Breakfast Buns and Brunch

There’s not much better than brunch on a Saturday afternoon. A brunch that stretches into four or five hours, mostly due to a few bottles of prosecco, with enough pomegranate juice to fool yourself into thinking you’re being healthy. Week eleven of the little red chicken food experiment was designed around some Magnolia Bakery raspberry cream cheese breakfast buns. Two very dear friends came over for what was initially supposed to be afternoon tea and muffins, but at the end of the day, prosecco goes better with crepes and a cheesy potato bake.  

I’ve experimented with potato bakes in the past. No set recipe really, just usually throw some potatoes and sausage to roast in the oven, coat everything with cheese, and serve with sour cream on the side. Can’t go wrong. Especially if you really want to fuel up for a Saturday, but not in that healthy low-fat oatmeal and fruit kind of way that you try to start the week with and never make it past Tuesday. More like a fuel up to soak up prosecco kind of way before you take a nap. If that’s what you’re going for, this is the recipe for you. Cut up whatever potatoes you have, leave skins on (you know, to be healthier) toss them in olive oil (again, with the health), a couple of slices of diced bacon (it is Saturday after all), salt and pepper and hot smoked paprika, or something a little more mellow if you like. A mild or a sweet paprika would be just as nice, but I’m addicted to the smoked stuff and it goes well with the bacon. Throw it all in a dish, bake in the oven for an hour and a half or so (I like potatoes all crispy and slow-roasted, but you could certainly do it faster if you like) on 375 F.  Remove from oven, coat in grated cheese and return to oven until cheese is all melty and golden and looks like something that would make people fall off their treadmills if you walked into a gym with it.

Crepes! I love them. I love them so much. They are so easy to make and they make you feel like a person who really knows what they’re doing. You can make a huge pile and keep them warm in the oven wrapped in foil, plunk them down in front of your guests with a bunch of toppings, pick up your glass of pomegranate and prosecco and tell them to go crazy because you’re done for the day. I got this recipe from my mom years ago and have it scribbled down in a favourite cookbook of mine…it might be from The Joy of Cooking, but I could be wrong, so I hope I don’t end up in internet copyright prison or however that works. I suppose I should check that out one of these days. You don’t need a crepe maker, just a good non-stick frying pan lightly brushed in oil (I used whatever I had that wasn’t olive…I think it may have been peanut) in between each crepe. The pan should be hot, but not too hot. Don’t turn it up and run to the bathroom or anything. Always remember what your mother told you about hot oil and try not to burn your house down. Don’t be scared, it’s not that much oil, just, you know, be aware. Use a ladle to pour the batter into the pan, then lift the pan by the handle and do a sort of sideways circley motion with your wrist to spread the batter around until it’s a nice thin crepe shape in your pan. Do it relatively quickly after the batter hits the pan so it doesn’t cook before you can get your crepe shape. That explanation was totally scientific and excellent.

Sift:  3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 2 tablespoons powdered sugar.

2 eggs
2/3 cup milk
1/3 cup water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or grated lemon rind

Make a well with dry ingredients. Add liquid, combine swiftly with fork. Don’t over-mix.

There you have it. Cook til golden. They don’t take long at all. Pile them in foil on a plate and keep warm in the oven. They freeze real well. But you probably won’t have any left to freeze, especially if there’s a jar of nutella on the table. Nice with yogurt and a blueberry-partridgeberry compote, all rolled up and drizzled in maple syrup.

Pomegranate and prosecco, cheesy potato bake, nutella crepes. Time for dessert! These breakfast buns were, admittedly, a little sweet after the barrage of berries, chocolate and crepes, but we would have been ok after a lighter breakfast. I’m not kidding anyone really, they were amazing and we ate them like gulls. Perfect, fluffy, moist, sweet, cream-cheesy goodness. I’m not one for store bought jam, but I happened to have a bottle of raspberry in the fridge. In hindsight, the leftover partridgeberry compote would have been great swirled on top. In any case, I’ll be making these again and experimenting with a new jam (preferably homemade and made by nan) every time.

Raspberry Cream Cheese Breakfast Buns

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound (one 8oz package) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup raspberry preserves

Confectioner’s sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour bun pans or large muffin cups. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese, butter, and sugar until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs and beat well. Add the dry ingredients in two parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. Spoon the batter into the bun pans or muffin cups, filling them about two-thirds full. Drop 3 small dollops (about a teaspoonful each) of raspberry preserves onto the top of each bun and, using the tip of a sharp knife, swirl the preserves into the batter, forming a decorative pattern, Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the centre of the bun comes out clean. Allow the buns to cool for about 30 minutes before sprinkling with confectioner’s sugar and serving.

I wouldn’t say the preserves swirled so much as made a sticky mess that made me swear a little, but I suppose real homemade preserves don’t do that. I knew the end result would work out ok though, so I wasn’t too bothered. Forgot the confectioners’ sugar to garnish. No tragedy there really, I’d pretty much filled my sugar quota for the week with the chocolatey crepes. Waiting 30 minutes, an impossibility, obviously. Whoever made that rule up was on a diet. A second batch would have been nice. But we ate the rest of the batter. I’m not joking.

From the The Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook, Simon and Schuster, 2009

Oops. Nine and Ten…

Week nine, no new recipe. Week ten, a frenzy to try and make up for it. I got over the guilt by trying three new recipes instead of two. Not exactly the madness of February’s tapas night, just a casual evening with a couple of friends and some bread and wine, with a new dip and a salad thrown in for something different. The next day a visit from a friend and her new baby girl. Baby Grace was perfect, so were the muffins, and maybe next time she comes over she’ll be old enough to try some solid food.

Bean and Rosemary Dip

2 x 310 g (10 oz) cans butter beans or cannellini beans
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Rinse and drain beans and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and cook the garlic and rosemary for 1 minute, or until the garlic is softened. Add the beans and stock and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Allow to cool. Blend or process the mixture in batches until smooth. Add the lemon juice and season, to taste. Serve with bread or grissini. This dip can be kept in the refrigerator in a covered container for several days.

Another nice one from The Essential Mediterranean Cookbook (Bay Books, 2005). Really simple flavours and really fresh.  I decided on this recipe at the last minute as I had some fresh rosemary in the fridge leftover from a roast chicken dinner and I didn’t want it to go off. I tried to find cannellini beans (I can barely say that word, it’s hilarious), no luck. If anyone knows where to find them in St. John’s, let me know. Used a can of navy beans instead. Or maybe they were white kidney beans. Maybe a white kidney bean is a butter/cannellini bean is a navy bean. Yikes. I am at a loss. Maybe someone can leave me one of those angry/embarrassing internet comments and I’ll feel bad about my lack of bean knowledge. Anyway, I used some kind of white bean from a can (pretty sure it said navy), the dip was good, I’d make it again. All you need to know. And very healthy/low fat for those of you concerned about stuff like that (I go back and forth, depending on my mood).

Jamie Oliver’s Waldorf Salad

4 large handfuls of interesting green salad leaves (such as frisee, romaine, Belgian endive, arugula, and watercress), washed and spun dry
2 large handfuls of seedless green or red grapes, halved
3 medium celery stalks, trimmed
2 large handfuls of walnuts (approx. 4 oz) roughly crumbled
a small bunch of fresh Italian parsley
1 red apple
6 oz blue cheese, such as dolcelatte

For the dressing:1 heaped teaspoon Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons white wine or red wine vinegar, good-quality extra virgin olive oil, 1 heaped tablespoon natural yogurt, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

In a large bowl, toss together your salad leaves and grapes. Using a speed peeler, carefully remove the stringy bits from the outside of the celery. I like to do it this way as it’s a bit more delicate and you don’t lose too much celery. Finely slice it at an angle, then toss the pieces in with your leaves and grapes.

Get a dry frying pan over medium heat and toast you walnuts. Give them a shake every 25 seconds or so-you want to heat them through but you don’t want them to colour too much.

Discard the tougher ends of the parsley stalks and finely chop the rest of the stalks. Put to one side, then chop the leaves and add these to the bowl of salad leaes. Put your chopped parsley stalks into a clean screw-top jar with your mustard and vinegar, then pour in 3 times as much extra virgin olive oil. You want the dressing to be fresh and creamy, so add the yogurt and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Whack the lid on and give it a really good shake. Dip your finger in for a quick taste and balance the flavour with a little more vinegar, oil, or yogurt.

Drizzle over enough dressing to just cover your leaves. Finely slice your apple into lovely matchsticks and scatter these over the top. Tip over the toasted walnuts, and use your hands to dress and toss everything together. Transfer your salad to a large platter, piling all the grapes and walnuts on top of the leaves.

Use a knife to break off little pats of blue cheese and scatter these over the salad. Drizzle over a little extra virgin olive oil and you’re done.

I love Jamie Oliver. Sometimes I’m sad he doesn’t live next door (no offence Catherine and Shannon). This is from his new book Jamie’s America (the Penguin group, 2010), a fantastic Christmas gift from my friend Susan. A gorgeous cookbook, highly recommend it. That’s two Jamie Oliver cookbooks I own now (both thanks to Susan come to think of it) and I use them religiously. I was in a bit of a hurry when I made this so as lovely as Jamie’s instructions are, I tossed everything together in a bowl and served it. And toasted pecans instead of walnuts because Sobey’s was all out (no bacon at Christmas I can excuse, but this is getting a bit silly). I refrained from mixing the salad with my hands, as I didn’t want my guests to see me lick the blue cheese off my fingers.  The salad was amazing.  I made it two more times before the week was up.  Don’t be afraid of using yogurt instead of the mayonnaise you’d add in a traditional Waldorf salad.  The tang is perfect and just heap on some more blue cheese if you’re worried about being too healthy.

We closed off the night with chocolate chip cookies. This is the recipe that will end your search for the perfect chewy cookie. I discovered it a few years back and I’ve been experimenting with it ever since. Anna Olsen suggests using chunks of bittersweet chocolate and I find once you go good quality chocolate, it’s hard to go back. I like to use a good dark chocolate, mint, orange, chilli, some kind of high quality chocolate bar that I chop into chunks. Good quality wasn’t necessarily on the menu tonight. But mini-eggs were.

The next day. Donut muffins with Leigh Ann and baby Grace. My mom made a version of these when I was a kid, and I guess I hadn’t really thought about them, even though they’re fantastic and a slightly less evil way to satisfy a donut craving (yes, muffins brushed with butter and rolled in cinnamon and sugar is less evil, don’t believe anything else they tell you). Thankfully, rekindled the memory and I used this recipe from the Mac and Cheese Review blog. I added a little cinnamon with the sugar, brushed the tops of the muffins with melted butter (salted butter…I like the contrast with the sweet) and then rolled the tops in the cinnamon sugar mixture. I can’t lie. I’ve made these a couple of times since week ten, and while I tried to refrain from brushing and dipping the whole muffin instead of just the tops, I failed miserably.