Friday, April 24, 2015

Brown Butter Pecan Brioche Pudding with Bourbon Brown Butter Sauce

Butter Pecan Brioche Bread Pudding with boozy sauce. Just say it to yourself and you'll know exactly why I allowed myself to be seduced by this idea. The idea for this was sparked because my new boss has a pretty sweet (no pun intended) ice cream maker and was describing the rich, custard-y chocolate ice cream she had made. It caused me to dream of making my favorite flavor at home: butter pecan. Well, I don't have an ice cream maker and I'd been planning to play around with another style of bread pudding and bam--this dish was born. I added my own little twist to the idea of butter pecan by using nutty brown butter in both the pudding and the sauce. Sweet and spicy cognac and bourbon in the sauce compliment the rich butter flavor and crisp toasted pecans. This is an easy yet impressive dish to make for company. If you chill the sauce you may notice it separating. It will come back together when warm and sufficiently whisked.

A word about the choice of bread: If you can find brioche or have a good recipe and don't mind making some, definitely use it; it really gave the pudding a much softer consistency, so it was more like a custard than a bread pudding. This was the consistency I was shooting for and I think it can best be achieved with soft bread like brioche or challah, although brioche is best.

Brown Butter Pecan Brioche Pudding with Bourbon Brown Butter Sauce

For the Pudding:

4 cups stale brioche, cubed
4 egg yolks
2 whole eggs
1/4 cup cream
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons clarified brown butter
1/3 cup whole pecans
1 tiny pinch of salt

1. Assemble the bread pudding: grease a 9 × 9 inch baking dish and lightly press the brioche into the dish to compact it somewhat and make it easier for the egg mixture to be absorbed.
2. Whisk together all other pudding ingredients and pour equally over entire pan of bread cubes. Press once more to get eggs absorbed. Cover and chill for a minimum of 3 hours and up to overnight.
3. In the last half hour of your pudding chilling, make your sauce (see below instructions).
4. Preheat the oven to 325 and lay your pecans in a single layer on a greased baking sheet. Ladle a small amount of sauce over them and toast for between 5 - 10 minutes. Set sauce aside and cover to keep warm.
5. Turn the oven down to 300 and bake bread pudding for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Be careful not to overbake.
6. Chop toasted pecans and sprinkle over each portion before serving. Cover each portion with a generous amount of sauce.

For the Sauce:

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup water
2 Tablespoons cognac
2 Tablespoons bourbon
1/4 cup cream
2 Tablespoons clarified brown butter

1. Add water sugar and salt to a small saucepan over low heat. When sugar has dissolved add cognac and bourbon.
2. Reduce to 2/3rds of its original volume by continuing to cook sauce at a lazy simmer.
3. When it has been suitably reduced, add cream to warmed brown butter. Whisk to combine. Slowly incorporate this into your sauce and remove from heat.
4. Use sauce for pecans and to cover bread pudding.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Peanut Butter Thumbprint Cookies

What could be better than buttery thumbprint cookies, topped with your favorite jam? Introducing peanut butter into the mix. Think of it as a PB & J, but for dessert. I had a couple of jars of this fabulous four fruits jam (cherry, strawberry, red currant, raspberry), so I wanted to do something special with them. Thumbprint cookies were a good idea in the “something special” category, but to make it even more so I decided to change the cookies from butter cookies to chewy, rich peanut butter cookies. They’re my dad’s favorite. I’m thinking I’ll probably have to make these for him the next time I visit.

Peanut Butter Thumbprint Cookies

Makes 2 dozen

1 cup flour
½ cup peanut butter
½ cup + 2 Tblsp brown sugar
½ cup + 2 Tblsp sugar
2 eggs
1 stick butter, softened
¼ teasp salt
¼ teasp baking soda
1/2 Teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup jelly of choice (I used a preserve called four fruits)

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Grease a baking sheet.
2. Whisk together dry ingredients.
3. In a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together sugars and butter until they form a paste. Add eggs, then peanut butter and vanilla.
4. Turn speed down to low and add dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated.
5. Drop onto cookie sheet in rounded Tablespoonfuls. Press center of each with your thumb gently to form a well.
6. Bake for 18 minutes, or until cookies are set. Reflatten the thumbprint and fill it with the jam of your choice. Serve them warm, if possible.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and I welcome your feedback!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Chilled Pencil Asparagus Spears in a Zesty Miso Citrus Dressing

As we all know (and can even feel in the air), two things are coming: asparagus season and beyond that bathing suit season. This recipe is a new way to enjoy tender chilled asparagus virtually guilt free. The zesty, umami rich flavor of miso dressing compliments asparagus gently bitter green taste and is very low in calories. The result of this combination tastes like a tangy and flavorful celebration of the fact that spring is on its way!

Chilled Pencil Asparagus in a Zesty Miso Citrus Dressing

1 bunch of pencil asparagus, washed and trimmed

For the dressing:

1 shallot clove, roughly chopped
juice of 2 limes
juice of 2 small navel or two blood oranges
1 Teaspoon sesame oil
¼ cup red miso
2 Teaspoons mirin
2 Tablespoons rice vinegar

Prepare an ice bath for your asparagus (2 parts ice cubes to 1 part water in a metal mixing bowl or metal baking dish).
Bring a large pan of water to boil and salt it.
When the water is boiling, add asparagus and allow to boil for 1 - 2 minutes. Immediately scoop asparagus spears out of pan and into ice bath. Leave to cool.
Meanwhile, pulse all dressing ingredients in the blender.
Serve asparagus drizzled with dressing.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and I welcome your feedback!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Asparagus, Chicken Apple Sausage and Gruyere Frittata

I may be taking liberties with the concept of a frittata. The consistency of this baked egg dish is very similar--light and fluffy, but it is not fried or flipped. And it has potatoes, much like a Tortilla Espanola. Whatever I decide to call it there's no doubt this combination of vibrant, earthy roasted asparagus, melty and nutty gruyere and slightly sweet, incredibly flavorful chicken apple sausage is a winner. If you're searching for new ways with asparagus, I highly recommend this. There were two reasons to use chicken apple sausage: the first is because it goes really well with the other flavors and the second because the South Bay Area loves themselves some chicken apple sausage. My husband and I have never seen a breakfast place in the bay area that did not offer a chicken apple sausage item on their menu. So, to honor my new (ish) home I used their favorite sausage.

Asparagus, Chicken Apple Sausage and Gruyere Frittata

Makes one 9 x 9" frittata

4 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 cup half n half or 1/2 cup each milk and heavy cream
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
10 stalks roasted asparagus*, chopped into 1" pieces
2 chicken apple sausages, sliced into about 1 centimeter pieces
3 ounces gruyere cheese, mostly grated**
2 medium yukon gold potatoes, sliced the thickness of kettle potato chips

1. Preheat oven to 400. Toss potato slices with olive oil to coat and season with salt and pepper. Arrange on a baking sheet in a single layer. Roast until tender, about 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.
2. (optional) in a medium saucepan over medium heat, brown sliced sausages in olive oil and set aside to cool.
3. Mix egg batter: whisk together the eggs and egg yolks, then add half n half (or milk & cream), asparagus, gruyere (in both forms) and sausages. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Lower oven heat to 350 and grease your baking dish. Lay potato slices three layers thick across the bottom of your baking dish. Pour in egg batter.
5. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the top begins to brown. Lower the heat to 275 and cook for an additional 20 minutes, or until a fork inserted in center comes out clean. Serve alongside a simply dressed salad.

*To roast asparagus, toss whole spears (trimmed of fibrous ends) to coat in olive oil and season with salt and pepper; bake in a single 375 degree oven until tender, about 12-15 minutes, depending on stalk thickness

**To prepare the cheese to mix into the egg batter first use a vegetable parer to shave 10 or so pieces from your hunk of gruyere, then grate the rest

I hope you enjoy this recipe and I welcome your feedback!