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.



Pumpkin Butter Muffins

DAVE, a friend from college, and his girlfriend Megan were in town this past week, and I took their visit as an opportunity to experiment with flavors and places I had yet to try.  First up on our list was Longwood Gardens, but as this was a reintroduction to the city of Brotherly Love, I also introduced the pair to Honey‘s.  (Really, I was craving one of Honey’s signature omelets or french toasts, so it was actually a self-serving agenda.)

From NoLibs, we drove out to the Gardens.  Now, it’s recommended that you spend at least 2 hours at Longwood, or else you’ll feel gypped.  We figured we could do it in 2 hours, maybe 3 if we felt like pushing it…but ended up staying there for 5 hours!  We could probably have done more, too, but the sun had set by the time we left and the Topiary Garden was closed for winter revitalization.  Regardless, here’s our suggestion:  go to the Gardens about 2 hours before sundown, taking that time to see the tree houses and the Italian Garden and catch one of the Fountain Shows.  Stop in for some Vegetarian Chili at the Terrace Restaurant; the chili is surprisingly hearty, and does a body good on a chilly day.  From there,, it’s a straight shot to the Conservatory where you will spend the bulk of your time.

Also on the agenda was quizo, the South Street Challenge (never heard of it? neither had we) and a visit to our old college diner.  And after that, I must have been feeling very frisky because I decided to try out a new recipe…but pretty much modify everything but the essentials in it.

The original recipe on therecipelink called for apple butter, applesauce, raisins, and only half a teaspoon of ginger.  Instead, I substituted pecan pumpkin butter for the apple butter and organic vanilla yoghurt for the applesauce + 1 tsp vanilla.  I also decided not to throw in raisins and upped the ginger content to a full tsp.  The muffins have a little bit of kick this way, and (as promised by Jenni Miller, the original poster) they fill the house with the delightful aroma of autumn.

Pumpkin Butter Muffins

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar*
  • 1  1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin butter
  • 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup milk   [personally, I like 2%]
  • 3 tbsp honey  [I like the heady taste of forest honey]
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 400F.  Line your muffin cups or grease with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients (the first 7 ingredients). In a smaller bowl, combine the wet ingredients.

Pour the wet mixture into the dry; stir to combine.  [If you’re going to include raisins or nuts, fold them in at the end.]  Spoon batter out into muffin cups and bake for 20-25 minutes.  I baked mine for 20 minutes, and they turned out perfectly, if a little browned on top!

* If your brown sugar has hardened, follow this simple plan: eyeball what you think is 3/4 cup and break that off the block of brown sugar.  Wrap in a wet paper towel and place in a microwave-save bowl.  Cover tightly with saran wrap and microwave for 1 minute.  Remove paper towel and saran wrap (be careful; it’s hot) and break up the sugar with a fork.

I recommend you don’t spend too much time separating the chunks. I left a few of them in pretty solid form, figuring I’d break them down a little further when I mixed everything together.  This worked perfectly (and serendipitously), as the chunks never quite broke down, which mean that in the baked muffins were nestled little pockets of moist sugary goodness.  Little boons, if you will, for the holiday season.