Monday, June 21, 2010

As Good As Dessert: Strawberry Cheesecake Stuffed French Toast

For many years now I have been a big fan of going out to breakfast. For many people dinner, or maybe even lunch, seems like the more obvious choice. But a good breakfast is a great way to start off a Saturday or Sunday with friends, fueling up before any activities you have planned. 

Plus your more inclined to follow up with something active, which is always nice following a big meal. It also doesn't hurt that I live in a neighborhood with almost universal mimosa specials all weekend.

One of my biggest breakfast weaknesses has become french toast. But not just ANY french toast, not your average french toast. Fancy french toast is what calls to me. 

Crunchy french toast. Stuffed french toast. Banana bread french toast. When I see items like this on the menu I am helpless. I cannot resist. I must have it.

So when making a mimosa brunch at my place, I knew I wanted to put a great french toast dish on the menu.  Originally I planned to make a cinnamon baked-style french toast. But checking out recipes, nothing called to me. And then I got inspired-

French toast, stuffed not with simple cream cheese but cream cheese dressed up to resemble cheesecake. And topped with a delicious strawberry spread. And made with sourdough bread, because I love the way sourdough french toast balances sweet topping. (It's the only french toast I will ever top with syrup.)

Strawberry Cheesecake Stuffed French Toast
Recipe makes 6 servings
(the filling and topping can be made ahead and stored in the fridge for a quick breakfast assembly)

For the Filling:
8oz. Cream Cheese
2 Tbsp Sour Cream
5 Tbsp Powdered Sugar
½ Tbsp Lemon Juice

Soften the cream cheese.

In a medium bowl combine all ingredients, whisking together until smooth.

Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the Topping:
1 cup Mashed Strawberries
1 cup Sugar
¼ tsp Salt
1/3 cup Water
2 Tbsp cornstarch (I used 3 and thought this was too much, so I am adjusting the final recipe. Your topping should be thinner then mine, which was more of a spread.)
¼ tsp Vanilla Extract

In a medium saucepan combine cornstarch, salt, and sugar.

Add water and mashed strawberries, stir to dissolve the dry ingredients as much as possible (there should be not large clumps).

Heat over medium heat until it begins to bubble. Continue heating for 2 more minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.

Allow to cool, refrigerate until ready to use.

1 Loaf Sourdough Bread: I recommend a good quality sourdough that is not too crusty, and a loaf will be much easier to work with then a boule
3 Eggs
1/3 cup Milk

Beat together eggs and milk, set aside.

Start heating a large skillet over medium heat and preheat oven to 350°.

Cut 6 thick slices, approx. 1-1/4” from the loaf of sourdough.

Cut an opening in each slice, leaving one edge intact.

Fill the open middle of each slice with cream cheese mixture.

When pan is hot, spray with cooking spray or swipe with a stick of butter.

Dip each stuffed slice in egg mixture, or spread a layer of the egg mixture over each side.

Cook slices in hot pan until golden brown (about 5 min), gently pressing down if necessary to cook evenly. Do not overcrowd pan.

When the first side is golden brown flip and cook second side.

When second side is cooked, transfer to a baking sheet and put in preheated oven to cook for an additional 8-10min. This will help to warm filling thru and cook any of the egg mixture on the sides of the stuffed slices that did not fry in the pan.

When filling is starting to turn golden and/or leaking from slices, remove from oven and transfer to plates.

Cover with strawberry topping and serve immediately.

It's safe to say we were all glad I thought up this little concoction. They were delicious. I only made 4, so there was leftover filling and topping. That worked out great the next day spread on some croissants.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

For the Winos: Fresh Blackberry Pie with a Wine Glaze

Have you noticed how amazingly good the berries are this year? I think it must be all the rain the west coast has gotten.  

Whatever the reason, the raspberries and blackberries have been better then I can remember for years. And cheap too!

This pie is simply delicious. I made it twice in one week for my co-workers and they adored it. I gave out the recipe to several people, and it couldn't be much easier to make.

So make this pie, and make it soon, while the berries are still this good.

Wine Glazed Blackberry Pie

Baked 9" Pie Shell*
6 - 6oz. packages of Blackberries (about 6 cups)
1/2 cup Water
1/2 cup Red Wine (I used Merlot. I think a Zinfandel would also be nice. Use whatever you drink.)
1/2 cup Sugar
3 tablespoons Cornstarch

*The recipe posted on tasty kitchen includes a recipe for a ginger pie shell. I used my standard pie crust recipe, the ginger just didn't sound appealing enough to me to change things up. But if it interests you, give it a try.

Pre-Bake your 9" pie shell: 

I currently do this by lining a 9" pie plate with rolled our crust. Line with aluminum foil, then fill completely with beans or pie weights. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes. 

Then I remove the foil and weights and poke holes in the bottom with a fork. 

Continue baking, poking more holes if any parts start to puff up. Bake until the inside is golden brown and the shell is completely baked.

For the Wine Glaze:

In a medium sauce pan mix together sugar and cornstarch.  Add water and wine, stir to combine with dry ingredients.

Add 1 cup of blackberries.  

Heat over medium heat until thick and boiling.

In a lege bowl stir blackberries and glaze until fruit is evenly coated.

Fill pie shell with mixture and refrigerate until cooled and set, usually 4 hours is sufficient but I generally chill overnight.

UPDATE: This pie and some very tasty looking others can be found on the Summer Fruit themed July pie round-up by You Want Pies With That?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Damn Good: Scrambled Eggs with Leeks, Fava Beans, Crispy Breadcrumbs, and Parmesan

Being my second egg recipe post it may SEEM that I like eggs, but I am actually not a big fan.

I particularly dislike scrambled eggs. Flavorless egg curds? It does nothing for me. However, this recipe from the Bon Appétit April issue stood out to me immediately. 

It was while I was still looking for recipes using leeks.  I have also been wanting make something with fava beans.  The huge Fava bean pods at the Farmers Market have been enticing me, I'm not sure why.  I have a tendency to become fixated on random things for no discernable reason.

After making this dish I have to admit that it is entirely possible I will NEVER EVER cook with fava beans again. They were very high maintenance, and I think lima beans would be pretty much the same.

I cut the recipe  in half, but other then that I pretty much followed it.  Thats pretty unusual for me, I can't really explain it. It's probably because I don't make scrambled eggs on my own.

Scrambled Eggs with Leeks, Fava Beans, Crispy Breadcrumbs, and Parmesan Cheese
Adapted from Bon Appétit, for 4 servings
(Recipe mostly split in half, I didn't decrease the amount of fava beans)

For the Breadcrumbs:
1 cups good quality bread torn in small pieces (recipe calls for French bread but I used sourdough)
1 - ½ tablespoons olive oil
Fine sea salt

For the Eggs:

1 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
1 large leek, white and light green parts only, chopped and rinsed
1 cup peeled fresh fava beans or frozen (double-peeled)
6 large eggs (preferably organic)
¼ cup crème fraîche or sour cream
a couple dashes of fine sea salt

Wedge of Parmesan cheese

Thoroughly coat torn bread with olive oil and a pinch of salt

Spread evenly on a baking sheet and bake at 400° for 12-18minutes, until they are golden and crispy

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to boil. Once boiling, add the peeled fava beans and cook for approx. 14 minutes or until tender

In a large bowl, whisk eggs with cream and salt

Melt butter over low heat in a large skillet or sauce-pan

Add leeks and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes

Stir in fava beans and increase heat to medium-high, then pour egg mixture into pan

Let sit (without stirring) until edges start to set. Then use a heat-proof spatula to gently stir mixture. Keep repeating, stirring more often as the eggs become more cooked

 (There are good tutorials for easil;y making perfect scrambled eggs at Bon Appetit or Smitten Kitchen)

When eggs are still slightly creamy and a tad wet-looking, remove from heat and transfer to a serving dish

Top with crispy breadcrumbs and grated parmesan cheese

So, like I said before, I usually find scrambled eggs pretty gross. These were an exception! I may have to re-evaluate the opinion completely.  They tasted better then I ever knew scrambled eggs could taste.

I can't say EXACTLY why these are sooooo good, but I think it is worth substituting sour cream for milk in  a plain batch, they may be what made the difference.