A few months ago, we did the doughnut muffins, which are pretty much unbeatable, given the ease with which they are made, and the fantastic flavor. Everybody loves them.
A couple of weeks ago though, James outdid himself when he prepared not only the doughnut muffins but this to die for Orange Pecan French Toast. It doesn't photograph very well cold, sadly - but I was too excited about eating it to photograph it when it was still warm. It's really more like a sticky bun, with a bread base on the bottom, and is oh so good. There is no need for syrup - since the topping makes its own, but the sweet orange flavor is the perfect foil for a dollop of creme fraiche and some berries. This is also pretty easy, given that you just mix everything up and dump it in the pan the night before, then bake it in the morning.
This week, I also decided to try my hand at some homemade cinnamon rolls. We had a bake sale at work to raise money for breast cancer awareness and I wanted to bring something breakfast-y, since it started at 9 AM. I started with a recipe of this dough, made in two batches and wound up with thirty rolls. They were rather time consuming to make - but I was quite proud of myself, having never made anything with a yeast dough before in my life (unless you include a couple of not-so-successful attempts at bread made with a grape sourdough starter ages ago). I think the next time I try these, I will do up the flavors a bit with some cardamom or ginger, just to make them a bit more interesting - but this traditional version was very good.
I think I'm going to need a bigger KitchenAid if I'm going to become a bread person, because that thing only holds about a fist sized ball of dough! Someone else suggested using a bread machine to mix the dough and bake it through the first rise - after which you can take it out and shape it or do other things with it, but that kind of takes the "hands on" fun out of it.
Anyway - here are the recipes. Both require a little planning, but are well worth the effort. Indulge and enjoy!
Orange Pecan French Toast
(adapted from allrecipes.com)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/3 cup chopped toasted pecans
12 (3/4 inch thick) slices French bread (we used a baguette)
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 egg whites
1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar for dusting
1/2 pint creme fraiche - stirred
fresh berries for garnish
- In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, melted butter, and corn syrup. Pour into a greased 9x13 inch baking dish, and spread evenly. Sprinkle pecans over the sugar mixture.
- Arrange the bread slices in the bottom of the dish so they are in a snug single layer.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the orange zest, orange juice, milk, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, egg whites, and eggs. Pour this mixture over the bread, pressing on the bread slices to help absorb the liquid.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour, or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C ). Remove the cover from the baking dish and let stand for 20 minutes at room temperature.
- Bake for 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until golden brown. Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche and fresh berries
Makes 15 (one 9x13 inch pan)
Half of this recipe - prepared through the first rise and punched down.
1 stick of butter - softened
5 Tablespoons of good quality cinnamon
1 cup of brown sugar
Cream Cheese frosting:
4 oz of cream cheese, softened
1 stick of butter, softened
1 cup of powdered sugar - sifted
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 drops of lemon extract or oil (optional)
Line a 9x13 inch baking pan with parchment paper, and lightly grease the paper.
In a small bowl, mix the cinnamon and brown sugar together with a fork.
After punching the dough down, divide it into two pieces. Let it rest for a few minutes, then roll out and stretch each piece into a rectangle about 13" x 9", with the long edge facing you (it should be about a quarter of an inch thick). Spread softened butter on the rectangle, leaving a one inch border at the top uncovered. Evenly sprinkle half of the brown sugar and cinnamon mixture over the butter - still leaving the one inch border at the top. Starting at the bottom left corner - start rolling the sheet of dough away from you, until the border at the top comes in contact with the outside. Evenly slice the roll into pieces about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches thick, and place in the paper lined pan about 1 inch apart and one inch from the edges of the pan. Repeat with the second half of the dough.
From this point you can either let them proof at room temperature (preferably in a warm moist place) for about 30-45 minutes - at which time they should be ready for baking, or set them in the refrigerator to proof overnight. You can also cover the pans and freeze them. If you do this, leave them out on the counter (covered) overnight and they will be ready for baking in the morning - this is what I did and it worked well.
Bake at 350 for about fifteen to twenty minutes, until they start to brown on the top. If they look brown but aren't done yet (pull up the center of the middle roll to check) you can cover them with lightly with foil to finish baking.
Meanwhile, make the cream cheese frosting. Whip the cream cheese and butter in a mixer fitted with the wire whip attachment. Sift in the powdered sugar and add enough milk to make it a pourable consistency. Beat in the vanilla and lemon extract or oil (be careful with the lemon oil - just a little too much can make it taste like pledge!)
When the rolls are still warm, drizzle the frosting over and spread it around with a spatula or brush. These are best served still warm from the oven.