|Better get your eating pants on.|
Saturday, October 26, 2013
I still don’t know which day of the week I like best, Friday or Saturday. Friday is exciting for people who work Monday to Friday, because you know that at the end of the workday you’ll be free of that type of stress for two days. Sometimes though, Friday is not so much fun because the day seems to drag on and on while you wait for 5 pm to show its pretty face.
Saturday is pretty awesome because if you’re lucky, you might get to sleep in a little bit. Then maybe go to the gym, hang out, do whatever you want to do…relax, grocery shop, walk the dog, watch bad TV, cook, play Lego with your kids, eat.
Saturday night is also super amazing because you can go out, or not. It’s your night and you can decide how to spend it. And, you can stay up really late knowing that you don’t have to get up the next morning (but then again, maybe you do have to get up because your kids have lacrosse practice at 10 am, but I digress).
This past Friday night (yesterday), I had only one thing to do – prepare a dish for lunch on Saturday because we had guests coming over at noon - The King of Soup's childhood friend, his wife, and their one year old son. After a brief consultation with The King, we agreed that I would prepare a smashing recipe I have for baked French toast. This one is extra special because it has apples in it, and cream cheese, and wait for it…jam. Considering we have a cold room full of apples from our recent excursion apple picking, we thought it would make sense to use some up in this amazingly easy and delicious dish.
A long time ago when I still lived in Montreal, before The King and I had even met, I came to Toronto to visit my friend Robyn who was going to school at Ryerson. I have many reasons to love Robyn, one of which is that she introduced me to Salad King, another is that she took me to eat at Mövenpick Marché where I discovered rösti, the Swiss version of a potato latke. The reason I am mentioning her now in this post is that there was one other thing she tried to get me to try at the Marché - bread pudding. At the time I could think of nothing less appealing, so I refused to try even a bite. If only she had called it baked French toast instead of bread pudding, my life would have been so much better so much sooner! Still love you, Rob!
This recipe for baked French toast is called Apple and Cheese-Stuffed French Toast and it’s from the book Cooking Jewish by Judy Bart Kancigor. My sister-in-law Bryony gave this book to me for my birthday in 2008 and it remains to this day, one of my favourite Jewish cookbooks (along with Second Helpings and Noreen Gilletz’s Food Processor Cookbook – both bibles in any Jewish kitchen). Without further ado, here’s the recipe. As usual, my edits are in brackets.
Better put your eating pants on.
Apple and Cheese-Stuffed French Toast
1 ½ tbsp. fresh lemon juice (bottled lemon juice will do just fine)
1 ½ tbsp. cornstarch
8 tbsp (1 stick, or ¼ cup) butter, plus extra for greasing the baking pan
¾ cup packed brown sugar (½ cup is more than enough)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp Kosher (coarse) salt
4 large green apples (such as Granny Smith or Mutsu), peeled, cored, and sliced (I used Ida Red apples because that’s what we had on hand)
6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature (I used light cream cheese)
1 loaf (1 pound) challah*, thickly sliced (sometimes I find you need 1 ½ loaves – depends on the thickness of the slices)
About ½ cup raspberry or apricot jam (I usually use more than ½ cup and I have used many different jams like strawberry rhubarb, blueberry, etc – all have been tasty)
6 large eggs
¾ cup whole milk (I use skim milk)
1 cup half and half cream (this time I used half and half but usually I use skim milk)
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract (really, no one should ever use artificial vanilla)
Cinnamon sugar mixture for sprinkling on top before baking
Start by mixing the cornstarch and lemon juice together in a small glass - I use a fork to ensure there are no lumps. Set the mixture aside.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the brown sugar, salt and cinnamon and stir until the sugar has melted.
Peel, core and slice the apples and add them to the butter and sugar. Cook for about 4 minutes, stirring the apples around a bit.
Remove from the heat and add the cornstarch/lemon mix. Stir to thicken and then set aside to cool.
Butter a 9” x 13” glass lasagna pan. Pour the cooled apples (they don’t have to be cold, just slightly cooled) into the pan and ensure they cover the bottom relatively evenly.
Spread cream cheese on the slices of bread.
Place the challah on top of the apples, cream cheese side up. Fill all the nooks and crannies by tearing the bread into strips or pieces as required.
Spread the jam on top of the cream cheese challah.
And then sandwich the jam by placing the rest of the challah on top, cream cheese side down.
Whisk the eggs, milk, cream and vanilla in a large bowl.
Pour the mixture over the bread ensuring you cover all of it as evenly as possible. Cover the pan and place in the fridge overnight.
The next morning, remove the pan from the fridge and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar over the top of the challah. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes.
After 40 minutes remove the foil and bake for another 20 minutes uncovered. Remove from the oven and let sit for about 5 minutes before serving.
This dish is juicy because of the apples, and sweet because of the sugar and jam, so you don’t really NEED maple syrup. Having said that, it’s extra sinful and delicious if you do add syrup.
Today I served this dish with a fruit salad (grapes, avocado, strawberries, gooseberries, apple and banana), and it was amazing. When you make it, I bet there won’t be any leftovers, and you’ll be a hero.
* Challah is egg bread. You can use French bread instead if you can’t find challah.
For a savoury version of this dish from the same cookbook, click here: http://www.richlerrecipes.blogspot.com/2011/09/just-in-time-for-weekend.html
For more on challah, click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Challah
For more on rösti, click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R%C3%B6sti
For more on Salad King, click here: http://www.saladking.com/
For more on potato latkes, click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potato_pancake
For more on Robyn, click here: just kidding
For more on Mövenpick Marché, click here: http://www.thestar.com/life/food_wine/restaurants/2010/01/27/moumlvenpick_regains_yonge_st_marcheacute.html
To read about or purchase Cooking Jewish, click here: http://www.amazon.ca/Cooking-Jewish-Recipes-Rabinowitz-Family/dp/0761135812/ref=sr_1_12?ie=UTF8&qid=1382834184&sr=8-12&keywords=cooking+Jewish
To read about or purchase Second Helpings, click here: http://www.amazon.ca/Second-helpings-please-Microwave-low-calorie/dp/0969391013/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1382834250&sr=8-1&keywords=second+helpings+cookbook
To read about or purchase Noreen Gilletz’s Food Processor Cookbook, click here: http://www.amazon.ca/The-New-Food-Processor-Bible/dp/1770500286 (note that this is the revised and updated edition)
Thursday, August 29, 2013
When I think of ice cream, I think of two things: the first, my Grandpapa, Earle Decker, who had quite a positive relationship with ice cream. The second, summer – simply because it’s generally hot out and everyone loves a cool treat on a hot day.
Grandpapa wasn't what you'd call a connoisseur of ice cream. He didn't really distinguish between Québon brand and anything else. He loved it all. I am not sure if I inherited my love of ice cream from him, or if I just love ice cream. And does it really matter? What's important is that when I think of ice cream, I think of him. And when I think of him, I think of ice cream.
When he died in 1989 I was devastated. We were very close, even though he lived in Montreal and I lived in Newfoundland. We traveled to visit our Montreal family several times a year, and my grandparents came to Newfoundland often. We had a great relationship that started early in life. Apparently when I was only three, my Grandpapa spent some time with me one on one explaining how to pack a pipe with tobacco. This was important information indeed. He also shared other skills with me – he had a fondness for making boxes out of other boxes. He was the original recycler before any of that was cool. He’d take his Exacto blade, slice rectangles of cardboard out of large boxes, and tape them together into smaller boxes. He used these boxes for many, many things. Most held pens. He had hundreds and hundreds of pens. Others held pads of paper that he had also constructed. He’d take pieces of paper, stack them together, punch holes in the tops and use binder rings to hold them together. He showed me how to do this.
He had a tiny front office in my grandparents’ apartment on Pauline Street in LaSalle. The shelves held the many constructed boxes, the pens, the pads of paper, and his never-finished ‘paper’ that he was always working on. Taped to the shelf right in his line of vision were two torn out pieces of paper. One was an amazing quote from The Rubiyat by Omar Khayyám, which I still recall to this day, “The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit shall lure it back to cancel half a Line, Nor all Thy Tears wash out a Word of it”. The other read simply, “tempus fugit”, Latin for ‘time flies’. I often thought to myself, as I got a bit older, if only he’d stop making boxes he’d finish his paper (time flies, after all).
He was an English teacher and I remember showing him a draft of my very first English paper in first year university, thinking he’d tell me I was an amazing writer. Instead he told me it was a piece of crap and redlined most of the text. It was one of my most painful experiences in life because I loved him so much and the criticism came as a surprise. I cried, of course. But then I went home and rewrote the paper and got an A+.
He showed me how to wash dishes with the little mop in the tiny sink in the Pauline Street kitchen – the smell of green Palmolive transports me instantly back there to this day. He showed me how to make his mother’s baking powder biscuits (recipe can be found here: http://www.richlerrecipes.blogspot.com/2011/09/my-great-grandmother-claras-baking.html), and taught me that skim milk is meant to be drunk with ice cubes in it.
On the first anniversary of his death, I went to his plot on Mount Royal and dumped an entire bucket of ice cream on his grave. I bet you’re wondering what flavor. It was Butterscotch Ripple, or as he liked to call it, “butt rip” (because these were the words you could see on the side of the box in the freezer). I sat there next to him on top of that hill overlooking St. Joseph's Oratory, as the ice cream melted on a warm Montreal day, thinking about him.
I think of him all the time, but now I am not sad – I remember all of his awesomeness and think fondly back to my granddaughter-hood spent with him. In honour of him, we gave each of our sons one of his names, and both of those sons love ice cream. It must be in our blood after all. In honour of Joseph Earle Decker, here is my latest favourite ice cream recipe.
Peanut Butter Ice Cream (recipe adapted from The Perfect Scoop, by David Lebovitz)
¾ cup peanut butter (I use Kraft Light Smooth. I considered using natural PB but am unsure as to how a creamy texture might be achieved since the natural PB tends to separate. I will attempt this some day.)
½ cup sugar (the recipe calls for ¾ cup, but I found this to be very sweet)
2 2/3 cups half and half cream (the first time I used half whipping cream and half skim milk – which worked out just fine)
1/8 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
¾ cup mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, or use the large ones and cut them up into pieces (original recipe doesn’t call for these to be added)
Put the peanut butter in a blender, food processor or mixer.
Add the sugar and start mixing.
Then the cream...
...and the rest of the ingredients (except the Reese's PB Cups)
Mix it all up.
You may have to stop your mixer and ensure the peanut butter is being incorporated -
it tends to stick to the sides of the bowl.
A blender or food processor might work better for you.
Put the mixture back into the fridge for an hour to cool.
Then pour it into the ice cream maker,
add the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups,
and follow the directions for your machine.
Once your time is up with the ice cream maker (mine takes 22 minutes),
remove the ice cream from the machine....
...and put it into a freezer-safe container.
Rest assured that it won't be in there for too long.
The photos of the process included here are for the version to which I added the PB cups. The final photo of the ice cream in the bowl is the version I made without the PB cups.
It’s all good.