Category: caramelized

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.

Roasting Season (Roasted Pear, Spiced Pecan & Blue Cheese Salad)

The autumn leaves, vibrant and warm not long ago, seem to be turning dull and brown faster than the temperatures are dropping. There is a place, however, that is brighter than ever at this time of year. Adorned with rich autumnal hues, brimming with the season’s best squash, tubers and root vegetables, you can count on your local farmer’s market stands to bring some vibrancy back into your day. Behind the stands, stacks of mason jars line the walls, adjacent to pies overflowing with seasonal fruits. An intoxicating smell of mulling spice is in the air… Suddenly, when you’re here, the word autumn becomes synonymous with comfort. 

Trading flowy dresses for chunky cable knits, replacing bonfires with fireplaces, comfort is the word of the season – especially when it comes to our meals.
Is it possible for a salad to be a comfort food?
Don’t dismiss the idea just yet. Enter caramelized pears, spiced pecans, and blue cheese. Cheese is always comforting. (Unless you’re vegan. Horrah for Daiya shreds!) 
Toss these three things with a head of lettuce and voila! Autumn gourmet – comfort salad. 
So sit back, pull up your legwarmers, and breathe in that oddly comforting, subtle smell of burning insects of seasons’ past as you turn on your electric heater for the first time. And then, enjoy this salad. Let it warm your body and your soul. 
Or at least just your body. 
Or, eat it cold if you prefer.
You know, you should just eat this no matter what. 
Like now. 
Trust me.
Caramelized Pear, Spiced Pecan and Blue Cheese Salad 
an original recipe by allison sklar 
what you’ll need
1 head boston lettuce, chopped
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
2 medium sized just-ripe pears (fruit should be firm)
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp brown sugar 
Pinch sea salt
1 cup pecan halves
1 egg white
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp paprika 
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp powdered ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves (optional)
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp mayo or vegan mayo
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp honey or agave nectar 
how to do it

Roast your pecans
Preheat oven to 300F. Toss pecans with beaten eggwhite in a medium bowl. In seperate bowl, mix all of the spices together. Toss coated pecans with spice mixture. Spread evenly on parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 23 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely. While pecans are roasting, prepare your pears.

Beware: your house is going to smell amazing.

PrePEAR (oh come on, you laughed.)
Slice pears into about 6 sections each. Remove seeds and stem. In a microwave safe bowl (or on the stovetop) melt butter and brown sugar together. Whisk in salt. Toss pears with butter/sugar mixture.
Lay evenly on parchment lined sheet. Once pecans are done, turn oven up to 325F. Roast pears for 15 to 18 minutes, or until they begin to soften and brown.

While pears are roasting, prepare dressing by combining all ingredients and whisking until smooth. Toss finished pears with chopped lettuce and pecans. Top with cheese and drizzle with dressing.

Enjoy!