Not lean, grilled protein

I HAVE been reluctant to write posts these past few months. Partly because it seems like there is no real way to put to words the meals, the feelings, the people that I have been sharing life with these days. Partly because I have been feeling shy.

But tonight, a cold rainy night in Philadelphia, the urge to record a delicious is strong.

I am supposed to be out celebrating Tiana’s last day of work but unfortunately care plans and rain conspired against my ambitions. So it was over to Breakfastquest’s for dinner and work. Recently I have been introduced (by Joe, for reasons completely unrelated to food) to Nigella Lawson. So here BQ and I were tip-tap-typing away and we looked at each other and realized that we needed something sweet, something warm, something incredibly divine and aromatic.

Duly inspired by this,  we tore up some old challah bread, caramelized some sugar, whisked in some milk, poured our tipple of choice (Frangelico) into the pan, and then slipped the whole beautiful mess into the oven.

20 minutes, one burned finger, and a dab of whipped cream later, we had done ourselves good.

And it was just enough.

Enjoy, and be inspired!

– D

Here, again, is the “tricksy” Nigella Lawson*:



*Thanks to PKosh for the support/word choice!

Full Complement · Recipe

A Full Batch of Breakfast: Apple Strudel Muffins, Pumpkin Butter, Baked Berry Challah French Toast

TODAY was my day to host our budding writing group. The five of us collected in the late morning, projects and literary ambitions glittering in our imaginations.  Hosting the gathering was a blessing, as it gave me the much-needed impetus to take on a food project that’s been rolling around in my head for a few days.

After a week of painful miscommunications in the office, general anxiety over life and the Future (the horror!), a spate of late nights and later mornings (which also contributed to the office snafus), I realized that what I really wanted — evens perhaps more than writing itself — was to bake.  I wanted to create a brunch feast full of seasonal flavors and baked delicacies; I wanted to brew Southern Pecan coffee and delight my friends.

I wanted grandiosity.  Über fabulousness. Worlds and foods and flavors and scents.  I wanted the hallway outside my door to be a fragrant wonderland, and I wanted my home itself to be the Gingerbread House: alluring, enchanting, lovely, and utterly irresistible.

I started last night.  If this was going to be a Production, then it was going to take time, energy, and stamina.  I knew I wanted to experiment with the two last honey crisp apples I had in my kitchen, and muffins seemed the ideal medium for their use.  But I also wanted to work with challah bread as a base for french toast, but still with a heavy oven influence.  So I started with the challah french toast, as that requires an overnight marination period.  The pumpkin butter was a well-timed suggestion from foodista, and paired excellently with the apple muffins.  Because I wasn’t sure how big the writing group was going to be, I doubled the recipe for the muffins, and (naturally) ended up with waaay more than I needed.

Baking was the therapy I needed, my friends’ awed faces the emotional panacea I needed to heal the week’s strains.

And having leftover muffins and french toast is nothing to sneer at, either!

Apple Strudel Muffins

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temp or melted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups apple (1/2 cup grated, 1 cup chopped) I used Honey Crisp apples, and they were amazing!

For the Streudel

  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375F.  Grease your muffin pan (I have a giant 6-muffin pan, which with the doubled recipe ended up making 14 muffins; this recipe should make 12 regular muffins or 6 giant ones).

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, butter and sugar until smooth.  Mix in vanilla.  Stir in apples, then gradually add in the flour mixture.  Fill muffin cups.

In a small bowl, mix the streudel topping.  Sprinkle over the tops of the muffins.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until your muffins pass the toothpick text.  Enjoy!  Slather with pumpkin butter for added flavor.

Pumpkin Butter

  • 1 can pumpkin
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spices

Simmer all ingredients together in a pot until the liquid has evaporated and the pumpkin butter has thickened.

Pairs very well with apple muffins!  Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Baked Berry Challah French Toast

For this, I pretty much followed the exact recipe.

  • 1/2 loaf of challah bread, cut or torn into chunks
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 cups milk
  • 3 cups fresh strawberries, chopped into bite-size pieces

For the Topping

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup quick oats
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened

Grease a 9×13 baking dish and lay out the challah bread chunks inside; they should fill about 3/4 full.

In a medium-sized bowl, beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla.  Add the milk, then pour over the challah.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

In a medium bowl, cut together the crumb topping ingredients until a coarse crumb mixture forms.  Place in an airtight container (ziploc bag or tupperware) and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, stir up the bread mixture again.  Layer strawberries on top, then cover with the crumb topping.

Bake at 375 degrees for 50-55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Enjoy your own morning inspirations!  The combination of these three are pretty much guaranteed to make your guests gasp, swoon, and then pass out in food-comas in your living room.