Category: baked

Stellar Brunch (Oven-baked french toast with caramel sauce)

Springtime peeked it’s shy little head out to say hello to us Montrealers this week, and I instantly felt excited & inspired. There’s just something about warm weather and sunshine that get me into a crafty mood. Quite a good time to be feeling creative, as I’ve had a lot of decorating to do recently: we’ve officially moved into our new apartment! The perfect way to settle in? A good old-fashioned Sunday Brunch!

Though bagels and lox are generally my choice brunch food, I decided to make something a little more decadent this time. Introducing Oven Baked French Toast, and her bff, Caramel Sauce. Make this for your next brunch if you’re looking for a dish that is surprisingly quick & easy, and as eye-catching as it is tasty. Bonus: the air will fill with a warm, sweet aroma as your guests arrive.

This is a decadent, salty-meets-sweet, stick-to-your-ribs kind of breakfast – definitely weekend food! Tip: to make it extra yummy, you can prepare it the night before so the bread really gets some time to soak up the eggy goodness. This is also a perfect way to use up some stale bread you have lying around – once it soaks up the egg mixture, it’ll come right back to life!

Oven Baked French Toast
an original recipe by allison sklar

NOTE: I’ve included two versions of caramel sauce here. One is a shortcut (no-fail) caramel, and the other is the traditional method that we were taught in pastry school. They yield slightly different flavours, and the shortcut method is a little more rich. If you’ve never made caramel before, I suggest you try the shortcut method first!

what you’ll need

french toast
1 small loaf of your favourite bread, sliced or cubed
(challah bread, or other fluffy, soft bread works best)
6 eggs (8 if using a large amount of bread)*
1/4 cup icing sugar*
4 tbsp milk or cream
1 tbsp vanilla
2 tbsp cinnamon sugar **
1 to 2 tbsp butter, melted

caramel sauce (traditional method)
460g granulated sugar
160ml water
240g light/white corn syrup
125ml heavy (35%) cream
2 tbsp butter
pinch sea salt

OR 

caramel sauce (shortcut method)
1 cup packed brown sugar
3 tbsp butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
pinch sea salt

how to do it

french toast
Place all of your bread in a large mixing bowl.
Beat eggs with icing sugar until colour turns light yellow and mixture becomes fluffy.
Whisk in milk (or cream) and vanilla. Pour over bread and toss to coat. Allow to sit until mixture is absorbed, about 10 minutes. This mixture can also be prepared overnight.*

Grease a shallow, oven-safe dish with butter. Preheat oven to 325F. Lay bread mixture evenly into dish. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until bread is golden brown. Meanwhile, prepare caramel sauce.

caramel sauce (traditional method)
In a heavy bottomed saucepan, bring granulated sugar and water to a boil, while stirring with a heatproof spatula. Once mixture boils, stop stirring and reduce heat to medium. Continue cooking, brushing down the insides of the pot with a pastry brush dipped in water to avoid the formation of sugar crystals. Use a candy thermometer to bring the mixture up to 140C(285F). Carefully add in butter, cream and salt, stirring constantly. If mixture feels too thick, add more cream, a little at a time, until desired consistency is reached.

caramel sauce (shortcut method – no thermometer needed!)
In a heavy bottomed saucepan, warm butter over medium heat. Add brown sugar and cream. Stir with a heatproof spatula in figure 8 motion, until sugar is dissolved. Continue cooking, stirring slowly but constantly, until mixture begins to thicken, about 6 minutes. Voila! Caramel!

Pour sauce over hot french toast. Sprinkle with icing sugar or more cinnamon sugar just before serving.

Eat & enjoy!

notes
*If doing this overnight, increase the egg quantity to 8 to 10 eggs and the sugar to 1/3 cup.
** If you cannot find cinnamon sugar, make your own using equal parts of cinnamon to sugar.

Semi-Guilty Pleasures (Baked Donuts with Cinnamon Sugar Glaze)

And so, it begins.

Pastry school, that is!

Courses began this week, and so far we’ve learned some introductory basics on health and safety measures, as well as basic sanitation practices. Many of the unsettling facts made me happy to be vegetarian – a life choice that made me feel almost safe, until I learned that one of the worst outbreaks of botulism came from an infected jar of mushrooms, of all things. Still, the majority of contaminated food items are ones of animal origin, (poultry, beef, dairy, eggs) so vegans, you’re generally in the clear. I say generally, because there are still certain precautions that should be taken, especially when dealing with low-acidity canned foods, and unwashed fresh produce. I’ll be posting more about good hygiene practices in the weeks to come, once I’ve obtained my MAPAQ certification. 

I’m quite excited for today, as we get to go into the Pastry Lab (the name itself excites me!) where we will be learning about basic ingredients, measurement and weight. Every ingredient in classic French pastry is measured by weight (grams and millilitres), instead of measured by volume (teaspoons and cups). This allows for the most accurate reproductions of recipes, as measurement by volume is often skewed due to air pockets. In the future, as I blog certain pastry recipes, I’ll offer approximate conversions from volume to weight, for those of you who prefer one method over the other.

Alright, time for the sweet stuff… Drum roll please…
I introduce to you, the deliciously moist, sweet on the outside, fluffy on the inside, ultimate home baked donut! I won’t go as far as to say that these little babies are healthy, because, well, they are coated in sugar and then rolled in even more of the powdery white delight, but they are healthier than your average donut shop donut, as they’re baked instead of fried. They’re also far tastier, more wholesome, and it doesn’t get fresher than straight out of the oven! You can opt out of the sugar dusting part, though personally, I found that the sugar coating kept them fresher longer, and added a mighty fine taste to them.

Baked Doughnuts (& donut holes!)
recipe adapted from Châtelaine magazine, February 2014 issue.

Note: the original recipe calls for regular milk and butter, but I’ve replaced them with equal quantities soy milk and vegetable shortening (I used Crisco brand). If you want to make this completely vegan, simply substitute the egg with egg replacer. Voila! Doughnuts for everyone. Mmm.

Side Note: There are two spellings of donut (doughnut), and I’ll use both, as you’ll notice, throughout this post. They’re both correct. I’m just really indecisive over which one I prefer.

what you’ll need
1 cup soy milk
8g packet instant yeast
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup vegetable shortening, melted
1 egg (or equal amount egg replacer)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

4 cups icing sugar
3 tbsp ground cinnamon
5 tbsp water

vegetable or olive oil (cooking spray works fine)
stand mixer with dough hook attachment

how to do it
warm soy milk on stovetop or in microwave. Do not boil! Add yeast and whisk. Pour into bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Let stand about 10 minutes. Add granulated sugar, shortening, egg, vanilla and salt to yeast mixture and beat until combined. Remove paddle and affix dough hook to stand mixer. Gradually add flour, increasing speed until dough forms a ball and pulls cleanly away from the bowl.

Transfer dough into oiled bowl. Lightly oil top of dough and cover with damp tea towel. Let stand in a warm place until doubled in size, about an hour.

Roll dough onto floured surface until 1/2 inch thick. Do not roll any thinner than this, or your doughnuts will become cookies, as I discovered in my first batch! Use a 2-inch cookie cutter to cut rounds out of dough, and a 1 inch cookie cutter to cut holes out of the middles. Pat together excess dough and roll into 1 inch balls, to make doughnut holes. Place on parchment-paper lined baking sheets and cover with damp tea towels. Allow to rise for another 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together 1 cup icing sugar and 2 tbsp cinnamon.

Once 45 minutes has passed, Preheat oven to 350F.
Dip donuts and roll donut holes in sugar & cinnamon mixture.

Bake in preheated oven at 350F for about 10 minutes, or until centers are golden.
Remove from oven and cool immediately on cooling rack.

GLAZE AND POWDER TIME!
Give your donuts a delicious glaze by mixing 1/4 cup water with 2 cups icing sugar and 1 tbsp cinnamon. Dunk cooled donuts into glaze mixture. Reserve last cup of icing sugar in separate bowl, and roll sticky donuts in powdered sugar until fully coated. Donuts are best eaten immediately, but keep well at room temperature for about 2 days.

Final Note: this recipe looks lengthy, but it’s totally worth the time, and it’s not difficult at all, just requires a wee bit of patience. Give it a go – impress your friends and family! Or, just make them and then eat them all to yourself while watching the entire 3rd season of Community… whatever works for you.

Weekend Treat (Peanut Butter and Toffee Blondies)

How does a single 20-something spend a long weekend? Start it out right with a good workout. Have a healthy dinner (with 2 glasses of wine, good for the heart, right?) Note to self: apply makeup before wine next time. Sing out loud to your iPod on the metro. Arrive at party. Continue to drink, because it’s such a summery wine, and such a nice evening! Flurry of events occur. Wake up. Apply new makeup over old makeup. You’re going for the smudged look. It’s a thing. Slowly stumble, in your party dress and heels, to find the greasiest breakfast possible. Eat sausages. Forgetting you’re a vegetarian. Sleep on the metro. Get back to your own bed. Watch some bizarre indie films on Netflix. Roll in and out of sleep for 24 hours. Wake up and wonder why drinking your early 20s didn’t feel this painful. Is it Sunday already? Where did Saturday go? Vow to yourself to drink less, be healthier. Spoonful of peanut butter. Baking inspiration! Bake some ridiculously delicious, portion-controlled blondies.

I can be healthy on Monday.
It’s still the weekend.

Two-Bite PB Blondies
an original recipe by allison sklar

what you’ll need
½ cup margarine or softened butter

½ cup peanut butter
½ cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup flour
¾ tsp baking powder

1/4 cup Skor toffee bits*
handful of chocolate chips
*1 crushed Skor (or Heath or other crunchy toffee) bar would work just as well

how to do it
Fit stand mixer with paddle attachment. Preheat oven to 350F. Combine margarine, sugar, peanut butter and vanilla. Beat until  smooth, about a minute. Add eggs, beating another 30 seconds. Add flour and baking powder, mix until just combined. Grease and flour mini muffin tins. Fill about 3/4 of the way to the top with mixture. Top with chocolate chips and sprinkle with Skor bits. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool before eating.

Gone Fishin’

Mission of the week: I am going to attempt to buy absolutely no groceries for 7 days – with the exception of a few necessities if I absolutely need them (limited to eggs, greek yogourt and one or two fresh vegetables.) I believe that by posting this here, on the internet, where millions of people can read it, my commitment to my experiment has become slightly more real. Yeah, that’s right, I said millions.
High hopes, high hopes.

It’s going to be a week of – what-can-I-make-with-what-I-have-lying-around?
Tonight’s menu: breaded tilapia fillets with dill, capers and lemon zest, served alongside rice and green beans.

Yeah. So turns out, I don’t really like tilapia.

But I do like breaded fish. And I really enjoyed the combination of lemon zest and dill. Next time, I’ll stick to my favorite, tried and true fillet of sole. You can choose whichever fish you prefer – I do advise however, the thinner the fillet better. A thinner fish will yield crisper breading, and as you may already know, crispness equals deliciousness.

Lemon & Dill Breaded Fish

what you’ll need
4 fish fillets (cod, sole or tilapia)
½  cup breadcrumbs
zest from 1 lemon
1 ½  tbsp chopped fresh dill
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 egg
3 tbsp butter, melted

how to do it
Preheat oven to 450F. Thaw fish according to directions.
In a small bowl, beat egg with butter. In a shallow dish, (one that is large enough to dip the fish into), mix breadcrumbs with lemon zest, dill, salt and pepper.

Dip each fillet in egg/butter mixture, then into breadcrumb mixture, coating well. For large fillets, you may want to double the crumb mixture quantities.

Place on parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 8 minutes, or until fish flakes easily with a fork.