Thursday, March 17, 2011

Is it French Toast?

I'm not really sure where to start on the recipe I made this week. It was delicious, it was easy, and I'm glad I made it. But I set out to make some kind of French toast- in fact I used a recipe that called itself French toast - and while eating it realized, "Hey. You know what? This is bread pudding."

The Panda Sister came for a visit last weekend, which is why I chose to make something rather luscious and yummy. Let's get one thing straight, whether this is French toast or bread pudding, this recipe is not something you want to make for your Uncle Morty with the cholesterol problems. Eggs, cream, butter- all in abundance. I have some ideas for adding fruit, but that's not going to counter 8 eggs, ya know?

Let's leave figuring out exactly what this is for later. For now, here's how it went in the Panda Kitchen (ha! totally sounds like a Chinese food takeout, no?).

8 eggs (seriously)
2 cups milk
1 loaf French Bread or Challah
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup Irish Cream liquor
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla extract

Start off by spraying a baking pan with non-stick spray. Cut the bread into even cubes or pieces spread evenly through the pan.

Meanwhile mix together the eggs, milk, cream, sugar, liquor and vanilla. Make sure you really mix the sugar in, because in my experience it formed a bit of a stubborn sludge at the bottom of the bowl. Pour the egg mixture over the bread, cover, stick in the fridge. Best if you have a few hours or even overnight to let all the bread pieces absorb the custard.

Now get to work on the cinnamon topping, which let's not even lie, is what we're all here for.

1/2 flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 salt
1/2 cup butter

Mix all the dry ingredients together, then cut the butter a little bit at a time into the mix. The original recipe says use a fork for this, and that'll work, but if you have a pastry cutter even better. Hey, sometimes a specialist kitchen tool really does make all the difference. Keep mixing until you can't see any of the butter and the mix is the color of wet sand. You can also stick this in the fridge if you're not ready to make your French toast bread pudding (Frudding? Freading? Breadtoast?).

To bake, preheat the oven to 350. While it's heating up, spread the brown sugar mixture over the top of the bread and egg mixture using your hands. Stick in the oven and cook for about an hour. Your house will. Smell. Amazing.



In the end, I'm not sure it matters if this is breakfast or dessert. I mean, Mr. Panda has been known to make these cinnamon rolls which are just full of sugar and butter and are guaranteed to give you cavities while making you cry from delicious happiness at the same time. And those are breakfast. So why can't bread pudding be for breakfast?

Make this for dessert and take it to a party and everyone will love you. Make it for breakfast when you have guests and they will adore you. Maybe not Uncle Morty, but you know, generally. Next time- and there WILL BE a next time - I think I want to incorporate some apples or raisins or even currants.

One last thing, and totally not food related, but this is hopefully the last week of blurry, unfocused pictures with weird shadows. I ordered a little mini photo studio! Not only will this make for better blog pictures, but I can't wait to torture my cats with it.

"Say what now?"

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


I think everyone who follows this blog is a Facebook friend, but on the off chance I have lurkers (hello lurkers!) or you don’t pay attention to my FB updates, let me tell you that I have been sick. I had a fever and the aches last weekend and now I have a subsequent respiratory infection and I just do not feel at all good. To make matters worse, I normally do my homework over the weekends, but aforementioned sickness made me put that off until Monday. I also usually plan my bloggable meal over the weekend. Again, sickness made that plan go poof.
So come Monday I was scrambling to finish my homework (due at midnight) and didn’t turn my attention to bloggable foods until it was far too late to go grocery shopping. All of this, friends, made me wish I could just do something ultimately simple.
Enter the potato.
What is a potato but a blank canvas? It can be a side or the base of an entree. You can eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. You can roast it, fry it, bake it, and now with modern technology- microwave it. And toppings! Don’t even get me started on toppings! Mostly because I’ll get to issues of toppings later and I don’t want to say it all twice!
Also, I’m a wee bit Irish. Just a tad. What with St. Paddy’s day coming up, I figured I’d practice my potatoing.
In case you’re keeping track, I have invented TWO new words so far in this post. Okay, maybe I’m not the first person to say “bloggable” but “potatoing”? Oh yeah, that’s all me.
Anyway, back to potatoing.
Even though I went for a simple recipe this week, I wanted something that looked elegant. Something that looks like way more effort than it really took. I keep seeing these recipes for Hasselback potatoes and they just completely fit the bill this week: simple, elegant, versatile. The original recipe I worked from can be found here . I both cut and altered the recipe.
2 roasting potatoes
2 tablespoons of butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper
garlic garlic garlic
Of course what makes Hasselback potatoes so distinctive is the style they are cut into. They are evenly cut almost all the way through every quarter inch or so. I should have known it was easier said than done, but it's not something that you can't perfect with a little practice.
Don't do that.
Go slowly and you will easier time avoiding the mistake I made with potato number one up there.
Melt the butter and the olive oil together and then add the garlic. I didn't specify the amount of garlic in the ingredients list because I think you should use as much as you want. I'm sort of a garlic fanatic, so I used a lot. Like, a lot. Take the garlic, oil, butter mixture and pour it over the potatoes in a baking pan.

The original recipe says to make sure you spread the garlic inside all of the cuts. I thought "yeah right, too much work". But um, if you do use a lot of garlic? Go ahead and at least push it into the slits because I ended up burning some garlic chunks that were on top.
Bake at 425 covered with tinfoil for 45 minutes. Uncover and cook another 45 minutes, or until the very center piece yields easily to a fork.
Now, toppings. Think about it! These potatoes are just perfect for toppings! I especially wanted to cover these with some broccoli cheese sauce, but you could do chili, and a whole bunch of other things! I just did basic sour cream and cheese.
One of these is not a potato.

I can't wait to make these for company, let me tell you. They taste like potatoes, honestly, but they look just plain fantastic.