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Archive for the ‘breakfast’ Category

Dave’s been eating muffins everyday, which is good for me because it gives me an actual reason to bake. Plus, I buy enough bananas for Dave and I to each eat one per day, but I’m so freakin’ bored of bananas that I never eat mine. I eat batter or dough instead. Did I mention that I bake a lot?

If I’m going to be making banana muffins constantly, I figure I might as well make some interesting ones. The recipe for these banana coconut muffins has a lot of great reviews on epicurious, which is always a good sign. Also, Dave likes coconut more than I do, and since I do all of the cooking for us, I don’t think he gets to eat it as often as he’d like.

I was really happy with the muffins. I can never resist eating one after I bake them, even though I’m making them for Dave to bring to work. They were light and tender and flavorful, with a good balance of banana and coconut flavor. Some of the coconut shreds on top of the muffin fell off, so next time I’ll pat those into the batter a bit. Other than that detail, these were perfect.

Banana Coconut Muffins (from epicurious.com)

Makes 8

1¼ cups (6.25 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 very ripe bananas, mashed (¾ cup)
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, melted
⅔ cup (4.65 ounces) sugar
1 large egg
½ teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup sweetened flaked coconut

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Line muffin cups with liners.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together bananas, butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, and ½ cup coconut in a large bowl until combined well, then fold in flour mixture until flour is just moistened.

Divide batter among lined muffin cups and sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup coconut. Bake until muffins are puffed and golden, about 25 minutes. Transfer muffins to a rack and cool slightly.

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By now it must be obvious that I like eggs on top of stuff. Poached are my favorite, but fried is fine too. With some potatoes or bread to soak up the creamy yolk and any number of other additions, a lot of my favorite breakfasts are based around eggs on stuff.

I’m not completely sure that this particular breakfast deserves its own recipe, although I apparently needed one to give me the idea. All it really is some crusty bread, halved horizontally, brushed with oil and topped with green onions, cheese, and cooked sausage. The pizzas are cooked until the cheese melts, then topped with a fried egg and more green onions.

I kept the basic structure of the recipe the same, but varied the details. I used some extra pain a l’ancienne that I had in the freezer, plus cheddar instead of pepper jack and breakfast sausage instead of Italian. The recipe instructs that chopped green onions should be mixed with a half cup of olive oil, which is rubbed on the bread and then drizzled over the egg at the end. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that is a heck of a lot of oil (even for eight servings). I used just enough to coat the bread before adding the other toppings, and I (meant to but forgot to) sprinkled more chopped green onions over the egg, leaving the oil behind.

Dave and I couldn’t quite figure out if we should eat these with silverware or hands. Dave tried using silverware, and it seemed like sort of a disaster. I ended up picking mine up to eat it with my hands, and it worked pretty well. I was thinking that the yolk might be a drippy mess, but it mostly soaked into the bread below. So disregard the silverware in the pictures – I’m pretty sure silverware is not the way to go here. It is pizza, after all.

You can vary the ingredients to use whatever seems good to you. Any crusty chewy bread will work, and any cheese or cooked meat. Any way you go about it, this should be an easy and fun breakfast to put together and eat.

Fried Egg and Sausage Ciabatta Breakfast Pizzas (from Bon Appétit January 2008, but really epicurious.com)

BA note: Make this recipe your own by using different sausages and cheeses. For a Middle Eastern spin, sub in lamb sausage and feta. Serve pizzas with hot sauce.

Bridget note: I used breakfast sausage, cheddar cheese, pane a l’ancienne, and far less oil.

Makes 8 servings

1 loaf ciabatta bread (about 1 pound)
1 cup chopped green onions
8 tablespoons olive oil, divided
8 ounces sliced hot pepper Monterey Jack cheese
1 pound spicy or sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
8 large eggs

Preheat oven to 450°F. Cut bread horizontally in half. Place bread halves, cut side up, on separate baking sheets. Mix onions and 6 tablespoons oil in small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Reserve 2 tablespoons onion oil and spread remaining onion oil over bread. Top with cheese.

Sauté Italian sausages in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until cooked through, breaking up with spoon, about 7 minutes. Divide sausage among bread halves. Bake pizzas until cheese melts and bread begins to crisp, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in each of 2 large skillets over medium-high heat. Crack 4 eggs into each skillet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let eggs stand in skillets while pizzas bake.

Arrange 4 eggs atop each pizza. Spoon reserved onion oil over eggs. Cut each pizza between eggs into 4 pieces.

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I try to resist having too many kitchen gadgets squeezed into my apartment’s small galley-style kitchen, but somehow I ended up with two waffles irons. One for flatter, traditional waffles and then one of those huge Belgian waffle makers that you see in hotel complementary breakfast line-ups.

Yikes. That’s a big waffle maker. But I figure the more I use it, the more justification I have for owning it. Danielle recently described a breakfast she had in a restaurant as a “dance in your seat meal” – sourdough waffles with candied walnuts and sliced bananas, served with vanilla butter. Hmm…yum.

I was pretty sure I could recreate it with just a few adjustments. I don’t have sourdough starter, but one of the recipes that came with my waffle iron uses yeast. It’s an easy recipe to put together, and in fact, most of it is done the night before, which I always like with breakfast recipes. The waffles ended up tasting fairly sourdoughy actually, plus they were wonderfully crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.

I didn’t have walnuts, but I sugared macadamia nuts using the same method used for the peanuts in the Snickery Squares recipe. For the vanilla butter, I mixed softened butter with my homemade vanilla extract and just a little powdered sugar. I considered using a real vanilla bean, but I got lazy.

Overall, it was great! I wasn’t crazy about the banana, either because it was too ripe, or because I eat bananas so much that I’m just not interested in them in a weekend breakfast. But the nuts were great, and it was nice not having to slather everything in maple syrup. The real find of this meal was the waffle recipe, which is the best I’ve ever made, and will certainly be my standard recipe in the future.

Good Night Waffles (adapted from the Waring Pro Belgian Waffle Maker instruction booklet)

I reduced the butter in this recipe from 8 tablespoons to 6 tablespoons since I knew I’d be topping the waffles with vanilla butter. Because the waffles seemed so good with the lower amount of butter, I figured I might as well stick with it.

½ cup water
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2¼ teaspoons (one packet) instant dry yeast
2 cups whole milk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon baking soda

1. The night before, or at least 8 hours before baking, combine the warm water, granulated sugar, yeast, milk, melted butter, and salt. Beat in the flour until smooth (this may be done using a hand mixer on low speed). Wrap bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand overnight (or for 8 hours) on the countertop – do not refrigerate.

2. When ready to bake, preheat your waffle maker on your preferred setting. While the waffle maker is heating, stir the eggs, vanilla extract, and baking soda into the batter. Measure out enough batter for your waffle maker and pour into the preheated waffle maker. Use a heat-proof spatula to spread the batter evenly over the grids. Close lid and bake the Belgian waffle in the waffle maker until it indicates the waffle is done.

3. Remove waffle and repeat until the desired number of Belgian waffles has been made. Cover remaining batter and place in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Waffles may be kept warm in an oven at low-heat (200°F). Place Belgian waffles on a cookie sheet on a rack in the warm oven.

This made 6 waffles for me. I served it with 3 sliced bananas, 1 cup sugared macadamia nuts, and 3 tablespoons vanilla sugar. Vanilla sugar was made by mixing 3 tablespoon butter with 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons powdered sugar.

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If you’re looking for the best decadent breakfast ever, here it is. Even better than Eggs Benedict. I think. It’s basically Eggs Benedict with cheese.

The first time I made this, I thought I was making something complicated. But as I slowly worked my way through the recipe, I realized that it’s really a fancy ham and cheese sandwich. One slice of bread is slathered with swiss cheese sauce and the other slice with mustard. The sandwich is “grilled” the same way grilled cheese sandwiches are – browned on the stove with butter, and then it’s smeared with more cheese sauce and broiled until the sauce is spottily browned. The sandwich is topped with a fried egg. (Without the egg, it’s a Croque-Monsieur.)

The first time I had this, I got that heavy feeling afterwards that’s clearly a result of a meal full of fatty proteins and refined carbs. The next time, I made some efforts to lighten up the recipe. Mostly I eliminated some of the nice-but-not-necessary butter and reduced the cheese sauce. I have to admit that the most influential adjustment had to be my portion size.

It’s worth the indulgence. While it’s nigh on impossible to pick favorites, the combination of crispy bread, salty ham, spicy mustard, creamy cheese sauce and smooth yolk certainly makes this a contender for the best breakfast out there. Especially if you have plans to get in some activity later to work off some of that guilt…

Croque-madame (adapted from Gourmet March 2007, as found on epicurious)

Makes 4 servings

Bridget note: You can of course use all shredded cheese. I found it easier to only shred what was going into the sauce and to slice the rest. I’ve used both Country Crust Bread and storebought Italian bread for this recipe and enjoyed both.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1½ cups whole milk
⅛ teaspoon salt
pinch teaspoon black pepper
pinch teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ cup (1 ounce) shredded swiss cheese
4 slices (1.5 ounces) sliced swiss cheese
8 slices firm white sandwich bread
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
½ pound thinly sliced cooked ham (preferably Black Forest)
4 large eggs

1. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a 1- to 1½-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, then whisk in flour and cook roux, whisking, for 1 minute. Whisk in milk and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to low and simmer, whisking occasionally, for 5 minutes. Whisk in salt, pepper, nutmeg, and shredded cheese until cheese is melted. Remove from heat. Stir occasionally while preparing sandwiches to keep hard surface from forming on top of sauce. (Alternatively, place plastic wrap directly on surface of sauce.)

2. Adjust an oven rack to the top position and heat the broiler. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray.

3. Spread 1 tablespoons sauce evenly over each of 4 slices of bread, then cover evenly with remaining cheese. Spread mustard evenly on remaining 4 bread slices and top with ham, dividing it evenly, then invert onto cheese-topped bread to form sandwiches.

4. Melt ½ tablespoon butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Once melted, add the sandwiches and cook until golden, 3-4 minutes. Remove sandwiches from pan, add remaining ½ tablespoon butter, and return sandwiches, unbrowned side down, to pan. Cook until golden on second side. Transfer sandwiches to prepared baking pan. Do not wash skillet.

5. Top sandwiches with remaining sauce, spreading evenly. Broil sandwiches until sauce is bubbling and golden in spots, 2 to 4 minutes.

6. While sandwiches are broiling, heat the same nonstick pan over medium heat. Spray the pan with nonstick spray if there’s not butter leftover from browning the sandwiches. Crack eggs into skillet and season with salt and pepper. Fry eggs, covered, until whites are just set and yolks are still runny, about 3 minutes. Top each sandwich with a fried egg and serve immediately.

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My experience with sticky buns is limited; I guess we were more of a cinnamon roll family. Madam Chow’s TWD choice for this week would be something new for me then.

Dorie is insistent that you don’t cut the brioche dough in half. But, I did anyway. (Actually, I made a third of the recipe.) It would have been the same amount of effort to make the whole thing, and it freezes well, but do I really need this incredibly buttery bread dough to be conveniently at my fingertips? Nah. I admit I had to get a little creative with my mixer since I was making such a small amount – I mixed with the paddle for a while after adding the butter, then switched to the dough hook for the last few minutes of kneading.

I had the same problem that a number of other TWD members did with this recipe – 2 hours of rising in the morning, plus putting the rolls together and baking makes for a long wait until breakfast. I think it would work to form the rolls the night before, put them in the fridge overnight, and let them rise in a warmed oven the next morning. That should cut the waiting time in half.

The brioche made for a really light and airy base for sticky buns. But, I wonder if all that butter is worth it once it’s drowned in glaze? I’m thinking my base for cinnamon rolls would work just fine, with only about a third of the butter.

Overall, I thought these were great. The bread was light and tender, the glaze wasn’t too sweet, and they weren’t nearly as sticky as I was expecting. I almost wish I had made some extra to store in the freezer!

Pecan Honey Sticky Buns (from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours)

Makes 15 buns

For the Glaze:
1 cup (7 ounces) packed light brown sugar
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
¼ cup honey
1½ cups pecans (whole or pieces)

For the Filling:
¼ cup (1.75 ounces) sugar
3 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the Buns:
½ recipe dough for Golden Brioche loaves (see below), chilled and ready to shape (make the full recipe and cut the dough in half after refrigerating it overnight)

Generously butter a 9 by 13-inch baking pan (a Pyrex pan is perfect for this).

To make the glaze: In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the brown sugar, butter, and honey to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar. Pour the glaze into the buttered pan, evening it out as best you can by tilting the pan or spreading the glaze with a heatproof spatula. Sprinkle over the pecans.

To make the filling: Mix the sugars and cinnamon together in a bowl. If necessary, in another bowl, work the butter with a spatula until it is soft, smooth and spreadable.

To shape the buns: On a flour-dusted work surface, roll the chilled dough into a 16-inch square. Using your fingers or a pastry brush, spread the softened butter over the dough. Sprinkle the dough with the cinnamon sugar, leaving a 1-inch strip bare on the side farthest from you. Starting with the side nearest you, roll the dough into a cylinder, keeping the roll as tight as you can. (At this point, you can wrap the dough airtight and freeze it for up to 2 months . . . . Or, if you want to make just part of the recipe now, you can use as much of the dough as you’d like and freeze the remainder. Reduce the glaze recipe accordingly).

With a chef’s knife, using a gentle sawing motion, trim just a tiny bit from the ends of the roll if they’re very ragged or not well filled, then cut the log into 1-inch thick buns. (Because you trim the ragged ends of the dough, and you may have lost a little length in the rolling, you will get 15 buns, not 16.) Fit the buns into the pan cut side down, leaving some space between them.

Lightly cover the pan with a piece of wax paper and set the pan in a warm place until the buns have doubled in volume, about 1 hour and 45 minutes. The buns are properly risen when they are puffy, soft, doubled and, in all likelihood, touching one another.

Getting ready to bake: When the buns have almost fully risen , center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Remove the sheet of wax paper and put the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat. Bake the sticky buns for about 30 minutes, or until they are puffed and gorgeously golden; the glaze will be bubbling away merrily. Pull the pan from the oven.

The sticky buns must be unmolded minutes after they come out of the oven. If you do not have a rimmed platter large enough to hold them, use a baking sheet lined with a silicone mate or buttered foil. Be careful – the glaze is super-hot and super-sticky.

Golden Brioche Loaves

2 packets active dry yeast (each packet of yeast contains approx. 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch water
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch whole milk
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 (1.75 ounces) cup sugar
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature but still slightly firm

What You’ll Need for the Glaze (you would brush this on brioche loaves, but not on the sticky buns):
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water

To Make The Brioche: Put the yeast, water and milk in the bowl of a stand mixer and, using a wooden spoon, stir until the yeast is dissolved. Add the flour and salt, and fit into the mixer with the dough hook, if you have one. Toss a kitchen towel over the mixer, covering the bowl as completely as you can – this will help keep you, the counter and your kitchen floor from being showered in flour. Turn the mixer on and off a few short pulses, just to dampen the flour (yes, you can peek to see how you’re doing), then remove the towel, increase the mixer speed to medium-low and mix for a minute or two, just until the flour is moistened. At this point, you’ll have a fairly dry, shaggy mess.

Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula, set the mixer to low and add the eggs, followed by the sugar. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes, until the dough forms a ball. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter in 2 tablespoon-sized chunks, beating until each piece is almost incorporated before adding the next. You’ll have a dough that is very soft, almost like batter. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a clean bowl (or wash out the mixer bowl and use it), cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, 40 to 60 minutes, depending upon the warmth of your room.

Deflate the dough by lifting it up around the edges and letting it fall with a slap to the bowl. Cover the bowl with the plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator. Slap the dough down in the bowl every 30 minutes until it stops rising, about 2 hours, then leave the uncovered dough in the refrigerator to chill overnight. (After this, you can proceed with the recipe to make the brioche loaves, or make the sticky buns instead, or freeze all or part of the dough for later use.)

The next day, butter and flour two 8½ by 4½-inch pans.

Pull the dough from the fridge and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Cut each piece of the dough into 4 equal pieces and roll each piece into a log about 3½ inches long. Arrange 4 logs crosswise in the bottom of each pan. Put the pans on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat, cover the pans lightly with wax paper and leave the loaves at room temperature until the dough almost fills the pans, 1 to 2 hours. (Again, rising time with depend on how warm the room is.)

Getting Ready To Bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
To Make the Glaze: Beat the egg with the water. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the tops of the loaves with the glaze.

Bake the loaves until they are well risen and deeply golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the pans to racks to cool for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the pans and turn the loaves out onto the racks. Invert again and cool for at least 1 hour.

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I’ve become enamored with poached eggs lately. They’re such a great topping for so many breakfast ideas. Besides eggs benedict, I like to serve them on toast with a bit of cheddar cheese sprinkled over. Hash browns and a bed of sautéed vegetables is my favorite poached eggs base.

The trick to great hash browns is to use starchy potatoes like russets, but to rinse some of the outside starch off of the shreds, then thoroughly dry them before starting to cook. Because I consider this breakfast one of my healthier options, I use olive oil for cooking both the vegetables and the potatoes, although vegetable oil and butter are also good choices. How often you stir the potatoes depends on how you like your hash browns. If you want a crispy base and a tender interior within a bed of potatoes, pack the shreds into a medium-size pan and leave them alone until the bottom browns, 5-6 minutes. Then flip the whole mound over and brown the second side. I tend to put the potatoes in a large skillet and stir every few minutes. After 10-15 minutes, they’re pretty evenly split between crispy browned and tender.

The vegetables you use are completely adaptable. My favorite combination is red onion, red peppers, and mushrooms. This time I used spinach instead of the red peppers, and I loved it. I like the vegetables chopped so that I can get some of each in one bite, so pretty small. (I’m particular about how vegetables are chopped anyway.)

Mound some cooked potatoes on a plate, spread the sautéed vegetables over it, and top with a poached egg – it’s a perfect combination of flavors and nutrition. Once the egg is cut into, warm yolk drips down and blends with the potatoes, and your morning is off to a terrific start.

Hash Browns, Sautéed Vegetables, and Poached Eggs (Poached Egg recipe from Cooks Illustrated)

Serves 2

1½ tablespoons olive oil
6-8 cremini or button mushrooms, halved if large and sliced thin
salt
½ small red onion, halved and sliced thin
1½ ounces spinach, cleaned and chopped very coarse
ground black pepper
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and washed
2-4 eggs, each cracked into a small handled cup
2 tablespoons white vinegar

1. Heat oven to 200 degrees, then turn it off. Place 2 large plates in warm oven.

2. Heat ½ tablespoon of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When shimmering but not smoking, add mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid released by mushrooms has evaporated. Add onion and cook until browned at edges. Add spinach and cook, stirring constantly, until just wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste and transfer to a bowl. Put bowl in warmed oven.

3. While vegetables cook, shred potatoes in food processor with shredding blade or on large holes of box grater. Rinse thoroughly in a strainer, then move to a clean kitchen towel and squeeze and pat dry.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in the same skillet (no need to wash) over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add potatoes and ¼ teaspoon salt and mix thoroughly. Cook potatoes, stirring every 2-3 minutes, until slightly browned and cooked throughout, a total of 15-20 minutes.

5. While potatoes cook, fill an 8- to 10-inch nonstick skillet nearly to the rim with water, add 1 teaspoon salt and the vinegar, and bring the mixture to boil over high heat. Lower the lips of each cup just into water at once; tip eggs into boiling water, cover, and remove from heat. Poach until yolks are medium-firm, exactly 4 minutes. For firmer yolks (or for extra large or jumbo eggs), poach 4 ½ minutes; for looser yolks (or for medium eggs), poach 3 minutes.

6. While eggs are cooking, divide potatoes between warmed plates. Top with sautéed vegetables. With a slotted spoon, carefully lift and drain each egg over skillet, then lay each over vegetables. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

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I hear a lot of requests for breakfast casserole recipes. They’re popular for good reason. Waking up to a tasty and filling breakfast that needs nothing more than to be thrown into a hot oven is a great way to start the weekend. I’ve made and loved Deb’s Boozy Baked French Toast, but it’s missing some sort of fruit to round out the nutrition. This sausage and mushroom strata has it all – protein, starch, and vegetables.

I’ve eaten a lot of different breakfast casseroles, and I’ve found that there are some tricks to making a good one. One is to use hearty bread and to dry it out so you don’t have a soggy casserole. You want to replace the moisture that’s naturally in the bread with your own flavored liquids. Also, don’t use so many eggs that they can’t be evenly mixed in and absorbed. I have a recipe for a breakfast casserole that I love the flavors of, but the original recipe calls for so many eggs that I once got a bite of nothing but unmixed egg white while eating it. Finally, of course you need to use a combination of flavors that you love, and adding lots of cheese never hurts.

Casseroles like this are perfect when you have a long day ahead of you and don’t have time to prepare a good breakfast in the morning. I’ve eaten them before skiing, hiking, and moving. They also make a great addition to a brunch menu.

Breakfast Strata with Sausage, Mushrooms, and Monterey Jack (from Cooks Illustrated November 2001)

Makes one 8 by 8-inch strata, serving 6

CI note: To weigh down the assembled strata, we found that two 1-pound boxes of brown or powdered sugar, laid side by side over the plastic-covered surface, make ideal weights. A gallon-sized zipper-lock bag filled with about 2 pounds of sugar or rice also works. This recipe doubles easily; use a 9 by 13-inch baking dish greased with only 1½ tablespoons butter and increase the baking time as directed in step 4. Feel free to substitute any good melting cheese, such as Havarti, sharp cheddar, or colby.

Bridget note: This time when I made this recipe, it ended up a bit too salty. I’m guessing the necessary salt will vary based on the sausage, so start low and add more if necessary. Pictures show a half recipe made in a loaf pan.

8-10 slices supermarket French bread (½-inch thick) or Italian bread (6 – 7 ounces)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces bulk breakfast sausage, crumbled
3 medium shallots, minced (about 1/3 cup)
8 ounces white button mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
Table salt and ground black pepper
½ cup medium-dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
6 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated (about 1½ cups)
6 large eggs
1¾ cups half-and-half
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 225 degrees. Arrange bread in single layer on large baking sheet and bake until dry and crisp, about 40 minutes, turning slices over halfway through drying time. (Alternatively, leave slices out overnight to dry.) When cooled, butter slices on one side with 2 tablespoons butter; set aside.

2. Fry sausage in medium nonstick skillet over medium heat, breaking sausage apart with wooden spoon, until sausage has lost raw color and begins to brown, about 4 minutes; add shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and translucent, about 1 minute longer. Add mushrooms to skillet, and cook until mushrooms no longer release liquid, about 6 minutes; transfer mixture to medium bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add wine to skillet, increase heat to medium-high, and simmer until reduced to ¼ cup, 2 to 3 minutes; set aside.

3. Butter 8-inch square baking dish with remaining 1 tablespoon butter; arrange half the buttered bread slices, buttered-side up, in single layer in dish. Sprinkle half of sausage mixture, then ½ cup grated cheese evenly over bread slices. Arrange remaining bread slices in single layer over cheese; sprinkle remaining sausage mixture and another ½ cup cheese evenly over bread. Whisk eggs and parsley in medium bowl until combined; whisk in reduced wine, half-and-half, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Pour egg mixture evenly over bread layers; cover surface flush with plastic wrap, weigh down (see note, above), and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to overnight.

4. Remove dish from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature 20 minutes. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Uncover strata and sprinkle remaining ½ cup cheese evenly over surface; bake until both edges and center are puffed and edges have pulled away slightly from sides of dish, 50 to 55 minutes (or about 80 minutes for doubled recipe). Cool on wire rack 5 minutes; serve.

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On one of my first trips to meet Dave’s family, his mom mentioned her plan to buy cinnamon rolls from the grocery store, and Dave insisted that I make fantastic cinnamon rolls that she needed to try. We were staying with friends, I didn’t have the recipe or any ingredients or equipment, but I didn’t want to pass up this chance to impress my boyfriend’s parents. I made the cinnamon rolls, and the in-laws were duly impressed. Six years later, my mother-in-law still talks about how good they were.

But I make better cinnamon rolls now. I’ve tried a few recipes and taken my favorite parts of each, and now I can say for certain that this is the best cinnamon roll that I have ever eaten. Dead serious.

Most cinnamon roll recipes are similar. The original recipe I used, the one that Dave’s mom raved about, is one my mother taught me. It’s the dough for country crust bread with softened butter and cinnamon sugar spread over the flattened dough and a simple powdered sugar glaze on top of the baked rolls. I used this recipe for years and can’t complain – it’s damn good.

But that didn’t stop me from trying new things. The next recipe I tried was published in the back of Knit One, Kill Two, a mystery novel about a knitter. I liked that the dough was richer, melted butter was spread over the dough instead of softened, and brown sugar was mixed with cinnamon for the filling instead of granulated. But the frosting in this recipe contained four ounces of cream cheese, and it was way too rich for me.

The next recipe I tried was Cooks Illustrated’s. Their dough is even richer, and the resultant rolls are therefore more tender. They don’t call for any butter in the filling, which I thought made the baked rolls too sticky. Their icing contains a whopping eight ounces of cream cheese, even though they refer to their rolls as “reserved” and “civilized”. Yikes. I also tried their Quick Cinnamon Buns, a recipe for chemically leavened cinnamon rolls. This recipe calls for a small amount of butter to be mixed in with the other filling ingredients. I like this method, as it reduces the amount of filling that spills out of the rolls when they’re rolled and cut, and it eliminates the stickiness I’d disliked in the other recipe without adding as much butter as my first two recipes had called for.

The recipe I currently use is hobbled together from all of these, although most of it comes from Cooks Illustrated. I follow their dough recipe almost exactly. I reduce the cinnamon in their filling recipe a bit because I found that the original amount was so spicy that it reminded me of Red Hots. I add a tablespoon of melted butter to the filling to hold the powder together. Rather than add more butter to an already decadent breakfast, I reduce the butter in the dough to compensate. For the glaze, I’ve gone back to my original powdered sugar and milk combination, with just one tablespoon of cream cheese mixed in to provide some extra flavor.

Like most bread recipes, cinnamon rolls require kneading, rising, shaping, proofing, baking, and cooling before they can be eaten. No one wants to wait for all this to happen before they can eat breakfast. Take heart – you can do everything up until the baking the night before. After the rolls are shaped and cut, put the pan in the refrigerator. In the morning, the rolls will need to warm up and they may need a bit more time to rise. You can speed this up by doing it in a warm oven. Heat your oven to its “warm” setting, then turn it off and put the rolls in the oven. They should be warm and ready to bake in half and hour or so. With minimal waiting time and almost no work at all, you can have a fantastic treat for breakfast.

Cinnamon Rolls (adapted from Cooks Illustrated’s The New Best Recipe)

This was the first time I’ve used dental floss to cut the rolled and filled dough into rolls. It worked wonderfully, but a serrated knife will get the job done as well.

The pictures are showing a half recipe.

Dough:
½ cup milk
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
1 envelope (2¼ teaspoons yeast)
¼ cup (1¾ ounce) sugar
1 large egg, plus 2 large egg yolks
1 ½ teaspoons salt
4-4 ½ cups (20 to 21¼ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface

Filling:
¾ cup packed (5¼ ounces) light brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon melted butter

Glaze:
1 cup (4 ounces) confectioners sugar, sifted to remove lumps
1 ounce cream cheese, softened
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons milk

1. Heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan or in the microwave until the butter melts. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside until the mixture is lukewarm (about 100 degrees).

2. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle, mix together the water, yeast, sugar, egg, and yolks at low speed until well mixed. Add the salt, warm milk mixture, and 2 cups of the flour and mix at medium speed until thoroughly blended, about 1 minute. Switch to the dough hook, add another 2 cups of the flour, and knead at medium speed (adding up to ¼ cup more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, if necessary) until the dough is smooth and freely clears the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes. Shape the dough into a round, place it in a very lightly oiled large bowl, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Leave in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, 1½ to 2 hours.

3. Mix together the filling ingredients in a small bowl. Grease a 13 by 9-inch baking dish.

4. After the dough has doubled in bulk, press it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, shape the dough into a 16 by 12-inch rectangle, with a long side facing you. Mix together the filling ingredients in a small bowl and sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough, leaving a ½-inch border at the far edges. Roll the dough, beginning with the long edge closest to you and using both hands to pinch the dough with your fingertips as you roll. Moisten the top border with water and seal the roll. Lightly dust the roll with flour and press on it ends if necessary to make a uniform 16-inch cylinder. Cut the roll in 12 equal pieces and place the rolls cut-side up in the prepared baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, 1½ to 2 hours.

5. When the rolls are almost fully risen, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the rolls until golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of one reads 185 to 188 degrees, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, stir the glaze ingredients together until smooth. Glaze the rolls and serve.

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Because what better to serve with sausage-wrapped deep-fried hard-boiled eggs than cake, I made this blueberry poppy seed brunch cake last weekend. It has “brunch” in the title, so clearly it’s breakfast food. Disregard the stick of butter and half cup of sour cream. And the cup of sugar. Not including the glaze. It’s breakfast food, I tell you.

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My sister gave me the Pillsbury Complete Cookbook when I left for college. It was my first cookbook, and it’s been really handy. It has a lot of basic recipes which were good to have when I was cooking on my own for the first time, but where it really shines is in its original recipes, like this cake and the salmon pesto pasta. A bunch of my favorite recipes are rooted in this book.

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This cake is the best brunch cake I’ve made. The cake itself is tender and flavorful – the lemon zest adds brightness without making the cake taste lemony. The blueberry filling, which is spooned over the cake rather than mixed in, is the perfect compliment to the cake.

One warning though – the recipe specifies that if you’re using frozen berries, they should be thawed and drained on paper towels. Don’t skip this step! I recommend adding an extra teaspoon of flour to the filling if you use frozen blueberries as well. Otherwise, you might end up with this:

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Oops.

Blueberry-Poppy Seed Brunch Cake (adapted from the Pillsbury Complete Cookbook)

8 servings

Cake:
2/3 cup (4.67 ounces) granulated sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, softened
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 egg
1½ cups (7.5 ounces) unbleached flour
2 tablespoons poppy seed
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup sour cream

Filling:
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries, thawed, drained on paper towels
1/3 cup (2.33 ounces) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon nutmeg

Glaze:
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 to 2 teaspoons milk

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour bottom and sides of 9 or 10-inch springform pan. In medium bowl, combine 1½ cups flour, poppy seed, baking soda and salt; set aside.

2. Beat butter and sugar with electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add lemon zest and egg to butter-sugar mixture and beat well. Beat in one-half of dry ingredients. Beat in one-third of sour cream. Beat in remaining dry ingredients in two batches, alternating with sour cream, until incorporated. Transfer batter to prepared pan and spread evenly.

3. In another medium bowl, combine all filling ingredients; mix well. Spoon over center of batter.

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 55 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Cool 10 minutes; remove sides of pan.

5. In small bowl, blend powdered sugar and enough milk for desired drizzling consistency. Drizzle over warm cake. Serve warm or cool.

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scotch eggs

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I’m always hearing about people frying crazy things. There’s the twinkies, and the snickers bars, and now brownies. I had a fried oreo at a street fair in Manhattan, and it was delicious. Of course it was delicious – it’s a deep-fried oreo. It’s also kind of absurd.

Speaking of absurd, what about peeling a hard-boiled egg, covering it in sausage, breading it, and frying it? Oh, and then serving it for breakfast (alongside cake).

In the Scotch egg’s defense, my understanding is that these are pub fare in Scotland, and therefore probably not served for breakfast. Whatever, we ate them for breakfast, and we were happy.

My mom used to make these for brunch parties when I was a kid. When I asked her for the recipe, she gave me two and was wishy-washy on which she uses. I found two more and ended up with four similar but distinct recipes.

My biggest question concerned the sausage to egg ratio. My four recipes had four different ratios varying from 2 to 5 ounces of sausage per hard-boiled egg. I settled on three ounces, which ended up being pretty much perfect. Any more and the sausage would overwhelm the egg, but with much less, it would be difficult to evenly coat the egg.

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Each recipe had a different frying temperature as well, ranging from 325 to 375 degrees. I generally try to maintain an oil temperature between 350 and 375 degrees while deep-frying, and that worked perfectly here. Two recipes used fresh bread crumbs, one used cracker meal, one used dried bread crumbs. I used panko (Japanese coarse-grained dried bread crumbs) because it’s all I had, but I’m thinking fresh would work great as well.

So, there you go. Scotch eggs. Not very healthy, but really freakin’ good. Serve with beer! Or for breakfast! But probably don’t drink beer for breakfast. Ew.

Scotch Eggs

1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ cup (2½ ounces) unbleached flour
1 pound bulk sausage
2 cups breadcrumbs, either panko or fresh
5 eggs, hard-boiled and peeled
vegetable or peanut oil for frying

Mix egg and mustard in a medium bowl to blend. Place flour in another bowl. Place breadcrumbs in another bowl. Roll 1 hard-boiled egg in flour. Using wet hands, press 1/5 of sausage around egg to coat. Roll sausage-covered egg in beaten egg mixture, then roll in breadcrumbs, covering completely and pressing to adhere. Place Scotch egg on plate. Repeat with remaining eggs. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Add enough oil to heavy large saucepan to reach depth of 1½ inches. Attach deep-fry thermometer and heat oil to 360-370 °F. Add 3 prepared eggs to oil; fry until sausage is cooked through and coating is deep brown, about 6 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer eggs to paper towels to drain. Repeat with remaining 2 eggs. Serve warm.

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