Culinary Experiment #10: Crème Brûlée French Toast

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I don’t have any ramekins. Nor do I own any of those bad-ass mini blow-torches. Nor do I have the money to purchase either item in the near future.

But I love crème brûlées. I looooove them. I need them. And I will have them in any form.

They not only taste amazing but the textural combination is wonderful: velvety, fluffy and smooth custard topped with a crunchy, glass-like caramel shell. Not to mention the custard is easily adaptable to varying flavor preferences. It doesn’t always have to be vanilla. You can experiment and have your comfort flavors on hand too.

So when the opportunity came up to incorporate one of my favorite desserts into my all-time favorite meal, breakfast, you better believe I wasted no time in getting the ingredients together to make it.

Enter the Crème brûlée French Toast recipe. This recipe not only replicates the flavor and texture of a traditional crème brûlée, it serves it up in what is basically an edible ramekin: sliced Challah bread, which is used to make the toast.

So this recipe is budget-friendly and decadent. It even offers an easier alternative to having to use a mini blow-torch or using your oven’s broiler to achieve that shiny, sweet, hard caramel crust.  And this alternative caramel method doesn’t sacrifice taste or presentation. It’s just fabulous.

However, praise aside, I should note that I changed some things in the recipe based on what I had on hand, price and personal taste and texture preferences. So here are my recipe notes:

  1. Challah bread: Challah is an eggy, braided bread and depending on who you ask and what their standards are, this is either a very difficult bread to bake or a super-easy one. I didn’t want to risk sacrificing taste just for the bragging rights of making my own bread so I left it up to the experts. Plus, it worked out that it was cheaper to buy a small loaf at Einstein Bros. Bagels than to make a giant loaf on my own. I only needed a small loaf for the purposes of this recipe; so that was also a plus. Yay, less waste! You could also use brioche bread, which is a cake-like eggy bread. I might try that next time, as I’ve heard brioche is sweeter.
  2. Milk: I substituted half and half for the milk mentioned in the recipe. I usually don’t buy milk. I’m not a fan. It just tastes watery to me. And also, I just had it handy in my fridge. I don’t think it makes a difference because the filling still tasted like a custard to me.
  3. Orange zest: I don’t own a zester or a grater and I’ve heard using dried orange zest is often considered pointless. And it’s expensive.  And I didn’t want to use orange juice because I was afraid the acid in it would curdle the cream and ruin the custard before I even baked it. So I just bought a small bottle of orange extract and used a little less than the teaspoon called for in the recipe, as I didn’t want the orange flavor to overpower the vanilla. I love vanilla.
  4. How long should you soak the bread in the custard before baking it? I think it depends on how thick your slices of bread are. If you managed to get your slices the same thickness as recommended in the recipe then follow their recommended time as well. But since I had a  smaller loaf of bread to work with, my slices were thinner and so rather than risk over-soaking and getting soggy french toast (blech!), I decided to only let the slices soak for 20 minutes total, 10 minutes on each side before baking, instead of the recommended 30 minutes.
  5. Hard-caramel shell method: DO NOT, I repeat, do not try to take the easy way out and try to melt the sugar in the microwave. It either won’t melt without cream or if you add cream, it will get all foamy and weird. And not at all caramel-colored. Seriously, it was like my bowl had rabies. Not good. Just do what it says in the recipe and melt the sugar in a pan. Although, I used a small skillet (not a sauce pan) to melt it. Not sure if that matters, but it sure seemed easy and fast enough to move the caramel to the toast in time to spread it before it hardened into a caramel candy shell.
  6. Custard: I just mixed the filling ingredients with a large metal spoon. I was afraid to over-mix this time. But I think next time I’ll use a blender to mix the custard ingredients together to see if I can get an even smoother, creamier filling.

As always, I hope you enjoyed this post. Don’t hesitate to let me know what you think. I’d love to hear your opinions, questions and stories! Especially if you tried this recipe out and/or experimented with different flavors and toppings: I’d love to hear your suggestions.

I’d also like to thank Kara of  livelovepasta.com for posting and writing about this recipe!

Thanks for reading and I hope you all have a lovely week!

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Culinary Experiment #5: Avocado Fries

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Can’t take your eyes off of those sexy bread crumbs, can you? Those avocado slices have been fried in panko. Panko is a Japanese-style of bread crumb that is lighter and flakier than the kind of crumbs you’d normally find in Western cuisine.

Some advantages to using panko:

  1. It absorbs less grease or oil when you fry with it. Which means less fat and the food doesn’t have that trademark overwhelming, heavy greasiness that most fried foods can develop.
  2. Presentation: If you just want a light and airy crispy look to your food, the flakiness of panko crumbs can provide that. Since each crumb is shaped like a flake, there’s less of a chance of them clumping together and you’re more likely to see whatever you’re frying, whether it’s avocados or seafood, come through the surface of the dish. That way you’re not just seeing monochromatic shades of “bread brown”, you can actually see little pops of color of what you’re actually frying.
  3. Staying power: It’s sad when something you just fried loses its glorious crispiness just hours later. But due to its low-absorption of grease, panko can stay crispier longer, and so your dish can also stave off that nasty oily sogginess longer.

Ok, I know at this point I sound like an annoying infomercial, right? You’re totally waiting for me to say, “But wait! There’s more!”

Yeah, that’s not happening. There isn’t any more. On to the recipe notes!

Here’s the recipe.  It’s from a blog called “Circle B Kitchen” written by Patrice Berry.

  1. I actually kind of halved the recipe when I made it because I didn’t want to spend the money on a second avocado. They can get pricey! But even when I made only one avocado’s worth of fries, I still produced a large number of fries. Seriously, if you’re going to make these, make sure you invite some friends or family over or else it might be a waste of food unless you’re really into avocados like me.
  2. For a dip, I used a bottled ginger salad dressing. So. Good. The dressing’s citrus-y, spicy, sweetness cuts through that creamy avocado and puts a happy zing in your mouth. And the dressing, the version by Makoto, also has a savory aftertaste that’s kind of addictive. I love it. I also think hot sauce would be great with these fries too.
  3. A warning to those with limited counter-space, plates and patience: The only annoying thing about this recipe is that you’ll need to set up an intense prepping station. Like you almost need a different plate/bowl for each ingredient. Most of the time you’ll spend on this recipe is on prep. Frying is a breeze. And after…Well, afterwards you’re just happy. Deep-fried Nirvana.
  4. Timing and temperature: If you’ve got one of those fryer thermometer thingies, use it…it’ll allow you to follow the time set by the recipe much closer. I do not own one, so I pretty much just waited until the oil got hot and bubbly. (Basically, I started heating the oil at the beginning of the prepping process of my avocado slices.) Since I had no idea how hot the oil was, I just did trial and error and eyeballed it.) As a result, when I followed the time set in the recipe, the first couple of fries were a little burned. So after that, I just waited until the other fries looked as deep golden as they did in the recipe and just pulled them out then.
Don’t forget to let me know what you thought of this post and the recipe. I’d love to hear your comments and questions.

Wow, I’m seriously on a roll this week! Two blog posts in two days! I feel super-productive.

Hopefully, this week is shaping up to be a wonderful and productive one for all of you as well!

P.S.: I’d like to say thank you to Patrice Berry of “Circle B Kitchen” for posting this recipe!

Culinary Experiment #3: Amy Sedaris’ Vanilla Cupcakes

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I love David Sedaris. And after reading “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” and baking these cupcakes I now also have a newfound appreciation for his actress sister Amy.

They’re not like the ones you’d get from the bakery at your local grocery store. These cupcakes are not “yellow cake” cupcakes. They’re truly vanilla cakes in cupcake form. They’re super moist and fabulous. And I recommend that you also use the mocha icing recipe listed on The Cutting Edge of Ordinary, the blog where I found the recipe for the cupcakes.

The slight bitterness of the cocoa and coffee combination in the icing is a perfect contrast to the sweet vanilla flavor of the cake.

Note: The icing isn’t one of those super fluffy fancy ones you see in cupcake shops these days. It’s got a rustic flatness to it, but it also has a rich, dark chocolate color and a glossy finish that would pair nicely with both classic rainbow sprinkles or the trendy ones that look like pearls. Or you don’t have to have sprinkles at all. Even without sprinkles this icing holds its own.

Some ideas for variations on this recipe:

  1. I’d maybe try to add a white chocolate ganache; as either a filling, icing or drizzle. I like the color contrast between the ganache and the mocha icing. I also just like white chocolate.
  2. I was thinking of using vanilla bean paste, just because I think it would intensify the vanilla flavor and I’m one of those foodies that just loves seeing those little black vanilla bean specks.
  3. I also wonder how it would taste with a citrus element: I thought maybe next time I’d either create a white icing with lemon or orange juice flavors. Or maybe I’d add lemon or orange zest to the cake itself.

I hope you get a chance to try out this recipe. Let me know how it goes for you and comment on this post with with your experiences, questions or ideas on how you’d make this recipe better.

Once you do make these cupcakes, do make sure to enjoy them while watching an Amy Sedaris classic: “Strangers with Candy”. Relax with a group of friends, unwrap a cupcake and just let the comedic magic that is Amy Sedaris and Stephen Colbert wash over you. You won’t regret it.

Have a lovely day!

P.S.: I’d also like to say thanks to Lisa of The Cutting Edge of Ordinary for posting this recipe.

Culinary Experiment #2: Quick Migas

I am always looking for a quick yet super satisfying breakfast. I always end up with just the “quick” part.

Enter the Hobbies Cookbook project. I’ve only recently started cooking the recipes on my list and I already feel healthier. Not because the food I’m preparing is necessarily lower in fat or calories (as you’ll notice in this recipe), but because I’m now less reliant on processed food and let’s be real, the frozen food section at Kroger.

This week I finally found the recipe. It’s perfect. It’s got scrambled eggs, cheesy goodness, salsa, tortilla chips and creamy avocados.

The dish is called “Quick Migas”  and it’s from a blog titled “Budget Bytes.” You can access the original form of the recipe here.  

This recipe is definitely customizable. And I took full advantage of that feature. I’ve made some changes to the recipe based on taste and what I had on hand. Feel free to try out my version:

  1. I decided to make a single-serving version. So instead of 6 eggs, I only used 2.
  2. I didn’t have milk, but I did have half-and-half. So I used 2 teaspoons of that instead. (The measurement here was adjusted from 1/4 of a cup to 2 tsp because of the reduction in the number of eggs used in my version.) The change in the use of the milk, didn’t seem to affect the taste of the eggs. They still tasted like scrambled eggs.
  3. I omitted the cilantro. It was already in the jarred salsa I was using.
  4. I made the following substitutions: Instead of butter, I used canola oil. It’s just a personal flavor preference. Also, instead of green onions, I cubed a whole avocado and added it to the egg/cheese/tortilla/salsa mixture at the very end.
  5. I don’t think the original recipe mentions when to use the salt and pepper. So I just mixed them in with the eggs before I cooked them in the pan.
  6. I added Cholula’s Original flavor Hot Sauce at the end for more zing and heat.

I made some important observations while cooking and eating this dish:

  1. If you’re using fewer eggs like I did,  keep an eye on those eggs, and begin stirring right when the eggs start to set around the edges. Because those eggs cook fast! Really fast. You don’t want them to dry out because you waited too long.
  2. If you’re a slow eater like I am and you decide to add avocados to this dish, give them a spritz of lemon juice before consuming them. When the insides of avocados are exposed to air for longer than a few minutes they begin to show signs of the oxidation process and turn brown, much like apples do. You can still eat them, you just have to scrape off the brown layer first. But to save yourself from having to do that at all, just squeeze lemon or lime juice on them before you eat them. The acidity from the lemon/lime will slow the oxidation process and prevent the browning that can occur while you’re eating the migas. Plus, it’ll make the overall dish even more flavorful!

This dish was a wonderfully fast and scrumptious way to have Mexican food for breakfast. And with the avocados, it was like a magical, deconstructed guacamole.

If you decide to try out this recipe, feel free to comment on this post to let me know how it went! I’d love to hear about your experiences!

I’d also like to thank Beth M. of  Budget Bytes  for posting this recipe.