Archive for the ‘Breakfast’ Category

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Belgian beauties. Yes, they’re worth it. (Have fun, search engines.)

September 15, 2009

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For many years, I claimed to be a strict savory breakfast eater. No pancakes for me. No waffles. No French toast. No funny little Danishes. No, thank you. I’ll take eggs, I’d say. Give me an omelet any day. And more bacon. And sausage.

I stand by my love for the saltier breakfast fare, but I admit that a taste for the sweet has crept in there. And in the case of these Belgian waffles, perhaps more than crept. Maybe more like stormed in with the sound and fury of the first ten minutes of a Michael Bay movie.

It’s important to note that I included the nationality “Belgian” in the description of these waffles. I mean, an ordinary waffle is nothing to stop traffic for. A pancake, unless packed with extra love and ingredients (see the husband’s Orange Ricotta Pancakes), is tasty but not remarkable. French toast is, too often, just some eggy bread. But those Belgians were onto something. They’ve taken an ordinary breakfast bread and, er, waffled it, expanding the possible crispy delectable surface area by multiples. It’s crispy, yet fluffy and soft. It’s caramelly and yet also complex. It’s fragrant and, yes, oh so seductive. Still more fiendishly, it has these generous square cups to hold syrup or trap dainty pieces of fruit or puddles of ice cream in. Is genius too strong a word? I think not.

How did this love affair begin? When we encountered some outstanding Belgian waffles at a local restaurant one evening as a dessert item. Granted, I was nine months pregnant and out for the rare dinner without a two-year-old, so that might have made them extra delicious. But the husband’s reaction was even more mighty (and, let’s face it, predictable). He ran right out and bought himself a Belgian waffle iron (natch) and set to work trying to replicate said waffles. After several batches of subpar waffles – which I managed to force down – this recipe emerged.

Is it worth it? Is it worth wrangling with those yeastie-beasties? Waiting an hour for the batter to “develop flavors”? Worth buying a freakin’ Belgian waffle maker? I can only speak for myself. And the answer is: Yes, indeed, and please pass the waffles.

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And now, the Husband’s take…

I know, you’re thinking, “Waffles are easy.” And if you just whip together commercial pancake mix, then you’re right. These waffles are something else. They’re more like a “gateway drug” to interesting culinary possibilities. You see, these waffles eschew chemical leaveners like baking soda and baking powder. Instead, they gain their volume and gusto from a combination of whipped egg whites and slower acting yeast.

Wait, wait… I know what you are thinking: Yeast is a microorganism that should be left in the hands of serious bakers. But, think of the potential magic to be unlocked. The yeast provides not only volume, but also delicious taste. It provides the tang of fermentation that makes these waffles serious contenders for glory. While they are a great breakfast/brunch food, they are also great for dessert with a little ice cream or even just nude as a snack.

In addition, if you get hooked on these waffles, you just might find yourself experimenting with other tasty, yeast-oriented projects… like donuts, bagels, country loaves or those crunchy, crusty French baguettes. The possibilities are really endless once you make friends with yeast. You just might become an addict.

Before I go, just a little note. These are not quick-to-make waffles from the back of the box. I typically make them for weekend brunch or as a dessert for a party. The big reason is that you need some time to let the flavor develop. So, either begin the process early in the morning or start the night before, refrigerate the batter and then let it warm back up on the counter an hour or two before you make the waffles. In any case, you will be incredibly well rewarded for a little patience.

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Belgian Waffles

Ingredients:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 3/4 cups milk (warm or room temperature)
4 egg whites
2 egg yolks
¼ cup sugar
3 tbsp. melted butter
1 tsp. rapid rise yeast
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. salt

Directions:
1. Let the milk come to room temperature, or warm it. This is important because the yeast will not be getting the classic bloom you see with bread recipes.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast and salt (dry ingredients) and whisk to integrate. In another bowl, combine the milk, sugar, melted butter, and vanilla and whisk until homogeneous (wet ingredients). Finally, in a third bowl, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks.

3. In the larger bowl, combine the dry and wet ingredients until they just come together. The mass should be relatively dense and very sticky.

4. Fold in the egg white in three stages. In the first stage, you can be a tad bit rougher as the moisture of the whites will make the mixture more workable. In the next two installments, simply work the whites in just enough as to bring the mixture together and ensure there are no large portions of whites. You don’t want to overdo this step. We want the air and moisture to integrate well.

5. Let the batter rest covered on the counter for a minimum of 1 hour. If you take more than 3 hours, move the batter to the refrigerator. The batter should expand significantly (double) and may require a stir to keep form overflowing if the bowl is small.

6. Ensure your waffle maker is as hot as possible before pouring on the batter. Cook until the waffles reach a golden brown. Serve as desired.

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A sweet Easter breakfast: Meyer Lemon and Ricotta Pancakes

April 7, 2007

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My husband is a pancake maniac.

This is not really a “problem” per se, but his obsession is starting to affect me. I used to be a salty, eggs-and-bacon kind of breakfast gal. I loved omeletes, eggs benedict, home fries and loads of breakfast meats. Now, though, I find myself craving his delicious and varied pancake offerings… Good old fashioned Aunt Jemima pancakes (a household staple), spicy orange ricotta pancakes, and now zesty and sweet Meyer Lemon and Ricotta Pancakes.

This issue reached its zenith when I was big and pregnant and banned from eating sweets. I could eat as much savory breakfast as I craved… Problem was, I wanted pancakes. So, truth be told, I ate some. But in keeping with the doctor’s orders, I ate them without syrup. That’s right: Plain old pancakes, nothing doing. Just their sweet, pancake-y selves.

Now, despite the fact that I am at last permitted to drown my pancakes in syrup, I find that I’m a pancake purist. I don’t need no stinkin’ syrup. Especially not for these Meyer Lemon and Ricotta Pancakes. They are sweet, citrus-y and delicious. The pancake itself is thick and hearty — not a wimpy, thin flapjack. When you fork through its fragrant, light exterior you might even catch a waft of lemony goodness. And the ricotta in the recipe adds a depth of flavor and richness that will make a pancake lover swoon.

My husband suggests that you make these Meyer Lemon and Ricotta Pancakes for Easter breakfast. Good advice, of course. But frankly these ‘cakes are delicious any time and for any occassion… with or without syrup.

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Backgrounder…

While Easter morning could never compare with Christmas, I likely have almost as many fond childhood memories of it. Easter morning typically began with hunting the eggs made the day before, then a small gift, and finally brunch with my brother and mother. Typically, brunch was pancakes. It was those sort of family moments that began my love affair with pancakes at an early age. I love pancakes. They may be the perfect breakfast.

And these Meyer Lemon Ricotta Pancakes are certainly perfect for tomorrow morning. Here in DC at least, it has suddenly turned frigid and our beautiful flowering trees have been covered with snow. At times like these, a reminder of warmer weather is great. Meyer lemons provide that sense of season and a sweetness that is delicious — whether it’s sunshine or snow.

The technique here is very simple. Like other quick breads (e.g. cupcakes or muffins), it’s about the wet and dry ingredients. Combine the wet and dry ingredients separately and then mix them together right before cooking. Be careful not to overstir, as you are going for a light pancake. Making a smooth batter will result in thick, heavy, gluten-filled pancakes that will stick to your ribs and the pit of your stomach. So, be delicate.

Finally, two admissions. First, I have an obsession with meyer lemons. I’ve used them more than any single ingredient on this blog. In fact, I’ve gone so far as to try and convince everyone I know who lives in a subtropical area to plant a tree for me. There is something about their sweetness, fragrance and flavor that has made them an absolute favorite of mine. I’m not ashamed… I just think it was time to admit that my passion for this little fruit is a borderline obsession.

Second, for long-time readers of the blog, you might recognize this recipe as a variation on another pancake recipe I posted last fall — Orange Ricotta Pancakes. That recipe is fantastic as well, but with its spices it speaks more to fall and winter flavors. But if that sounds more up your alley, try that recipe as well!

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“Lessiez les bon temps rouler” or “Temptation of the pineapple doughnut.”

February 20, 2007

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Today is Mardi Gras. For many, it’s the last day before Lent and its traditional sacrifices until Easter. Hence why Mardi Gras (translated as “Fat Tuesday”) is so important to revelers: It’s the last day you can gorge on delights that will be shunned for the forty days that make up Lent.

So today I bring you something to really challenge you during Lent, something terribly difficult to give up, something to make you truly appreciate the day. No, it’s not some beautiful king cake or similar dish. I give you beautiful, tropical pineapple doughnuts.

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And because my wife is under doctor’s orders to avoid simple sugars while pregnant, she is sidelined from this recipe. Today it’s a solo act. Sure, it’s a much less entertaining dog and pony show but, alas, what am I to do? She also wants me to point out that she’s got a head start on Lent because for two months she has gone without sweets. Oh, what we do for our children! But at least when my son is able to eat solid foods, he’ll eat well.

So, on to the substance of these pineapple doughnuts. These are cake doughnuts, which are built like quick breads with chemical leveners (baking soda and baking powder), similar to muffins and pancakes. This means they have a nice density to them and can be prepared relatively quickly because they don’t have to rise like a brioche or my pecan beignets (a take on a New Orleans classic).

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To me, what clinches this dish is the flavors — coconut milk and pineapple. In fact, I almost called this a pina colada doughnut. The coconut appears in the glaze and the body of the doughnut, and gives this breakfast treat that extra something special. But it was those pieces of pineapple stratified in the doughnut’s layers that are really king: Hence, pineapple takes top billing in the name.

A few technical notes: First, the doughnut’s hole is important. It allows the doughnut to cook up quickly and evenly. So while you can skip this step, I would recommend the hole for more then just authenticity’s sake — it makes a better doughnut.

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Second, I use canned pineapple in this recipe. I’m 99% positive you would have excellent results if you used fresh pineapple. I chose canned, though, because of its ease of use and because of its syrup, which I wanted to harness in making both the dough and glaze. Nevertheless, I encourage you to work with fresh if you want.

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Finally, one of the first steps in this recipe is reducing the syrup from the canned pineapple. I did this because I wanted the flavor, but not the volume of liquid. However, I think you would have excellent results without this step. So if you are hurried for time, feel free to skip this and follow the measured amounts.

Before I go off merrymaking on this day, I have to ask for a ruling from the reader: Is it doughnut? Or donut? Both are correct according to both Webster’s and Oxford American dictionary.

Click here to download the recipe for Pineapple Doughnuts.

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Pistachio-date sticky buns everywhere, and not a bite to eat…

February 5, 2007

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Imagine, if you will, the agony of the shipwrecked sailor at sea: Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.

That’s nothing, man.

At least, not when you compare it to having to drive 45 minutes to work trapped in a car with the aroma of freshly baked pistachio-date sticky buns filling the confined space (conjure the smell for full effect) and being able to taste nary a bite.

That is my husband’s special torture for me. Yes, me — his seven-months (plus) pregnant wife.

Indeed, I am with child (that misshapen lump is not a disastrous side effect from my husband’s cooking) and under doctor’s orders not to eat “simple sugars.” Like, say, the kind in pistachio-date sticky buns. Does that stop my husband from cooking said sticky buns? I think not. (I expect you to abuse him mercilessly for this in the comments section.)

So, because diets are so much easier to follow when the health of your first born is at stake, I was very obedient and did not even sample the delicious-looking — and incredibly fragrant-smelling — sticky buns. Hence, I am unable to describe to you the joy that must have come from eating them. Unfortunately, however, my co-workers were able to report back to me in vivid detail their fabulous sticky, sweet, nutty, fruity taste. I trust you can take their word for it — or, like me, you can settle for licking the photos of the sticky buns on your computer monitor. Bonus: That method of eating is completely calorie-free, though, sadly, tasteless and unsanitary.

Click here to download the recipe for Pistachio-Date Sticky Buns

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Breakfast fit for a cartoon sailor: Spinach and caramelized onion frittata.

December 18, 2006

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“He’s strong to the finich cause he eats his spinach…”

If you weren’t brainwashed into eating this perfect vegetable by a husky sailor with a muscle disorder, you’re missing out. Not only is spinach tasty by itself — sauteed with butter and garlic, eaten raw as a salad, or apparently, following Popeye’s example, straight out of a can — it also plays nicely with others. What others? Well, eggs, bacon and carmelized onions, for example.

Well, you might argue, lots of things probably taste good with eggs, bacon and carmelized onions. … Exactly. This recipe can satisfy the spinach lover or the spinach faint of heart. Fluffy eggs surround a mound of dense, green goodness, which is punctuated by sweet carmelized onions and the wonderful maple-salty goodness of bacon. And of course, the cheese — a lovely golden topping to cap off the verdant frittata.

Try it. You know Popeye would eat it — it’s gotta be better than spinach straight from a can; though, we don’t recommend trying to lift a car over your head after eating it. I mean, it won’t make you that strong. (Which is a shame, really.)

Click here to download the recipe for this fritatta.

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Resistance is futile: Dill pancakes

October 9, 2006

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Pancakes for dinner. Some folks swoon at the idea — especially those 10 and under. Personally, I prefer something a bit more savory. If I were forced to eat breakfast for dinner, I would have said, “I’ll take eggs, thank you very much.”

My husband is incredibly fond of pancakes, however. (Yes, he’d eat them for dinner — maple syrup and all. And he’d probably follow that up with pancake dessert.) He’s converted me to pancakes at breakfast time, and now he’s trying to add them to the menu at dinner, too. He’s persistent, I give him that much.

Will he convert me?

Well, I’m sorry to say that I folded like a flunkee scout’s pup tent.

Being wily, my husband heeded my concerns about sweet for dinner and concocted a savory pancake. And hearing my story about preferring eggs, he topped aforementioned pancake with a poached egg and doused it with that champion of sauces, hollandaise. It was delicious.

So now I’m eating pancakes for dinner. And you will be, too, if you try this dill pancake recipe. There’s nothing quite like a delicate, bready pancake laced with white pepper and dill, dripping with that magical sauce that only yolk and hollandaise can form when mingled. It’s enough to make you evangelical about pancakes!

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Eat me, I’m pancakes: My husband’s story and his Orange Ricotta Pancakes.

October 3, 2006

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Click, click, bloody click, pancakes. (Does anyone else watch The Family Guy?) No? Then the reference is lost on you.

My husband makes me pancakes every weekend, and loves The Family Guy. When the tummy starts to rumble, I just have to say that special phrase and he snaps to — griddle on, pancakes working.

At heart, I’m probably an egg-breakfast girl. I like salty foods in the morning. Tater tots before cereal. Hard-boiled eggs before pastry. But I love my weekly pancake breakfast. First, because my husband makes some wicked-good pancakes. Second, because it feels like family.

And now he’s gone all gourmet on our typical-Aunt Jemima pancake breakfast. Orange Ricotta Pancakes. In a few words, they were delicious — and very fall. Orange citrus zing melding with the warm aroma of cinnamon and nutmeg? I may never go back to Aunt Jemima (and we were so close!)

All I can say is, click, click, bloody click, pancakes! (Care to hear Stewie Griffin in his full thespian glory? Click this link to see Japanese anime repeating Stewie’s lines. Somehow, it makes it more hilarious.)

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