Easy French Toast

So I’ve tried fancy.  I’ve made overnight french toast, french toast that has 47 steps and then bakes in the oven, sandwich bread french toast… and you know what I’ve learned?  Simple is better.  French toast is my favourite thing for breakfast – mostly because I get to drown it in butter and syrup.  It is not as heavy as a pancake and it makes a good use of leftover bread.  The most important thing to know about classic french toast, (or eggy bread if you’re British) is to never, ever, under ANY circumstances, use fresh bread.  It makes for soggy-mushiness that could not be characterized as toast on a bad day.  It is a culinary crime.  If you only have fresh and you MUST have french toast or die, toast it in the oven until it’s dried out but not hard.  10 min at 200F should do it.  I have done this before and it is an acceptable substitute.  For best results use day old (or a couple day old) French or Italian bread.  It’s also quite wonderful with Brioche but who has leftover Brioche?

This recipe is easily doubled and is a no-brainer for brunch.  It’s super forgiving, and is actually LESS work and LESS time than all those fancy bakes and make the night before dishes.

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You Will Need:

  • Half a loaf of day-old bread (about 8 slices – 1 inch thick)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp to 1/2 tsp of nutmeg – I really like nutmeg but you may want to cut back.  Fresh ground is best.
  • 2 rounded tbsp sugar
  • butter for the griddle
  • maple syrup to serve

In a small bowl combine cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar.  Put aside.  In a 8×8 baking dish or other shallow container big enough to accommodate your bread (don’t use a bowl, you want an even coating and you want to get the bread out of the custard quickly before it absorbs too much liquid.  Splashing it around in a bowl makes it hard to get an even coat) whisk the eggs, milk, and vanilla.  Add 1/2 of the cinnamon mix and whisk again.  You will add the remainder after the first 4 slices are cooking.  I find if you add it all at once the first few slices get all the spicy goodness while the others are lacking in flavour.

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Heat a griddle to 375F, or if you don’t have one you can use a heavy bottomed skillet heated on medium to medium high.  You want the egg to begin to cook as soon as the bread hits the pan but not burn before the custard has a chance to cook through.  Melt a small tab of butter where you will place each slice.  Lay your bread in the custard and flip it to get an even coating on both sides, this should be a quick dip, then lay the bread on the hot griddle where you’ve melted the butter.  Repeat with 3 more slices.  These take about 3 min per side so be ready to flip.  When both sides are nicely browned, remove from griddle.  Add the remainder of the cinnamon mixture to the custard and repeat with the remaining 4 slices.  It’s ready to serve!  Smear with additional butter if you wish (I mean, you’re already breaking the bank on calories with the bread and the syrup so why not?) and pour on some maple syrup and voila!  I like to pair these with some yummy breakfast sausages and some fruit for brunch.  It’s a crowd pleaser!

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Raisin Bran Muffins with Greek Yogurt and Applesauce.

By Julie

Makes 12 muffins

Time:  30 min including baking

Wheat Bran is amazing stuff.  Just 1/3 of a cup has 26% of your daily fiber and 10% of your iron.  It also tastes like cardboard.  Really dry cardboard.  In order to get the cardboard to taste like something, I opted for easy muffins.  These bake in just 15 min and are on the table start to finish in about 30 min.  If you’re one of those morning people, you could even manage these on a weekday (I think it’s insanity to wake up an extra half an hour early to bake so I just make ahead and freeze them).  They will also keep well for a couple of days in an air-tight container.

I was in search of a raisin bran muffin recipe that was moist, flavorful, but also not packed full of fat.  I didn’t find one, so I made one.

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One of the first things you will find is that most raisin bran muffin recipes contain buttermilk.  For the same reason that most chocolate cakes do… it provides richness but also lift because it works with soda to make bubbles and a light and fluffy crumb.  Buttermilk is not something I have in my fridge.  That being said, it’s easy to make but I find it never quite tastes the same.  One thing I DO always have in my fridge is greek yogurt.  It’s high in protein, but not fat.  It’s thick, and rich, and possess the acidic quality you need to wake up the soda in the cake and start that reaction before you even begin the baking process.  Also it’s delicious with a tang that is hard to beat.  I used vanilla greek yogurt here but any flavor will work and by using a flavoured yogurt you can change up this recipe easy-peasy so that it becomes a staple in your household.  I also removed the oil and substituted applesauce, and skipped the sugar and replaced it with natural maple syrup.  The batter for these muffins came out super light and airy, almost mousse-like, which resulted in beautiful, fluffy, moist muffins.  And the raisins?  Well you know how I feel about raisins, but if you absolutely must leave them out these muffins will stand up well on their own.  Or you could replace them with any dried fruit, such as dates or cranberries.  These are an easy way to add a ton of fiber to your breakfast routine or snack.

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You Will Need

  • 1.5 Cups of Wheat Bran
  • 1 cup of All Purpose Flour
  • 1 tsp of baking powder
  • 1 tsp of baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup of apple sauce
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup of greek yogurt ( or buttermilk if you have it)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup of raisin (any variety)

Preheat Oven to 375F

Grease your muffin tin well, I use cooking spray because it’s just easier.  As I’ve explained in my previous muffin posts, I don’t like to use the muffin wrappers.  I hate it when the muffins stick to them and they are unnecessary.  If you grease your muffin tin the muffins will slide out easily, and they will have a lovely crispy exterior that will make you glad you listened to me.

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients.  In a separate, medium bowl, combine the wet ingredients.  Add wet to dry and fold the dry into the wet until just combined, do not over mix or your will squash all of the fluffiness out of your muffins.  Fold in the raisins.  Place in center of the oven for 15 min.  Test with a skewer, if it comes out clean or with only a few crumbs they are done.  Rest for 5 min and if you remove them while they are still hot you will get the previously mentioned crispy exterior.  Enjoy.

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Maple Balsamic Slaw and Sausage

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By Corinne

If ‘coleslaw’ makes you think of mayo- banish it from your mind!  This is not your mayo based coleslaw for sure. Red cabbage is beautiful, inexpensive and an excellent source of vitamins C, K, and A. You could do all red cabbage for this slaw, or all green if that’s all you can find, but I like a combination of the two for the colours. In the middle of winter it can be difficult to find good produce that is reasonably priced. This colourful meal checks a number of boxes- easy, fast, healthy and economical!

RANDOM SCIENCE FACTS AND FUN HOME LAB FOR KIDS– skip this and scroll down if you want to straight to the foods!

You can also make an AWESOME natural indicator with red cabbage. An indicator is a substance that changes colour depending on pH. Red cabbage contains a pigment molecule that is an anthocyanin- this is what is responsible for the colour changes. Want a fun little science lab you can do at home?  I have done the following MANY times with my science students. I usually have them test a variety of ‘mystery liquids’ with both pH strips and a few drops of the red cabbage indicator. They are always surprised with the variety and brightness of the colours produced.

To make the indicator, boil some chopped red cabbage(about a cup or cup and a half) with a half a cup of water for about 5 minutes- it doesn’t matter too much proportions, but you want to end up with a dark purple liquid – that being said, the colour of the liquid will very much depend on the pH of your tap water and how close to neutral your  water is. Strain and cool (keep tightly sealed in the fridge) Once cooled, you can test a variety of household substances.

Start with something you know is acidic- lemon juice or vinegar and something you know is basic- bleach for example, so you have a baseline and know what colours to expect from acids and bases. In science class we use spot plates and pipettes, but you can just place a few drops of your testing liquid onto a plate. You want just a few drops of the substance you are testing, and then place a few drops of your indicator into it and record your observations.

If you drip this liquid into a substance that is basic, it will turn green, and if you drip it into an acid it turns bright pink. (Neutral solutions will stay purple). Have fun checking a variety of household liquids!

Time: 40 minutes for the sausages, about 15 minutes for the slaw or less if you are using a food processor.

Oven: 400F

Serves: 2-3

You will need:

  • 350 g (about 4 cups) red cabbage thinly sliced
  • 200 g (about 3 cups) green cabbage thinly sliced
  • 140 g (1 large) carrot grated
  • 3 salt and pepper sausages (can be found at Maltese if you are in Thunder Bay) or 3 mildly flavoured sausages of your choice
  • 1 clove garlic finely minced
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds

For the dressing:

  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) safflower or olive oil
  • 2 1/2 tbsp (37 ml) pure maple syrup (don’t use maple flavoured whatever!)
  • 1/2 tbsp (7 ml) toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tsp (10 ml) smooth dijon mustard
  • 1/2 shallot, finely minced (about 1.5 tbsp)
  • 1 clove of garlic finely minced
  • a few grinds of fresh pepper

Heat oven to 400F while you make the dressing.

Whisk together all dressing ingredients. This makes about 1 cup of dressing.

Thinly slice cabbages and grate carrot. I used a food processor today, but have often just sliced by hand. Dress slaw in half of the dressing and refrigerate and reserve the other half of the dressing. (This is fine made ahead, but ensure you don’t add the toasted sesame seeds until serving)

Add 1 additional clove of garlic to the reserved dressing. Place sausages in a small casserole dish with the half cup of reserved dressing. Bake for 40 minutes, flipping them over periodically and basting in the dressing.

In a small frying pan, add the sesame seeds and toast over medium heat, shaking them up until golden- about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Add a generous amount slaw to each plate. When sausage is thoroughly cooked, slice on the bias and place on top of slaw. Sprinkle with a teaspoon or two of toasted sesame seeds.

 

Maple Raisin Butter Tarts

By Julie

Time:  2 hours: 1 hour prep and bake, 1 hour chill time for pastry (optional if using store bought)

Serves:  Makes 12 tarts

My mom makes delicious butter tarts by substituting maple syrup for corn syrup.  I tried to make one with just maple syrup, but I found I didn’t enjoy them as much as the corn syrup, maple ratio.  To me, the perfect butter tart is runny, a sensuous combination of salty and sweet, and has delicious golden raisins. Store bought crust is fine, but there really is no substitution for homemade tart pastry.  This one is very forgiving and easy to roll so give it a try.

You Will Need

For the Pastry:

  • 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tbsp of sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup of cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tbsp ice water

For the Filling:

  • 3/4 cup of brown sugar ( I used dark because i like the flavor better, but use what you have on hand)
  • 1/4 cup of real maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup of corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup of butter, melted, browned, and cooled
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 tsp of real vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup of golden raisins (thompsons will work also if that’s what you have

 

Make the Pastry

Yay for using a mixer!  Lots of bakers will go on about the merits of making dough by hand.  Learning how is important because you need to appreciate what really good pastry feels like in each stage so that you learn how to ensure the right flour to water consistency, but this one is super forgiving and is fine in your mixer.  Use the paddle attachment and combine the flour, sugar, and salt.  Add the butter pieces and mix until it looks crumbly but you still have some larger butter pieces.  This is what makes a flakey dough, when the butter melts in the oven and creates air pockets.  Whisk the egg with the water and add it to your mixture.  Use the mix setting until dough comes together.  Shape it into two logs, like you’re going to make slice cookies, and wrap it in plastic.  Chill for at least an hour to make sure that butter is cold and the gluten relaxed before you roll it out.

Remove the dough from the fridge and preheat your oven to 400F.  Grease a 12 cup muffin pan, and lightly flour your work surface.  Cut your pastry logs into 12 equal portions and roll into circles.  Place each circle in the muffin cups gently.  Overlap is ok, just make sure you maneuver the dough into the bottom of the cups.  Gently push the seams together.  Let your dough lay over the top of the muffin cups a bit.  Cut off any excess (you don’t want the crust of one tart touching another).  Place tray in the fridge to cool for 20 minutes while you make the filling to prevent shrinkage. You want that butter to be cold when it hits the oven.

Make The Filling

Whisk the first 4 ingredients in a large bowl (preferably with a spout) until combined.  Add eggs, whisking in 1 at a time is easier to combine, then vinegar and vanilla.  Grab your shells from the fridge and place raisins in the bottom of each.  Fill just a smidge over 3/4 full with filling.  If you didn’t leave extra dough at the top of your cups, you may want to use a bit less filling so they don’t overflow.

Place the tarts in the oven and bake for 5 minutes, then, like a pie, reduce to 375 and continue baking for about 20 minutes.  You will see the tarts puff up or “dome”.  Cool completely before removing from pan.

This is the only recipe I will ever use for these.  I can’t make them that often because I am fully capable of eating all of them.  They keep well in an airtight container on the counter for a few days or chilled in the fridge.  They also freeze well.  Just be careful to thaw at room temperature.  A brief stay in the microwave turns the filling to molten lava and you’ll burn your face off.

Browned Butter and Maple Apple Crisp

By Julie

Time: 75min:  30min prep, 45 min baking

Serves 4-6

I love everything about apple crisp.  The tangy tartness of the apples, the sweet buttery crumb of the crisp, the syrupy sauce that only forms in the careful slow baking of pectin, sugar, and a little flour.  My grandmother used to put rhubarb in it, which I love even more, but sadly it’s December and I have long since used up my stash of frozen stalks.  However, not to worry, because it is the season of liquid gold (maple syrup) so we will give it a staring role in this dish.

A fruit crisp is a great way to bring a taste of summer into the long winter months.  It works great with fresh or thawed frozen fruit, and it’s a super quick desert to make.

Since I love everything about apple crisp and also have a slightly unhealthy addiction to browned butter, I decided that it would probably be heaven to combine the two.  Tyler brought home a cooler full of crisp, tiny apples of unknown variety from work and I needed to use them quickly as they are not waxed.  I do not hold their anonymity against them though for they are super crunchy, sweet, and delicious.  If you don’t have awesome anonymous apples, Gala works nicely here.

This is the first dessert I made without a recipe.  It took me several tries to get it the way I envisioned it, so we ate apple crisp for a week and one of them was completely inedible.  It is now, honestly, art.  The best crisp I’ve ever had, it’s frequently requested by my family.  I am dying for July fresh peaches so I can try them too. I’m not a super sweet dessert person, I like buttery sweet/salt combinations and my preferences are discernible in this recipe.  It works best in a small deep dish 1.5 quart casserole dish.  If using an 8×8 you need to double the recipe and use a deep pan.

You Will Need:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • enough apples to fill your dish.  About 7.
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup oats (rolled or quick, whatever you have will work)
  • 1/2 tsp salt

This magic happens in a slow 350 degree oven.  Preheat now.

First, Brown the Butter!  You could skip this step.. if you wanted to… you would be CRAZY.. but you could.  But don’t.  So, brown the butter.  Put a whole stick, or half a cup, into a small sauce pan over medium low heat.  On my burn-o-matic stove, it’s really low, but for you, it should be about the temperature that you use for pancakes.  DO NOT DESERT YOUR BUTTER!  For it happens quickly.  The butter will melt and turn a sunny yellow colour, foam and darken slowly, then the magic happens.  The butter solids separate and brown, turning your butter into something the colour of:  well, brown.  It will smell nutty, the solids will be sitting at the bottom.  Brown as much as you dare… don’t burn it.  Burned butter is bitter and not yummy at all.  As always, taste it to make sure.  It should taste slightly salty and caramely. If it’s bitter, you broke the rule, deserted it, and it’s burnt.  Start over.  Remove from heat immediately, transfer to a small bowl to halt the cooking process and put in the freezer to harden while you finish prepping. You want to be able to cut it into the crumble instead of just pouring it on.

Peel the Apples:  If you have a peeler, by all means use it.  I do.  Because I hate peeling apples almost as much as I hate doing dishes.  I used 7 small apples, but you want to fill your pan nearly to the top.  Slice thinly and top with a little lemon juice to keep them from browning. Place in a 1.5 quart baking dish, and toss with 1 tbsp of flour.   Add enough maple syrup to coat.  About 1/4 of a cup.  Toss and level the apples in the pan.

Make the Crumble:  In a medium bowl, combine:

  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Then add the brown butter, using a pastry blender to combine the butter with the dry ingredients until a crumbly mixture forms.  If it got too hard in the freezer feel free to soften it for a few seconds in the microwave but you want it cold.  Don’t melt it. Try not to eat it.

Assemble and Bake:  Double check to make sure your oven is preheated to 350F.  Spoon the crumble on top of the apples and press down lightly.  Pop in the oven and bake for 45 min.  Your sauce should be starting to bubble up around the edges and the top should be golden brown.  Serve warm as a dessert, add cream, or be brave like me and put it on a pancake so you can call it breakfast.  Because, well there’s fruit and syrup and why wouldn’t you?

Other Ideas: Please leave a comment and let me know how this worked for you.  Feel free to change, create, and inspire.  My only advice is don’t try granola… I did, and it would have been lovely, but raisins can only take so much punishment and 45 min on top of a crisp exposed to the heat was more than their shriveled skins could take.  I’ve also tried raisins in with the apples, fantastic, and dried cranberries.  Also fantastic.  Use what you have available and create something delicious to share.