Category Archives: pudding

No Ordinary French Toast Strawberry Rhubarb Bake

If you love French toast in its many varieties like I do, you probably know already that a baked version of a French toast with some fresh fruit in it is a Rolls Royce of the toasts. Crunchy and nutty on top, aromatic, tangy, sweet and runny inside, relatively benign in sugar: a real old school culinary gem revisited. And, it’s actually a snap to construct. The most difficult part is to allow the flavours to macerate overnight in the fridge.

Next morning you can cough it up within 45 minutes of baking. And don’t limit yourself to just fresh strawberries and rhubarb. This baked toast will be as delicious with the combinations of blueberries, blackberries and lemon; quince, pear and passion fruit; apples and cranberries, etc. We made it last week-end for the Father’s day.
It’s not unusual for me to be lost in the dish choices when preparing for the event and this time was no different. How I came up with this idea was a bit weird but worked out for good. I wanted to make something special, a one of a kind dish (preferably for breakfast). Driven by a nostalgic desire for simplicity, I tried to reach my inner Escoffier for a quick advice.
The great chef must have been on a sick leave though ‘cause the only answer was: ‘Make a Layer Cake’. That was obviously clueless: ‘Layer Cake? Really? In the middle of summer? For the Father’s Day? Are you kidding me?’ Pause. ‘OK, then bring him to a diner dive’, clearly, Chef Fieri just took the mind shift. ‘Are you serious? Not even a Melba Peach or something for breakfast?’ Then either legendary Monsieur Auguste or the years of legal reasoning kicked in: Melba – Toast – French Toast- Specialty French Toast – Specialty French Toast for a French (Canadian) Father…and Oh, he loves bread…now we are talking… My inner dialogue was interrupted by the patriarch himself: ‘Hey, did you see how much rhubrarb we got this year? And I think it’s ready…’
BINGO, this is gonna be a FRENCH TOAST-RHUBARB-STRAWBERRY-BAKE for breakfast and I can smell it already in my mind. The other day I made crumbs to finish the gluten free rice flour loaf (excellent for topping mixed with nuts, butter and maple syrup or brown sugar) and we always have a baguette or two (feel free to use white gluten free bread if you’re gluten intolerant), eggs and milk in our fridge. Plus locally grown strawberries from a farmers market, and now freshly picked rhubarb – it will be a yummy.
Please note again that this is an overnight dish. But other than that is a real easy-peasy. Rip the one day loaf or baguette into small chunks and spread into 9 by 13 inch baking dish. Chop-chop-chop: strawberries, rhubarb (I always peel the rhubarb stems before chopping them, but apparently it is not a must anymore). Macerate the fruits with sugar and a bit of water – done. 
Next, beat the egg & milk (or substitute) mixture with a bit of sugar, a pinch of ground nutmeg and cinnamon. Pour half of it over the bread chunks. Spread the macerated fruit mix over. Cover with the egg-milk mix and slide the baking into the fridge overnight covered with film to let the flavours marry.
Note: Although totally optional, if you happen to have some Grand Marnier or brandy in your bar, add a splash to the egg-milk mixture for that special French touch of it.
Next morning preheat the oven to 350F, spread the nuts-butter- crumble topping to cover the toast dish and pop into the oven for 45-55 minutes (3 last images in the collage). When the house is filled with the caramelized fruit aroma, the crust is golden brown and crispy, and the body of the toast is still slightly bubbling – it’s ready. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes before cutting. Serve with some extra fresh fruit and whipped cream if you like.
Our French (Canadian) father was smiling mischievously when he stepped into the kitchen next morning … and then the wide grin at the breakfast said it all. The no ordinary French Toast was a huge success.  If you happen to have any leftovers, reheat them in the individual ramekins next morning and they will still taste amazing.

And what do you think happened after this amazing breakfast? Well, may be somewhere around the Beltway fathers go play baseball with their kids all day long, but here in Canada – nah-nah-nah – think more of a ‘Canadian Bacon’ or ‘The Great Outdoors’…

Our father went to fell a tree with a chainsaw. Yep, that’s what he did last week-end. One of the gorgeous fir trees in our backyard has dangerously grown into the foundation of the house threatening that one day (or sooner) it will be either us or the tree residing in the dwelling, so, sadly, we had to let it go. And it was a hell of a job…
The prospect to go fishing next week-end helped to keep the spirits up and the BBQ family dinner with Bourbon Glazed Ribs, roasted new potatoes and chopped salad washed down by copious amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon wrapped the day quite successfully… not without an idea to make the whole next week a Father’s day week.
Cheers to all the great Fathers and I hope some of you will actually try this worthy dish! 
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RHUBARB STRAWBERRY FRENCH TOAST BAKE
Yields: 6-8 portions
Ingredients:
1 baguette or French loaf, day old*
2 cups milk (or mix of yogurt and milk, or 5% or 10% cream, or almond milk depending on your diet)
7 eggs, slightly beaten
1 tbsp sugar or maple syrup
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
Splash of brandy or orange liquor (optional)
Pinch of salt
For Macerated Fruit Coulis
2 cups rhubarb, chopped in ½ inch pieces
2 cups strawberries, chopped in ½ inch pieces
½ cup of sugar, or maple syrup
2 tbsp water
For Nutty Topping Crumble
1 cup white fresh crumbs* (baguette, loaf, white gluten free bread or Panko crumbs)
½ cup melted butter or ghee
¼ cup brown sugar or maple syrup
½ cup slivered almonds or other chopped nuts
½ tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt
Note* Use gluten free loaf and crumbs if you have gluten intolerance
Instructions:
Please note: this is an overnight dish.
Tear one day loaf or baguette into small chunks and spread into 9 by 13 inch baking greased dish. Mix the strawberries, rhubarb, sugar or maple syrup, add 2 tablespoons of water and put over low heat until the mixture bubbles. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Mix the eggs, milk (or substitute), cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar or maple syrup, salt and liquor (if using) with the whisk until well combined. Pour half of the egg mixture over the bread chunks.  Spread the macerated fruit mixture over the bread. Pour the remaining egg mixture over the top. Cover with film and refrigerate overnight.
Next morning preheat the oven to 350F. Mix the crumbs, butter, nuts, sugar, cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Spread the nuts-butter-crumble topping to cover the toast dish. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and crispy, and the body of the toast is still slightly bubbling in the center. Remove from the oven and let it sit for 10-15 minutes before cutting. Serve with some extra fresh fruit and whipped cream if you like.

Waste Not Cranberry Banana Bread Pudding


The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.’ This quote from witty Calvin Trillin is very ‘dear’ to me because leftovers of the unknown origin were what my Mom served the family as well. Which partly explains why I am so keen on food and cooking today… 
This reminiscence however, has nothing to do with the delicious sweet-and-savory Cranberry Banana bread pudding I made last weekend.  Except for the word leftover and the fact that almost half of the food we buy goes wasted. Let’s improve this statistics a little with a worthy and no-waste recipe.  This one is full of flavor and good things (fruits, seeds, allergy-friendly ingredients) and can be used in different menu applications: breakfast, brunch, dessert, side dish or coffee/tea break. And it’s actually made of the LEFTOVERS: stale bread/brioche/challah, very ripe banana, cranberry sauce left from holidays, etc. 
It is also fun thing to make with kids. Last week-end one of my friends, a busy mom with two little kids, popped around for a cup of tea after her ski trip and, pudding was the first thing that came to my mind as a quick and uncomplicated treat.  
Photo credit: Natalie Schweiger
Photo credit: Natalie Schweiger
Give your kids some easy tasks like peeling and slicing banana, breaking eggs, distributing crumbs and fruit in the baking dish. Crushing candy cane with the roll (to sprinkle on top of the pudding if the wish be) is another kitchen chore kids adore to do. They would really appreciate the result and their own participation. And of course, a nice cartoon while the pudding is in the oven…
I didn’t have to invent it or look for a recipe – I just used my favorite summer cherry pudding recipe  (the best thing ever to happen to a fresh or frozen tart berry: I’ve tried other recipes, but the acquired taste wins every time) with a few new touches.  I added 1/3 cup of roasted hemp seeds for a slightly nutty taste to upgrade the amount of protein, B vitamins and fatty acids. Feel free to skip this ingredient, or replace it with seeds or nuts of your choice (poppy seeds make also a very good option). 
I spiked the pudding with a bit of Meyer lemon juice and zest and replaced whipped cream dressing with a savory yogurt cream, mixing Greek yogurt with some cranberry sauce and a spoon of maple syrup. Finally, I made a quick cranberry coulis with an old cranberry sauce and some frozen cranberries.
The wonderful thing about this dish apart from being tasty and made of the recycled ingredients (and so comforting during winter cold), is that you can’t have too much of it. If you have any leftovers, please don’t throw them away, just portion them out if necessary and freeze.
Photo credit: Natalie Schweiger
Photo credit: Natalie Schweiger
Although the leftover fatigue is in my blood, I am urging you, please give them a second chance with some further dishes.  Put a slice in a lunch bag, have a piece for a tea break, with your morning café au lait (with grilled cheese on top – why not?), or freeze some and try later as a side dish to grab some of that juicy gravy from a roasted bird.
However you decide to re-purpose this pudding, it will be better, healthier and cheaper than any store bought stuff. Enjoy!
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One year ago: Easy Eggless Tiramisu
CRANBERRY BANANA BREAD PUDDING
Ingredients:
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sugar (or brown sugar, or mix of sugar and maple syrup)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of ground nutmeg
2 cups of milk (or almond milk)
4 cups gluten-free white rice flour bread (or challah, or brioche), cut into 3/4 inch cubes
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries (up to 1 ½ cups of berries)
1 large ripe banana, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch thick pieces
1/3 cup of roasted hemp seeds (optional)
Zest and juice of 1 Meyer lemon (or 1 orange)
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Cut the bread in 3/4-inch squares to make 4 cups. Peel and cut one ripe banana into 1/2-inch thick pieces. Reserve the cranberries.
Using a wire whisk, stir well beaten eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla extract, lemon zest and juice, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium bowl (or use a blender).
Place 2/3 of the bread cubes in on 9 x 13-inch buttered baking dish (or two smaller ones to make the equivalent volume); distribute cranberries, banana slices and hemp seeds and top with remaining bread cubes. Pour the egg mixture slowly and evenly over the bread mixture.
Bake uncovered for 65 to 70 minutes or until a knife inserted near center comes out clean; cool slightly (or completely, if you would like it to set so you can remove it from the baking dish to the plate) and serve with a dash of yogurt cream and a splash of cranberry coulis or a topping of your choice.
Yogurt Cream for dressing – mix three following ingredients:
1 ½ cups of plain Greek yogurt
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 to 2 tbsp cranberry coulis
Cranberry Coulis (yields 2 cups):
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1 tbsp grated orange zest
2 tbsp orange juice
1/3 cup granulated sugar or maple syrup (or more if you like it very sweet as opposed to sour-sweet)
1/3 cup water
1 cup cranberry sauce leftovers
Mix the first 5 ingredients in a saucepan and bring to boil over the medium high heat. Lower the heat and let simmer for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cranberry sauce and mix well helping to dissolve faster.  Simmer for about 5 minutes or until mixture thickens. Remove from the heat and cool completely.

Savory Mushroom Leek Parmesan Bread Pudding

The weather has been nasty in Montreal for the last few days which predisposed us to mostly stay home and do tons of baking (hoping that the ice rain will not bring electricity cut so often challenging us in this area).  Our family’s patriarch was successfully experimenting with kamut and millet bread to the Christmas jazz tunes. While I came up with an idea to make this bread pudding as a prequel to my Christmas post menu (which goes next).

This recipe was conceived last summer when I was staring at the mountain of the leftovers of commercial multi-grain gluten-free bread (which no one in our house eats except me) thinking how can I possibly re-use it.  I cut the stale bread in small cubes preparing first to use them instead of the crumbs in some fancy deep-fried recipes. Then I realized what a caloric bomb it would be if used that way (putting an extra load to our already weakened livers).
So pudding came next to my mind – I like no frills recipes where I can also recycle the leftovers.  Porcini, leek and Parmesan (I used old cheddar initially) factored in and Ta-dah! – few hours later I was trying the creation surprised with how little savory it tasted against my expectations.  I put other puddings in the fridge and re-heated one of them next day to have with a stew and, oh boy, it tasted so different! All the flavors I expected in a first place were set and present and waiting to be discovered upon a quick broiling to make the top crusty. Excellent main (with some good sauce or gravy) or side dish for stews and roasts.

Tonight I am repeating this exercise as I think it will work marvellously with the mystery bird I planned to cook for the Christmas dinner and act as a new age holiday stuffing. Buckle up with me if you like bread puddings.
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Savory Mushroom Leek Parmesan Bread Pudding
Yields: 8 portions
Ingredients:
3-4 tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for brushing
3 green onions (scallions), minced
30+ gr dried porcini, reconstituted and minced, or, ½ lbs (225 g) fresh shiitake or button mushrooms (or fresh mushrooms of your choice), minced
2 leeks, white and tender green thinly sliced
Splash of white wine, or apple cider vinegar mixed with water (50/50)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp fresh thyme
4 cups multi-grain (gluten free), or whole wheat stale bread, diced or in crumbs
4+ cups chicken stock, or milk, or mix of milk and cream
¾ cup Parmesan or other dense cheese of your taste, shredded
1 large egg, plus 2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
 Salt and freshly ground pepper
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Butter eight ¾ cup ramekins and set them in a roasting pan.
Melt the rest of the butter in a skillet, add scallions and mushrooms and cook stirring on the high heat for about 2 minutes. Add leeks, garlic, thyme and a splash of wine and continue stirring for another 5 minutes lowering the heat to moderate.  
In a large bowl, stir together the leek mushroom mixture, bread crumbs, stock, cheese, salt and pepper to taste until fully combined. Beat the eggs in a small bowl. In a saucepan, bring the stock (or milk and cream) till hot, but not boiling, remove from heat and gradually start whisking the eggs into the liquid. Stir the custard into the bread mix and let stand, stirring occasionally, until absorbed, for about 15 minutes. 
Divide mixture into the prepared ramekins, place in the roasting pan, add enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins and cover loosely with the foil (all at once). Bake for 25-30 minutes. Then carefully remove the foil and broil for 3-5 minutes until golden brown. Let cool for 15 minutes, then turn the bread puddings out onto an ovenproof platter. Sprinkle (optionally) with Parmesan and broil for about 30 seconds or until golden. Equally, you can make the pudding ahead and perform the same after up to 48 hours of refrigeration. Serve hot.

 

Green Mountain State & Sour Cherry Banana Bread Pudding

I call this simple dessert the epitome of summer happiness as it truly gives your taste buds that special touch of freshness you can only find in sour cherries. Their season is short, however, so if you are a sour cherry lover, you better hurry to the farmer’s market now for these little delicate fruits only show up once a year and not for long. Sour cherries are amazing in baking: they hold well under the temperature while their tartness and tanginess bring any dessert to a new tasty heights. As antioxidant-rich fruits (viva quercetin!) they are also huge on nutritional benefits and are known to relief stress, prevent cancer, improve cardio-vascular and anti-inflammatory functions.

Bread pudding is often associated with a heavy, cloying desserts most often served during fall or winter, but just wait until you try this one and you will surely be surprised. This recipe was inspired by our recent trip to the Green Mountain State – a week of a prolonged indulgence in the green beauty and locally grown organic food. For most of us Vermont is known for its skiing or fall foliage, but it is actually in summer that it really shines and you can see for your own eyes why it has consistently ranked the healthiest state in America. 
Vermont is so much more than just maple syrup or Ben and Jerry ice cream. It’s a lifestyle. The farmers’ markets are bustling with everything from locally grown food, to cheese and wine, arts and crafts. The switch to more organic, good-for-you products is apparent everywhere, even at the level of the convenience stores.
Lush green mountains, crystal clear lakes, pastoral scenic roads, rolling farmlands, rivers and waterfalls – you notice immediately how ”green and clean” this state is. You can actually enjoy the scenery while driving – no billboards obstructing the view. Back in 1968 Vermonters voted to regulate business for the benefit of the landscape and thirsty travelers. Since that time there has been no billboards along their roads. Surprised? Me too. (Curiously, the billboards are also banned in three other healthy and least populated states including Hawaii, Maine and Alaska).
Living in the green paradise clearly has its perks and you quickly notice that well-being is another Vermonters’ forte. People are shockingly friendly and relaxed. So nice and welcoming (so rare in our remorseful post-affluence society) that I felt I was lost in time somewhere between Norman Rockwell’s characters and Happy Hippies. I had to pinch myself sometimes to make sure I was not having a hallucination.
 Like taking a sip of a clean cold water on a hot summer day, so truly refreshing was my summer-in-Vermont discovery. I promised myself to embark on this wanderlust again shortly. So, when am I going back? This weekend, as a matter of fact. Yep, that’s how much I liked it! But let’s get back to our pain perdu aux cerises (French for our Cherry Bread Pudding), my little tribute to the state of all foods good and wholesome.
This lazy-amazing bread pudding takes only 15 minutes to prepare and easily converts to gluten free if you choose to use a gluten free bread like I did. In fact, I much more prefer it with gluten free bread (I used the most popular white rice flour bread variety you can get anywhere, from Walmart to Loblaws) since its major ingredient is rice, and, rice (as we all know) is awesome in puddings. Fresh sour cherries are of course the star of this dessert, but, frozen, dried or canned sour cherries work well too, or, you can vary the flavor using other sour fruits (i.e. apricots, plums, apples, cranberries, etc.) and adapt it to the summer’s bounty your way. One big ripe banana is a must as it makes a perfect taste & texture juxtaposition with any fruit combination. So, in four easy steps: 

  1. preheat the oven to 350 degrees F; pit the sour cherries using safety pin to make about one cup of pitted cherries; cut the bread in 3/4-inch squares to make about 4 cups; peel and cut one ripe banana into 1/2-inch thick pieces;
  2. using a wire whisk, stir together beaten eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium bowl (sometimes I use blender for this to cheat on the whisking);
  3. place 2/3 of the bread cubes in an 8x8x2-inch buttered baking pan or dish; distribute cherries and banana slices; top with remaining bread cubes; pour the egg mixture slowly and evenly over the bread mixture;
  4. bake uncovered for 65 to 70 minutes or until a knife inserted near center comes out clean; cool slightly and serve warm with a splash of cream and maple syrup drizzle (optionally, I also splash it with Grand Marnier) or a topping of your choice.

Looks convincing? Tastes too, you bet!
Bon Appétit and have a Happy Summer Time!
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SOUR CHERRY BANANA BREAD PUDDING
Ingredients:
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sugar (or brown sugar, or mix of sugar and maple syrup)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of ground nutmeg
2 cups of milk (or almond milk)
4 cups gluten-free rice flour bread (or regular raisin bread), cut into 3/4 inch squares
2/3 cup fresh or (frozen, canned or dried) sour cherries
1 large ripe banana, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch thick pieces
Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Pit the sour cherries using safety pin to make 2/3 cup of pitted cherries. Cut the bread in 3/4-inch squares to make 4 cups. Peel and cut one ripe banana into 1/2-inch thick pieces.
Using a wire whisk, stir well beaten eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium bowl (or use a blender).
Place 2/3 of the bread cubes in an 8x8x2-inch buttered baking dish; distribute cherries and banana slices and top with remaining bread cubes. Pour the egg mixture slowly and evenly over the bread mixture.
Bake uncovered for 65 to 70 minutes or until a knife inserted near center comes out clean; cool slightly and serve warm with a splash of cream and maple syrup drizzle (optionally, I also splash it with Grand Marnier) or a topping of your choice.