why would anyone want to mess up a perfectly amazing breakfast by letting it sit overnight in a casserole? I imagined a soggy mess.

Recently, as you know, Grampa and Cojo sold their house and had a truck full of their furniture and housewares they wanted to send to us. Dad flew to Austin and drove for 15 hours straight to bring all of these treasures home. Yes, he is the best husband in the world! I knew we'd have a few people here to unload the truck so I figured I would make them some breakfast. I know the usual fare for moving parties is pizza and beer, but not at 9 a.m.!

I was thumbing through a new cookbook and landed on the overnight French toast page. Well, why not? I'm so glad I made it! In the last 5 minutes of baking, call your guests over to the oven door to oooh and aaah over the puffiness of the dish! It's gorgeous!

Overnight French Toast
adapted from Farmhouse Rules

12 eggs
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 stick salted butter, melted
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
pinch of coarst kosher salt
1 cup grade B maple syrup, plus more for serving
1 loaf challah bread, sliced

Mix together the first seven ingredients in a large bowl with a whisk. Pour the maple syrup in the bottom of a large (9 x 15) baking dish. Place the slices of the challah in the dish, yes, all of them, they should fit in tightly together. Pour the egg mixture evenly over all of the bread slices. Refrigerate overnight. In the morning, remove all racks above the center rack in your oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Place your baking dish on a baking sheet in case any of the contents should spill over, butter is the usual culprit and you don't want it on the bottom of your oven! Bake for about an hour or until the bread rises and is nice and brown on top and you can insert a fork in the center and it comes out dry. Serve with additional maple syrup or a little sprinkle of powdered sugar or both! You can add a nice fresh fruit salad and some bacon to the table, but make no mistake, this casserole is the star of the show!


Monday, January 18, 2016

Chocolate Pretzel Crispy Squares

Top tray!
I baked for only one family before Christmas. And actually it was on Christmas Day! So technically, not before at all! No, I wasn't too busy, too booked up with holiday affairs. Not at all. Next year I'll do better, that is my pledge, and I seriously doubt that will be a problem since I love Christmas and love baking for the neighbors.

In the week or two after Christmas I learned about two cookies, two baked goods, two GOODIES (here is one, the other follows) that require no baking and are fantastic to give at Christmas or any time of year at all. It made me wish I'd given that one family both of these things, and so I decided to make them and surprise them with these treats when they came home from their holiday trip.

I learned about Chocolate Pretzel Crispy Squares in a wonderful cookbook my friend Tracy sent me. The book contains food truck recipes. I've made six recipes out of the book so far. The food is so delicious; makes me want to only eat at food trucks from now on!

Chocolate Pretzel Crispy Squares
Adapted from a recipe from The Treats Truck - Kim Ima - New York, NY from Food Truck Road Trip

4 Tablespoons butter, divided
1 10 ounce bag mini marshmallows
6 1/2 cups Rice Crispies cereal
85 mini pretzels, *see prep instructions
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup white chocolate chips

*If you have a food scale, measure 125g mini pretzels. If you don't and you don't want to count, just use about 3 handfuls. Place the pretzels in a Ziploc, zip it, and lightly roll a rolling pin across the bag. You are looking for various sized pieces, not pulverized pretzels!

Butter the bottom and walls of a 9 x 13 pan with one tablespoon of butter. Set aside. In a medium pan, over medium heat, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter. When completely melted, reduce heat to medium-low and add the marshmallows and stir until smooth. Remove pan from heat and add Rice Crispies and stir until they are coated with the marshmallow mixture. Add pretzels and both chips and stir until they are well mixed. Pour mixture and press evenly into the 9 x 13 pan. Let set for at least 30 minutes and then cut into squares or bars. 


Debbie's Lake Travis Peanut Butter Chocolate Ritz Cookies

Making these cookies is so easy and requires no baking. I learned how to make them when we stayed with my parents in Texas over the holidays. I don't think we'd been there ten minutes when my dad walked up to me with one of these cookies, trying to get me to take a bite. Of course, I did, and the whole thing!! I asked him if it was a Girl Scout cookie. He said his friend Debbie made it.

Joe and Debbie are my parent's friends and they live about one minute away in Point Venture, TX, where my parents also live. Point Venture, population 861, is huge compared to what it was when I was a kid. I can't find any published population information before the town was incorporated, but I would guess there might have been 247 people when I was young, probably less. I don't remember much of my life before I remember Point Venture. We used to spend summers there and some weekends in the spring and fall, too. Yes, it's a little more crowded than it used to be, but I still absolutely love it.

I should add that Debbie told me everyone in PV loves these cookies! She has no name for them so I named them myself. I sure hope she approves!
See the middle rack. Click for a close-up!

Debbie's Lake Travis Peanut Butter Chocolate Ritz Cookies

Ritz crackers
Peanut butter
Chocolate flavored coating (this is the brand I used)
(optional - you can mix half chocolate and half vanilla together)

The instructions are so simple. You make peanut butter sandwiches with Ritz crackers. Then you melt the chocolate candy coating and dip the sandwiches in, covering them completely. Set them on a parchment-lined baking sheet and let them cool. That's it. Make as many or as few as you like!


P.S. Debbie says a man in PV loved these cookies so much, he requested they be served at his funeral when he died. And they were.
P.P.S. My friend Gary is in charge of a large law firm's food and beverage division. Somehow one of his caterer's knows about these cookies (she must be related to Debbie, ha!). Gary says when they hire her they always request a batch.
P.P.P.S. What I'm trying to say is...they're great.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Kettle Corn Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cookies, cookies, cookies! I was in the hospital over the holiday season, so no holiday cookie posts - boohoo! It may be January and the holidays may be over, but I don't care! I still love cookies in January and I bet you do, too! So let's savor the cookies and have a series of cookie posts, ok?! 
I know it was a long time ago (April 2013!), but yes, that is the date I posted these gorgeous cookies on my Facebook page but never to my blog (why, oh why?). They were inspired by a trip to Trader Joe's, where I saw a pretty bag of kettle corn that beckoned to me. Obviously, I bought it and clearly the contents of that bag inspired, what else? Cookies!

Kettle Corn Chocolate Chip Cookies

adapted from Joy the Baker and The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook 

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

4 cups Trader Joe Kettle Corn
1/2 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
Coarse sea salt for sprinkling

Place a rack in the center and upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Beat in the egg and the vanilla. Add the combined mixture of the flour, baking soda, and salt and beat until just combined. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and use a spatula to fold in the popcorn.  Some of the popcorn will break down a bit as it’s folded in and this is fine. Fold in chocolate chips.

Scoop dough by the heaping tablespoonful onto the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle the tops of the cookies with a little coarse sea salt. Bake for 10 to 13 minutes or until the edges and tops are golden brown. Remove from the oven, allow to rest on the baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.


Jalapeño Corn Cakes

I didn't have cornmeal. I tried to make my own, using grits and my food processor, but that was a big fail. Obviously, all I needed was a quick grocery store trip, but somehow I kept finding other pressing matters, like chores, that got in the way. Hours after the breakfast I'd planned, I was starving! Finally, I made this beautiful masterpiece and now several days later I'm still in love with it! The pancakes are hearty, so I'd recommend serving 1-2 with a poached egg instead of 3, but I can also tell you there are many other ways to serve this. Try them alone with butter, with butter and honey (thank you, Melissa Cook), in place of a corn tortilla and with taco meat, lettuce and tomato, like a tostada. Save the leftover pancakes and pop them in the toaster to heat them up. Tear them up, toss with a little oil and bake for a few minutes and you will have croutons. Any way you would eat cornbread! Writing about them just makes me want to whip up another batch.

Jalapeño Corn Cakes

Adapted from recipe by Dennis Kum of Big D's Grub Truck in New York City/Food Truck Road Trip A Cookbook by Kim Pham & Philip Shen with Terri Phillips

3/4 cup (75g) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (33g) masa
1/3 cup (57g) cornmeal
1/4 cup (48g) sugar
1 Tablespoon (12g) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 large eggs
1/4 cup avocado oil (use the kind you like)
1 cup (151g) corn (I used thawed frozen)
1/3 cup (60g) jalapeños, canned with seeds, chopped

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Combine milk, eggs, and oil in a small bowl and then pour into the dry ingredients and stir until combined. Add corn and jalapeños. Heat a large, non-stick skillet or well-seasoned cast iron skillet over medium heat (you may need to adjust the heat depending on your stove) and when hot, pour 1/4 cup of the mixture per pancake (or any size you like).

Tip from Dennis Kum: Place the cakes on a towel-lined plate, covering with an additional towel to keep warm. (Why didn't I know this tip? I tried it, works GREAT!)