Friday, April 30, 2010

Peach Praline Bread Pudding

Peach Praline Bread Pudding

I combined several recipes to create this Peach Praline Bread Pudding.  Serve it with a dollop of cinnamon whipped cream for a yummy dessert or decadent brunch.  The whole family will enjoy this recipe and if you have guests, they may never want to leave!

Peach Praline Bread Pudding

Caramel Sauce
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract

Bread Pudding
1 bag of frozen peaches or 1 1/2 cups sliced fresh peaches
1 loaf of brioche, sliced and cubed into 1 inch pieces
7 eggs
1 1/2 cups half and half
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Praline Topping
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/c cup flour
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans (optional)

To make the caramel sauce, melt the butter, corn syrup, almond extract and brown sugar in a small sauce pan over low heat until the butter is melted and the brown sugar is dissolved.  Pour into the bottom of a casserole dish.  Place  the sliced peaches over the caramel sauce.

In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, half and half, vanilla and cinnamon to make the custard for the bread pudding.  Whisk until combined.  Toss the cubed brioche bread pieces with the egg mixture until all the liquid is absorbed.  Layer the wet bread mixture over the peaches and caramel inthe baking dish.

In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and pecans.  Mix until combined.  Cut the butter into small pieces and incorporate into the sugar mixture until it forms a crumbly texture.  Sprinkle the praline mixture over the bread pudding.  Bake in the oven, uncovered for 40-45 minutes or until bubbling.  Spoon onto plate and top with cinnamon whipped cream!

Cinnamon Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons sugar

In a large bowl, combine the whipping cream, vanilla, cinnamon and sugar.  Whip with an electric beater until soft peaks forms. Serve with Peach Praline Bread Pudding.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ham and Cheese Frittata

Ham and Cheese Frittata

My kids love it when I make a frittata, whether it's for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  A simple, earthy egg dish similar to an omelette or quiche, the Italian frittata is usually started in a pan on the stove and is finished by baking in the oven.  You can add any kind of meat, cheese or vegetable to the dish to create hundreds of combinations to suit your taste.  I like the "fancy" combinations like spinach and feta or smoked salmon and goat cheese, but my kids love the simpler and more traditional "ham and cheese."  All of these combinations are wonderful, and the dish looks beautiful sliced in wedges like a pie and served with fresh fruit.  Frittatas are easy to make, taste delicious and look beautiful when served.  They make a nice addition to a brunch or an easy Friday night dinner.  

This is a dish the kids can help create.  Kids love to help by cracking all those eggs (just watch for shells)!  The following recipe, as with most frittata recipes serves 4-6 depending on the size of your wedges.  Two adults might be able to eat one half but if I add buttermilk biscuits and fruit, my family has a hard time finishing the dish.  Who cares!  I'll just warm up that last slice for breakfast when nobody is looking!

Ham and Cheese Frittata

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
8 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 cup diced ham
1 tbs chopped fresh herbs, like parsley or dill (optinal)
1 cup grated Swiss or cheddar cheese

Whisk the eggs and milk in a medium bowl with the salt and some pepper until smooth.  Melt the butter in a medium non-stick skillet over medium heat. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and some pepper. Stir the ham, herbs and cheese into the eggs.

Heat the non-stick skillet. Add the butter and let it melt.  Pour the frittata mixture into the pan and stir to make sure the fillings are evenly arranged. Cook, stirring gently a couple times in the first minutes of cooking. Then let the mixture cook undisturbed until the bottom sets, about 5 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the oven and broil until the eggs are just set and brown, about 5 minutes. Take care not to overcook or the eggs will be dry. Remove from the oven, cover, and set aside for 5 minutes.  You can turn the frittata upside down onto a large platter. Cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Barefoot in Brussels

Here I am with Ina Garten in Brussels, Belgium

Last summer, I had the amazing opportunity to meet Ina Garten, the wonderful food network star known as the Barefoot Contessa.  We met in a little cafe in Brussels, Belgium, no less.  Normally I would never consider approaching a famous person when they are enjoying a quiet moment out in public but when you are in a foreign country and few people around you consider English their native tongue, rules are bent and you feel a little more welcome to approach another American, even if they are famous. 

After my initial double take (we had ducked inside in search of a loo) and some prodding by my sweet travelling companion, I introduced myself.  She was very gracious and both her and Jeffrey talked with us about our trip to Belgium and France.  The funniest part of the story is that our husbands who had been waiting outside for us began to wonder what had happened.  Our quick trip inside was taking longer than expected.  My husband Corey came bounding around the corner to hurry us along and the look on his face when he saw who we were talking to was priceless.  He knew that of all the famous people I could meet, Ina Garten was at the top of my list!  Forget Brangelina, I'll take Barefoot Contessa.  I hate to admit that I was actually giddy with excitement.  Meeting her was the icing on a very yummy cake-like trip to Europe (note the gastronomical metaphor or is it a simile?).

Before seeing the Gartens in Brussels, we had in fact made a couple of stops in Paris because of her show, including a visit to Poilane to see the famous bread chandelier.

This chandelier in Poilane is actually made of bread!

Outside the French bakery on a sunny afternoon in Paris

We visited the Cherche-Midi bakery (or boulangerie) on a beautiful afternoon in Paris.  Poilane is famous for their round loaves of bread, Viennese pastries and butter cookies in the shape of spoons (which I am determined to make someday).  We bought an apple tart to take to our hosts back in Belgium and it traveled quite nicely on the train.

So, where am I going with this discussion of delicious French bakeries and famous American chefs?  In honor of Ina Garten and Poilane, I am including her recipe for a French Apple Tart.  You may have seen it on one of the episodes of Barefoot Contessa.  I tried it with her pie crust recipe and with puff pastry dough.  Both were delicious but the puff pastry does "puff" and it can get messy.  So, here is an idea for your next easy and elegant tart.  

My attempt at Ina's French apple tart

French Apple Tart

For the pastry:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 12 tablespoons (11/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 1/2 cup ice water

For the apples:

  • 4 Granny Smith apples
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, small diced
  • 1/2 cup apricot jelly or warm sieved apricot jam
  • 2 tablespoons Calvados, rum, or water
For the pastry, place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse for a few seconds to combine. Add the butter and pulse 10 to 12 times, until the butter is in small bits the size of peas. With the motor running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse just until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Roll the dough slightly larger than 10 by 14-inches. Using a ruler and a small knife, trim the edges. Place the dough on the prepared sheet pan and refrigerate while you prepare the apples.
Peel the apples and cut them in half through the stem. Remove the stems and cores with a sharp knife and a melon baler. Slice the apples crosswise in 1/4-inch thick slices. Place overlapping slices of apples diagonally down the middle of the tart and continue making diagonal rows on both sides of the first row until the pastry is covered with apple slices. (I tend not to use the apple ends in order to make the arrangement beautiful.) Sprinkle with the full 1/2 cup of sugar and dot with the butter.
Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the pastry is browned and the edges of the apples start to brown. Rotate the pan once during cooking. If the pastry puffs up in one area, cut a little slit with a knife to let the air out. Don't worry! The apple juices will burn in the pan but the tart will be fine! When the tart's done, heat the apricot jelly together with the Calvados and brush the apples and the pastry completely with the jelly mixture. Loosen the tart with a metal spatula so it doesn't stick to the paper. Allow to cool and serve warm or at room temperature.