Brunch has become my favorite meal. With so many options of sweet and savory breakfast and lunch foods, what’s not to like? A Mimosa or Bloody Mary doesn’t hurt either. Huevos Rancheros seems to be popping up on brunch menus all over the country. These “rancher’s eggs,” as name translates to in English, are a twist on a rural Mexican farm dish that’s both hearty and delicious.
As the winter drags on, there’s nothing like warm cinnamon raisin bread with a buttery streusel topping to start the weekend. It’s surprising that I just discovered this recipe in “The Art of Fine Baking.” I usually never miss a good recipe that involves cinnamon and sugar. In this case, the cinnamon and sugar is layered within the bread and the streusel topping becomes arguably the best part. The simple combination of butter, flour, cinnamon sugar, and walnuts create the crumbly topping that I’m now tempted to use on all many other types of baked goods.
There’s something relaxing about making yeast breads from scratch. Kneading the dough to that perfect smooth springy texture is a soothing process. I have used this basic coffee cake dough in other tasty recipes such as Apple Roll, Honey Orange Bread Twist, and even Panettone. It’s a good base recipe but like most yeast breads, it tends to go stale in just a few short days. The best solution for this is to make French toast or bread pudding out of the leftovers. It’s indulgent, I know, but this nutty cinnamon sugar bread with its buttery streusel topping may change how you feel about regular French toast or bread pudding forever.
1 recipe Basic Coffee Cake Dough
1/3 cup melted butter
2/3 cup cinnamon sugar (see note)
2/3 cup raisins
1 cup finely crushed pecans (walnuts may be substituted)
1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup cinnamon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1-1 1/2 cups flour
To make streusel topping: Cream butter and cinnamon sugar. Add vanilla and nuts. Add flour, gradually stirring constantly. Use enough flour to make a crumbly mixture. The more flour added, the smaller the crumbs. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease to 9x5x3 loaf pans. Roll dough in large square, 1/4 inch thick. Brush with most of the melted butter, and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, raisins, and crushed pecans. Roll up jelly roll style.
Cut roll evenly into six slices. Fit three slices cut side flat into each pan, squeezing them if necessary. Press slices down in pan so that in rising, they will grow together. Let rise until almost doubled in bulk. Scatter streusel topping generously over each cake. Bake in a preheated oven for 45 minutes or until streusel tops are lightly browned.
Makes two loaves.
Note: Cinnamon Sugar can be made by simply combining 1 cup granulated sugar with 1 tablespoon cinnamon.
Adapted from “The Art of Find Baking,” by Paula Peck.
There are a couple different ways to make a vegetable frittata. You can put it straight into the oven casserole style, or you can start it on the stove and move it to the oven. Either way produces that delicious eggy goodness. In this unpublished Paula Peck recipe, the oven only approach is suggested. However, I found that the stove-to-oven method works equally well here and allows for a one pot meal (so to speak). Just saute the veggies in an a large oven proof saute pan and once soft, add the eggs. When the eggs begin to set, drizzle a little olive oil around the edge (this is optional but helps reduce sticking) and put it in the oven.
Just like the cooking method, the selection of vegetables can also vary. Local asparagus is abundant right now so this seemed like an obvious choice. Broccoli, green beans, potato, tomato, or even cauliflower would be tasty as well. With just a few substitutes, this regular vegetable frittata can become a fancy “Spring” or “Summer” frittata – ready for its brunch debut.
2lbs small zucchini cut a bit less than 1/4″ thick
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced celery (or asparagus cut in 1/2″ pieces)
1 cup sliced green pepper
1 cup green onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add zucchini and asparagus (if using). Saute, turning frequently until golden and tender.
Grease a 9 inch ceramic dish or its equivalent. Combine celery (if using), green peppers, onions, and garlic. Place a third of the mixture on the bottom of greased dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Make a layer of sauteed zucchini on top, then another layer of vegetables, seasoning, and finally another of sauteed zucchini.
Beat eggs, adding cream, Parmesan, thyme, salt, and pepper. Pour over vegetables. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until egg is set. Cut into wedges to serve.
I’m not much of a morning person. But if something tasty is waiting for breakfast, it makes waking up early a bit easier. I don’t necessarily mean eggs and bacon, or stacks of pancakes, though they can be potentially motivating as well. I find comfort in knowing that there is a simple, but delicious breakfast bread just waiting to be toasted and smothered with honey. Healthy? No. Promotes cheerfulness? Yes! Not to mention a perfect complement to that morning coffee.
There are many breads in “The Art of Fine Baking” and I hope to one day make my way through all of them. This particular Honey Orange Bread Twist, like many others, uses a base recipe that my grandmother managed to turn into many different bread and pastry variations. With its layers of orange and honey, this braided beauty struck me as a spring-ish sweet bread and a lovely light breakfast. Sliced almonds and walnuts add a slight crunch and the candied orange peel is a sweet citrus contrast to the buttery bread. Best served warm or toasted and a little extra honey never hurt 🙂
Orange Honey Filling
1/2 cup butter, softened
Zest of 1 orange
2/3 cup honey
1 recipe Basic Coffee Cake Dough
1/4 cup melted butter
2/3 cup finely crushed walnuts
1/2 cup diced candied orange peel
1 cup golden raisins
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 teaspoon heavy cream 1/2 cup sliced almonds
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9x5x3 loaf pans. Cream together butter, zest, and honey for Orange Honey Filling.
Roll dough into a large square, 1/4 inch thick. Brush with melted butter. Spread thinly with Orange Honey Filling. Scatter crushed walnuts, candied orange peel, and raisins over dough. Roll up jelly-roll style. With a rolling pin, press filled dough down to a thickness of 1 inch. Divide flattened dough lengthwise to make three long strips. Cut in half to make 6 shorter strips. Braid cut strips together to make 2 loaves.
Fit each loaf into a greased pan. Let rise until dough doubles in bulk. Brush with egg yolk mixture and scatter almonds over loaf twists.
Bake in preheated oven about 45 minutes, or until golden brown.
Yield: Two Loaves
Yes, Paula Peck made doughnuts. It may come as a surprise but this jelly doughnut recipe is actually in “The Art of Fine Baking,” tucked away in the unsuspecting “A few breads, many coffeecakes” section. It’s a classic recipe with a base dough reminiscent of brioche. Who needs the jam filling? Warm fried dough dipped in sugar is enough to satisfy even the pickiest doughnut fanatics. And speaking of doughnut fanatics, it seems the once convenience store breakfast treat, often put in the same category as Dingdongs and Twinkies, has come full circle. Doughnuts have become a culinary art form (of some sort). Specialty bakeries are popping up all over, serving both traditional doughnuts as well as creative delights such as Peanut Butter and Jam, Tres Leches, and Green tea doughnuts (check out Doughnut Plant here in NYC). Chefs are now throwing around words like Bombolone and Beignet, which despite sounding fancy, are simply the Italian and French words for Doughnut. Even Saveur magazine recently did an article on the “Americas 50 Best Donuts“. It all comes down to one thing: one way or the other, we can’t resist fried dough glazed or dipped in sugar.
This is a versatile recipe and can be made with or without the jam filling. Try filling the warm doughnuts with Nutella and you may never find a better doughnut.
2 packages dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup warm milk
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3-4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup soft unsalted butter
vegetable oil for frying
1 1/2 cups jam
vanilla sugar (or cinnamon sugar) – see note
Mix yeast with sugar, honey, milk, eggs, egg yolks, and zest. Add enough flour to make a medium-soft dough, working in soft butter at the same time. Knead well until dough is smooth and elastic. Place dough in bowl. Dust lightly with flour. Cover bowl and place in a draft free place until dough doubles in bulk.
After dough has risen, punch it down and allow it to rise a second time.
Shape doughnuts by pinching off egg-size pieces of dough and forming each into a smooth, slightly flattened ball. Place on a well-floured towel and let balls rise until doubled in size.
While doughnuts are rising, pour at least an inch and half of vegetable oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan and heat to 375 degrees. Drop doughnuts into fat, 2 or 3 at a time and fry until undersides are a deep golden brown. Turn and fry until the other sides are also well browned, about 5 minutes in all.
Remove and drain on paper towels. When doughnuts are cool, fill them by squirting jam into their centers with a long, narrow pastry tube. Dust with vanilla sugar.
Note: Vanilla Sugar can be made by burying 3 or 4 vanilla beans in a canister containing 1 lb of granulated sugar or confectioners sugar.
Yield: 3 dozen