half and half

decadent French toast

by Heguiberto on January 20, 2012

Things with custardy fillings, textures and flavors taste like heaven to me. I love Portuguese custard pies, crème brûlée, flan, English bread pudding and of course, any decant cream-soaked French toast. A toast to French toast, I say!

decadent French toast

decadent French toast

Last Friday I went to the new La Boulange bakery that has just opened nearby my office in the Financial District of San Francisco. My co-workers Caroline and Megan wanted to taste their popular open faced smoked salmon sandwich and soup for lunch. It looked delicious, like everything else on the menu. The pastries seemed amazingly crispy and browned to perfection. While waiting in line, I couldn’t take my eyes off of this shinny, glossy, sesame seed-covered, braided brioche (challah). It was begging to come home with me. What can I say? I’m irresistible.
I used the brioche for this marvelous breakfast the next morning.

key ingredients for decadent French toast

key ingredients for decadent French toast. Mmm, that brioche loaf looks good!

decadent French toast

1 challah/brioche loaf cut into thick slices (about 6 to 8 )
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup half and half
½ tsp Kosher salt
3 tbsp sugar
~ 1 tsp canola oil
powdered sugar

Add eggs, sugar and salt to a bowl and whisk until incorporated. Add half and half and whisk again to combine. Soak bread slices on both sides for about ½ minute each. Allow bread slices to soak up liquid to almost completely saturate them with the cream mixture. Don’t let them break apart though, as it will ruin the presentation.

Meanwhile heat up a skillet with ½ tsp of canola oil, add as many slices as your skillet accommodates and fry them for about 3-4 minutes, flipping them half way. Be careful not to burn or under cook. Transfer to a serving platter, repeat with remaining. Dust powdered sugar over and serve. We had ours with some blueberries, butter, maple syrup and a nice big cuppa strong coffee.

frying the cream soaked brioche

frying the cream soaked brioche

dig in!

dig in!

{ 4 comments }

heartache tagliatelle custard

by Stevie on March 14, 2011

This recipe is part of a cooperative “cook-off” with my darling blogger friend, Heavenly, from donuts to delirium, and Christina, from Buenos Aires to Paris. I’ve been wildly excited about cooking with these two and remain thrilled to have been included. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out their cool blogs soon and often.

heartache tagliatelle custard

heartache tagliatelle custard

I call this custard “heartache” for several reasons. First, it is loaded with cream, butter and eggs, so cardiologists, beware. Next, I had trouble making it, which I’ll elaborate on more below. That caused me days on end of heartache and worry. But the dish turned out so flavorful and downright good, that everyone that’s tasted it has had heartache once they cleaned their plates. “You’re kidding! There’s really no more?” Lastly, today I’m bittersweet. This is the very day that my kitchen is to be demolished in preparation for renovation. That’s wonderful news in the long term but I’ll miss the wretched thing horribly while we suffer the remodel. And I won’t be enjoying more heartache tagliatelle custard anytime soon.

The recipe is a classic: fresh egg tagliatelle. It comes from one of Gino D’Acampo’s cookbooks. HH sent me the directions and urged me to “feel free to add any personal touches/sauces,” with which instruction, obviously, I’ve run wild.

The dish is straightforward and only uses a few ingredients. But it is labor intensive. Gino’s a cute guy, and I’ve no doubt that’s part of his appeal. Nevertheless, the pics accompanying the recipe of him in a T-shirt, flashing his biceps, smiling his stunning smile, as he pulls perfect, very long tagliatelle out of his hand-cranked pasta maker, isn’t just for show. I’ve a hand-cranked pasta machine, too, and I’ll tell you, making this is a real workout! I stripped some outer layers off myself. And I started sweating… heavily. (I couldn’t tell if G was, but suspect not. Some guys have all the luck.)

Gino offers two alternatives besides the original: a red tagliatelle made with the addition of tomato purée, and a green, made with fresh spinach. Initially, I wanted to try something American Southwestern, so made the “red” version with ancho chile purée instead of tomato. It tasted fine but looked a mess—sort of like teenage-me, covered in acne, irritated, with horrible bed-head. It didn’t photograph that well either, as you might imagine.

So back to the drawing board.

The texture of my disaster tagliatelle was rather fluffy, kind of like bread or rice pudding. And that, as they say, was that. Eureka! I decided to venture out of my comfort zone and try a pasta dessert.

I’m not especially creative with these things so feel back on a recipe of Heguiberto’s for bread pudding as my guide. I had to make some small adjustments to accommodate the hot tagliatelle. Otherwise, my dish is essentially the same as Gino’s for the “regular” egg noodles and the same as Hegui’s bread pudding recipe. In the first I traded canola oil for olive, thinking that would work better in dessert. In the second, I melted the butter and tossed it with the noodles and dried fruit instead of spreading it.

I made this twice. The first time, I didn’t cook the fresh pasta thinking that the custard would do that for me, thus eliminating a step. Alas, that proved to be a mistake. The custard was too dense.

heartache tagliatelle custard

My manual pasta machine.  See how I've gotten a new clamp to hold it in place.  What an upgrade!

My manual pasta machine. See how I've gotten a new clamp to hold it in place? What an upgrade!

300g “00” flour plus more to flour work surface
3 eggs
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp canola oil

3 cups half and half
4 tbsp butter, melted, plus more to grease baking dish
¾ cup raisins and currants
2 eggs and 1 additional egg white
3 cups half and half
½ cup sugar
1 vanilla bean pod
coarse sugar

 

To prepare tagliatelle:

Prepare Gino D’Acampo’s homemade egg pasta dough. I’ll summarize the directions. Mix flour, salt, and oil in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, beat together three eggs. (Actually Gino recommends the traditional make-a-well-in-a-mound-of-flour-on-your-board method. I simply ignored that since I always make such a huge mess that way.) With a wooden spoon, fold the flour in stages into the egg. Once the dough is wet and somewhat together, pour out onto a floured surface.

Kneed the dough for eight (8) minutes. This is critical. And tiring and is the step at which I broke a sweat.

Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Once it is rested, press dough on a lightly floured surface to a thickness that will fit your pasta machine’s widest setting. Crank the dough through. Dust with a bit more flour to prevent sticking. Adjust the machine setting to the next smaller size and process again. Continue until you’ve run it through all the settings to the most narrow (my machine has nine settings). The dough will grow enormously long and gets stickier as it grows. You’ll have to fold it so be sure to add a bit more four as needed to minimize sticking.

at this point, the pasta is about half-way flattened

at this point, the pasta is about half-way flattened

cutting pasta into tagliatelle

cutting pasta into tagliatelle

finished tagliatelle before cooking

finished tagliatelle before cooking

Change to the cutting rollers on your machine. The tagliatelle width is about a half centimeter. Gino sweetly writes that you can hand-cut the pasta if you’re machine doesn’t have the correct size, but I think that is perfectly insane. Use the machine and make due on the size.

Dust cut pasta with a bit of flour to prevent sticking.

At this point, you can cook and eat this in any of the traditional savory ways that you can imagine. March bravely forward for the custard.

To prepare custard:

Pre-heat oven to 350F. Grease a baking dish with butter.

Cut vanilla pod in half and scrape out seeds with a paring knife. Place pod and seeds with one cup of half and half in a small saucepan. Simmer for a few minutes to infuse vanilla flavor into liquid. Remove from heat and add remaining two cups of half and half to cool. Discard vanilla pod and set aside.

heartache tagliatelle custard with cream and dark chocolate Häagen-Dazs

heartache tagliatelle custard with cream and dark chocolate Häagen-Dazs

Cook pasta in boiling water for two minutes. Drain and toss with melted butter and dried fruit. Place into baking dish.

Beat remaining 2 eggs and egg white with sugar for a few minutes. Add vanilla-infused half and half. Beat for a minute more. Pour over pasta in baking dish. Sprinkle top with coarse sugar.

Bake 35 to 50 minutes until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Once firm, broil for a minute or so to brown top. Remove from heat and let cool.

Serve warm, with more half and half or some heavy cream, and/or with dark chocolate ice cream, like we did.


{ 12 comments }

Cold weather makes you want to gorge yourself on heavy foods, don’t you think? We’re having a cooler-than-average summer here in San Francisco this year. The high temperature has been hovering around the high 50’s to low, mid 60’s for the entire month of July and now into August. Yikes! For those of you used to the Celsius scale, that’s between about 15 to 20. Chilly!

spaghetti with shitake and trumpet mushrooms in cream sauce

When I lived in London in the Nineties I ate this dish a lot during the cold winter months. It was a common thing there though not so much in Brazil at the time, so I found the dish especially exotic and satisfying.

Unlike the delightful organic rainbow Swiss chard recipe from yesterday, this is not healthy. Oh well, today’s another day and you can’t always be good, now can you?

spaghetti with shitake and trumpet mushrooms in cream sauce

1 lb spaghetti (or linguine) cooked per package instruction
1 cup half and half
1 tray shitake mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 tray trumpet mushrooms, cut into slivers
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
10 kalamata olives, pitted and sliced in halves
3 tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley
4 tbsp olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Fancy extra virgin olive oil for finishing

Place olive oil in hot skillet. Add garlic and shallot then sauté for a couple of minutes until shallot becomes translucent. Add mushrooms and sauté on high heat until cooked but still firm. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Transfer half of sautéed mushrooms to a warm plate. Pour half and half into skillet then add kalamata olives. Allow to warm through. Taste to adjust salt and pepper. Toss with cooked pasta, parsley and red chili flakes. Transfer to a serving bowl. Top with reserved mushrooms. Drizzle with a bit of fancy extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle a bit more freshly ground black pepper over everything. Bon appétit! Stay warm.

shitake and trumpet mushrooms home from the farmers market

spaghetti with shitake and trumpet mushrooms in cream sauce sure hits the spot after spending an afternnon in this kind of London weather

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naughty British bread pudding

by Heguiberto on September 14, 2009

naughty British bread pudding

naughty British bread pudding

In my opinion everyone deserves to spend a vacation, perhaps a long vacation, in London. That city has so much to offer with its history, amazing museums, art galleries, parks, theatres, nightlife and culture in general. I have always been fascinated by it ever since I was a kid. I went to the UK in the early 1990’s to take some English classes, to escape an oppressive job/lifestyle I had in Brazil and to just enjoy life!

This every-day, delicious, high fat and high cholesterol bread pudding recipe brings back good memories of the time I lived in the British capital. For a while I had a part-time job working as a waiter for a couple of catering companies. This job took me to some great places where I would not otherwise have been able to go. I worked in castles, mansions, fancy hotels, embassies, guilds, etc. Some of these spots had art collections that were simply breathtaking. These catered functions would have live music, recitals, dances and more! The work was tough but I really enjoyed it. A fellow waiter told me that a good waiter should be invisible while caring for the needs of the guests. Well, when I wasn’t playing the invisible man or snooping around these luxury palaces, I enjoyed watching the chefs and sous-chefs and their various assistants churn out incredible dishes for varied crowds of glamorous diners in industrial style kitchens. Everything was so dramatic and theatrical!

British tacky tourist crap

British tacky tourist crap

I’ve adapted this simple recipe from one that I saw a chef preparing at one of these events. This bread pudding has a very mild flavor and it’s not overwhelmingly sweet. You can add more sugar if you want it sweeter. Enjoy it responsibly! It’s a real gut-buster. I liked it so well that I forgot my own advice. I probably ate three quarters of it all by myself over about twelve hours; some for dessert and some for breakfast the next day. It was heavenly but, just like a good Catholic saint, I felt very guilty about it afterward.

Naughty British Bread Pudding

Ingredients:
14 slices of white Pullman bread
24oz of half and half
Approx. ½ stick of butter at room temperature
1 vanilla bean pod
3 egg whites and two egg yolks
½ cup sugar
½ to ¾ cup raisin

How to:

Preheat oven to 350F.

Spread some butter on a glass baking dish and reserve.

removing crust from pullman bread

removing crust from pullman bread

Meanwhile pile ½ of the bread slices on a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, cut crusts off of bread. Repeat process with the remaining bread. Discard edges. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Make one layer of bread at the bottom of your glass dish, buttered side up. Sprinkle raisins over it. Repeat process with a layer of bread, buttered side up followed by some raisins until bread is used up. Do not put raisins on top of final layer of bread slices. I made about three layers in my baking dish. If you use a round dish, like I did, you may need to cut the bread slices to the right shape to fit for flat layers.

Using a pairing knife, split vanilla bean in half, scrape all the grainy seeds out and place them along with pod in a medium pan with 1 cup of half and half. Warm liquid up till mixture has been flavored and air becomes permeated with vanilla aroma, about 4 minutes. Stir constantly. Turn heat off and add cold half and half to mixture. Discard vanilla bean pod.

Add ¾ of sugar to a bowl along with egg whites and yolks. Using an electric mixer, beat for a couple of minutes to mix well. Add vanilla flavored half and half. Beat for another minute. Pour mixture over bread. Sprinkle the rest of sugar over the pudding and bake for 30 to 35 minutes. To caramelize the sugar, broil for a few minutes at the end of cooking. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 10-15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Try not to eat the whole thing in a single sitting!

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