The Legend of Sleepy Challah

Last weekend my friends Jennie and Zander came over for brunch. Jennie and I met over thirteen years ago, and some of our best memories have been shared over a good meal. But when we were younger, I thought Jennie’s food tastes were crazy. A life without meat or chocolate? The thought nearly knocked my head off.

But now that some time has passed, I’ve broadened my own tastes and realized that some of the best flavors on earth involve neither meat nor chocolate. In fact, one can live a perfectly pleasant existence without what I consider to be culinary staples. Take this autumnal french toast recipe: it has both sweetness and substance.

After over a decade of friendship, Jennie and I can still happily coexist with our varying palates. With the warm, hearty flavors of a satisfying brunch like this, who couldn’t love the month of October? (Except perhaps poor Ichabod Crane…)

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Pumpkin French Toast:

8 slices challah bread

4 egg yolks

2 cups milk

1/2 cup pumpkin puree

1 tbsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp brown sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Instruction:

  1. On parchment paper-lined baking sheet, toast bread in 300 degree oven for about five minutes on each side. Turn off oven and let bread cool.
  2. Whisk together all ingredients (when they have all been brought to room temperature) except for bread.
  3. Soak challah slices in wet mixture for twenty seconds on each side. Allow excess moisture to drip off and immediately put in buttered frying pan over medium heat. Let toast cook on each side for about three minutes, adding more butter if the pan becomes too dry.
  4. Transfer to oven (still warm from step 1) until ready to serve!

Wet Spiced Maple Pecans:

1/4 cup light corn syrup

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 tbsp milk

1 tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup pecans

Instruction:

  1. Bring corn syrup, maple syrup, milk, brown sugar, and vanilla extract to a boil, whisking until smooth. Reduce to simmer and keep on heat for about five minutes.
  2. Toss pecans in spices. Pour syrup mixture over the pecans and toss until evenly coating.

Enjoy pumpkin french toast and wet maple spiced pecans with Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews.

The Bun Also Rises

I am currently fulfilling a lifelong dream: being – and living – in London during Wimbledon. Though I love watching all of the big tennis tournaments, the traditions surrounding this particular one take it to a heightened, magical level. The all-whites rule is one that I believe should extend beyond the tennis courts. (Wouldn’t we all get along so much better in immaculate, dazzling apparel?) The strawberries and champagne diet should apply all year round. But ‘Breakfast at Wimbledon,’ the time in which the nation wakes up to a cup of tea and a quick gab about the day to come, is the best part of all.

Such morning gossips are made extra sweet by a plate full of cinnamon buns. But often times one is deterred from making them, because any yeast-based product requires so much patience. As the young protagonists in Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises demonstrate, waiting often seems impossible. Just as the sun will always return after a dark night, yeast will always activate if left overnight. But sometimes a catalyst is necessary to speed up the plot. For Jake Barnes, that was a few drinks at a bullfight. For these cinnamon buns, it is the combination of yeast and baking powder. You’ll be finished in plenty of time for the first match on Centre Court!

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Glaze:

3 tbsp buttermilk

3 tbsp cream cheese

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tablespoon melted butter

1 1/2 cups icing sugar (or enough for glaze consistency)

1/4 teaspoon salt

Filling:

3 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons melted butter

Pinch of salt

Dough:

6 oz all-purpose flour

1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons yeast

1/8 cup plus 1/2 cup semi-skimmed milk

1 tablespoon sugar

3 tbsp unsalted butter

1 tsp vanilla extract

Instruction:

1. Heat 1/8 cup milk to barely a simmer. Take off heat, whisk with yeast. When yeast is dissolved, let sit for five minutes (letting mixture become frothy).

2. Sift flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in medium bowl. Add rest of milk, yeast mixture, vanilla extract, and butter to form dough. Knead dough on a floured surface until a smooth ball is formed. (If dough is too sticky, add flour several tablespoons at a time.) Let dough rise in a greased bowl covered with a tea towel.

3. While dough is rising, combine cinnamon, brown sugar, and salt. Pour melted butter over the mix to create a paste.

4. Roll dough into a 6×9 (approximately) rectangle. Spread filling evenly, leaving a half inch border. Roll (beginning with the shorter length) into a tight cylinder. Pinch at the seam. Cut into six even rolls and place in greased muffin tin. Cover with tea towel and let rise for at least half an hour.

5. Bake buns in a 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes (until golden brown). While the buns are baking, whisk together cream cheese, buttermilk, vanilla extract, (all at room temperature) and salt. Add icing sugar in batches, whisking until smooth. When glaze consistency is reached, finish with melted butter.

6. Allow buns to cool for five minutes. Drizzle with glaze.

Enjoy cinnamon buns with buttermilk glaze with Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!

20,000 Leeks Under the Sea

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As brunch grows in popularity, particularly amongst twenty-somethings in big cities, booking a table becomes increasingly difficult. Reservations fill up sometimes weeks in advance, leaving many hungry and housebound on late Saturday mornings. But with very few flavors, our generation’s favorite mealtime can be easily recreated at home. Instead of organizing each guest’s individual order and trying to coordinate an assembly line in a cramped kitchen, why not make a one-stop spread in advance that packs all the flavors of brunch into one bowl.

This dip makes smoked salmon more accessible than ever. Each creamy, citrusy bite is carried by the luscious fish flavor. Like Captain Nemo in Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, you can freely explore the wonders of the sea in an up close and personal way. When you wow your friends with this easy bagel brunch, they’ll want to reserve a place in your apartment months ahead of time!

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Leek and smoked salmon spread:

3/4 cup cream cheese (room temperature)

1/2 cup sour cream

3 leeks

(Juice of) 1 lemon

~4oz. smoked salmon, in bite-sized slices

Salt and pepper

Dash of olive oil (for pan)

6 bagels

Chives to garnish

1. Chop leeks, then sauté in olive oil over medium heat until softened (about 5 minutes).

2. In food processor combine cream cheese, sour cream, lemon juice, leeks, and a bit of salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl, and fold in smoked salmon. Season further to taste. Refrigerate for at least half hour, then spread on toasted bagels. Garnish with chives.

Enjoy leek and smoked salmon bagel spread with Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!

The Cruller Purple

Raise your hand if you’re embarrassed about something you’ve done in the past decade. I’m currently typing with one hand while the other is waving proudly in the air. I imagine most people (at least those in their twenties) reading this are doing the same.

I could choose to write about probably a billion things from my high school years. Maybe I could tell you about my diary entries in which I planned my marriages to several boys at the local prep school. Then I could go on to describe the week in which I got a perm, cried and cried at the wet poodle look, chopped my hair off to my skull to start over, and endured months and months of bowl cut to mullet in the spirit of growing it all out. Finally, I could tell you to top it all off, having successfully survived and maybe even thrived in high school, how I began my salutatory address at graduation by singing. No warning, no accompaniment, not a song that anyone would know, but instead a soulful ballad from the musical version of The Color Purple (which I haven’t even seen).

In the somewhat epistolary form of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, Celie writes letters to communicate to her sister, or even to God. Her letters are filled with horrible tales of domineering or abusive men, societal restrictions, and broken heartedness. Keeping all of that in mind, I’d like to communicate a message to my younger self.

Dear High School Laura:

Go ahead and dye your hair. Chop it all off; hair grows back. Plan your diary marriage to any one of those Devon Prep boys, even the ones you’ve only spoken to twice. Planning fake weddings is fun. Do goofy things and do them because you chose to. Sing your heart out at high school graduation because at no stage in life is singing out loud unacceptable. No one is stopping you, and that’s a beautiful thing!

Love,

Present Day Laura, who is contently reminiscing on the embarrassing moments and munching on a cruller purple.

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Cruller batter:

1 cup water

1 stick butter

Pinch of salt

2 tbsp sugar

Zest of 1 lemon

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

3 eggs

Canola oil

Instruction:

1. Bring water, butter, salt, sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla extract to boil in medium saucepan. Add flour and beat with wooden spoon over heat for about two minutes. (Batter should be smooth and should come away from the sides of the saucepan easily.)

2. Transfer batter to standing mixer and allow to cool until lukewarm. Begin to beat batter, adding eggs one at a time. Use piping bag or hands to form batter into desired cruller shapes. (These can be disks, tubes, or anything, really!) If batter is sticky, put already shaped cruller batter into freezer to firm up.

3. Meanwhile, heat oil to 350 degrees. Drop each cruller in, allowing to cook for about eight minutes (turning occasionally for even browning and cooking. Remove from oil and place on paper towel.

Blueberry glaze:

3/4 cup blueberries

Juice of 1 lemon

2 cups confectioner’s sugar

1/4 cup milk

Instruction:

1. In blender, combine blueberries and lemon juice. Strain into bowl, then whisk in milk and confectioner’s sugar until glaze is smooth. Drizzle over warm crullers. Garnish with confectioner’s sugar.

Enjoy blueberry glazed crullers with Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!

Peter Pain au Chocolat

J.M. Barrie’s beloved Peter Pan has lasted the test of time. In fact, after a Disney movie and live television production, it’s easy to forget that this beloved story began as a series of novels.

Each and every one of us has an idea of Neverland, a place where we don’t have to grow up and deal with “grown up” things. The idea of Neverland seems pretty good to me right now as I think about earning, saving, budgeting, planning, networking, and choosing. The anxiety of being (a few months away from) mid-twenties and not being certain of goals or direction or finances is ever-present.

But I ruminate over these things and realize that I’m eating chocolate for breakfast and petting my anthropomorphized, humongous dog, and suddenly those scary adult things seem very far away.

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2 1/4 cups bread flour

1/8 cup yeast

1/4 cup water

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 sugar

1/4 cup whole milk

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened

plus 3 tablespoons melted butter

~1/2 cup chocolate chips

2 eggs and an optional dash of cinnamon (for egg wash)

Instruction:

1. Dissolve yeast into water. Meanwhile, whisk flour, salt, sugar.

2. To dry ingredients, add melted butter, whole milk, and finally dissolved yeast. Combine either in standing mixer or with hands.

3. When everything is incorporated, turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead dough until smooth. Form into ball, wrap lightly in cling film, and let rise for two hours.

4. Knock back dough (basically, punch dough to let air out) and roll out to rectangle of about 9×7 (approximately a quarter inch thick). Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet, cover with cling film, and let rise for an hour.

5. Roll out dough again to quarter inch thickness. Spread softened butter onto two-thirds of the dough. Fold the dough like a posted letter, first with the un-buttered third and then with the remaining buttered third. Roll out, then rotate the letter-like parcel 90 degrees. Fold in the same manner – thirds – and roll out again. Place back on baking sheet, cover, and leave for an hour.

*Any of the resting times can be done in the refrigerator; however, this slows the yeast and may need to be increased to several hours.

6. Roll, rotate, and fold twice more, ending by rolling out entire dough to quarter-inch thickness. Slice into eight triangles. At the tip of each triangle, place three or four chocolate chips, then roll towards opposite side. Place each rolled croissant seam-side down on parchment lined baking sheet. Let rest for at least an hour.

7. Brush each croissant with egg wash. Bake in 375-degree oven for 12-15 minutes, until croissants are deep golden brown.

Enjoy pain au chocolat with J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!

The Porks of Being a Wallflower

When I met Sam last year, I was shocked to learn that she was a teenager (though has moved up to the next decade of life since then). Immediately I was amazed by how creative, talented, mature and – well – together she is. In our Marketing and Food Product Design class, we were asked to come up with a new product for the market. The only limitation was that the product had to contain blueberries. Sam’s brilliant idea to combine the two best components of breakfast time – bacon and blueberries – is absolutely inspired (and perhaps somewhat influenced by her summers spent in the good ol’ USA).

As the characters in The Perks of Being a Wallflower find ways to cope with teenage years, these small muffins can carry pretty heavy flavors and still turn out beautifully. Everyone handles adolescence in different ways, and sometimes seemingly random and (let’s face it) super weird qualities can produce a magnificent result. I could barely tie my shoes when I was nineteen; meanwhile, Sam is now running a pub in Berkshire.

And so, this post celebrates both a head chef at the age of twenty and brilliant friend, who possesses an appreciation of the finer, American things in life: bacon and carbohydrates.

IMG_9865Bacon Blueberry Muffins

110 g flour

110g butter

65 g caster sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

100 g blueberries

300 g bacon

Brown sugar

Instruction:

1. Melt butter in a pan with bacon. Turn off heat and let the bacon infuse into the melted butter for about 5 minutes.

2. To candy bacon: generously coat strips of bacon with brown sugar. Sandwich between parchment paper and two baking sheets, and bake for 10-12 minutes. When bacon has cooled, slice into small pieces.

3. Whisk sugar and eggs in a medium bowl. Add melted butter, then sift in flour and baking powder. Fold in blueberries and bacon. Transfer batter into greased or lined muffin tin.

4. Bake muffins in 350 degree oven until toothpick comes out clean, about 15 minutes.

Enjoy bacon blueberry muffins with Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!

Jeeves and Worcestershire

When I was a young girl, I would watch my dad laughing out loud as he read P.G. Wodehouse. Wanting to be in on the joke, I would flip through the pages of the Jeeves and Wooster stories, laughing out loud in imitation even though I didn’t understand what was going on. As I got older and both my love of literature and sense of humor developed, my enjoyment of the books became authentic. Wodehouse’s writing style is light and his character descriptions are hilarious, and because of that, Jeeves and Wooster have long been my favorite literary duo.

Hollandaise perfectly describes the relationship between Bertie Wooster and his valet, Jeeves. This sauce has so much potential to go wrong – too much heat and it can split, and too little heat and it won’t get cooking. It takes the sharp attention of the chef’s eye to keep it together. In each whimsical plot line, Jeeves knows how to control the temperature of Bertie’s antics. Even with the addition of the flavorful temper of one of Bertie’s aunts, or in our case, the punchy Worcestershire sauce, everything remains in tact with the right person in charge – and the result is just delicious.

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Worcestershire Hollandaise Sauce:

2 egg yolks

1 lemon (juice of)

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

pinch of salt

1/4 cup clarified butter*

1 tbsp of water, if needed

For Use On Eggs Benedict:

4 slices of bread

4 eggs

4 slices of pancetta

Chives to garnish

Instruction:

1. Over double boiler and on medium-low heat, whisk egg yolks, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and salt until yolks slowly cook up to a ribbon-like consistency.

2. Lower heat and slowly add clarified butter, continuing to whisk as sauce thickens. Thin out with water if necessary.

3. Serve on top of a poached egg, pan-fried pancetta, and bread toasted in excess pancetta fat. Garnish with chives.

*You can make your own clarified butter by melting a stick of unsalted butter over a double boiler, and separating the clarified part on top from the white fats that have settled at the bottom of the bowl.

Enjoy Worcestershire hollandaise sauce on Eggs Benedict with any of P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster stories, and check in at https://warandpeach.com/ for future recipes and book reviews!

The Pancakening

I’ve been assigned to read The Awakening for several classes during many phases of life. Because of the times during which it’s cropped up in my life – early high school, early college, and finally late college – the novel has become a vehicle for reflecting on my own coming of age. For instance, the first time I read the book was during my freshman year of high school. This was the time in my life when my journal entries bemoaned personal flaws and the reasons no boys liked me. Like Chopin’s protagonist, Edna, it is easy to feel trapped in a situation, unable to see the bright future because the current situation seems so bleak.

Several weeks ago, I attempted to make pancakes for my boyfriend. I woke up early, went to the store, and came back with all what I thought were all the ingredients. Leaving out baking powder and several other essential elements, the end result was a weird gooey almost styrofoam-like mess. We chucked the evidence, ordered Chipotle, and didn’t look back. There were no subsequent journal entries about how my dreamboat crush would hate me because my pancakes didn’t turn out perfectly. It didn’t mean I was trapped in my own horrible, baking powder-less cage. (It did, however, make me determined to learn how to make good pancakes.)

The Awakening has followed me through many phases of life – ups, downs, failed pancakes, amazing pancakes. And depending on how much red wine you put in that syrup, you might go through these phases feeling like Edna, drifting away on the waves.

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Lemon Blueberry Pancakes

1 1/4 cup flour

2 tsp sugar

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup milk

2 tbsp veg oil (plus extra to coat the fry pan)

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 lemon’s zest

1/2 cup blueberries

Instruction:

1. In small bowl, whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest.

2. In large bowl, whisk milk, egg, vanilla extract.

3. In three separate batches, incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet. When combined, add veg oil and whisk again. The batter should be a bit lumpy. Fold in blueberries until incorporated.

4. Add a bit of veg oil to a large fry pan and ladle pancake batter in. (I make three at a time.) Flip when small bubbles begin to form on the top and cook for about a minute further on the second side (until light brown).

Red Wine Syrup:

1/2 cup red wine

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup sugar

Instruction:

1. In small saucepan on medium heat, dissolve sugar in water and red wine. Allow liquid to reduce until a syrupy consistency. Pour on top of lemon blueberry pancakes and enjoy a decadent breakfast!

Red wine for breakfast? It’s 5:00 somewhere! Enjoy Lemon Blueberry Pancakes in Red Wine Syrup with Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!