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.

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!

Quiche-22

Eggs are difficult to master, in terms of texture, timing, and accompanying flavors. The art of the omelet is no easy undertaking, and when you’ve finally achieved it, your first instinct is probably to spread the word.

“I’ll host a brunch!” you exclaim confidently. Impulsively you begin to invite family, friends, old elementary school crushes, and four thousand Facebook acquaintances. You even promise your dog a few bites.

But keeping track of one omelet is much easier than, say, ten. Quickly your brunch plans spiral into chaos. Like the structure of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, the cooking process becomes a bit hard to follow. The eggs are rubbery before the cheese melts, and the bacon dries out before the spinach has cooked through. The sequence of events abandons chronology, and it’s up to you, the chef, to keep everything straight.

An easy solution is to take care of the egg component in a fool proof, synchronized way, and let your guests worry about their own toppings. These mini filo quiche cups break the omelet-making process down into simple bite-sized pieces. Like the individual storylines in Catch-22, each quiche cup carries its own personality and customization. They are easier to manage if treated as individuals, yet the end result makes clear how they all serve the greater purpose (which, in this case, is a fantastic, low-stress brunch).

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Filo quiche cups:

6 sheets filo dough

1/2 stick melted butter

8 eggs

1/2 cup whole milk

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

Suggested toppings: crispy pancetta, goat cheese, caramelized onions

Instruction:

 1. Brush one filo sheet with melted butter, then place second sheet on top. Brush the second sheet with melted butter and place third sheet on top. Repeat this for the next three, so that you have two separate three-layer filo doughs.

2. Cut filo dough into nine squares per sheet (18 squares total). Fit squares into mini muffin tins that have been grease-proofed with cooking spray.

3. Whisk eggs, milk, salt, pepper, cheese, and parsley. Pour into filo cups.

4. Bake filo quiche cups at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool just until the quiche filling as deflated. Add desired toppings and serve.

Enjoy filo quiche cups with Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, 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!

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!