BOOK REVIEW: Breaking Breads: A New World of Israeli Baking

I feel like I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: I am a cookbook lover. You know this about me. But one thing that I am not is a cookbook hoarder. I don’t have the space for it. But more than that, I’ve realized that my life has to be about more than just collecting. The books the adorn these shelves must be able to earn their keep. So last Spring, I took a long, hard look at my bookshelf and made some tough decisions. I went through each cookbook that I have accumulated in the past four years. If I loved it for the pictures, but hadn’t marked any recipes, it had to go. If I bought it, read it once, then literally forgot that I had it, it had to go. If I hated it because the recipes were completely inconsistent, out it went. And so on. The process took a bit longer than I thought that it would, but in the end, it felt like a well-needed cleanse. I had donated books that were perfect, but not necessarily perfect for me, and freed up beloved real estate on my shelves. This left room for my absolute favorite time of the year: Fall Cookbook Season!  And number one on the list of new titles for Sydney’s Library? Breaking Breads!

You may know Uri Scheft as the owner of Breads Bakery, or you may be more familiar with what he has made so popular both in New York, and with literally every online food publication: chocolate babka. People lose their minds over it, and you’ll see tons of recipes all over the place trying to replicate it, but there’s nothing better than the real deal, so now you can make it in your jammies in the comfort of your own home forever.

Uri was born in Israel, but moved all the way across the world to Denmark during his formative years. This blending of two cultures (mixed in with the handful of cultures from countries that he’s lived in as an adult) gives his writing and recipes a sense of well-roundedness that is sometimes very hard to come by. For many, it will be an introduction to spice blends and flavor combinations that will both surprise and entice them.  For me, that’s the sign of a real winner. And you know I love me some fresh bread, so it’s like a win-win.

Let’s get this out of the way first: this book is not for beginners. Nor is it, I’m afraid, for bakers with very little patience. For starters, bread is never quick and it makes you wait. For hours. And hours. And Uri, who is truly an artist, not only wants your bread creations to taste good, but he also pushes and encourages you to become your own resident bread artist at home. It is challenging, it is sometimes confusing, and it’s also very delicious. And while the instructions can seem a little daunting (and at times you may feel like you have completely lost your will and ability to finish the project), Uri gives very detailed step-by-step instructional photos to help keep you on track. I needed those. Desperately.

I also enjoy that this book has tons of variety. Of course the core of this book is bread (flatbreads, challahs, babkas, etc), but you’ve also got cookies, hummus, and  great recipes for things like preserved lemons and babaghanouj. After completing a five-hour recipe for bread, you will want to take advantage of something quick and relatively easy to ease yourself back into the kitchen.

So, if you’ve made it this far, let me break it down for you:

The Good: This book is going to teach you how to make bread, or else. You will learn about yourself, and learn about your strengths and varying levels of patience. I also love how absolutely thorough and thoughtful Uri was when writing this book. It’s got everything from proper bread storage tips, to words of encouragement, to alternative designs and creations for when you want to deviate a little from the recipe. Every question is covered.

The Bad: There’s nothing bad about this book, really. One thing that I wish had been included was bolded estimates at the top indicating  how long each recipe would take altogether. Of course, I understand that each kitchen is different so therefore proofing times will be different, but a ballpark number  would’ve been so wonderful. I also wish that some instructions had been explained a little bit clearer, but I have always been able to soldier on and put something tasty on the table.

Overall: This was a book that I was so excited about, and my expectations were totally exceeded. Almost every recipe in this book has been bookmarked for further endeavors in the DD kitchen. This is my favorite book of Fall 2016, and I urge you to buy it for every patient baker you know. Once they’ve got it in their hands, encourage them to make the Sticky Pull-Apart Cinnamon Challah Braid (pg. 56), because it is my favorite and I need more people to talk about it with for hours and hours.

 

You can buy it here!

P.S. HAPPY THANKSGIVING, GUYS!!! I have 100000 pies to make.

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How to Make Your Home the Best Lil’ B+B in Town

 

Holiday season is upon us, and I love, love, triple love having guests ( I inherited the hospitality gene from my Southern grandparents).  Nothing fills my heart more than having people in the house to bake for and dote on from the minute they put their bags down until the minute they leave. I want every single person who walks through the front door to immediately feel at home, and I’ve got a few tips on h0w to make that happen:

 

The Amenities Basket: I think this is one of my favorite things in the entire house, and something I’m really proud of. In the past, though it doesn’t happen quite that often, I’ve been at a friend’s house and totally unprepared. I didn’t have my toothbrush, I didn’t have my toothpaste, I didn’t even have a tube of chapstick! It’s a terrible feeling because you find yourself picturing exactly where each item you’ve left is, and wishing that you’d just packed it, just in case. That’s why I came up with the idea for the Amenities Basket. I’ve got every miniature-sized item a guest could ever need: makeup wipes, toothpaste, fancy soaps and body washes, shampoos and conditioners, and even feminine products. Truthfully, my basket is tailored more for the female guests that arrive, but take the opportunity to tailor it to the needs of your specific guests. Maybe they like a certain aftershave, maybe they like a certain lotion. Nothing will make your guests feel welcome like a basket filled with their favorite things. And here’s a good tip: try to double up on products if you can. If you’ve got multiple guests, you want to make sure that you have enough emergency items for everyone.

Baked Goods: Greet your guests at the door with a sweet treat! You can never go wrong with a warm batch of classic chocolate chip cookies like these ones from my favorite cookie lady, Dorie Greenspan!

 

Candles: Freshen up the guest room (or even the whole house) with a couple scented candles. Make sure to keep the scent warm, light, and crisp to create an atmosphere that is cozy and inviting, not overpowering; You never know what your guests prefer scent-wise until they’ve gotten there, so best to err on the side of less is more. (Side note: You can find a great selection of super inexpensive, delicious-smelling candles at Homegoods and Target!)

 

Fresh Flowers: Nothing brightens up the home like a bouquet of fresh flowers! Choose bright, seasonal colors to make the whole house pop. And to keep things extra fancy, trim a few and put them in a mason jar or small vase on the nightstand in your guest room.

 

Bedside Reading Material: You never know the sleep schedule of your guests. While you may be a night owl, they may be early to bed, early to rise. If that’s the case, or they’re just having trouble falling asleep in a bed that is not their own, it’s always nice to provide a little reading material to pass the time. I like to tailor my picks to things I think my specific guest will love. Usually I’ll choose one book that will make them think, one book to turn their brain off when they just want to relax, and one or two magazines for when they want to stare at beautiful pictures. It’s good to have a variety.

 

Clear Space in the Closet: Depending on how long your guests plan to stay, it’s always a good idea to clear a little space in the closet for them with a few extra hangers. We wouldn’t want a beautiful dress or suit to get wrinkled!

 

Soft Blankets + Socks: I like a cold house, what can I say? And while this cold-centric gal doesn’t mind putting on extra layers in the house, my guests may not always. That’s why I’m always prepared with extra soft and cozy blankets and socks for when my guests feel a bit chilly. It’s always good to have several available in case your guests don’t want to share.

 

Fresh Linens + Towels: Wash your sheets, and wash extra towels. You never know when your guests may want to take a shower, or even a quick cat nap after a long journey. Be prepared.

A Beverage Basket: We happen to have a lot of baskets lying around the house from various holiday gifts, so I found a good use for one as a beverage basket.  If you’ve got an extra basket, or don’t mind shelling out a few bucks for a small one, fill it with specialty teas, individual coffee packs, water bottles, and even a cocoa mix or two. It’s good to be prepared for any tastes your guest may have.

Ask Ahead of Time: The most important tip of all is to always, always ask ahead of time. Ask about food allergies (VERY IMPORTANT), ask what snacks they like, ask what kind of movies they watch, ask how they like their coffee in the morning. Nothing shows that you care more than making sure your guests have the best stay possible. The goal is to make them feel as though they never want to leave, but of course they’ll have to eventually! Always ask.

 

What are your best guest tips? Sound off in the comments below!

 

 

 

Brown Butter and Vanilla Loaf Cake

I’m currently engaged in a fierce (but friendly) food gift war with my next door neighbor.

It all started with a piping hot pan of homemade peach cobbler on the hottest Sunday of the Summer. She appeared from out of nowhere with a dessert that made my heart sing, as we’d recently run out of anything sweet, and the dessert-obsessed part of my brain was getting desperate. We bonded over our similar experiences of living in the Midwest, and our mutual addiction to cookbooks. This had the potential to be a beautiful friendship, so I scoured my archives for a divine recipe for brown-butter Madelines (It may just pop up here!). I brought them over, she was surprised and thrilled, and we chatted for 45 minutes as only people blessed with the gift of nonstop gab can do. I thought that would be the end of it.

The very next week, while in my all-star loungewear (which is what I call the clothing that is too good to donate, but too hideous for any human that does not live in this house to see), I heard the chipper double-ring of the doorbell only to find my dear sweet neighbor with a Danish kringle in-tow from my hometown that is now an 18-hour drive away. It was a delicious surprise, so I knew I had to return the favor quickly.

Here’s something important to remember when you’re caught in a gifting cycle: they don’t all have to be showstoppers. Really, the whole point of giving a gift is to show the person that you appreciate them and that you care. So, do the three-tier cake if you want, but don’t feel obligated. It’s sometimes the simple things that are the most remembered. So, bearing that in mind, this time around I decided to do something very simple indeed: a loaf cake. Super vanilla-y, super buttery, super, super simple. She can have a slice for breakfast. She can have a slice while reading the Sunday paper. She can even have it with tea with a friend. It’s super casual, and a gift that is right up both of our alleys.

Of course, this cake is also great for when you’re craving a sweet treat, but you don’t want to dirty every single bowl and pan in the house. It’s quite straight-forward to make, and takes about 60ish minutes or so to bake. It’s perfect for when you want to keep things really low-key. And did I mention how incredibly moist it is? So moist!

So, make this little cake as a gift, or keep it for yourself. The decision is yours. And it’s tasty.

I’ve been promised a container of homemade soup as soon as the air starts to turn chilly, so the warm and fuzzy food war rages on…

 

BROWN BUTTER AND VANILLA LOAF CAKE 

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream

DIRECTIONS

Place a rack in the center of the oven, then preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Stack two baking sheets on top of each other, then line the top baking sheet with parchment paper. Butter a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan (mine was slightly larger and everything turned out fine!) generously with butter, then coat generously with flour, then lightly tap out the excess. Set the loaf pan on top of the baking sheets and set aside.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan set over medium heat and let it come to a boil. The butter will bubble vigorously for about 5-10 minutes. When the bubbles have subsided, the butter should turn a golden brown color, and start emitting a nutty smell. Watch your butter carefully as it is really, really easy to burn it. Once it has reached the golden brown stage with little flecks floating all around, your brown butter is done. Immediately remove from the heat.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking poser, and salt together. Set aside.

In a large bowl, add the sugar, then whisk in each egg one at a time, whisking for about 1 minute each until they are all well incorporated. Next, whisk in the vanilla, then the heavy cream. Whisk until everything is fully combined.

Using a whisk or a rubber spatula, gradually stir in the dry ingredients until the batter is thick and smooth. Next, add the melted butter in 2 or 3 additions. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan, and smooth out the top so that it is evenly distributed.

Bake the cake for 55-65 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. If the cake starts to brown too quickly at the 30-minute mark, gently place a little aluminum foil on the top, then continue baking.

When your cake is done, transfer it to a wire rack to cool for five minutes, then take it out of the pan and let it cool completely.

To store: Wrap tightly in plastic wrap for up to a week.

 

SOURCE: Baking Chez Moi 

Mini Atlantic Beach Pies

Living a stone’s throw away from the Atlantic Ocean now has gotten me thinking about beach town culture. The locals around these parts are very set in their ways when the sun is shining and you haven’t seen a thermometer drop past 80 degrees in a week. They get up when the sun rises, slather on a healthy coating of sport sunblock, then set up shop at the beach until the sun goes down. And once the sun goes down, if they’ve planned correctly, they’ll have a bonfire on that very same beach. Lather, rinse, repeat.

They’re fueled by frozen lemonades and hot dogs, and vow to be olympic-level good at beach volleyball and sailing everyday until their feet hit the pavement and reality sets in. Every minute is water, sand, and sun, and it’s all incredibly new to me. Sure, in the town I grew up in, in the Midwest, we were lucky enough to live right by the Lake with beautiful beaches and our own fair share of summertime rituals, but it’s just not the same. In the Midwest, fairs and festivals are the name of the game, and stuffing yourself to the very brim with authentic foods of many cultures is how you play to win. But not here. Here, ne’er a pretty Summer day is squandered indoors, and every moment a bull is taken by the horns and ridden all the way to where life begins and ends: the beach. I’ll tell you what, it’ll certainly take a little getting used to (first things first, I’ll have to order a vat of SPF 70 off Amazon), but I plan to be alll about that life one day. Provided there are snacks. And the weather stays between 75 and 79 degrees, as I am prone to fits of hot weather-related complaining.

Can you believe that Summer is unofficially officially over?? Three months just whizzed past. If the humidity hadn’t had its way with my hair from May to present day, I could almost tell you that it never happened at all. And while I’m more than delighted to welcome in my favorite season, Fall, with as many apple cider doughnuts, hay rides, pie baking, and cardigans and flannel as my lil’ heart can take, I’m also a sucker for goodbyes. Why, it wasn’t a mere seven months ago that I was tightly bundled up in a heavy winter coat, greedily bathing my face in the glow of a sun that only gave a whisper of warmth. And the days were short and dark, and I wished for Summer with every breath I took. But you can never appreciate or miss something until it’s gone, so it’s time for Summer to TTFN so I can remember what it was like to love it once more. To give it a proper adieu, I chose to make my favorite dessert: pie, in miniature form because who doesn’t love a PERSONAL PIE, with a little wink and nod to my new-ish new home. Hello, Atlantic Beach Pie.

At its core, this Atlantic Beach Pie is the baby of a Key Lime pie and a Lemon Meringue pie. It has both lemon and lime juice, a saltine cracker crust, and delicious, over-the-top, fluffy and puffy meringue; if so you choose to whip up a batch and use it. (P.S. You’ll have so many egg whites leftover. Make the meringue.)

There are many, many things that I love about these baby Atlantic Beach pies. For starters, the saltine cracker crust, a detour from the usual graham cracker crust found in basic Key Lime and Lemon Ice Box pies, reminds me of the beach, and transports me to those sunny sand-filled days everyone from my neighbor to the bank teller are always raving about. I love the freshness and brightness that the just-squeezed citrus juices bring to the table. The pies are so fragrant that even a quick whiff of one in passing can wake me right up. And most of all, these are pies that I can not only give to those friends and loved ones who absolutely adore citrus desserts, but also to those friends who *GASP* aren’t dessert people. They’re sweetened by a few tablespoons of sugar in the crust, and the sweetened condensed milk, and that’s it. There’s enough sweetness to keep your sweet-tooth happy, but overly-sweet they are not. It’s a win-win for every party, and I can go to bed at night knowing that even the most savory-oriented people can compromise every once in a while. Plus, and I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: WHO DOESN”T LOVE PERSONAL PIES? They’re just too cute to resist.

In conclusion, now is the time to raise our forks to a lovely, hot, and humid summer by digging into petite summer-tastic citrusy pies, and reminiscing about the good times. Cheers, Summer ’16. It’s been real.

 

Now, pass me that can of pumpkin, would ya? We’ve got work to do.

 

MINI ATLANTIC BEACH PIES

Makes 4 6-inch pies (these are the ones I use from WS!) 

What You’ll Need:

For the crust:

  • About 2 1/2 sleeves of salted saltine crackers, or about 120 crackers
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar

For the pies:

  • Two 14-ounce cans of Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
  • 8 egg yolks (save the whites to make a tasty meringue!)
  • 1/2 cup lime juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • Lime zest, for garnish

DIRECTIONS 

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Take out two baking sheets, set them aside.

Finely hand-crush the saltine crackers in a large bowl, but be careful not to crush them so much that they become cracker dust. Add the sugar and stir to mix. Next, add the butter and knead it in until the cracker crumbs come together like a dough. Take out your four mini pie plates, then press the dough evenly into each. (Note: You may end up with more pie dough than pie plates to press it into, and that’s perfectly fine. Better to have too much than not enough when it comes to mini pies!)

Chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes, or freeze for 10-12. Once your pies have chilled, place two on each baking sheet and bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes, or until the crusts have gotten nice and golden brown. Let them cool slightly.

While your pie crusts are cooling, it’s time to make the filling. Start off by beating the egg yolks into the milk until everything is completely combined. Next, add the citrus juice. At first, the  juice may sit right on the top and make your custard look very thin and watery. It is very, VERY important that you stick with it and carefully stir it (it tends to splash all around at first) until all of your ingredients are completely combined. You’ll start to see it thicken to a normal consistency again, just give it a little time.

Once your custard has come together, pour it into each pie plate, making sure to avoid overfilling them. Carefully set your pie plates (if you haven’t already) back on their baking sheets, then bake the pies for 16 minutes until the filling has set.

Let your pies cool on cooling racks for 15-20 minutes, then pop them into the fridge to chill completely (they must be absolutely cold in order to be sliced.)

When you’re ready to serve, top each with a lovely meringue using your leftover egg whites (here’s a great tutorial from The Kitchn!), or freshly whipped cream, then top with a lemon or lime wedge, citrus zest, or coarse sea salt as a garnish.

 

SOURCE: Adapted from Food52

NYT Blueberry Muffins

SINCE THE DAWN OF TIME (…the early 1990s…) blueberry muffins have been a staple in my life. They’re the go-to treat when I’m in an airport and want something sweet in a hurry. They’re my pick-me-up when I have them on-hand and I’ve had a rough day. They’ve been in the Special Sunday Breakfast rotation at my house for two whole decades. They’re just the epitome of classic baked goods in my book.

Before I became a baker and didn’t truly know what a difference home-baking could make in a person’s life, my go-to if I wanted blueberry muffins was the store-bought boxed mix. You know which one I’m talking about, don’t you? The one with a  cellophane  bag full of flour mix and chemicals, and a slim tin can full of tiny, preserved blueberries swimming in syrup. Then you just had to add a few eggs and a cup of milk, and you were on your way. At the time, those muffins, always served still-warm from the oven and a bit crispy (if not a little dry to be honest) on the outsides tasted great, but it hasn’t been until I was the age and stage that I am now that I realized I could’ve been having it so much better all this time.  Don’t get me wrong; those mixes definitely have their place…somewhere, but, my friend, fresh is always best. Sure, it may take a little longer to measure out all the ingredients when you’re making blueberry muffins from scratch, but really, how much time are you actually  saving by using boxed cake mix? Not as much as you think.

Despite the fact that blueberry muffins are such a classic, there are perhaps dozens of ways that you can prepare them. And believe me, as someone who has had her fair share of muffins, I’ve also tried a fair share of those recipes. One particular favorite of mine (and incidentally one of the first recipes I EVER tried) comes from Joy the Baker. She doesn’t stray too far from the standard, but she takes things up a notch in her recipe with the inclusion of melted brown butter instead of regular-old softened and unsalted. It brings a sort of nuttiness and depth of flavor that I just absolutely love.

And while that recipe is definitely wayy up there on “Sydney’s Favorite Baked Goods, Blueberry Muffin Category” list, something inside me was desperately seeking a recipe that stayed within tradition. If I’m going to have that perfect cup of coffee early on a Sunday morning, with the window shades opened and the glow of dawn seeping in, I want to capture that moment just-so. I want that feeling of being in a coffeehouse somewhere where they serve you cafe treats exactly the way they were intended to be served and consumed: no muss, no fuss, just something that tastes phenomenal. Enter: the New York Times Blueberry Muffins.

These muffins are the perfect celebration of summer blueberries (although, frozen and thawed blueberries will work perfectly well when it’s off-season). It calls for two cups, which means that all twelve of these muffins are packed with plump antioxidant-rich blueberries just waiting to burst when you bite into them. And as much as I love a good crispy, crumbly topping made out of flour, sugar, and butter, sometimes a little coarse sugar will also do the trick of adding a bit of texture quite nicely.

Hey, blueberry muffins are a classic for a reason.

 

NYT BLUEBERRY MUFFINS

What You’ll Need:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened (I’ve been really into Irish butter lately! Have you heard about Kerrygold?)
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 cups blueberries, washed, drained, and picked over
  • 3 teaspoons sugar

(Baker’s Note: Some of the commenters suggested that the blueberries should be rolled in a bit of flour before being added to the batter to prevent them from sinking while baking. I tried it, and it’s definitely something to consider!)

 

Find the recipe HERE from the New York Times!

Coffee Stracciatella

For my birthday last year, I decided that the gift that I wanted to give myself the most was an ice cream maker. I love ice cream. I love how versatile it is. I love how it can be eaten a million different ways. Most of all, I just loved that there was a (relatively) inexpensive appliance out there that could help me make a treat that I seek out at various life stages (monthly mood swings, breakups, summer giddiness, etc. etc.)

The day it arrived my brain danced with all the different recipes that I could toss into my little white ice cream/gelato/sorbet/frozen yogurt maker, but, like with literally every single new thing I ever buy, I deemed it too nice to use just then and promptly put it back in its box to “rest” until an occasion momentous enough arose for me to finally break it out and use it. Classic Sydney move. My ice cream maker sat new, empty, and alone in its original packaging for 1.3 years.

Finally, friends, an occasion momentous enough arose: I found a recipe, and I wanted ice cream. Groundbreaking stuff, guys.

I am far and away a morning person. Always have been. When I was in college I woke up at 6:30 for my 8 AM classes with a pep in my step whilst my roommates couldn’t even utter a syllable without first groggily shoving a mug under the coffe-maker and taking a few sips. But there was one class that even I couldn’t wake myself up for and thus had to turn to those beyond delicious frappe drinks that Starbucks sells in grocery stores. My go-to was always “vanilla mocha.” Did it totally wake me up? Not really. Was it delicious? Totally!

And so, as I spooned this decadent coffee stracciatella into my mouth, all of a sudden the memories of my vanilla mocha frappe days came rushing back. I was there again, in that 8 AM, sipping away at my creamy, milky, choclatey coffee drink which was perfectly cold and perfectly delicious. And it of course makes perfect sense: Stracciatella is milk-based, mixed with heavy cream, sugar, vanilla, and egg yolks. Add in two heaping tablespoons of espresso powder, plus a drizzling of melted bittersweet chocolate (the latter is added whilst the ice cream is churning), and you’ve got the frozen vanilla mocha treat of dreams. It’s rich, creamy, decadent, and so velvety smooth. The coffee flavor is concentrated and completely complimented by the flecks of chocolate that, while being churned, freeze instantly and disperse throughout the entire ice cream. This particular ice cream is special, and I’m so glad it was my first homemade.

 

Have an ice cream maker? You’ve GOT to try this coffee stracciatella

 

COFFEE STRACIATELLA 

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder (I like Cafe Bustelo)
  • 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted

 

DIRECTIONS 

In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, milk, salt, and 1/4 cup sugar. Next add the vanilla extract and stir to combine. Bring your mixture just to a simmer, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved, remove from heat.

Whisk egg yolks and the remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a medium bowl until pale, which should take about 2 minutes. Very carefully whisk in about 1/2 cup of the warm cream mixture to temper the eggs, then whisk the yolk mixture into the remaining cream mixture. Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. This should take about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat.

Strain the custard into a medium bowl set over a large bowl of ice water. Next, stir in the espresso powder until dissolved. Let the mixture cool, stirring every so often.

Process your custard in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions (Make sure to read them VERY carefully!). Once custard is frozen to your desired consistency in the ice cream maker, gradually pour in the melted chocolate (this is best to do when the machine is on, so you won’t get any frozen clumps). Process until the ice cream is flecked with chocolate, about 2-3 minutes longer.

At this stage, your ice cream will probably be at soft-serve consistency. If you prefer a harder consistency, go ahead and pop your ice cream into a freezer-safe storage container and into the freezer for another hour or two. The longer you keep it in, the more solid it will become. Enjoy!!

 

SOURCE: Bon Appetit 

Baked Lemon Brioche French Toast with Raspberries

 

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Lately I’ve had a hankering for french toast, but not a ton of time (or patience) in the morning to make it happen.  You have to soak the eggy bread in custard, you have to fry it on the stove, you have to fix the other side dishes that balance out the meal, you have to heat the syrup, etc. etc. etc. Who has time for that when every day you spend a an hour negotiating with your alarm clock for just five more minutes? So what does one do when they need a bright spot in a week of monotony, but very little time in the morning to make that happen? They fall in love with a make-ahead recipe like this one for Lemon Brioche French Toast with a fresh helping of minty-fresh raspberries on the side. Hello, bright spot.

This recipe is a citrus lover’s dreaaaam. There’s lemon zest in the custard mixture, then another hit in the freshly-squeezed lemon juice glaze.

What’s lovely about this baked version of french toast is the pillowy-soft consistency (almost like bread pudding) of the inner filling, mixed with a little bit of crispiness from the crusty top layer. And what better complement to the sweetness of the lemon brioche than the fresh, slightly tart macerated raspberries with mint? It’s tasty, and your breath will never smell better in your whole life.

This is a breakfast recipe for those bakers out there that love to plan ahead, like myself. Anything that can cut my overall time even the slightest bit, I’m willing to do. The make-ahead factor of this recipe is what makes it a total keeper: this dish can be made 24 whole hours in advance, and, if you ask me, the longer it sits in the fridge, the better it actually becomes! Overall prep time the night before is probably around 20-30 minutes, then cook time the next morning is around 20-30 minutes, making total time an hour MAXIMUM. Fab, right? Imagine what you can get done while your french toast is baking in the oven? We’re talkin’ bacon, we’re talkin’ eggs, we’re talkin’ the works, people. I seriously can’t say enough great things about it. Oh wait, there’s one more: leftovers reheat PERFECTLY. So don’t feel guilty if it’s just you enjoying a special breakfast for yourself; there’s no need to waste a thing. If you play your cards right, you could have a special breakfast almost every day of the week. And breakfast is the most important meal of the day, you know.

Have it for brunch, or have it on a regular old Monday. Either way, you’re on your way to a baked breakfast of champions.

 

LEMON-BRIOCHE FRENCH TOAST W/ MINTY RASPBERRIES

What You’ll Need:

(For the French Toast)

  • 2 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting

(For the Minty-Raspberries)

  • 12 ounces raspberries, lightly washed and inspected
  • 3 tablespoons sugar, plus more if adjustment is needed
  • 1/4 cup loosely-packed mint leaves

 

DIRECTIONS 

*If you’re making it ahead*

Grease well a 9 x 13 pan with butter, then set aside.

Slice the bread into 1/2 inch thick slices, then cut each slice in half. Next, take half of the bread slices and lay them in the baking sheet, making sure that there are overlapping layers. Sprinkle the bread slices with half of the lemon zest.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, then whisk in the brown sugar. Whisk until the ingredients are well combined. Next, whisk in the milk, vanilla, salt, nutmeg, and the rest of the lemon zest. Pour half of the custard mixture over the bread in the prepared baking dish, then layer the rest of the bread on top. Evenly pour the rest of the custard mixture over the bread to coat it.

Cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, take the casserole out of the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for at least 10 minutes before baking.

 

*If you’re making it the same day*

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Do all of the instructions above.

When ready, bake the lemon brioche french toast for 20-30 minutes (make sure to check on it every so often because the crust of the bread tends to darken quite quickly), or until golden brown on top and puffy.

While the french toast is baking, whisk the lemon juice with the confectioners’ sugar. Once you have taken the french toast out of the oven, immediately drizzle the glaze evenly over the top. Next, add a few extra teaspoons of confectioners’ sugar to a fine strainer or shaker and add a light dusting over the top of the casserole.

Let the dish cool for at least 15 minutes before serving,

*While the dish is cooling*

Add the raspberries to a medium-sized bowl, then add the sugar and fresh chopped mint. Gently mix together, then let sit for 5 minutes so that the raspberries have a chance to release their juices. Add more sugar if the raspberries are still a little tart.

Serve the french toast in large slices, with raspberries on the side.

 

To store: Cover the dish in plastic wrap and store in the fridge. Let it come to room temperature for 10 minutes before reheating in the oven.

 

SOURCE: Slightly adapted from The Kitchn

Vanilla Chai Chocolate Truffles

On this episode of “Sydney Makes Easy Things That Impress Her Friends,” we’re talkin’ ’bout chocolate truffles. But not just any regular chocolate truffles, oh no, we’re throwing vanilla chai into the mix. Essentially, they’re chocolate balls, but doesn’t the word “truffle” just make it sound much fancier? Ya, I agree.

The bond that a woman of color has with her hairdresser is one that is sacred, and must be fostered and nurtured. I do this by surprising mine with edible treats at least once a month. And since the hot cross buns that I made a few weeks back were given to family and church members, I decided that my beloved beautician should get something specifically made JUST for her. And like many, many women that I know, she looooooooooves  chocolate. So, I thought, what better treat than just straight-up homemade truffles?

During the holiday season my television basically stays on Food Network and Cooking Channel, and I watched a special episode of Giada at Home in which she made chocolate truffles for some “guests” (more likely the production crew, but ya know, TV magic and all that) who were stopping by for a holiday party. She stepped it up by brewing a bunch of bags chai  in heavy cream, then taking it off the heat and pouring it over chocolate to melt it. Then she stirred it all together until it turned into chocolate ganache, refrigerated it for a few hours until it set, then scooped out the mixture by the tablespoon, rolled it into a ball, coated it in cocoa powder, and then wrapped a little gold leaf around each for a classy touch. They were so cute and elegant, so I logged the recipe away for an occasion when I would really, really want to make them. But when it came time to make these truffles, wouldn’t you know it, I didn’t have any gold leaf on hand (I’m not workin’ with a Food Network budget here), and instead of brewing with classic chai, I decided to switch it up with my favorite bundling of vanilla chai tea bags. Was it a success? Oh yeah. She loved them!

These truffles are perfect for anyone who has a semi-sweet tooth. They’ve got a bit of an edge to them, with just the hint of sweetness to balance everything out. Basically, you get this intensely rich, deep chocolatey flavor, mixed with the warmth of spices that you find in classic chai, and finished off with the subtle hint of vanilla. The vanilla may just be a gentle whisper, but it definitely won’t let you ever forget that it’s there.

Best of all, they can be made wayyyy in advance, which works perfectly for me because I can enjoy leftover truffles that didn’t fit in the gifted container for weeks to come.

Vanilla Chai Chocolate Truffles: Good for friendship, good for random chocolate cravings.

 

VANILLA CHAI CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES 

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 7 bags vanilla chai tea (I like Bigelow)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 9 oz dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder

 

DIRECTIONS

Before you begin, tie all of your tea bag strings together in a knot. This makes it much easier to fish them out when you’ve finished with them.

Pour the heavy cream into a small saucepan, then add your tea bags. Place the pan over medium-low heat, warming the cream slowly; stir occasionally. You’ll know when your mixture is heated through when you see little bubbles start to form around the edges of the cream, about 5-7 minutes. Simmer for 3 minutes more, then remove from heat.

Remove the tea bags from the sauce pan. Place the finely chopped chocolate and salt in a medium bowl, then strain the cream mixture over it using a fine-mesh strainer. Let sit for 3 minutes so that the chocolate begins to melt on its own. Slowly whisk the melted chocolate into the cream starting in the center of the bowl, then slowly making your way outwards. Remember to do this slowly and carefully so that the chocolate doesn’t seize up! Continue whisking until the mixture is smooth and completely blended. Place a piece of plastic wrap DIRECTLY on top of the ganache, and press down gently to make sure the surface is completely covered.  Let set in the  refrigerator for AT LEAST 3 hours, but the best is overnight. The mixture should be firm by that time, but still easy to work it.

Measure your coca powder, then place in a small, shallow bowl. With a tablespoon cookie scoop (or just a tablespoon measuring spoon), scoop even rounds of ganache into your palm, then very quickly but gently roll into a ball.  Next. roll the ball in the coca powder to coat; gently shake off any excess.. Repeat this process until you’ve run out of ganache. Place your truffles in an airtight container and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.

Make Ahead: The truffles can be made several weeks ahead of time, kept refrigerated in an airtight container. On the day of serving, roll each in the cocoa powder.

 

 

SOURCE: Very, very slightly adapted from Giada De Laurentis 

 

 

Hot Cross Buns

Hiiiiiiiiiiiii, how was your Easter??  Mine was epic and uplifting, and full of food. Simply the best.

Have you ever had hot cross buns? This was my first year. Before that, my only knowledge of them began and ended with the song of the same name that I was forced to learn on the recorder in 7th grade. That was it. (Fun fact: I haven’t picked up the recorder since.) But when you’re young, it’s almost a necessity that you start your own traditions and/or jump on holiday-specific bandwagons, so here we are. And I have to tell you: I can’t believe I’ve lived my life up until now without hot cross buns. I mean, it’s crazy. I can honestly say, in the four years that I have been baking, hot cross buns are the best things to ever come out of my oven. BY. FAR. Easter Sunday’s breakfast was just EXCELLENT, you guys.

Best served warm, these buns are yeasty, squishy, icing-topped perfection. Traditionally, hot cross buns are filled with dried fruit like raisins, currants, cherries, or dates, but my grocery store was serisouly lacking in the traditional dried mixed fruit bags. What I found instead was a mix of dried strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and cranberries, and I LOVED that combination when paired with the warmed apricot jam and blend of cardamom and cinnamon spices. And while I enjoyed the little bursts of strawberries I got, next time ’round, I’ll try to make my own fruit mix because the cardamom-cinnamon was practically begging for raisins. Either way, fruit in yeast rolls just WORKS.

You may see these most often on Easter, but something tells me these would work extremely well around Christmas time…or just all-year-round in general.

 

It’s never too late for Hot Cross Buns.

 

Find the recipe HERE from Bon Appetit! 

 

 

 

WEEKEND READS

What am I looking forward to this week? Brooklyn  will be on my doorstep in TWO DAYS. I told you last week that the book changed my life, and when I heard that they were making a movie….well, I could barely contain myself. Unfortunately, going to see it in theaters proved to be much more difficult than say, if I wanted to see Zoolander 2, so I resigned to wait until it came out on DVD. AND THAT DAY IS FAST APPROACHING. I’ve been re-reading the book in anticipation of comparisons, and literally crossing out the days in my calendar. So stoked.

Here’s what else I’ve been reading this week:

Using food to fight the power? I’m all about it! How Suffragists Used Cookbooks as a Recipe for Subversion

Do you dye Easter eggs? I haven’t done it in agessss, but I might start this year now that I’ve seen these awesome minimalist designs! So rad.

Learning to arrange flowers is on my eternal to-do list. Here’s a fun article about supermarket flower hacks!

Donut + Macaroon= The Macaronut is upon us. Silly? Yes. Delicious? I’m thinking also yes, yes, and yes.

I’m  definitely teetering on the line between ‘too much’ and ‘just enough’ clutter every single day of my life; Strike the Right Balance: Having Just Enough ‘Good Clutter’ .

Have you pre-ordered Sweeter Off the Vine yet?? Yossy Arefi is one of my favorite food photographers/bloggers ever! You HAVE to buy this book. March 22nd, get here faster!!

 

How’s your Sunday going? Mine’s rainy, and I’m feeling very sleepy/content.