Saturday, October 11, 2014

Breakfast dishes for guests

A few months ago we had friends visit within just a few weeks of each other. Although we don't have a guest bedroom for visitors (comfy couch!) I love when people come and stay with us, as it gives us an excuse to explore Chicago and gives me an excuse to make food.

Belmont Harbor
We don't go too overboard, but I like to prepare a breakfast that (a) will fill us up until lunchtime and (b) doesn't take too much time to prepare in the morning. So I love recipes that have the bulk of the prep the night before.

This apple french toast bake is exactly one of those types of recipes. You don't have to prep it in advance, but its easy to cook the apples and mix up the milk/egg mixture the night before and have it ready to go in the AM. Another bonus: it bakes up all at once, instead of frying the french toast 1 piece at a time, so it's a perfect for a crowd.

Don't forget to pre-grease your pan like me. The bottom of the french toast was STUCK to the pan and
would not come off. The top was still delicious, but it did waste a lot of the bread on the bottom. 

Plus it makes an incredible french toast. It's like apple pie and french toast made a delicious baby!

Then, a few weeks later I tried out another recipe I'd been wanting to make forever: yeasted waffles. Yeast + flour + time + waffle maker = the most amazing waffle you'll ever have. The home-made whipped cream and strawberries didn't hurt either.

They're light and fluffy on the inside and incredibly crispy on the outside. Regular waffles are good but yeasted waffles are like waffles on crack. You'll never get a texture like this with a plain waffle recipe. Just look at those edges. I'm drooling!

Unlike the french toast, this recipe actually has to be started the night before (or the day before that). The yeast needs time to rise, so there's no last-minute prep with this recipe. But when you get up in the morning all you have to do is get your waffle maker out and start cookin'!

Other than being super delicious, the best part of these recipes is that with a side of protein (bacon, sausage!) they really do fill you up and provide all the energy you need to walk around and explore.

Yours in providing quality breakfast that helps fuel your explorations,
Saw this pre-drawn caricature at the zoo, and although it's not me,
there's definitely a resemblance!

Apple French Toast Bake, adapted from Minimalist Baker

Note: The amount of bread will vary depending on the type and how dry it is. Just add enough to cover the bottom of the pan, plus a little extra.

The directions here are for if you want to prep the night before. If you want to prepare it the same day: preheat your oven (step 4), get your bread in the pan and soaking with the egg/milk mixture (steps 1, 2, and 5), then prepare your apples (step 3), and continue with step 6.

6-8 cups day old bread, any kind (hearty breads are ideal: brioche, whole wheat, Italian, etc), cubed
7 large eggs
2 cups milk
1/2 + 1/4 tsp cinnamon, divided
4 apples, cored, peeled and sliced into wedges (any kind of apple will do, tart apples if you like the dish a little less sweet)
2 TBSP butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, divided

  1. If prepping the night before: Generously grease a 9x13 baking dish (do not forget to do this like I did or your bread will be stuck to the pan). Add enough cubed bread to cover the whole bottom of your pan and ~1.5 inches up the sides. Cover with plastic wrap and set on your counter overnight. 

  2. Prepare custard mixture: In a mixing bowl combine eggs, milk, and 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.

  3. Prepare apples: To a large skillet over medium-low heat, add the apples and 2 TBSP butter. Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp cinnamon, stir, and cover to steam for a bit. When they start to get tender (~3-5 minutes, making sure not to overcook) remove cover and sprinkle with 2-3 TBSP brown sugar, or less to taste. Continue cooking on medium to medium high heat with cover off to get the apples slightly caramelized, making sure to not cook the apples too much (you don't want them mushy). Remove from heat to cool and place in a container in the refrigerator overnight.

  4. The next morning, preheat your oven to 375 degrees and place a rack in the center of the oven. Get your bread, egg/milk mixture, and apples ready.

  5. Pour the egg/milk mixture over the bread and use your hands or the back of a wooden spoon to push the bread down to soak up the liquid. If you end up having too much bread after pouring on the liquid, just pick a few out. Alternatively, if you have too much liquid, add more bread cubes.

  6. Allow bread to sit for a few minutes, or longer if you'd like. Check the bread to make sure all pieces are getting well soaked. If any cubes are dry on top, flip them over with your hands to ensure all pieces are wet. Sprinkle top with remaining brown sugar - about 1/4 cup, or less to taste.

  7. Spoon 3/4 of the apples over the top of the bread and push them down into the cracks with your fingers. If a few slices are sitting on top, that's OK.

  8. Bake on a center rack for 45 minutes to 1 hour. You'll know when it's done because the bread and apples will be golden brown and the egg mixture will no longer be wet. Stick a fork down in the center to check - if it's still jiggly or wet, bake for another 5-10 minutes.

  9. Remove from oven and serve immediately. Top each slice with any remaining sautéed apples and maple syrup. Store leftovers in a covered container in the fridge for up to a couple days and reheat in the microwave; though this dish is best when fresh. 

Overnight Yeasted Waffles, from Cooks Illustrated

Note: I let the waffle batter rise in the fridge overnight (it must be made 12 - 24 hours in advance), but I've also read that letting it sit on the counter overnight may give it a better flavor. Check out Smitten Kitchen for an overnight recipe--I'm definitely trying that next!

Yield: Makes seven 7-inch round waffles or four 9-inch square waffles (Belgium style)

1 3/4 cups milk, any kind (whole, low-fat, skim)
8 TBSP unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (10 ounces)
1 TBSP granulated sugar
1 tsp table salt
1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Heat milk and butter in small saucepan over medium-low heat until butter is melted, 3 to 5 minutes. Cool milk/butter mixture until warm to touch. 
  2. Meanwhile, whisk flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in large bowl to combine (keep in mind your batter will double in size, so this bowl needs to be big enough). Gradually whisk warm milk/butter mixture into flour mixture; continue to whisk until batter is smooth. 
  3. In small bowl, whisk eggs and vanilla until combined, then add egg mixture to batter and whisk until incorporated. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 12 and up to 24 hours.
  4. Preheat waffle iron according to directions. Remove waffle batter from refrigerator when waffle iron is hot (batter will be foamy and doubled in size). Whisk batter to recombine (batter will deflate). 
  5. Bake waffles according to manufacturer’s instructions (use about ½ cup for 7-inch round iron and about 1 cup for 9-inch square iron). 
  6. Serve waffles immediately or hold in low temperature oven. (As you make the waffles, place them on a wire rack set above a baking sheet, cover them with a clean kitchen towel, and place the baking sheet in a 200-degree oven. When the final waffle is in the iron, remove the towel to allow the waffles to crisp for a few minutes.) 


Kristina said...

Added to Bookmarks! Thanks!!

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