Pumpkin French Toast

I love french toast. Every time I went on vacation as a kid, I would always order that for breakfast as long as it was on the menu. I have enjoyed french toast in many a state. Some of the best french toast I have had has not come while on vacation, but after a hard day of work. I have been spending a lot of time making pumpkin recipes this fall this month so I can re-shoot some of the photos. I am a better photographer and I have a better camera than in fall pasts. One of the recipes I re-did was for pumpkin yeast rolls and bread. I thought since I have already made the loaf, why not create a new recipe out of it? I needed something for dinner, and we like doing breakfast for dinner once a week as the kids love it. French toast seemed like the perfect option. I decided to do dress up our normal bread dip with of course – pumpkin!

Pumpkin French Toast

In order to make the best french toast there are a few things you need to follow.

1. Stale bread – If the bread is stale it will better absorb the batter. Now I made my bread the same day I made the french toast, so that didn’t give me a lot of time for it to stale. So what I did as soon as I could I sliced up my loaf and let it be exposed to area. This helped enough for the bread to absorb the batter.

2. Use half and half – A lot of recipes call for using milk in the batter. I say forget that and go all out using half and half. Yes it adds more fat but aren’t we making the best french toast here? Don’t so as crazy as to go with heavy cream. You don’t want the bread to be too heavy.

3. Give the bread sometime – Let the bread have a moment to soak in the batter. Often people just dunk it and take right back out. Give it a minute. Your patience will be rewarded.

Cooking Recommendation
Whenever I cook french toast or pancakes, we always bust out the Electric Griddle. It’s wide surface helps us cook more at once. Yes a frying pan will do but you will spend a lot more time cooking when that time can be spend eating. They aren’t very expensive, so I highly recommend picking one up if you don’t have one. I am not one to just litter my kitchen with small appliances, but this one is worth.


Pumpkin French Toast
 
Ingredients
  • 1 large loaf of bread, cut into slices (12 to 16 slices)
  • 8 eggs
  • ¾ cup half and half
  • ⅔ cup pureed pumpkin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • pinch of salt
  • butter for the griddle
  • real maple syrup for serving
Instructions
  1. Heat up an electric griddle to it's highest setting.
  2. Rub some butter onto the griddle.
  3. Place the eggs, half and half, pumpkin, spices, and salt in a large, wide container.
  4. Allow each slice of bread a minute or two to soak up the liquid before placing onto the griddle.
  5. Cook until browned on each side, about 2 to 3 minutes per side.
  6. To keep warm, place in a oven set to it's lowest temperature.

 

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Red White Blue Sweet Jam Rolls

Happy Independence Day! Today is all about the red, white, and blue. I wanted to have a nice food photo of something with those iconic colors that hopefully will make the rounds on Pinterest today (thanks for stopping by, Pinners!). I need a blue food. Of course blueberries came to mind. What could be more American? Blueberries are native to our land. They were growing here back on the fateful day in 1776. Although they do turn more purple when cooked, it’s close enough. For something red, why not strawberries, especially considering I have a batch of strawberry jam made from fresh Michigan berries. And what’s my favorite baked treat – the cinnamon roll. Only today to celebrate this great day in American history, I am going to replace the cinnamon sugar filling with some homemade jam.

This recipe is enough for 18 rolls. I put 12 of them in my largest glass baking dish, alternating between strawberry and blueberry filled. The other 6 I used in a round cake pan. For those I filled with some pluot jam I made but you can use more strawberry or blueberry. Raspberry or cherry jam would also fit into the Fourth of July color scheme.

Red, White, & Blue Sweet Jam Rolls
 
Ingredients
For the dough
  • 2 cups very warm water (not too warm to burn your hand though)
  • 2 tablespoons dry yeast
  • ⅔ cup instant nonfat dry milk
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ½ cup softened butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 4 to 4 ½ cups all-purpose flour
For the filing
  • 2 cups combined of strawberry, raspberry, or blueberry jam
For the icing
  • juice of 1 half lemon
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • water for thinning
Instructions
  1. Start by combining the warm water and the yeast. Give the yeast about 5 minutes to proof. You should easily be able to smell the yeast.
  2. Add the dry milk, sugar, and salt.
  3. Then add the butter and egg. Fully incorporated.
  4. Then add the flour about a cup at a time until you have a soft dough that isn't too sticky.
  5. Knead the dough either by hand or with a stand mixer.
  6. Cover with a clean towel and allow to rise for about an hour or until doubled in size. Finding the warmest spot in your kitchen to place your dough will give you the quickest results.
  7. Now cut the dough into three equal pieces. I like to do this with a bench or pastry scrapper.
  8. Roll each piece of dough into a rectangle.
  9. Spread the 1 type of jam out, leaving some room around the edges. You don't need to go super thick.
  10. Then roll the dough up tightly forming a log. Cut the log into 6 equal pieces. Repeat with the other 2 pieces of dough, using a different jam in each dough or the same one twice. I estimate about 2 cups of jam will be needed. I didn't actually measure it out when I made them.
  11. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Place the rolls into a baking dish that you have sprayed with a bit of oil.
  12. Allow the rolls about 20-30 minutes to rise before baking them. Bake time is about 15-20 minutes. The edges should turn brown and sound hollow if you tap on them.
To make the icing
  1. Mix the lemon juice with the powdered sugar. Slowly add water until you get the desired consistency.

 

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Parsnip Muffins

The struggle of many a parent. A kid who won’t eat her vegetables. I have a major battle with my 2-year old daughter who doesn’t want to eat any vegetables. We struggle to even get her to eat corn, which seems to be the kid’s vegetable of choice. We have to think of unique ways to get the nutrients of veggies into her. On one of the later episodes of Alton Brown’s Good Eats, we does a show on how to hide parsnips in a variety of dishes. I have been looking to try out his parsnip muffin recipe for a while and finally got to it this week. Visit Food Network’s website to print out the recipe. You will find my notes from this recipe below.

1. The recipe calls for almonds on top. Not a fan, so I left them out.

2. The recipe also calls for 10 ounces of grated parsnips. When I got done grating them, I only had 9oz, so I had to use 1oz of grated carrot. I don’t think this took away from the parsnip flavor in the muffins.

3. It is important that you use freshly grated nutmeg. The flavor is so much better than something that has been already grounded and been sitting in a container for who knows who long. I like to grate my nutmeg with a Microplane Grater. It’s a very useful tool that comes in a handy a ton in the kitchen.

4. When selecting parsnips, try to pick ones that aren’t huge clubs you could knock someone out with. I believe the smaller ones taste better and are less woody. It might be harder to grate but worth your effort.

5. Make sure you spray the muffin tin while or these suckers will stick.

6. Alton says baking time is about 20-25 minutes. I clocked in right in the middle of that with 22 minutes.

It took me a while to get around to this recipe but it was worth the wait. The flavor of the parsnip really stood out – the licorice/anise flavor along with the spice that nutmeg provided was a home run. The muffins were moist too. I would take these any day over a carrot muffin, I do love my carrots. My 2-year old devoured one. Little did she know that she just got some veggies in her system!

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Hash – the combination of potatoes along with any ingredient you find in your fridge, cooked to perfection in a frying pan (hopefully cast iron). I saw a recipe for a Salami, Bacon, and Spinach Hash on a recent episode of Giada at Home. My wife saw it and wanted to try it out for dinner last night (and save the leftovers for lunches this week). I got the ingredients and got cooking.

Here are my notes from the recipe. You can print out the recipe at Food Network’s website.

1. You might have noticed in the title, I missed the bacon. We decided to just go with one meat, we thought two was a bit much for our liking and our wallet. But it would be a good way to use up some extra bacon.

2. For the salami we choose Busseto Green Peppercorn Salami. It was the best value and since we only needed 5 oz, we would have 3 oz leftover for later use. My wife thought it was pretty delicious!

3. I pulled out my favorite Lodge Cast Iron frying pan for this recipe. It heats up quickly and cook everything evenly.

4. I made more potatoes that I needed. I figured the kids might like to eat some apart from the hash. I wish I had some bacon fat thought, that would have added flavor to the potatoes that I missed by omitting the bacon.

5. For the spinach, I didn’t use baby spinach, which I normally like, but the bundle of larger spinach leaves was cheaper. Would be nice to use fresh spinach from the garden, which you can grow this time of year.

6. I enjoyed putting everything all together. The mix of colors was nice, especially after adding the 4 eggs. This was the first time I had cooked eggs like this before. The whites weren’t setting up as quickly as I would have liked (I forget to bring the eggs to room temp first which would have helped them cook quicker). I ended up throwing the whole thing in the oven for just a couple minutes to finish it off. My oven was already on cooking the breakfast popovers Giada also made in this episode. You could also cover with a lid to cook after, but I don’t have a lid for this pan.

My wife really enjoyed this dish and can’t wait to enjoy as leftovers for lunch this week. She really though the bell pepper played well with the eggs and spinach.

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I was first introduced to the popover by Alton Brown. I liked that it was an easy way to get your dinner bread fix without having to roll out biscuit dough or wait for yeast to do it’s thing. Plenty of times I have filled them with things like butter, honey, and lemon curd. But all those things I added come service time. I never thought about including a filling while they are cooking. That is until I saw a new episode of Giada at Home this weekend. She added cheese and sausage to her popovers. Just had to try this concept out. Here are my notes from this recipe, which you can print off at Food Network’s website.

1. The key to making the best popovers is having a popover pan. They are deeper than you standard 12-cup muffin pan which Giada does say you can use. I own a 6-cup popover pan and I believe it was worth the money. I bought mine at Cost Plus World Market for a pretty good price.

2. I had to adjust my filling portions since I was using a 6-cup pan instead of a 12-cup. I just eyeballed how much sausage I used and how much cheese.

3. For the cheese, I chose some mild brick cheese, that I shredded myself. It melts mozzarella but packs a bit more flavor.

4. For the sausage, I bought some bulk breakfast sausage at the meat counter at my local grocery store. I didn’t see the reason to spend more money on links when I was just going to break them up anyway, not to mention the extra step of removing the casings.

5. I liked the addition of basil to the batter. Gave it a nice herbal element.

6. I don’t like green onions so I decided to leave them out of my batter.

7. Mine finished in about the same time as hers 35 minutes.

8. Adding the maple syrup when serving them is a must. That little bit of sweetness and the maple flavor itself is what really brings this dish alive.

I was very happy with the way these turned out. It’s got me thinking about adding other things to the pan before baking. Maybe some cubed ham or some diced apples with some cinnamon and nutmeg. So pop on over again soon to see what I came up with (I know that was a really bad pun, but I had to!).

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Using fruit that is in season that you buy either directly from the farm or pick yourself at a farm is one of my favorite things to do. Combine two different fruits in one recipe and now we are talking. I picked up some Red Haven peaches from the farmer’s market yesterday. Today I went blueberry picking. I was inspired earlier in the week. My wife and I were celebrating our 8th anniversary with a visit to Cracker Barrel. My wife ordered multigrain pancakes containing blueberries served with whole blackberries and topped with raspberry syrup. We took that idea and made some blueberry pancakes with a homemade peach syrup.

As for the flour I used for the pancakes, I opted for Spelt flour. Spelt is a grain that has been around for centuries. It was the precursor to our modern day wheat. It has a tougher husk. The flavor is nutty. Even though it was replaced with easier to grow on a large scale wheat varieties, Spelt has being making a comeback due to it’s health benefits. It contains more protein and other added health benefits. You can find it in health food stores and places that sell Bob’s Red Mill products. To add a bit of crunch to the pancakes, I also added a bit of stone ground corn meal. I weighed the flour out as my policy that flour measurements are more accurate when weighted.

The peach syrup is pretty easy to make. Just peaches and some simple syrup. You have the choice of going smooth or chunky. I choose chunky, so all I needed to do was chop the peaches. If you want something smooth pureed the peaches before adding them to the simple syrup.

When it comes time to cook them, I did so on my electric griddle. It’s so quick and easy to cook pancakes on a griddle. They are cheap to so if you don’t have one and cook pancakes often, it’s worth your investment.

Electric GriddleLadleKitchen Food Scale

Blueberry Spelt Pancakes with Peach Syrup
Breakfast
 
Ingredients
For the pancakes
  • 6.50 oz spelt flour
  • .50 oz medium grind corn meal
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1¾ cups buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
For the peach syrup
  • 2 cups fresh peaches, chopped or pureed
  • 1 cup simple syrup (1 cup water + 1 cup sugar)
Instructions
To make the peach syrup
  1. Chop 2 cups of fresh peaches. Either puree them or let them as is for a chunky syrup.
  2. Bring 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar to a boil. Stir to dissolve all the sugar.
  3. Add the peaches. Reduce the heat and simmer until it's the constancy of maple syrup. Make sure to stir often. Set aside.
To make the pancakes
  1. Combine the flour, corn meal, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a mixing bowl.
  2. Measure out the buttermilk and add the melted butter to it. Stir to combine.
  3. Then add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Stir to just combine. Don't over mix. Allow the batter to sit for 10 minutes to give time to hydrate the flour.
  4. Heat your electric griddle to 350 degrees. When ready ladle some batter onto the griddle. Place some blueberries right down into the batter. Use whatever amount you like.
  5. Cook until bubbles form around the edge, then flip. Cook 2 to 3 more minutes until the pancakes are set. Repeat until you use up all the batter. The amount of pancakes you get depends on how much your portion out.

 

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Your Christmas party is over and you find yourself with a fridge full of leftover egg nog that you could not possibly drink before it goes bad. A great way to use it is to make some french toast. French toast is all about leftovers. It was originally invented as a way to use leftover bread. You replace the milk or half and half you use in your normal french toast recipe with the same amount of egg nog. Or you could follow the recipe we used in our house below. I like using the brioche loaves that I received from working at Zingerman’s Bakehouse in Ann Arbor, MI. You could also use challah or any day old or stale country loaf. I know a lot of people just use standard pre-sliced sandwich bread. Problem with those breads are they are usually sliced too thin and the preservatives in the bread keep the bread moist, which is not what we want for good french toast.

Ingredients
8 eggs
1 1/2 cups egg nog
1 1/2 pound loaf of brioche (day old or stale)
butter

Mix the eggs and egg nog into a wide baking dish. Place the slices into the baking dish to soak for 30 seconds at a time for each side. I like to use my electric griddle to cook my french toast. You can make more toast in less time that way. Just spread some butter on the surface and cook each piece about 2-3 minutes per side. Serve with some real maple syrup (it’s the only way to go!).

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Alton Brown's Sweet Crepes 1 It’s amazing how many different things you can do with flour when you combine it with some liquid, some eggs, and some dairy. One thing I had not done with this combination of ingredients yet is to make crepes. So as I do quite often I turned to Alton Brown. I followed his recipe for making sweet crepes. The whole idea to make the crepes came when looking for a way to deliver Nutella, a chocolate hazelnut spread to my family’s mouths. Below you will find my notes from this recipe. For the full recipe, visit Food Network’s website.

1. Alton offers a sweet and savory variation on his crepe recipe. So since I was going for a dessert crepe I opted for the sweet variation. This involved the addition of some sugar and vanilla extract. Alton Brown's Sweet Crepes 2

2. The key to making good crepes is to let the batter sit for 1 hour, so the flour can completely hydrate.

3. I cooked the crepes in a 8-inch non stick pan.

4. Alton says often the first crepe you make doesn’t come out right. We found this to be true. But once you get the pan temperature right and your technique down, they come out looking great. Just have the patience to develop your technique.

Alton Brown's Sweet Crepes 3 When done, we spread some Nutella on them and they were absolutely delicious. The crepes had a wonderful texture. I am looking forward to trying this again, but this time testing out a homemade Nutella recipe. It will also be good to spread some homemade jam on these.

Recipe Grade: A-

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Bobby Flay's Blue Cornmeal Pancakes Ever get tired of the same old pancakes? Do you make pancakes from a box? If your answers are yes, then you should give this recipe for Blue Cornmeal Pancakes a try. This is a Bobby Flay recipe. This is the first time I have given one of this recipes a try. Below I will share with you my experience from trying this recipe. For the full recipe, visit Food Network’s website.

1. Blue cornmeal has it’s own unique flavor. I have used it before to make cornmeal muffins. It added a nice dimension of flavor to those muffins and to these pancakes. I like the cornmeal sold by Bob’s Red Mill. It’s stone ground, so it has more character than the generic store brand stuff.

2. Bobby added blueberries to the pancakes. I usually only buy them during blueberry season, so I just left them out.

3. I used buttermilk as oppose to just regular milk. Mainly because it was about to expire. I often use buttermilk in pancakes. \

4. Bobby says to add a little more milk if the batter was too thick. That was the case with mine, so a little more milk made the batter easier to work with.

5. I cooked my the entire batch in two stages on my electric griddle. An electric griddle makes cooking pancakes a much faster job.

Even thought I changed a couple things, I still could grasp that this is a good recipe. It produced a delicious fluffy pancake. The cornmeal doesn’t overwhelm the flavor, just adds to it. Bobby also made Orange-Honey Butter and Cinnamon Maple Syrup to go along with the pancakes. I didn’t do that this time, but I plan to give those a try in the future.

Recipe Grade: A-

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Homemade Paczki

Every Fat Tuesday, people here in Michigan flock to the grocery store or their very local bakery to pick up their Paczki. In the Eat Like No One Else tradition, I don’t spend a morning in some long line at a bakery nor did I sell out some dough for a box of fattening treats at my local supermarket. I made my own paczki. I would love to post the recipe here, however I got it out out a cookbook and don’t have premission to copy the recipe here. But I can tell you it’s from the wonderful King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion: The All-Purpose Baking Cookbook. I have made them four times now. Some years they came out terrible and some not so terrible. One of the best challenges I have had in the kitchen is with this doughnut. Frying yeast dough comes takes a lot of work and you need everything to go right. I know I am not exactly encouraging head to your kitchen instead of your local bakery.

What is a Paczki?
Simply put it’s a jelly filled doughnut. But it’s more than that. The dough of a true, genuine Paczki is a lot richer than your everyday jelly doughnut. Like I mentioned above it’s commonly eaten once a year on Fat Tuesday, which is the day before the beginning of the Catholic season of Lent. The idea is to use up ingredients you have around the house that you are to fast from during this period. The practice of eating Paczki has a Polish background. Where you find a large population with Polish hertiage, there you will find Paczki. One of the largest populations can be found in Hamtramack, Michigan. So these doughnuts have become a tradition throughout the entire state.

The Challenges of Making a Paczki
Whenever you are dealing with yeast, there can be trouble. If you don’t create enough gluten, the Paczki won’t puff up when fried. You have to be careful how you shape them. You want a nice round ball without any dents or cresses. You don’t want any spot for oil to collect.

Paczki 2 When your paczki are rising make sure they don’t touch and that you oil the bottom of whatever you put them in. As you can see by the picture on the right, I ended up with some of mine touching. You want the paczki to go from their rising location to the oil with as little disruptions as possible. If they are stick somewhere in the pan, then you won’t get that perfectly round shape that is desired. A few of mine weren’t perfectly round all the way over. So next year I will use two pans to make sure this doesn’t happen.

The other challenge is making sure your oil is maintained close to 375 degrees. This is best done in a dutch oven with a deep fry theromemeter. Electric deep fryers aren’t good at maintaining the heat. My theromemeter broke, so I had to use an electric deep fryer and I could not maintain the temperature well. This reason why this is important is you want to cook the paczki as quick as you can so that it doesn’t absorb too much oil.

Paczki 3 Fillings
When it comes to filling a paczki, I don’t stick to the traditions. I used an apple filling that I made with sugar, spices, water, and corn starch. My 3 year old requested strawberry, so I made a strawberry filling using the same process as the apple, without the spices. We also had some homemade peach jam from last summer, so we used that to fill a couple of them.

Final Thoughts
Fried doughs are not for the beginner baker. They are a challenge, but if you can conquer that challenge, the payoff is huge! People will be really impressed.

FAQ
For some reason I am getting a lot of people coming to my site searching for sources of Paczkis in Kansas City. I wish I could help you but this Paczki tradition doesn’t seem to strength that far west.

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I'm Eric. I live in Ann Arbor, MI with my wife, 3 kids, and a flock of ducks. I love grocery shopping, trying new fruits, farmer's market, and traveling.
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