Category Archives: brunch

Pecan Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake

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Coffee cake is a classic that never goes out of style. Tender and crumbly with lots of flavorful cinnamon, and perhaps nuts, coffee cake is the perfect mid-morning snack when served alongside a cup of coffee (hence its name). At least that is what my husband’s co-workers said when they devoured an entire coffee cake in less than 10 minutes.

This recipe comes from King Arthur FlourBecause I was gifted with several pounds of pecans I’ve taken the liberty of adding finely chopped nuts into the streusel topping. I love the toasty crunch they add  to the topping. There are two things that you will immediately notice about this recipe; first it makes a large cake. If you prefer, you can cut the recipe in half then bake it in a single 8″ x 8″ cake pan. (You may need to reduce the baking time slightly). The second thing you will notice is that the recipe does call for a lot of sugar. Disliking anything too sweet, I was initially skeptical about the amounts but much to my delight the cake is not sweet. Instead, the generous amount of cinnamon adds spice and complexity to the cake. So bake the cake, pour yourself a cup of coffee and enjoy.

PECAN CINNAMON STREUSEL COFFEE CAKE

Streusel Topping:

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup toasted pecans, finely chopped

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Filling:
1 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

Cake:
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 large eggs

3/4 cup plain yogurt

1 1/4 cups milk

3 3/4 cups all purpose flour

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a 9 x 13 inch pan with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
  • To make the topping, whisk  together the sugar, salt, flour, and cinnamon.
  • Add the melted butter, stirring till well combined. Set the topping aside.
  • To make the filling, mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon, and cocoa powder in a small bowl Set it aside.
  • To make the cake, use an electric mixer to beat together the butter, salt, granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat well combined and smooth.
  •  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  •  In a separate bowl, whisk together the yogurt and milk till well combined.
  •  Add the flour to the butter mixture alternating with the yogurt and milk mixture, beating gently to combine.
  • Pour half the batter into the prepared pan, spreading all the way to the edges.
  • Sprinkle the filling evenly atop the batter.
  • Spread the remaining batter atop the filling.
  • Use a table knife to gently swirl the filling into the batter. You don’t want to stir the filling into the batter, rather you want to create a ribbon of cinnamon filling throughout the cake.
  • Sprinkle the topping over the batter in the pan.
  • Bake until the cake is dark golden brown around the edges and a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 55 to 60 minutes.
  • Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool for 20 minutes before cutting and serving.
  • Serve cake right from the pan.

Yields 16 pieces

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Cannoli French Toast

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French toast is a breakfast and brunch favorite in my house. There is something about the simple ingredients of bread, eggs and milk that turn what should be a basic meal into something special. But why stop there? These pantry staples are just the jumping off point for endless possibilities of morning culinary fun.

Case in point is this stuffed French toast, adapted from the Noble Pig website that brings a touch of dessert to your morning meal without being overly sweet. The recipe is inspired by classic Italian cream filled dessert of cannoli. I’ve used my own cannoli filling recipe, infused with lemon zest and a touch of Grand Marnier. And to complete the dish, and give you a serving of fruit, I’ve topped the French toast with some of the juicy fresh strawberries that are just beginning to appear in my local markets.

CANNOLI FRENCH TOAST

1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar plus more for dusting

1 cup ricotta cheese

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Pinch nutmeg

3 eggs

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon Grand Marnier, other orange liqueur or vanilla extract

12 slices sandwich bread, crusts removed

1 cup sliced strawberries

  • Sift confectioners’ sugar into a small bowl, then stir in ricotta cheese, lemon zest and nutmeg.
  • In a shallow dish (a cake pan works well), beat the eggs, milk and Grand Marnier.
  • Trim the crusts off 12 slices of sandwich bread and using a rolling pin, roll out the bread to flatten.
  • Place 6 slices of bread on a flat surface then add 1 tablespoon of the ricotta cheese mixture to the center of each slice. Top with the remaining 6 slices of bread.
  • Heat a large non-stick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat.
  • Working in batches, dip the stuffed bread slices in the egg mixture and transfer to the skillet.
  • Cook, turning once, until puffed and golden, about 3 minutes.
  • Dust with more confectioners’ sugar and top with the sliced strawberries before serving.

Serves 6

Ham, Cheese & Asparagus Filled Crepes

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It’s Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

I love this dish. It can be the ultimate leftover meal–if as I do, you have pre-cooked ham and a stash of pre-made crepes sitting in your fridge or freezer–or you can make it completely from scratch. Made with leftovers it is the ideal “Fast Friday” dinner; not so much if you make all of the components from scratch at dinner time, but it is delicious just the same.

I love homemade crepes and when I make them, I usually make a double batch then stash the extra in the freezer for quick meals (like this one). If your crepes are frozen, simply let them defrost in the refrigerator during the day and then they will be ready for assembly once dinner time rolls around. And the ham? My family is a fan of spiral cut hams but even the smallest ones out there produce a lot of meat for a family of three. My solution is to enjoy a meal or two with the meat then cut it off the bone and freeze it for later use. Again, it is perfect for this meal.

To make this extra special, and decadent, top with a spoonful of hollandaise sauce. Now that is good.

HAM, CHEESE & ASPARAGUS STUFFED CREPES

1 bunch asparagus

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

8 crepes

16 slices pre-cooked ham

8 thin slices Gruyere cheese

  • Trim the asparagus and steam until just tender crisp. Drain and rinse under cold water. Set aside.
  • Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large non-stick skillet. Once the butter has melted, add the ham and saute until warmed through. Remove the ham from the skillet but do not clean it.

To assemble the crepes:

  • Lay one crepe on a flat surface and place a slice of cheese in its center.
  • Top with two slices of ham and then three or four spears of asparagus.
  • Fold the bottom quarter of the crepe up towards the center then fold the sides in. You want to form an envelope with its top kept open.
  • Move the filled crepe to a plate and place seam side down.
  • Repeat with the remaining crepes and filling.

To cook the crepes:

  • Melt the remaining butter in the skillet.
  • Working in two batches, place the crepes seam side down in the melted butter and saute for 3-4 minutes.
  • Carefully turn the crepes over and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.

Serves 4

Mini Eggnog Coffee Cakes

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Eggnog is a mainstay of the holiday season but who says you need to only drink it?  These individual sized coffee cakes with a hint of eggnog flavor are the perfect holiday season breakfast treat.  The recipe is adapted from one posted on the Yankee Kitchen Ninja blog and is especially tasty when you use my homemade eggnog recipe.

I made these cakes in one cup miniature bundt pans (shaped like little holiday presents none the less–who knew I even had these in my baking cabinets???) but alternatively you could make a single 9-inch bundt or tube pan.  If you go this route simply increase the baking time to between 50 minutes and one hour.

MINI EGGNOG COFFEE CAKES

For the topping and center layer:

1 1/4 cups chopped walnuts

3 tablespoons white sugar

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

For the cakes:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

14 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 cup homemade eggnog

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Lightly coat an six-cup individual bundt pan with cooking spray.  Set aside.
  • Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.
  • With a mixer, cream the butter and sugar in a medium-sized bowl until light and fluffy.
  • Beat the eggs into the butter and sugar mixture, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  • Reducing the speed to low, beat in one-third of the eggnog mixture.  Add in one-third of the flour mixture and beat just until incorporated.
  • Repeat adding the eggnog and flour until it is all incorporated.
  • Sprinkle half of the nut and sugar mixture over the bottom of the prepared baking pans.
  • Carefully place half of the batter on top of the nuts then sprinkle with the remaining nuts.
  • Spoon in the remaining batter.
  • Bake for 35 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean.
  • Remove the pan from the oven and allow to sit on a wire rack for 15 minutes.  Remove from the pans and allow to cool completely.

Yields:  6 mini coffee cakes

Pumpkin Spice Waffles

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This is for all of you pumpkin fans out there. Specifically anyone who loves the warm and fragrant flavors of cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg combined with their pumpkin. Think pumpkin pie, pumpkin flan or even the flavors of Starbuck’s pumpkin spiced latte. Are you hungry yet? Then try these pumpkin spice waffles from countryliving.com. Filled with rich spices and sweet pumpkin they are sure to jump start even the laziest weekend morning. I love to serve them topped with real maple syrup along with a side of crispy bacon or sausage patties. Now that is what I call the perfect autumn brunch.

PUMPKIN SPICE WAFFLES

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

4 eggs

2 cups buttermilk

1 cup pumpkin puree

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • Preheat a waffle iron.
  • Combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, baking soda, salt and cloves in a large bowl and set aside.
  • Whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, pumpkin purée, sugar, butter, and vanilla in another large bowl until smooth.
  • While whisking, add the flour mixture and blend until smooth.
  • Generously coat the waffle iron with non-stick cooking spray and cook the batter in the waffle iron as recommended in the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Repeat with remaining batter.

Yields: 8 waffles

Cheese Blintzes

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Crepes, those paper thin French inspired pancakes are wonderful but add a bit of cheese and your pancakes are now blintzes. These blintzes are inspired by a recipe from my father-in-law. My blintzes use a combination of cottage cheese and fresh ricotta cheese–I prefer homemade which is super easy to make but you can also use store bought.

Cooking the perfect crepe takes practice and skill but once you’ve mastered the technique you will be able to cook up batches of perfectly thin crepes in no time. I’ve found that the trick is to have a hot, well oiled crepe pan and use a scant 1/4 cup of batter for each crepe. Any  more and the pancakes will be too thick. Once you have ladled the batter in the pan, quickly swirl it around to for a thin layer over the entire surface. When the outer edges curl a bit and turn crisp the crepe is ready to flip. The technique can be perfected with just one or two crepes.

The blintzes keep well frozen for several weeks so when I make them I double the recipe and keep a stash in the freezer for last minute meals. My husband grew up eating these blintzes for dinner and we continue with this tradition in our house as well. But we also eat them topped with fresh fruit for brunch or even a rich chocolate sauce as a dessert. They are so versatile and just so good.

For the crepes:

4 large eggs

1 cup milk

1 cup cold water

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

For the cheese filling:

1 1/2 cups small curd cottage cheese

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

1 egg

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 tablespoons butter, for frying

For the crepes:

  • Whisk the eggs in a large mixing bowl until well blended.
  • Add the milk, water and the melted butter.
  • Add the salt to the flour and sift into the batter, stirring well to until incorporate.
  • Cover and allow the batter to sit for at least 3 hours before proceeding.
  • Stir the batter well to reincorporate the ingredients before cooking.
  • When ready to make the crepes, heat an 8 inch crepe pan over medium heat.
  • Lightly coat the pan with non-stick cooking spray then add a scant 1/4 cup of batter to the center of the pan.
  • Immediately swirl it around the pan to create a thin coating over the entire bottom of the skillet.
  • Cook for 60 to 90 seconds then use a thin metal spatula to loosen the crepe around the edges.
  • Flip the crepe over and cook for an additional minute or two, until the crepe just begins to turn a pale golden brown.
  • Slide the crepe to a plate and repeat until all of the batter has been used.

For the Cheese Filling

  • Combine the cottage and ricotta cheeses in a small bowl.
  • Lightly beat the egg in a separate bowl then add into the cheese mixture, stirring well until incorporated.
  • Beat in the vanilla extract and lemon zest. Set aside until ready to proceed.

To make the blintzes:

  • Place a crepe on a flat surface.
  • Spoon 1 1/2 tablespoons of the cheese mixture into the center of each crepe. Fold both sides of the crepe towards the center then fold the bottom up towards the middle followed by the top.
  • Place the crepe seam side down on a plate. At this point the crepes can be wrapped tightly and refrigerated for up to one day until you are ready to serve them.

To fry:

  • Melt the butter in a large skillet set over medium heat.
  • Working in batches if necessary, place the crepes seam side down in the melted butter. Fry for 3-4 minutes per side until they are golden brown and the cheese is heated through.

Yields 16 crepes

Tomato & Ricotta Tart

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Tomatoes are plentiful now and while it is tempting to eat them as is out of the garden sometimes you want a little more. And at the end of a hot day who wants to spend a lot of time in the kitchen fussing over dinner? (or any meal for that matter). So why not try this easy tomato and ricotta tart? With only a few ingredients, this tart is easy and as a added bonus, you can pre-bake the shell earlier in the day then put the dish together right before serving.

Choose the best tomatoes you can find, either a single type or go for a variety, since they really are the highlight of this dish. I’ve become a huge fan of making my own ricotta cheese but you can also use whichever brand you prefer. And for the crust? Either make your own or use a pre-made one. I like to make it even easier and make a free form crust rather than fussing with a tart plate. However you make it, this is a delicious and easy dish. Enjoy!

TOMATO & RICOTTA TART

1 single pie crust

1 cup fresh ricotta cheese, either purchased or homemade

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons fresh basil, minced

1 teaspoon lemon zest, finely minced

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pound heirloom tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick

For the crust:

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

  • On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thick and transfer to an un-greased baking sheet.
  • Using your fingers crimp the edges of the crust to form an outer ridge. You don’t have be to exact but try to keep the crust in a circle formation. Prick the bottom of the crust all over with a fork.
  • Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes or until it is light brown on all sides. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

For the filling:

  • In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, Parmesan, basil and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Using a small spatula spread the cheese mixture over the top of the prepared tart shell.
  • Arrange the tomatoes over the top of the cheese.
  • Return the tart to the oven and bake for 3-5 minutes until the tomatoes and cheese are warm.
  • Serve immediately.

Serves 8

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