Tag Archives: breakfast

Foodbuzz 24×24: The Make-Ahead Holiday Breakfast Party (Recipe: Salted Caramel Mocha Hot Chocolate)

I remember that Christmas morning with all the clarity of the glass icicles adorning our Christmas tree — at least one of which was shattered each year, an inadvertent Christmas tradition. Mom was sitting on the couch in her dramatic floral robe. The scent of coffee — which I loved, despite being averse to the bitter taste — filled the house. The rest of the family was milling about the living room, preparing to distribute the presents.

Suddenly, with a pine needley, jingle-jangly harrrrrumph!, the Christmas tree outright fell on my mother.

I mean, one minute that thing was standing tall, looking regal and festive, and the next it was on her head. She let out a startled cry and flailed from between its branches, sending ornaments and pine needles flying around the room.

Mom will disagree — and okay, my little brother’s First Christmas ornament broke, and that was sad — but this was quite possibly the most hilarious and lively Ruble Christmas morning to date.

Other Christmas mornings were notable too. There was the one where I found, after opening all my gifts, that I hadn’t received the one thing I wanted most: a pedal go-kart. I pasted on a happy face, but I was disappointed. I did have one present left, but it was a card and didn’t look promising.

The card turned out to be from Santa. I scanned it halfheartedly, and realized that it was a set of instructions. I was supposed to head upstairs to my sister’s room. Suddenly, my heart filled with hope. I charged up the stairs eagerly and shot through the door. There, in all its bright yellow glory, was my go-kart!

Other years brought a dose of holiday reality. When I was around 6, I opened my parents’ closet a few days before Christmas to put some clothes away. To my great surprise, I found myself staring at a gigantic dollhouse. I was so stunned that it took me a few moments to realize that this must be a poorly hidden Christmas present.

My tiny heart filled with glee as I briefly surveyed the three-story mansion, complete with furniture, a balcony, and landscaping. I’d always been enamored with miniatures, and now my parents had apparently decided to indulge my dollhouse obsession. I closed the door, thrilled at my discovery and determined to act surprised when I received my gift.

On Christmas morning, I ran downstairs and sure enough, the dollhouse was standing in the living room like a beacon of childhood happiness, boasting a big bow. I squealed joyfully and ran over to it, only to hear my parents call out, “That’s for your sister!

Those four words — so tiny! so brief! — cut me down faster than a fir tree on a Christmas farm.


family photo!

Then there was the Christmas morning I woke up and accidentally stabbed myself in the nose while trying to brush my hair out of my face. My entire family, probably bemused but not surprised by the fact that I’d managed to injure myself immediately upon waking, waited patiently while I tried to stop the bleeding.

I couldn’t make this stuff up.


salted caramel.

It’s true; Christmas morning has varied wildly over the years — exciting, disappointing, joyous, dangerous, absurd. One constant that we’ve all come to cherish, though, is Christmas morning breakfast. Every single year, without fail, my mother wakes up early, bakes an egg casserole, and rolls out dough to make fresh cinnamon rolls. While we’re all still counting sugar plums in our jammies, she’s hard at work in the kitchen.

This year, in her honor, I decided to design some recipes specifically for a holiday breakfast — dishes that in addition to being fancy and indulgent, could be prepared almost entirely in advance. To test my menu — that’s my excuse, and I’m stickin’ to it — I threw a Make-Ahead Holiday Breakfast Party, where I decked my halls and created a make-believe Christmas morning.

The party turned out to be special even beyond the menu. See, Mike and I have never spent a Christmas morning together, despite being in a relationship for most of the past 12 years.

I’m not complaining. So many families are separated on Christmas morning because of deployment, distance, and even death. Our situation is downright joyful by comparison. We’re separated each year because both of our families have Christmas morning traditions. We spend time with our own parents in the morning before meeting later to enjoy Christmas afternoon together. This year, though, my Make-Ahead Holiday Breakfast Party was the perfect way to create a “Christmas morning” for just us.

So yesterday morning, we donned our PJs and slippers in true Christmas morning fashion. I lit my first ever fire, put the finishing touches on all of the make-ahead dishes I’d prepared earlier in the week, and we sat down together to eat. Little Byrd sat between us eating her Christmas kibble. Our plates, however, were loaded down with Gingerbread Coffee Cake, Cinnamon Stix with Eggnog Glaze, Savory Bread Pudding with Cranberries and Fennel, Winter Breakfast Chili in Sourdough Bowls, and Buttered Toast with Bright Pepper Jam.

Between bites, we sipped this Salted Caramel Mocha Hot Chocolate. I’m not one for hot breakfast drinks, usually, but I’d make an exception for this thing any day. You coat the mug with hot, buttery salted caramel before pouring in the steaming mocha hot chocolate (where coffee plays a supporting role rather than the lead). The whole thing is topped with a mess of caramel whipped cream and a caramel drizzle.

I’ll be sharing the other make-ahead breakfast recipes with you throughout the coming weeks as you prepare for the holidays. In the meantime, share your favorite Christmas morning memories. Anyone have any harrowing experience with falling Christmas trees?

Salted Caramel Mocha Hot Chocolate



Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, inspired by Savory Sweet Life, adapted from Martha Stewart (caramel and cream) and TLC
Yield: 2 big mugs of hot chocolate

I can’t really quantify how buttery, caramelly, chocolatey, and delicious this Salted Caramel Mocha Hot Chocolate is, so let me just say: mmmmmm. I don’t like coffee, but in this recipe it’s there to add richness and balance, and isn’t the dominant flavor. The recipe is designed to be completed mostly in advance, making it lovely for a holiday morning breakfast — or anytime you’re in a festive mood. Also, don’t be afraid of caramel. This recipe includes temperatures, and as long as you use a candy thermometer, you’ll be great!

Mocha Hot Chocolate Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup brewed coffee
2 tablespoons semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons bittersweet chocolate chips (I love Ghirardelli 60% cacao)
2 tablespoons sugar

Caramel Sauce and Cream Ingredients:
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 cup water
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/8 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of coarse salt

Directions:
1 to 3 days in advance: Make the hot chocolate and the caramel. First, heat the milk, coffee, chocolate, and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly until it comes to a boil. Remove it from the heat and whisk it to ensure it’s fully combined. Pour it into a bowl and let it cool, stirring periodically, before covering it and refrigerating it.

Make caramel sauce: Prepare an ice-water bath and set a heavy bowl in it. Heat the sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until mixture boils and sugar dissolves (don’t stir at all, or crystals will form and make your caramel grainy). Use a pastry brush to wash down sides of pan often to prevent crystals from forming. When the sugar starts to turn amber, you can swirl a couple of times to ensure it’s caramelizing evenly.

Cook until the sugar turns a dark amber (definitely use a candy thermometer here! You’re looking for it to read about 345 degrees), 5 to 7 minutes more. Immediately remove from heat, and slowly whisk in 1/2 cup cream (reserve the rest of the cream in the fridge). It will bubble up when you do this, so be careful. Return the caramel to medium heat, whisking and heating until the sugar melts completely and the mixture boils.

Remove the pan from the heat and pour the caramel into a bowl set in an ice-water bath. Let the caramel cool, stirring often, for 10 minutes. Whisk in creme fraiche or sour cream, vanilla, and salt. Cover and refrigerate this.

The morning of: Reheat the chocolate mixture in a saucepan over medium heat on the stove (or for a couple of minutes in the microwave), stirring often. In the meantime, whip your remaining 1/4 cup cream in a cold bowl to stiff peaks.

Coat the sides of two mugs with caramel sauce, reserving a little over half of it. Gently fold most of the rest of the caramel sauce into your whipped cream (reserving a little to drizzle on top). Fill caramel coated mugs with mocha hot chocolate. Top with caramel cream and drizzled caramel. Serve immediately.

Note: I received a stipend from Foodbuzz for creating this meal.

If you liked this post, please:
Subscribe to Willow Bird Baking
Follow Willow Bird Baking on Twitter
Follow Willow Bird Baking on Facebook
Give this post a thumbs up on StumbleUpon
Pin It


ShareOther ways to share this post with friends!

14 Comments

Filed under other

Pumpkin Pecan Streusel Breakfast Braid

Today is “Nerdy Day” at Woodlawn, the school where I work. All of my students are sporting taped glasses, suspenders, pants hitched up to their eyeballs, pocket protectors, and bow ties. They asked me why I didn’t dress up and I replied honestly, “What do you mean? I did.”

I don’t need a pocket protector to dress like a nerd. I’m naturally a nerd, through and through. Like I told my students: I love to read. I love to write. I love technology. I love obscure art. I love learning. I write essays for fun. I annotate the books I read in my spare time. I often ruminate on literary theory, politics, and feminism. I was born a nerd and I’ll die a nerd. Amen.


Ooh. Amen!

Such was my nerdiness as a child that I detested the outdoors and was a bit of a cave-dweller. Have you ever met a kid like that? My friends usually wanted to play some wildly active (often destructive) game outdoors: Who can run down this hill the fastest, completely oblivious of oncoming traffic? Who can climb to the very highest, most excruciatingly tenuous limb of this tree? Who wants to tumble pell-mell through snakes and venomous spiders in the woods?

Not me. I was a pale, chubby child who preferred to sit and read in an air-conditioned, artificially lit corner. I always bossily petitioned for an orderly indoor game: a board game, perhaps, or a polite game of snack-eating.

My aversion to the outdoors and to all athletic activity was particularly strong when it came to my dreaded elementary P.E. class. Far from “educating” me on much besides torture and pain, my Physical Education class struck fear deep into the air-conditioned depths of my heart. For one thing, we went outside all the time (much to the glee of most other students). For another, I was a klutz.

I remember standing on a dusty, grassless kickball field one hot day in May. My friend and I were watching the game cynically and whining about our circumstances. First off, we were hot, sweaty, and red-faced. Worse still was the fact that we were almost up to the plate. Unless we got another “out” — and fast! — we were going to have to try to kick the ball in front of all of our classmates (including all of the cute boys in class). We’d then have to walk back to the team in shame, enduring their fervent, angry shouts about our athletic ineptitude.

I suggested we try to imagine ourselves jumping into a cool swimming pool. The power of visualization and positive thinking, I noted to my friend, was immense. We both scrunched up our eyes and started to visualize with all our might. One of our teammates kicked the ball into the outfield. We visualized harder. Another teammate kicked the ball even farther. We visualized with all our might. Another teammate kicked the ball into the stratosphere.

We gave up with a sigh, and I walked up to the plate. Lame.

Kickball wasn’t the worst, though. The worst activity — the one that sent chills of absolute terror down my lazy little spine — was the mile run. What sort of sadist decided to try and make us run an entire mile?

Y’all, I don’t care if I were getting chased by a gigantic black bear. I don’t care if he were breathing down my neck with bloody bear fangs and breath that smelled of my impending doom. I don’t care if he were as hungry as a hippo with razor claws and rabies. If my only hope of salvation were to run a mile, I would plop myself down on a plate and sprinkle some salt and pepper on my head.

I hate running.

As it was, I did get chased, so to speak, by my rabid elementary P.E. teacher. She was fit as a fiddle and always barked encouragement at us from the sidelines as we dragged ourselves around the track. I remember talking to myself out loud (more nerd points?) as I struggled to put one foot in front of the other. My monologue went something like this: “If I just keep pushing myself, I’ll pass out and probably die. But then at least I’ll never have to do the mile run again. In fact, they’ll probably ban the mile run from schools everywhere. If I can just run hard enough to pass out, that can be my legacy: eliminating the mile run for the children of the future.”

If that seems twisted, you ought to have heard me at home the night before the mile run. I would literally plead with my parents to somehow break my toe. Stomp on it, perhaps? Run over it with the car, maybe? Does that sound drastic?

I figured a broken toe wouldn’t be that inconvenient, and it would heal before too long. In the meantime, though, my quality of life would increase a thousandfold as a result of missing the mile run. I lay in the floor and whined when my parents refused. Didn’t they realize they were consigning me to pass out in the middle of a gigantic dirt field? Didn’t they want to spare me all of my anguish? Didn’t they LOVE me?

I may be 27 years old now, and I may have started to appreciate the outdoors, but I still maintain that my fragile constitution was built for reading, writing, and recipes — not for running. In fact, I’d still prefer an injury to an athletic event. This coming Friday, at the end of Woodlawn’s spirit week, there’s a faculty vs. students soccer game, and you can imagine my utter terror when I was asked to participate. All of these years thinking I was finally free from that school field . . .

Thankfully, though (I’m so weird), the other day I was stretching and I felt something twist in my knee. My first thought was, “Ow!” followed immediately by, “Ooh, now I don’t have to play in the soccer game!” Some things never change.

I’ll settle for being a clumsy nerd. Some of my students are geniuses on the soccer field, some are geniuses on horseback, some are geniuses in ballet shoes, some are geniuses on stage. I’ll settle for being at home with a book, at home with words, and at home in the kitchen. We all have our talents, right?

In that spirit, I offer you not my soccer savvy (hahahahaha, for which you should be thankful) but my breakfast braid. I couldn’t wait to tell you about this recipe! I dreamed about posting this braid the entire time I was baking it, photographing it, transporting it to Raleigh, and eating it with Mike while watching past episodes of Parks and Recreation and drinking lots of milk.

What I most want to emphasize about this recipe is that it’s EASY! The first time I made a breakfast braid with this dough, I fell in love. It’s the perfect beginning pastry, since it doesn’t involve any yeast or rise time, or even much kneading. It’s not sticky or stubborn. If you’ve ever used canned crescent rolls, this dough is a textured a lot like that.

Naturally, in addition to being easy (SO EASY. DID I MENTION HOW EASY?), it was delectable. I call it a breakfast braid, but it’s an eat-anytime-you-can-possibly-shove-it-in-your-face braid. It’s a mind-blowing combination of flaky pastry, autumn pumpkin, cinnamon and spice, buttery streusel, toasted pecans, and a rich maple brown sugar glaze. I may not be able to kick a soccer ball, but I can make a mean pumpkin braid. That’s good enough for me.

Are you nerdy?

Pumpkin Pecan Streusel Breakfast Braid with Maple Brown Sugar Glaze



Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking. Inspired by The Luna Cafe, with glaze from Caitlin Cooks
Yield: About 4-5 servings of 2 slices each

In this breakfast braid, tender, flaky, almond-scented pastry envelops a delicious pumpkin pie custard topped with buttery cinnamon pecan streusel. An addictive maple brown sugar glaze and toasted pecans top the whole shebang, creating a perfect autumn breakfast (or dessert, or lunch, or dinner…!) This braid looks fancy, but don’t be fooled. It’s one of the easiest things I make. The dough is lovely to work with — it doesn’t need to rise, barely needs any kneading, and isn’t sticky or finicky. I’m always amazed that such gorgeous results can be achieved with such little effort.

Easy Dough Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
3 ounces cream cheese, cold and cut into cubes
1/2 cup milk, minus 1/2 teaspoon
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Pumpkin Pie Filling Ingredients:
(this makes a little more filling than you need)
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
3/8 cup sugar
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 1/8 teaspoons cinnamon*
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg*
1/4 teaspoon ginger*
1/8 teaspoon allspice*
*You could probably substitute a teaspoon or so of pumpkin pie spices for these.

Pecan Streusel Ingredients:
1/8 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/8 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon cold butter
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Maple Brown Sugar Glaze Ingredients:
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon real maple syrup
pinch salt
3/4 – 1 cup powdered sugar
cinnamon for sprinkling

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Make the creamy pumpkin pie filling. In your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until fluffy and smooth. Add the pumpkin, egg, and vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice and mix until combined. Set in fridge while you make your braid.

Toast your pecans. Spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast for about 6 minutes or until fragrant, stirring about halfway through the cook time. Transfer nuts to a plate to cool. Raise oven temperature to 425 degrees F.

Make your pastry dough. In the bowl of a food processor, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the cream cheese and butter into the flour mixture and pulse to cut the fat into the flour (about 6 pulses). Add the milk and almond extract and blend into a loose dough.

Turn the dough onto a sheet of lightly-floured parchment paper and knead very lightly for just 4-5 strokes (be careful not to overwork the dough or it’ll be tough! Don’t worry about getting it smooth — just knead for these few strokes and let it stay a little rough.)

Very lightly flour the top of the dough and place another sheet of parchment paper on top. Between two sheets of parchment paper, roll the dough to an 10- by 12-inch rectangle (I lift the paper off every now and then and flip the dough and repeat on the other side, to ensure the dough isn’t sticking). Remove the top sheet of parchment and discard. Measure and mark the dough lengthwise into thirds. Glop your creamy pumpkin pie filling down the middle third of the dough — try to keep your filling about 1/4 inch from the mark on both sides. I piled it up a bit (not so much that it was overflowing, but plenty!)

Make the streusel topping. Combine the flour and brown sugar in a medium bowl and using two knives or a pastry cutter, cut in the butter until you have crumbly streusel. Mix in 1/4 cup of toasted pecans (save the rest for decorating the finished braid). Sprinkle streusel over top of pumpkin mixture in center of dough. Really pile it on!

Continue assembling the braid (see photos at the bottom of this recipe, which show the process of marking and assembling a raspberry almond braid, for guidance). Make diagonal cuts at 1-inch intervals on each the long sides. Do not cut into the center pumpkin-filled area. Fold strips, first one from one side and then one from the other side in a rotating fashion, over the filling. It will now resemble a braid. Don’t worry if it doesn’t completely hide your filling — it’s actually nice when the filling is peeking out. Use the sheet of parchment to carefully transfer your braid to a baking sheet (at this point, you can brush the pastry with a mixture of 1 beaten egg and a teaspoon of water if you want it darker than mine. I didn’t bother). Bake in the 425 degree oven for 12-15 minutes, until the dough is cooked through, the pumpkin filling is set, and the top is lightly browned. Let the braid cool slightly while you make your glaze.

Make the Maple Brown Sugar Glaze. Combine the butter and milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. When the butter melts, whisk in the brown sugar, syrup, and salt, stirring until the brown sugar melts. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the powdered sugar, starting with 3/4 cup and adding more to thicken per your preference (taste as you go to ensure you don’t oversweeten). Drizzle the glaze over the top of your braid. Sprinkle the braid with toasted pecans and a dusting of cinnamon. Serve immediately. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container and microwave for about 20 seconds to serve.



Example of how to cut and assemble braid.

Other breakfast braids you’ll love:
Raspberry Almond Breakfast Braid
Blueberry Cream Cheese Almond Breakfast Braid

If you liked this post, please:
Subscribe to Willow Bird Baking
Follow Willow Bird Baking on Twitter
Follow Willow Bird Baking on Facebook
Give this post a thumbs up on StumbleUpon


ShareOther ways to share this post with friends!

42 Comments

Filed under other

Sassy Sausage and Hash Brown Breakfast Bake

Things I learned from experience this week:

1. If you give in to the urge to take a nap after around 7pm, your body is going to decide it’s sleeping all night (and it won’t bother to consult with your blaring alarm clock). Drink some more caffeine and push through ’til bedtime.

2. Byrd might be certifiably insane. She now brings me pieces of her kibble to throw. She’ll fetch them once or twice before eating them. It’s gotten to the point where she almost won’t eat her food unless she’s played with it first.

I’m not going to lie; I’ve done this test on her. Just in case.

3. I might be certifiably insane. Because I throw that piece of kibble for her every. single. time.

And not only that, but if I’m paranoid she’s not eating enough, I’ll sit in the floor and feed her dinner to her piece by piece like I’m feeding grapes to a flippin’ Roman emperor.

4. Don’t ever say the word “menopause” to 7th graders. You will never get them back. They’re probably still somewhere doubled over in awkward laughter at this very moment.

5. Middle school children will come up with myriad excuses to be violent with each other. The game of “Punch buggy” has apparently expanded: there’s now “Honda Hit,” “Kia Kick,” “Chevy slap,” “Ford flick,” and “Toyota tap.”

6. There’s some sort of principle at work in the universe where, if you’re running late, the passing lane of the highway will be completely blocked by slow drivers. These lovely folks, instead of passing anyone, will be lackadaisically playing a game of “Tap Your Brakes Unnecessarily at Random Intervals.”

Their cars usually sport obnoxious bumper stickers designed to infuriate you while you almost run into them repeatedly. Today, it was a huge Sponge Bob decal that took up the entire rear window. I could not make this stuff up. I almost ran into them on purpose to wipe that oafish starfish grin off of Patrick’s face.

7. Condiments make everything more fun. Please give me dipping sauce, garnishes, toppings, relishes, creams, pastes, flakes, and herbs. I can’t decide if things actually taste better when they’re all dolled up, or if I just love the assembly process.

8. When you’re putting on your fancy dress and high heels, googling librettos, driving downtown, paying for parking, and running full-tilt to make it on time to your very first opera (Carmen, in case you’re wondering), do be sure to check the date on the tickets first. Turns out there was no chance of Mike and I arriving late, considering the opera is next week. We ate Lebanese food in our fancy clothes instead.

9. Always order extra tahini. See #7.

10. Breakfast is one of the best parts of the day. Sometimes I go to sleep early specifically to get to breakfast sooner. And I think you need to go to sleep RIGHT FLIPPIN’ NOW to get to this Sassy Sausage and Hash Brown Breakfast Bake ASAP.

This casserole is super easy, can be prepared in advance, and is one of the best sorts of breakfast to wake up to: hearty, spicy, warm, comforting, and filling. And one you can serve with lots of condiments.

What did you learn from your experiences this week?

Sassy Sausage and Hash Brown Breakfast Bake



Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking
Yields: 9 servings

Oh, this breakfast casserole is perfect. The slight heat of the peppers, sausage, and cayenne pepper are the perfect complement to the layers crisp hash browns and cheese. It’ll fill you with warmth and satisfaction on a cold autumn morning. Since it can be prepared days in advance and popped into the oven when you wake up, it’s perfect for brunches or family breakfasts where you’d rather not be trapped in the kitchen for hours!

Ingredients:
4 cups frozen shredded hash brown potatoes
16 ounces hot sausage
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup finely chopped green and red peppers
1/2 clove minced garlic
minced jalapeno to taste (I used about 1/2 teaspoon)
1 cup shredded, sharp cheddar cheese
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
dash paprika
salt and pepper to taste
Toppings: sour cream, diced jalapenos, hot sauce, salsa, chopped green onions, and some fresh cilantro or parsley

Directions:
Grease an 8-inch square baking pan and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (if you’re baking the casserole on the same day). In a large skillet over medium-high heat, crumble and cook the sausage until completely browned and cooked through. Remove the sausage to a paper-towel lined plate to drain. Discard all but a couple of teaspoons of its grease.

Place peppers, jalapenos, and onions into the skillet and toss to coat them with the grease. Sauté them for a few minutes until they’re soft and the onions are beginning to turn translucent. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, stirring constantly, until it’s fragrant. Remove this mixture to the paper-towel lined plate with the sausage.

Add a couple of teaspoons of olive oil to the skillet. Brown the hash browns in batches by spreading out about a third of them over the bottom of the skillet in a flat layer. Cover the skillet and let them cook without stirring for around 10 minutes (double check the directions on your hash browns package). When one side is browned, flip the hash browns and brown the other side. Remove these to a separate paper-towel lined place. Continue until all hash browns are browned.

Place half of the hash browns into the baking pan in an even layer. Top with half of the sausage, peppers, and onions mixture and 1/2 cup of cheese. Repeat these layers once more. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, evaporated milk, cayenne pepper, paprika, salt and pepper. Pour this mixture evenly over the hash brown casserole and cover it with aluminum foil. You can refrigerate the casserole overnight at this point or bake immediately. If you refrigerate it, let it sit out at room temperature while the oven preheats.

Bake the casserole for around 50 minutes before removing the foil and baking an additional 10-15 minutes. Let the casserole cool for 10 minutes before serving it with sour cream, diced jalapenos, hot sauce, salsa, green onions, and some fresh cilantro or parsley.

If you liked this post, please:
Subscribe to Willow Bird Baking
Follow Willow Bird Baking on Twitter
Follow Willow Bird Baking on Facebook
Give this post a thumbs up on StumbleUpon


ShareOther ways to share this post with friends!

24 Comments

Filed under other

Coffee Mousse Filled Doughnuts

Remember these?

What you may not remember (because, um, I didn’t tell you) is that the lovely Maple Bacon Doughnuts aren’t the only avant garde doughnuts in town. (Can you describe a doughnut as avant garde? I call poetic license.)

Introducing Coffee Mousse Filled Doughnuts!

Much like their Maple Bacon cousins, these dreamboats are capitalizing on a quintessential breakfast pairing. The puffy, fried orbs are filled with a sweet coffee mousse and topped with either melted chocolate or rolled in powdered sugar. Serve them alone, or combine them with Maple Bacon doughnuts for a breakfast extravaganza!

What’s your favorite doughnut filling?

Coffee Mousse Filled Doughnuts



Recipe by: Doughnuts adapted from Cherry Tea Cakes, mousse adapted from coffee pastry cream by Rebecca Franklin
Yield: about 12 3-inch doughnuts

Doughnut Ingredients:
1 0.25-ounce package yeast
2 tablespoons hot water, roughly 110 degrees in temperature
3/4 cups milk, scalded (heated to a slight simmer-not a boil) and cooled
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons shortening
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
melted chocolate and/or powdered sugar for topping
vegetable oil for frying

Coffee Mousse Filling Ingredients:
1 ¼ cups whole milk
2 teaspoons instant coffee granules
3 egg yolks
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon gelatin

Directions: Make the doughnut dough: Dissolve the yeast in warm water in the bowl of your stand mixer, and then let it sit for about 5 minutes. The yeast should foam to show that it’s active. Beat in milk, sugar, salt, eggs, shortening, and 1 cup flour (scraping down bowl when needed). Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes to fully combine. Mix in remaining flour completely. Cover this dough and let it rise in a draft-free place (I warm my oven for a few seconds on 200 degrees just to get the chill out — make sure it’s not hot! — and then put my dough in there to rise) until doubled, about 50-60 minutes.

Make the Coffee Mousse: While the dough is rising, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, flour, and cornstarch until the mixture is completely smooth and set aside. Place the milk in a saucepan and sprinkle gelatin over it. Let it soften for 2 minutes before adding the coffee granules and setting the saucepan over low heat. Heat until it’s just hot enough to steam, stirring the gelatin in to dissolve.

Once the milk is steaming, add half of it, whisking constantly, to the egg mixture to temper the eggs (this ensures they won’t cook when you add them to the hot mixture). Add the milk and eggs back into the hot milk and continue stirring, and heat it for 1-2 minutes, until the custard reaches 170 F on a digital thermometer and is very thick. Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla extract, and set the pan in a bowl of ice water, stirring every few minutes. Cool completely in this manner.

In the meantime, whip the cream in a chilled bowl until it holds stiff peaks. When the coffee mixture is cool, mix about 1/3 of the cream into it.

Make your doughnuts: Flour a surface well and turn your doughnut dough out onto it, flouring the dough as well. Gently roll the dough out to 1/2-inch thick and cut into solid rounds with a 3-inch cooking cutter. Place each round on a baking sheet and let these rise until doubled, about 30-45 minutes. About 25 minutes into their rise time, start heating your oil in a heavy, deep stock pot to 350 degrees F on a candy/fry thermometer.

Fry your doughnuts: Gently lower 2-3 doughnuts at a time into hot oil with a slotted spoon. Fry about 1 minute on each side or until golden brown. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain.

Assemble doughnuts: Melt some chocolate and/or prepare a plate of powdered sugar to coat doughnuts. Use a chopstick or butter knife to poke into each doughnut and “sweep” gently to create a pocket. Pipe mousse into each doughnut using a piping bag. Then dip them in the chocolate or roll in the powdered sugar. Best eaten the same day.

If you liked this post, please:
Subscribe to Willow Bird Baking
Follow Willow Bird Baking on Twitter
Follow Willow Bird Baking on Facebook
Give this post a thumbs up on StumbleUpon


ShareOther ways to share this post with friends!

28 Comments

Filed under other

Maple Bacon Doughnuts

My mom trudged through four years of college with four kids to earn her nursing degree (and graduated magna cum laude, she will promptly — and repeatedly — inform you).

Her job as a nurse left her with little time or energy to spend on being an extraordinary entertainer, something she’s always had an innate talent for. One day as a small girl, though, I went to forage in the kitchen and found her frantically frying doughnuts.

There was literally a multi-tiered tower of doughnuts on the kitchen table. There were more doughnuts bouncing around in hot oil on the stove. There were pale, puffy rings on the counter waiting for their turn in the stock pot.

And then there was little Julie in the middle of the madness — and I was all about eating some doughnuts.

Mom immediately shattered my doughnut devouring dreams, though, explaining that her friends from work were on their way to discuss some adultish, worky things, and that the doughnuts were for them. I had thoughts of launching an all-out siege à la Hyperbole and a Half, but managed to control myself.

When the ladies arrived, Mom was somehow curled and coiffed, standing in a clean kitchen, and wearing a cute outfit. The tower of doughnuts beckoned enthusiastically from the table as she invited each of her friends to sit and poured them coffee. I watched in eager anticipation, certain they were about to notice the doughnuts and react with appropriate awe.

But they didn’t.

No worries. My mom would offer them the doughnuts in a moment, and they were probably just waiting on that polite social cue to reveal their utter amazement. Sure enough, she gestured toward one of tiers resplendent with multicolored rings, saying, “Would you like a doughnut?” But the unthinkable happened.

“Oh, no thanks.”

That’s right. Those ladies did not eat a single doughnut. They were dieting, or they weren’t hungry, or some such something.

My mom carried on warm conversation, refilling their coffee like nothing had happened. Like fresh homemade doughnuts just appeared on her kitchen table any old day! Like she hadn’t just spent literally hours making them from scratch!

At 7 or 8 years old, I was not so deft a hostess. I sort of wanted to grab one of those ladies by both shoulders and give her a good shaking, screaming, “SHE MADE YOU HOMEMADE DOUGHNUTS, WOMAN!” I had seen Mom’s hours of hard work, and I was heartbroken for her.

The ladies left before too long, having accomplished their adulty, workish business, and the doughnuts still sat undisturbed on the table. I could tell Mom was sad about it, despite my assurances that I would both eat and enjoy every last one.

Seriously, who turns down a homemade doughnut?! In fact, who turns down ANY version of a yeast doughnut?! (Those cakey things are another story altogether; you’ll have to forgive my obvious bias.)

Indeed, Mike’s mom told me a story years ago about when she was in school. She and her friends would wait for the “Hot Doughnuts Now” sign to come on at the nearby Krispy Kreme, drive over, and eat a dozen doughnuts each. That’s the power of a yeast doughnut. (And youthful metabolism).

Well, in honor of my mother and doughnut lovers everywhere, I made a variety of filled doughnuts last weekend. I’m still tweaking my super secret version — and will share it soon, along with a great little trick for using yeast dough scraps — but this flavor combination I found on Cherry Tea Cakes had me immediately intrigued. Maple Bacon Doughnuts!

They don’t just sound amazing; they are amazing! And even though it may seem like a trendy flavor combination, these are not simply novelty doughnuts — they taste flippin’ awesome. They’re pillows of salty-sweet, doughnut-pancake, breakfast-dessert heaven. I feel like I should be confused, but I’m not. I just want another one.

While we’re talking doughnuts, we might as well jump in the fray: Are you a cake doughnut or yeast doughnut person?

Maple Bacon Doughnuts



Recipe by: Adapted from Cherry Tea Cakes
Yield: about 12 3-inch doughnuts

Doughnut Ingredients:
1 0.25-ounce package yeast
2 tablespoons hot water, roughly 110 degrees in temperature
3/4 cups milk, scalded (heated to a slight simmer-not a boil) and cooled
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons shortening
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
vegetable oil for frying

Maple Mousse Filling Ingredients:
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
2 large egg yolks
11 1/4 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
3/4 cup whipping cream

Maple Glaze Ingredients:
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons bacon grease/melted butter
1 cups powdered sugar
5-6 tablespoons maple syrup
about 1/2 pound bacon, for topping

Directions: Make the doughnut dough: Dissolve the yeast in warm water in the bowl of your stand mixer, and then let it sit for about 5 minutes. The yeast should foam to show that it’s active. Beat in milk, sugar, salt, eggs, shortening, and 1 cup flour (scraping down bowl when needed). Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes to fully combine. Mix in remaining flour completely. Cover this dough and let it rise in a draft-free place (I warm my oven for a few seconds on 200 degrees just to get the chill out — make sure it’s not hot! — and then put my dough in there to rise) until doubled, about 50-60 minutes.

Make the Maple Mousse: While the dough is rising, bring maple syrup to a boil over medium-high heat. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg yolks. Pour about 1/4 cup of the hot maple syrup into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, to temper them and be sure they won’t cook from the heat. Then whisk the egg yolks into the maple syrup. Whisk constantly until the mixture reaches about 170 degrees F on a candy thermometer. In a separate bowl, measure out 1/4 cup of the whipping cream and sprinkle the gelatin over it to soften. Let it sit for about 5 minutes before mixing a couple of tablespoons of the warm syrup mixture in and stirring to dissolve the gelatin. You can heat for 10 seconds at a time, stirring between each, to ensure the gelatin is dissolved. Whisk this mixture into the syrup mixture, and then whisk it occasionally for the next hour while it cools.

Beat the remaining cream to soft peaks. Stir about a third of it into your now-cool maple syrup mixture to lighten it, and then gently fold the remaining cream into it. Refrigerate for at least an hour while you complete the rest of the components.

Make your doughnuts: Flour a surface well and turn your doughnut dough out onto it, flouring the dough as well. Gently roll the dough out to 1/2-inch thick and cut into solid rounds with a 3-inch cooking cutter. Place each round on a baking sheet and let these rise until doubled, about 30-45 minutes. About 25 minutes into their rise time, start heating your oil in a heavy, deep stock pot to 350 degrees F on a candy/fry thermometer.

Cook bacon topping: Preheat oven to 400 degrees (only once your doughnuts aren’t in there rising!) Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and lay your bacon slices out side by side. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon to a paper towel lined plate, reserving the bacon grease in a small bowl. When cool, crumble bacon up.

Fry your doughnuts: Gently lower 2-3 doughnuts at a time into hot oil with a slotted spoon. Fry about 1 minute on each side or until golden brown. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain.

Make the Maple Bacon Glaze: Add enough melted butter to your bacon grease to make it 2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons worth. Whisk this together with the confectioner’s sugar until combined. Add maple syrup one tablespoon at a time until you reach desired consistency. Set aside.

Assemble doughnuts: Use a chopstick or butter knife to poke into each doughnut and “sweep” gently to create a pocket. Pipe mousse into each doughnut using a piping bag. Then dip them in the glaze and sprinkle cooked bacon on top. Best eaten the same day.

If you liked this post, please:
Subscribe to Willow Bird Baking
Follow Willow Bird Baking on Twitter
Follow Willow Bird Baking on Facebook
Give this post a thumbs up on StumbleUpon


ShareOther ways to share this post with friends!

81 Comments

Filed under other

Homemade Croissant Phototutorial

Croissants are not just pastries to me. They’re not just two days worth of work, careful rolling, and dough laminating. They’re not just butter-laden, flaky bits of heaven.

Croissants represent the mission of Willow Bird Baking: to inspire home cooks to build their kitchen confidence by repeatedly tackling challenging new recipes. In July, I issued the Croissant Challenge where I asked home cooks who had never made homemade croissants before to whip up a batch. Many croissant newbies jumped at the challenge and became Croissant Masters (see their work here: page 1, 2, 3). Their enthusiasm confirmed for me that successfully taking on a challenging recipe can be an exhilarating, satisfying, galvanizing experience.

Thank you so much for voting me through to Project Food Blog Challenge #4 to create a phototutorial. Now it’s time for me to turn the tables on you — because I’m not only completing a challenge, I’m issuing a challenge.

Will you join the proud group to have mastered croissants? No matter your skill level or experience, you can do it, and I’m here to help. If you’re willing to commit to croissant, leave a comment below! Let’s walk through my (slightly ridiculous) version of the process together.











































































Willow Bird Baking is a contestant in Project Food Blog, a contest comprised of a series of 10 challenges to find the next food blog star. Voting for Challenge #4 is now open! To vote for this Croissant Tutorial, register for a Foodbuzz account. Once you’re registered, sign in and go here. To vote, click the heart next to the words “Vote for this Entry.” I am so grateful for your support!


If you liked this post, please:
Subscribe to Willow Bird Baking
Follow Willow Bird Baking on Twitter
Follow Willow Bird Baking on Facebook
Give this post a thumbs up on StumbleUpon


ShareOther ways to share this post with friends!

165 Comments

Filed under other

Blueberry Stuffed French Toast Bowls

This is a two-post kind of day, y’all. You don’t mind, do you?

Good. Because this recipe involves some of my favorite things: French toast, blueberries, and cream cheese. Oh my goodness, I love cream cheese.

Nature’s Pride bread is an official sponsor of the Foodbuzz Blogger Festival this year, and as such, they issued a challenge to Featured Publishers to create a recipe using their products. I want to go to San Francisco as much as anyone, so I decided to give it a go. I pondered and brainstormed and debated and considered until, finally, I decided that I couldn’t think of a creative recipe and I gave up.

What? Don’t look at me like that! I was planning a ginormous dinner party, after all; cut me some slack!

It bothered me, though. When I was picking up supplies for the dinner party, I stuck some marshmallow cream and peanut butter in my basket, thinking perhaps I’d make a chocolate-covered fluffernutter. It still didn’t seem original enough, however, and in the shower this morning before church, I had almost convinced myself to give up again — when it hit me.

I’d already thought of and rejected stuffed French toast because sandwich bread is sliced too thin to cut open and stuff. Someone did it last year with two slices of bread, but I wouldn’t want to replicate something that had been that’d already been done.

Sometime between shampooing and conditioning, I realized that I could bake French toast into sweet little breakfast cups and fill them instead of stuffing them. They’d be topped with fresh berries with some maple syrup on the side for drizzling or dipping. Suddenly, a breakfast star was born.

There were still some obstacles — like how to create the French toast cups. In my first attempt, I dipped the bread into the custard and placed it uncooked into the muffin tin. I can’t really even describe the outcome, but they were something like soggy, bulbous custard balloons. Not San Francisco-worthy.

But my second attempt? Save me a seat on the trolley, because they were amazing! In this version, I cooked my French toast completely before cooling it and baking it into French toast cups. I then filled it with the sweetened cream cheese filling and berries to finish the dish.

Here’s hoping I win a trip to San Francisco to schmooze with some of my food blog faves, and that YOU make some stuffed French Toast Bowls immediately! Mike just polished off the last one for dessert, and if his reaction is any indication, you won’t regret it.

Blueberry Stuffed French Toast Bowls



Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, with inspiration from Alton Brown
Yield: 8 bowls, or about 4 servings

Ingredients:
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons honey, microwaved for 20 seconds (but not while still IN THE BEAR, y’all!)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 slices day-old or stale sandwich bread (I used Nature’s Pride Honey Wheat Bread)
4 tablespoons butter
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
4 tablespoons sugar
blueberries
maple syrup, for serving

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In medium bowl, whisk together the milk, cream, eggs, honey, cinnamon, and salt (this step can be done the night before and refrigerated). When you’re ready to cook your French toast, pour this mixture into a cake pan or pie dish.

Prepare your bread: remove crusts and roll with a rolling pin to slightly flatten. Dip the bread into your custard mixture for about 8-10 seconds on each side before carefully removing it with a spatula to a cooling rack over a sheet pan. Allow excess moisture to drain off of the slices for 1-2 minutes.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat in a skillet. Put 2 slides of bread at a time into the pan to toast gently to golden brown (about 2-3 minutes per side). Remove the French toast to a cooling rack to cool completely. Repeat with all slices of bread.

While French toast cools, make your stuffing mixture by combining cream cheese and sugar into a bowl and mixing until fluffy. (When I tasted this at first, it was grainy, but then the sugar seemed to dissolve. I was going to suggest using confectioners’ sugar instead, but since the graininess was completely gone when we ate it, I don’t think there’s a need). Set aside.

Take each piece of cooled French toast and gently tuck into the well of a greased muffin tin, forming a bowl. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10-12 minutes, watching carefully. Pull them out of the oven and allow the bowls to cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes. Remove them to cool on a cooling rack (the first time I did this, they started to fall apart because I pulled them out of the oven too soon, so I baked them a little longer and they were perfect). Once cool, fill them with the cream cheese mixture, top with berries, and serve with maple syrup for dipping.

Note: As part of Foodbuzz’s Tastemaker program, I received a coupon for a free package of Nature’s Pride Bread. But, um, actually I left it in my mailbox, so I bought this loaf with my own money. So I don’t know why I’m telling you this. Except that I may snag the coupon now and use it for another loaf to make hummus sandwiches. Ahem.

If you liked this post, please:
Subscribe to Willow Bird Baking
Follow Willow Bird Baking on Twitter
Follow Willow Bird Baking on Facebook
Give this post a thumbs up on StumbleUpon


ShareOther ways to share this post with friends!

28 Comments

Filed under other