I have a deep love for breakfast pastries. Crazy love. As a kid, special morning moments were always marked with a treat – Pillsbury pecan rolls to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, cookies for Christmas breakfast, pink donuts for Valentine’s Day. Don’t even get me started on Paczki Day. I could take or leave a muffin but a well-made croissant makes my toes tap. In culinary school I learned to make Danishes the proper way, with layers and layers of careful butter lamination, and promptly gained 5 happy pounds. A beautiful flaky scone or a perfect old-fashioned donut is cause for celebration. I’ve been known to do some serious damage on a kringle of any kind, but given the choice, a good bakery-style buttery, crumbly coffeecake wins every time.
Archive for the ‘breakfast items’ Category
Breakfast is a challenge for me. “The most important meal of the day” mantra has been drilled into my head but it doesn’t matter. I need an hour or two to fully wake up and get moving before I can eat. At that point, it could be anything. Classic eggs-bacon-toast combos if I have time, a quick bowl of oatmeal, day-old cake or a donut maybe, leftover Chinese food, sometimes just a giant ice tea. I have no regular morning routine besides this: no chocolate. In general, chocolate based breakfasts – besides that leftover cake of course – are not my thing. It just seems weird.
Posted in adventures/field trips, breads, breakfast items, pastry, travel, tagged cardamom, cardamom buns, swedish baking, Swedish cardamom custard buns, swedish pastries on January 9, 2013 | 7 Comments »
I’ve always wanted to visit Scandinavia. I knew I’d get there at some point, the opportunity just hadn’t presented itself. Yet. Then during a trip to Napa Valley last June, there is was, right in front of me. After many, many glasses of wine my friend Rachel leaned across the bar and said “Kathy, you have to come to the wedding.” “Of course!” I replied, “I’m game for a road trip to Iowa!” She looked at me, dead serious, and said “No, it’s in Sweden. On Thanksgiving.” “Wait …what?” “Yep, Sweden. In the town my mother grew up in. Höör.” And that my friends, is how I came to find myself in Sweden, in late November, in a curiously named town, in a tiny country church built in 1727 witnessing two friends tie the knot and enjoying a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner at the reception. You can’t make this stuff up.
I’ve taken quite a fancy to making cheese lately. Some dairy, a little acid, a touch of heat and you have something spectacular. I’m baffled by how easy it is and why I didn’t realize this sooner. Of course I’m not talking aged specimens, carefully tended in specially humidified caves. My recent fascination is more with the quick, fresh cheeses easily made at home without any particularly special equipment or ingredients. It’s so simple and the results far outpace anything you’ll find on a grocery shelf. I’m not kidding. So why don’t we do it more? Because we’re dumb.
In the last post, I told you all about my obsession with butter which resulted in actually making my own butter. It really is very easy and you may have already done it by accident without realizing it. Whip cream until it separates and there you go. The byproduct of the process is of course the liquid that separates out from the solids: buttermilk. While my freshly made golden butter was chilling, I decided to take that beautiful buttermilk and make some biscuits. Oh hell yes. When I’m in, I’m ALL in.
My Grandma Claire had a tradition. Every year on the day after Thanksgiving, she’d round up her various girlfriends and head into the city to hit the big sales. I’m pretty sure this was before the retail world had deemed the day “Black Friday.” For her, it was the best day of the year. She’d wander about Neiman Marcus and visit Tony, her favorite salesman, at the cosmetic counter. He’d fuss and fawn, stuffing her purse with perfume samples, making her over with the latest shades. She loved the attention and for Christmas we would all receive the latest Obsession perfume gift box or Estee Lauder eye shadow kit. For lunch, it was always the store restaurant, The Zodiac. And it was always about the popovers with strawberry butter.
About ten years ago I was wandering the fairytale-like streets of Bruges, a picturesque town in Belgium, searching for a particular chocolate shop when suddenly the most magnificent scent stopped me in my tracks. Sweet, yeasty with slight caramel notes; I was entranced. I blindly followed the scent around a corner as if some cartoon-like finger under my nose was pulling me along. On the side of a little shop down a cobblestone street was a small window with a tiny hand-painted sign: “Liege Wafels”. Waffles? Couldn’t be. There must be a misunderstanding. After weeks of fine Belgian beer, buckets of mussels, impossibly crispy frites and really really good chocolate, I didn’t want a waffle. I wanted whatever smelled so good. Oh how little I knew. These were not the Eggos of my youth nor the IHOP Belgian Waffles loaded with bad strawberry puree and canned Reddi-Whip. Oh no, not in the least. Puffy, slightly sweet, caramelized and crunchy on the outside, these beauties were more like a crunchy dimpled cookie than anything else. Hot off the griddle, I was hooked. I hit that shop window twice a day for three days in a row.
Posted in appetizers/first courses, breakfast items, holidays, main courses, tagged corned beef potato pancakes, irish dishes, irish potato pancakes, irish recipes, potato cakes on March 16, 2012 | Leave a Comment »
I have a real love and genuine appreciation for classic diners. Nothing is more magnificent than watching a true hash slinger in their element during a breakfast (or late night) rush. Poetry in motion, my friends. I read somewhere that a famous chef once said he’d take a breakfast cook from a Waffle House over a new culinary grad any day and I believe it. I would too – those guys know their $*@%. When you’re in the weeds and the line is going down in flames, THAT is the guy you want to have your back, not some princess. It makes me a little sad that there are fewer and fewer true diners anymore. Trendy brunch places that serve dessert pancakes and sous vide eggs are on the uptick and that’s a shame. There is nothing better than classic buttermilk pancakes cooked on a well-seasoned flat top, slicked with sausage grease and the stray green pepper from someone’s Denver omelette. A happy sigh escapes at the mere thought.
How we Americans spend St. Patricks Day and the traditions we associate with it have very little to do with the Emerald Isle. I came to this realization after spending one fine Chicago St. Patrick’s Day with an Irish friend and he was pretty much baffled yet highly entertained by the spectacle. The morning started with the beloved Chicago tradition of dying the river green, followed by a rather drunken parade dubiously honoring a Saint whose origins are unclear to just about everyone present, an afternoon full of sketchy green beer and delicious pints of Guinness (and more pints and pints) followed by a dinner of corned beef and cabbage. The typical St. Patrick’s Day stuff. At the end of a very long day, he looked at me with a big loopy grin and said “I don’t know what any of that has to do with my homeland, but it was great fun!” Precisely.
Last year, an interesting book and I crossed paths. I put it down and picked it back up, again and again. I was intrigued. My cookbook collection is housed on multiple bookshelves in the dining room, with an occasional pile in the family room but eventually those too make their way to the shelves. Eventually. Except for this one. It has lived under my coffee table for over a year, within easy reach from the couch where I do a lot of my work. The book? Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole Grain Flours by Kim Boyce. First out of the gate was a fantastic Whole Wheat Chocolate Cookie that completely changed my perception of whole grain baking. I never, and I mean never, thought a cookie containing 100% whole wheat flour would be that delicious. There was nothing hippie dippy about them whatsoever.