Blueberry Maple French Toast


This will be short as I’m packing for a mini-weekend getaway with Danny and I’m nowhere nearly ready.
I used to be an organized packer, but apparently motherhood has turned me into a scattered, last minute throw-it-all-in-the-duffel kind of packer. It doesn’t help to have the added pressure of remembering each child’s appropriate stuffed animal and sippy cup, OR ELSE. Heaven forbid they should show up at the grandparents without them.

Anyway! We’re off to travel Quebec’s wine route in the Eastern Townships on a much deserved break. It’s been two years since New York, our last getaway as a couple with no kids.

I wouldn’t leave you high and dry for a recipe so here’s a strong recommendation for your weekend breakfast: Deep-Dish Blueberry Maple French Toast. Yesterday I hung out over at Endless Simmer and shared this recipe with their readers, not to mention a personal glimpse into a weekend morning here at UtHC.

So jump over to visit the ES gang and be sure to bookmark this French Toast for your brunch! It’s PRI-tty amazing.

Tootles.

Nine Easter Brunch Ideas

Gathering with friends or family for bunch any day is always special, but there is something about a brunch on Easter weekend that I especially love. It might even be my favorite holiday event. Why? Maybe it’s because it is one holiday where there is no last minute scramble for gifts, no turkey to take up all the space in the fridge, and no tacky red and white decorations. (respectively, Christmas, Thanksgiving and Valentine’s). I’m also a sucker for spring flowers-bulbs of any kind-and the abundance of chocolate everywhere sure doesn’t hurt.

This year we’re invited out for brunch, so I’m not cooking, but I am contributing some Lemon Poppyseed Madeleines and Current Scones. Neither recipe, I am just now noting, are available to you on this blog. I am such a slacker!
Please accept these suggestions in their stead. Most of these breakfast/brunch favorites can be easily transported and would make a lovely hostess gift if you are not entertaining at home, but rather brunching out.

Let’s start with bagels, shall we, because the kind of brunch I want to go to is one that has a bagel and lox bar. You know the kind I’m talking about: a mountain of smoked salmon or lox, lemon wedges, chopped fresh dill, cream cheese, capers, sliced red onion and beautiful, plentiful bagels.
Fortunately these freeze well, so you can get the real work out of the way a week or so in advance. Serve lightly toasted.

For those who prefer the sweeter side of a brunch…

Guaranteed to keep the children happy…

For the dedicated baker or the early riser…

For the planner… this recipe is great because it can all be assembled the night before. In the morning just pop it in the oven, make coffee and whip the cream!

On the savory side and using seasonal ingredients…

If the perfect muffin is your ideal way to start the day, then here are two easy recipes. The hardest part? Deciding which kind to make.

Happy brunching everyone and remember, everything must be served with a side of bacon!

DIY: Bagel Tutorial and More History.

How does working from 5AM ’till 10PM, seven days a week, in a remote location, for an entire summer sound? Ten years ago to me, it sounded like a pretty good plan…

Here’s a bit more history for you.

Flashback to 1999 in Northern British Columbia. I’m 19, no serious plans for the summer except slinging food in the mediocre bistro where I am presently employed, wishing to get out of my small town and see some of the world.
I get a phone call from George (same George as in this post but he had since moved to Vancouver) and he has a proposal.

“How would you like to be my sous-chef at a fly-in fishing resort on the BC coast for the summer? Financially, it’s very attractive.”

“What’s the catch?” I ask.

“Well, let’s see, the workload is extremely heavy, there is no contact with the outside world except snail mail once in a while, and once you’re in, that’s it, you can’t change your mind.”

“Hmm, sounds like fun.” I say. “I can be ready in a few weeks”.

And that’s how I found myself on a small floating fishing lodge in a quiet inlet on the Pacific Ocean, cooking three square meals a day for 35 people, and having some of the best adventures of my teenage years. Although the working hours were long and the nights very short, the benefits almost balanced out the hardships: whale watching, crabbing and fishing, sandy beaches and the sheer beauty of British Columbia’s rugged coastline in my backyard.

Life there revolved around one thing: the King Salmon. Clients didn’t pay the big bucks to fly in on a little Otter float plane just to taste my cooking (although luckily for them, it was a big bonus) but for the thrill of reeling in one of these beautiful fish. While they took home anything they caught, we always had plenty of fresh-caught salmon on hand for eating that the staff reeled in. George constructed a smoker and smoked huge fillets of the scarlet fish while I baked the best thing to complement smoked salmon: bagels.


When the guests came in for lunch at 11:30, ravenous from a morning’s work in the fresh sea air, they were treated to a decadent lunch of piping hot bagels, home-smoked salmon and the fixings.
No wonder the staff said that that summer had the best food they had ever experienced–probably no one else put the love into their cooking that George and I did, and everyone knows that’s what makes the difference!
I made enough money in that eleven week job posting to take the next half-year off and travel and that’s just what I did. I bought my first camera-a Pentax- and a one way ticket to….but wait, that is another chapter entirely and not for this post.

My family has been making these bagels for as long as I can remember and to me they are the very best I have ever tasted. While I know they might not be the definition of ‘the perfect bagel’, to me they are just that, and a whole lot more because I grew up eating them. My boys already love them, so things are going to stay this way for at least another generation.

Aimée’s Family Bagel Recipe

(adapted from The Breads of France by Bernard Clayton Jr.)
Makes 16 large bagels

Dough:
3 Cups warm water

4 Tbsps yeast

1/4 cup Sugar

2 Tbsps Salt

7 Cups All-Purpose Flour (approx)

Toppings to taste:
diced onions, poppy, sesame or caraway seeds, etc…

Boiling Water:
2 quarts water

1 Tbsp sugar

Glaze:
1 Egg white
1 Tbsp water

Coarse salt

Directions:
In a mixing bowl, pour water and yeast. Stir to dissolve, and leave for 2-3 minutes until yeast is creamy. Stir in sugar and salt. Add 4 cups of flour, and beat at low speed for 1 minute, then turn to high for 3 minutes. Stop mixer and add balance of flour. Stir with a wooden spoon to make a thick batter. When it becomes difficult to stir, remove from bowl and work with your hands on the counter. Knead dough for about 8 minutes. Dough should be firm – add more flour if sticky.


Return dough to clean, greased bowl. Cover it tightly with plastic film and allow to rise for 1 hour.
During the rising period, prepare water in a large 4-1/2 litre pot. Bring to a boil, and add sugar (the sugar will give the bagels a nice sheen when the come out of the water). Cover and leave simmer on low. Grease 2 baking sheets with oil and sprinkle generously with cornmeal. Whisk together water and egg white for glaze and set aside. Prepare toppings of choice and reserve.
Preheat oven to 450F
.

Shaping!
Turn dough onto work surface and punch down.
With a sharp knife, divide the dough into 16 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball as shown on video above. Allow to rest for 3-4 minutes.


With your thumb, press deep into the cente
r of the ball, and tear open a hole with the fingers. Watch the video above for a complete demonstration on the shaping. Place formed bagels together on the work surface, cover with a towel and leave until dough is slightly raised – about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, bring your water to a low boil. Gently lift bagels, one at a time, and lower into the hot water. Do not do more than 2 or 3 at a time. Cook for about 30 seconds, then flip them over in the water using a slotted spoon, and cook for another 15 seconds. Lift out with the slotted spoon, and place on your baking sheet. Repeat with all the bagels. Brush with egg glaze and dress them up with the topping of your choice and a sprinkling of coarse salt before popping them in the oven.


Bake for about 30 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. Keep an eye on them so that the bottoms don’t burn. Remove from oven, cool on a rack and enjoy!

These bagels freeze beautifully and toast up well for a perfect breakfast.

Orange Madeleines and a Holiday Relapse Recap


I seem to be having a hard time saying goodbye to the holiday season and here we are almost two weeks into January. Valentine’s decorations are up in store fronts and my neighbor tossed her Christmas tree a long time ago (like on Boxing Day); everyone seems to be moving on except moi.

I’m not a sentimentalist, it’s not like I am hanging onto decorations or playing carols over and over (dear me, I’ve had quite enough of those thank you), it’s more of that relaxed, unmotivated feeling that comes from no real schedule to speak of and too many late nights.
Quite honestly, I blame the cozy zen mornings I’ve been having with the little ones, snowed in with a real Winter Wonderland outside, reading the new books they got for Christmas and munching on the remains of the stolen and panettone. I don’t have to head back to school like some of my friends and I have no job to report to at 9AM that will shake me out of my White Christmas reverie, so what’s to prevent me from extending the holiday cheer a little longer?

One such relaxed morning was spent looking back at the photos from the past month and in doing so I realized I had a few food related shots that I could potentially share. A photo recap of sorts–or a relapse back into winter holidays, call it what you like.
So indulge me this one last jingle and then I promise I’ll eat the remaining lonely gingerbread man left in the freezer and move on with my life.


We enjoyed these madeleines fresh out of the oven on Christmas morning. The batter is a cinch to whip up the night before and all you have to do in the morning is bake them while you are brewing the coffee.


Orange Madeleines Makes 2 dozen
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook

1/2 cup unsalted butter, plus more for pan
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for pans

1/2 cup ground almonds

1/2 cup plus 2 T sugar

2 Tablespoons finely grated orange zest

1 vanilla bean, halved & scraped

3 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Set aside to cool. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, ground almonds, and sugar; set aside. Add the orange zest to the cooled butter, stir to combine.
In a large bowl, combine the eggs, vanilla bean seeds and salt and mix until frothy. Whisk in reserved flour mixture to combine. With a whisk, fold in the butter mixture. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter two 12-mould madeleine pans, and dust with flour. With two small spoons, spoon batter into moulds, filling about halfway. Bake, rotating pans if needed, until the edges are a light brown and tops spring back gently when pressed, 12-14 minutes.

Immediately invert madeleines onto a wire rack to cool. Serve warm.

Christmas Morning Muffins


On Christmas morning, I like to start off the day with some fruit and something fresh from the oven such as madeleine’s, panettone or stolen. Sure, later on there will be bacon, sausages and the works, but I’m talking about early in the morning, with my coffee and presents, I like warm baking.


This holiday I believe I will be turning out Nigella’s Christmas Morning Muffins for our little family. Perfumed with the zest from the clementines and sweetened with the juice, these muffins are rightly named. Red cranberries give them some holiday color and as they are full of spices, they give the kitchen a wonderful smell when they are baking.


I’m loving my new cookbook, Nigella Christmas, which was an early present from Danny. (Here Jasmine reviews the cookbook) I’m doing her Stuffed Loin of Pork with Rubied Gravy for Christmas Eve dinner: pork loin stuffed with bacon and cranberries and wrapped in bacon. How amazing is that?!
This is my first Nigella cookbook, and hmm, she really loves her bacon. We’d get along great.

Here’s the recipe. I’ve cut back on the amount of dried cranberries and am temped to throw some dark chocolate chunks in next time. It IS Christmas, after all.

Christmas Morning Muffins
Adapted from Nigella Christmas

Makes 12 large
250g flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
100g sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
dash of fresh nutmeg
2 clementines
approx 125ml milk
75 ml vegetable oil (or melted butter)
1 egg
100g dried cranberries
3 teaspoons demerara sugar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a muffin with papers and set aside.
Measure the flour baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and spices into a large bowl; grate the zest of the clementines over and combine. If you are doing this in advance, leave the zesting till Christmas morning.
Squeeze the juice of the clementines into a measuring jug and pour in the milk until it comes to the 200ml mark.
Add the oil or butter and egg, and lightly beat until just combined.
Pour this liquid mixture into the bowl of dried ingredients and stir gently until well combined.
Fold in the cranberries, then spoon the batter into the muffin tins. Sprinkle with demerara if desired.
Bake for 20 minutes or so until tops are firm to the touch.