I probably shouldn’t admit how quickly this apartment goes through loaves of bread — we eat the stuff as fast as I or B. can bake it. (Our record is three loaves of pretzel bread, which is B.’s specialty, demolished in less than twelve hours. Almost no loaf makes it more than 24 hours, or 36 at the outside, around here.) So when I was on vacation a while ago, and had some spare time, I made some extra batches of a basic white loaf and stuck most of the dough in the freezer. It’s all gone now, and I’m going to settle down to some serious kneading and shaping again so I can stick to the habit of thawing the dough in the fridge overnight and baking it while I’m drinking my morning tea and catching up on RSS feeds. (You do know you can get A Very Uncommon Cook delivered to your virtual doorstep in a feed, right? I am just looking out for your welfare, folks!)
photograph by timlewisnm
(This recipe, I should note, is adapted from King Arthur Flour.)
1 ½ cups warm milk
1 heaping tablespoon honey
2 ¼ teaspoons yeast
1 ¾ teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons soft butter
around 4 cups all-purpose flour
2 mixing bowls
1 nine-inch loaf pan
Pour the warm (not scalded! just warm) milk into a large mixing bowl. Add the honey and yeast, and stir to dissolve. Let rest two to five minutes. Add salt and butter, and stir to distribute. Add three cups of flour and mix. Add the last cup-or-so of flour gradually, kneading in between additions, until you have a smooth, elastic ball of dough.
Oil or butter another large mixing bowl and put the ball of dough in. Roll the dough around so the exterior is a little greasy. Cover with a hand towel or plastic wrap (loosely, in the latter case; don’t make it entirely airtight). Leave in a warm still place (I like the top of the refrigerator) for up to an hour and a half.
Grease a nine-inch loaf pan. When the dough is puffy, deflate it gently. There’s no need to slam your fist into it like it’s done you personal injury; if you want that, I suggest a boxing gym. Shape it into a log that will fit in the pan. Cover the pan with the towel or plastic wrap, and leave it in the warm still place for another hour or so. After an hour, turn the oven to 350°; when it’s preheated, remove the towel or plastic wrap and put the bread in.
Bake for twenty minutes, and then drape some aluminium foil over the top. Bake another ten to fifteen minutes, or until golden brown, and cool on a rack.
French toast is a portmanteau breakfast: toast and eggs and millk all in one tidy package! It’s hard to improve a portmanteau — by definition, the individual elements have already been considered and combined advantageously. But it’s possible.
There’s the ‘interesting syrup’ version, which doesn’t really change anything in the core recipe (bread, eggs, milk, butter) but which can still be a revelation to those unfortunates who have never had really good maple or otherwise-flavored syrup; there’s the ‘interesting batter’ variation, adding spices and other nifty tastes to the eggs and milk (I’ve never been overly impressed by efforts in this direction — cocoa, cinnamon, various liqueurs, all have had minimal impact); and there’s the bread-switch, which I think can be grand. If you’ve never had French toast (are we supposed to call it freedom toast, by the way? I’m behind on my PCness) made with raisin bread, you should do so at the earliest possible opportunity. And finally, there’s stuffed French toast.
Honestly, I was always a little afraid of stuffed French toast — what did you do, cut a slit in the hot bread and inject whatever complicated concoction into it? Did you need a syringe?
As it turns out: no.
It’s like making grilled cheese in a pan: DUH. And the stuffing can (and, in my opinion, should) be pretty simple; I tweaked my version a bit, and eventually settled on the recipe below.
Mix 4 tablespoons softened cream cheese, 1 teaspoon brown or confectioner’s sugar (I prefer the molassesy taste of brown, but confectioner’s produces a smoother result), ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon. Set aside.
Slice slightly stale bread, preferably one with a fairly fine crumb, about ½-inch thick each. Spread the cream cheese mixture on each slice and cover one of the slices with sliced strawberries. (The word “slice” no longer looks like a real word.)
Press the bread together to form strawberry-cream-cheese sandwiches.
In a shallow, wide bowl, beat one egg and ½ cup of milk together. Soak the sandwiches, three to five minutes on each side.
Heat a frying pan or griddle over medium-high heat. When hot, melt a pat of butter in the pan; when the butter stops foaming, but before it browns, slide the sandwich into the pan (do as many as a time as the pan can hold, obviously). Let brown three to five minutes, then flip. When the second side is golden, serve with more sliced strawberries and syrup if you want it.
I’ve tried this with a few kinds of fruit, and strawberry was the best — peaches were too slippery, and apples should be probably be sauteéd on their own first, to soften them.