Sunday, March 01, 2015

Brioche & French Toast

I've never been great at making french toast...but then I got to thinking, maybe it's the bread's fault.  I don't mean to blame the bread entirely, but, I am going to.  Brioche is definitely a better fit for french toast than my typical 100% whole wheat sandwich bread.  Unfortunately, it's also kind of a pain to make - so if you prefer the easy route, you could certainly purchase a loaf of brioche or other type of light, airy bread for your french toast.

This recipe is not hard - it just requires time and patience - both of which I do not always have.  You will need to start this the night before you intend to bake it.  If you want to make it into french toast the next day, you'll want to get up a few hours before you intend to eat so you have time for the 2nd rise and bake time.

Even though I will probably not make this a weekly staple, it does make two loaves which is nice so you can freeze one for later - and if you want something special for guests or a weekend brunch, it is worth the time because it is delicious! :)

Brioche Bread

5 tablespoons lukewarm whole milk
1/2 ounce instant yeast
1 pound 2 ounces all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sea salt
6 large eggs
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened, plus more for pans
1/4 cup superfine sugar (you can use a food processor to make regular sugar superfine)
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon milk

Place the milk and yeast in a small bowl; stir to dissolve.

Place the flour, salt, and eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment; add yeast mixture and mix on low speed to combine and knead, about 5 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl with a spatula; knead on medium speed until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.
In a large bowl, mix together butter and sugar. Add a few small pieces of butter mixture to dough; with the mixer on low, add remaining butter mixture, a little bit at a time. When all the butter mixture has been added, increase speed and continue mixing until smooth, shiny, somewhat comes away from the sides of the bowl, and is elastic, 8 to 10 minutes.  It will be super sticky and not form a solid ball of dough – that’s okay – that’s how it’s supposed to be.  Fear not!

Butter a large bowl, transfer dough to prepared bowl, and cover with plastic wrap; let stand in a warm place until doubled in volume about 2 hours.  Since it’s freezing here in the winter and our house is not very warm, I like to pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees, then turn off and place the bowl of dough in the warm oven for the 2 hours.

Lift dough from bowl and drop back into bowl to deflate; repeat process once or twice. Cover bowl and transfer to refrigerator to chill for at least 8 hours and up to overnight.

Butter two loaf pans and divide dough into 2 equal pieces. Divide each piece of dough into 8 equal pieces; form each piece into a ball. Place 8 balls of dough in each loaf pan, side-by-side.

In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolk and milk. Brush dough with egg yolk mixture, reserving remaining. Spray two pieces of plastic wrap with nonstick cooking spray; cover dough in both pans, cooking spray-side down and let stand in a warm place until doubled in volume, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Brush each loaf very lightly with reserved egg yolk mixture. Transfer pans to oven and bake until brioche just begins to turn golden, about 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 375 degrees conventional oven and continue baking until deep golden brown.  Remove from oven and let brioche cool in pans for 5 minutes. Remove from pans and place onto a wire rack and let cool completely.  Be careful – the bread is delicate.  If you will not be using both loaves right away, you can freeze one by wrapping it in tin foil and sealing it in a large Ziploc bag.
Brioche is great for many things but my favorite way to use it is by making French toast.  It’s also great for grilled cheese, burger buns, dinner rolls, and peanut butter banana toast.

If you’re looking for a tasty French toast recipe – you can check out the one below that some friends made for us.  I instantly fell in love with it and knew I would need to make it at home.  The brie melts in your mouth and the subtle hint of rosemary in the wine syrup somehow makes you feel – more awesome…if that’s possible.


Wine & Rosemary French Toast

Roasted Red Grapes:
1 cup seedless red table grapes, sliced in half
1/2 teaspoon coconut oil, melted
1/2 teaspoon very finely chopped rosemary
Pinch sea salt

Wine & Rosemary Syrup:
1 cup Cabernet Sauvignon (or any red wine)
1 fresh rosemary sprig
1/3 cup maple syrup

Egg Wash:
3 eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

French toast:
6 1-inch-thick slices brioche bread
2 tablespoons butter
French brie, sliced

For the roasted grapes: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. In a bowl, combine the sliced grapes, coconut oil, rosemary and salt. Mix to coat the grapes evenly. Scatter the grapes on a sheet pan covered in tin foil and roast in the oven, 15 to 20 minutes. They should not be shriveled up, just plump and juicy.

For the syrup: In the meantime, in a stainless steel saucepan, add the wine and rosemary sprig. Simmer on medium-low heat until reduced by half, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the rosemary, add the syrup, turn off the heat and let rest. (This can be done ahead of time)

For the egg wash: In a bowl or casserole dish large enough to fit the bread flatly on the surface, beat the eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla. Beat until all the ingredients are well combined.

For the French toast: Heat a large nonstick griddle or skillet to medium-high. Dip the bread in egg wash on both sides, allowing the egg wash to soak in but not over saturate the bread. Add the butter to the skillet and let melt. Place the bread in the skillet and let brown, about 3 minutes. Flip the bread over and place some brie on the cooked side of 1 slice of bread. Allow the cheese to soften while the second side cooks to golden brown. Turn off the heat and sandwich the 2 slices together. Cut the bread on a diagonal and plate. Top with roasted grapes and drizzle with wine syrup.

Recipes adapted from Martha Stewart & Food Network

Friday, February 27, 2015

Roasted Cauliflower "Rice" {featuring Thai Chicken & Vegetables}

I've always loved rice.  Growing up I would beg my mom for a simple bowl of rice & soy sauce for lunch, whereas some kids probably wanted mac n' cheese or peanut butter and jelly.  I realize it's kind of a weird thing to love so much.  Since then I've branched out with different types of rice.  Whether it's fried rice, lemon rice, brown rice, wild rice, etc. - I love it all.  Now I have a new "rice" to love - cauliflower rice!  Have you heard of this?  I had not until I was looking up ideas for using cauliflower because I had just purchased two very large heads of cauliflower for super cheap and I didn't want them to go bad.   Much to my delight - I found a recipe for cauliflower "rice" and I instantly knew that it was right up my alley.  

Whether you're looking for low-carb option or just want to try something new, I highly recommend trying this fun, creative, and delicious way to eat cauliflower!  

Roasted Cauliflower “Rice”
Serves 2-4

1 head cauliflower
1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
3/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 425F. Cover a large, rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Break the cauliflower into florets, removing the stems. Place the florets in the bowl of a large food processor until about ½ full (you will need to do this in multiple batches to ensure all the pieces chop up nicely and are not overcrowded).  Pulse until the cauliflower looks like rice. This takes about 10 to 15 one-second pulses.

Place the cauliflower rice in a large bowl, add the melted coconut oil and salt. Toss with a spoon until the rice is coated with the oil. Spread in a single layer on the baking sheet and roast until tender and beginning to get a few brown spots, about 25 minutes.

Serve with anything that you would normally serve on a bed of rice, such as roasted veggies & chicken with the Thai Peanut Sauce below.    

Note: You can freeze the “rice” before you roast it by sealing it in a Ziploc bag or split into several bags for smaller servings.  When ready to eat, simply thaw, toss with coconut oil and salt and then roast as instructed above.  I had two heads of cauliflower that I got on sale so I roasted some right away and froze 2 other bags for later use.  It worked great when I roasted the frozen cauliflower and tasted just as good.

Chicken & Vegetables with Thai Peanut Sauce
For this particular dish, I pan fried some chicken breast and then sauteed vegetables in the same pan. I've also roasted the vegetables by adding them to the same baking sheet as the cauliflower rice half way through cooking (or less if you want the veggies to stay extra crunchy).  Both ways work great.  You can do peppers, onions, zucchini, broccoli, carrots, and more.  You could also grill the chicken breast, or use pre-cooked shredded chicken that you make ahead in the crock pot. 

Thai Peanut Sauce Ingredients:
2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce (Mae Ploy is my favorite brand)
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon canned coconut milk
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon creamy peanut butter, melted
1 garlic clove, minced
Juice of ½ lime
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

Mix all sauce ingredients together in a small bowl.  Once cauliflower rice, other veggies, and chicken is done – toss everything together with the Thai Peanut Sauce and top with green onions and peanuts.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Creamy Chicken Wild Rice Soup

Isn't soup just the best in the winter?  I think so.
 It's so comforting...filling, yet healthy, and it can last for multiple meals or feed a large group. 
Chicken Wild Rice soup is definitely one of my all-time favorites.  A soft & warm homemade roll beside it also makes me pretty happy I have to admit. 

Whether you're feeling under the weather, or you just want to warm up quickly on a cold winter afternoon or evening - this soup is sure to make you feel better in no time. 

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

3/4 cup uncooked wild rice
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
7 Tbsp butter, diced, divided
1 clove garlic, minced
4 1/2 cups l chicken broth or stock (I make my own homemade stock – recipe here)
1/2 tsp of each dried thyme & rosemary
1-2 bay leaves
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cooked and diced or shredded* (see below for three options for cooking the chicken either ahead of time, or with the soup)  
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp lemon zest

Prepare wild rice according to directions listed on package.  I recommend using a rice cooker if you have one, but either way I like to make the rice a day ahead or at least leave plenty of time before I plan to make the soup since wild rice can take a while to cook.

In a separate large pot, melt 1 Tbsp butter over medium heat. Add onion, carrots and celery and sauté until slightly tender, about 4 minutes, adding in garlic during last 30 seconds of sautéing. Add chicken broth, thyme, rosemary, & bay leaf and season with salt and black pepper to taste.

For the chicken:
You have a few options and every option is good, but it just depends on what you prefer and have time for.
Option 1: you can make the chicken breasts a day ahead in the crock pot (or bake in oven).  I like this option because it allows me to make more than I need and then split up for various meals throughout the week, or freeze the cooked chicken that I don’t put in the soup for later use. 

Option 2: you could cook the chicken in the stock pot you will make the soup in at the beginning with a bit of olive oil or but, then remove from the pan and dice into cubes or shred.

Option 3: After adding the chicken broth to the stockpot with the veggies, increase heat to medium-high, add raw chicken breasts and bring mixture to a boil. Cover pot with lid and allow mixture to boil 12 - 15 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through (rotating chicken to opposite side once during cooking for thicker chicken breasts - if they don't fully immerse in broth). Remove chicken and set aside on cutting board to cool 5 minutes then shred into small bite size pieces.

If you are not cooking the chicken right in the broth (option 1 or 2), simply simmer the broth & veggies for 12-15 minutes.  

After chicken is cooked (with any of the options), then reduce heat to low and add cooked rice. Add shredded chicken to soup. Remove bay leaf.

In a separate medium saucepan, melt remaining 6 Tbsp butter over medium heat. Add flour and cook 1 1/2 minutes, whisking constantly. Then, while whisking vigorously, slowly pour milk into butter/flour mixture. Cook mixture, stirring constantly until it thickens. Add milk mixture to soup mixture in pot and cook about 5 minutes longer, or until soup is thickened. Stir in heavy cream and lemon zest and serve.

This soup is great as leftovers or you could freeze half of it and save for a later meal. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Cooking Classy

Friday, February 20, 2015

Chilled Spicy Noodles {Momofuku Inspired}

A little over a year ago we went to New York City to visit our good friend and get a little escape from the cold Wisconsin weather.  Although New York was not a lot warmer, 40+ degrees felt like a mini heat wave to us back then, and with the below zero temperatures lately, I would gladly take 40+ degrees again.  
 It's probably no surprise that I fell in love with New York, if for nothing else, for the food.  It's also no secret that New York is known for their excellent cuisine and seemingly endless supply of fantastic dining options.  However, I never thought it could be that good.  Every meal I had was the best version of that meal that I'd ever had.  Best sushi, best burger, best dessert, best fried fish, etc.  

One of the best meals we ate there included a dish that I can still practically taste even now a year later - Momofuku's Chilled Spicy Noodles.  Momofuku Noodle Bar is one of David Chang's famous creations and very popular among locals and tourists alike.  This was one of the restaurants we stood in a long line outside to even get in the door...but it was so worth it.  

In recreating this dish, I tried to find copycat recipes online as well as simply look at the ingredient list on the Momofuku menu. It was actually really hard to find anything that looked and sounded similar to the dish but I think this came super super close.  Just to warn you, if you have the dish at the real Momofuku,it is so so SO spicy. The kind of spicy that makes the waitress double check to make sure you actually want to order it.  The kind of spicy that makes you want to keep eating because it's so delicious, and you almost feel that if you keep eating your mouth will somehow magically stop being on fire - but it continues to burn. worth it (in my opinion).  However, sometimes things are too spicy to really enjoy, so I toned this version down just a bit - it's still spicy enough to make your nose run but not quite enough to make you drip with sweat.  I know - what a yummy description, right? :)  

A few things make this dish unique: the combination of pork sausage, crispy roasted shallots, candied cashews, the spinach, and of course - ramen.  But it's also unique because it is served chilled - although you can certainly eat it warm or cold and it will still be tasty.  The one thing that I know it's lacking from the Momofuku version is sichuan peppercorn.  I couldn't find it at my grocery store but I only checked my usual place so if anyone knows where I could get some, let me know.  
Lately I've discovered the joy (and sometimes pain) of cooking with whole dried red chile peppers.  The first time I cooked with them they filled the kitchen with what felt like poisonous gas and gave the effects of pepper spray to our lungs.   After adjusting the amount of chile peppers and the timing of adding them to the pan, I think I've developed a less lethal that's a plus. Word to the wise - start with only a few , take all the seeds out, and add other ingredients in the pan quickly after.  They definitely add an unmistakable flavor and kick to any Asian dish and I feel that's what mine have been lacking.  

If you aren't a fan of spicy food - fear not, you can simply omit the chile peppers and still enjoy the flavors in this dish.  But whatever you do - you should definitely go to New York.  

Chilled Spicy Noodles
Serves 2-4

There are quite a few components to this dish but you can make a lot of it ahead of time and since it is a dish that is meant to be served chilled, it won’t matter if things are cold by the time you serve them. 

FLAVORED OIL: (make at the beginning and let sit)
Take about a quarter cup of sesame oil and add one tablespoon of dried red chilies, and one half teaspoon of ground ginger and one clove of garlic, minced.  Let it sit.

CRISPY TOASTED SHALLOTS: Thinly slice shallots, toss with oil, and roast in a 400 degree oven, stirring often to avoid burning. They should be crisp, so about 15 minutes or more should be good.   

Wash, dry and put aside one handful of spinach per person.

½ cup of cashews
¼ cup of sugar
2 tablespoons of water

Throw cashews, sugar & water together in a sauce pan and heat it over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Once that happens, you continue to cook it, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes or until the sugar crystallizes.  The cashews will look like a pile of mush with the sugar but as long as it’s crystallized that’s okay – they will get crunchy in the oven next. J

As a final step, scrape the cashews onto a cookie sheet and roast in a 350 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes, or until they are slightly browned and crisp. Stir occasionally to prevent burning. Put aside to cool.

1 lb. ground pork
2 shallots
1 tablespoon red chiles (about 4 dried whole chiles, seeds removed)
3 cloves garlic
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
Splash of fish sauce
Splash of soy sauce
1-2 scallions, chopped

Fry ground pork until nicely browned and cooked through. Remove from pan and set aside.
Drain excess oil and add sliced shallots (or onions) and cook slowly so that they caramelize. When they are done, add them to the bowl with the pork and mix.

In the same frying pan, add some sesame oil and when it gets warm, add some dried red chilies to your taste.  Wait a 5-10 seconds and then add three cloves of garlic to the pan and continue to sauté them until they become fragrant. Then add 1/3 cup of water, tablespoon of sugar, and two splashes: one of fish sauce, the other of soy (or just soy if you don’t want or have fish sauce). And when that gets to bubbling up, return the pork and shallots to the pan with a big handful of chopped scallions and stir until well mixed. Put aside.


When you are ready to eat, prepare ramen noodles (I used the good ol’ 25 cent/package instant ramen and just didn’t add the seasoning packet). Drain and toss with the oil and a little bit of soy sauce. Then, into a big bowl drop a handful of spinach leaves, a pile of noodles, a pile of pork, and some candied cashews. Finally, sprinkle the top with the crispy shallots. 


Recipe adapted and inspired by Momofuku & Stacey Dewolfe