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.

Harry Potter and the Deathly ‘Mallows

The early 2000s were a time of wonderful weirdness for preteens. Maybe you made up a dance routine to Monster Mash in your friend’s basement. Perhaps you rocked a Limited Too pageboy hat on a fifth grade field trip. But I’d bet that the most accurate manifestation of preteen splendor would be your AOL Instant Messenger screen name and password.

While I wavered between Neopets and Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Cats themes, my sister was always very steadfast – the username was based on a fearless Shakespearean protagonist, and the password paid tribute to one of the most entertaining characters in literature: Peeves the Poltergeist.

The ghosts were such a phenomenal part of the Harry Potter series, and though their appearances were brief and infrequent, they were always entertaining. Nearly Headless Nick was bizarrely endearing, and Peeves was hilariously pesky. JK Rowling did a wonderful job of making ghosts – in the past classically “scary” figures – into something we all looked forward to encountering as we turned the pages of the Harry Potter books.

Like the fashion and social choices we made as preteens, these meringues represent something stereotypically scary at first glance; but when you actually dive in, they’re actually quite sweet.

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Meringue Ghosts:

3 egg whites

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 oz dark chocolate chips

Instruction:

  1. In standing mixer, whip egg whites and salt until frothy. Gradually add sugar on medium-high speed and whip until you have stiff and glossy peaks.
  2. Pipe egg white mixture onto parchment paper-lined baking tray. Bake in 400 degree oven for about 5 minutes, until meringues are light brown on top. Let meringues cool completely.
  3. Melt chocolate chips in microwave in 20 second intervals, stirring between each interval. Using a toothpick or a small piping bag, pipe two dots onto the meringue as the ghost’s eyes.

Enjoy meringue ghosts with J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!