Archive for the 'Make Ahead Breakfast' Category

High Altitude Update: Breakfast Casserole

I was recently hit with a major influx of bread.  My dad was in town last week and my uncle was joining us for dinner at the house, so I had purchased a package of white bakery buns for barbecued chicken sandwiches.  An hour before dinner, I got a fantastic Foodbuzz-related delivery: three packages of rolls – one white, one wheat, one sesame hoagie – courtesy of Nature’s Pride.  My uncle voted for the wheat rolls that evening and I ended up freezing the white and sesame rolls, but my original package of white buns was left sitting in the pantry.

For the past couple of months, I’ve been making a concerted effort to keep my groceries bills down and to de-clutter my pantry by using what I have.  What’s one of the best ways to use up extra bread?  Egg casserole, baby.  My mom has a recipe that has been a longstanding family favorite, but I hadn’t tried it since Dallas.  With so many houseguests coming in the next several weeks, I figured it was time to add this one to my high-altitude arsenal.

I followed the recipe exactly as written except that I used some of the Mexican-blend cheese I’ve had in the freezer since the Ocho de Mayo party.  (If anyone wants to come over for quesadillas, let me know.  I still have four pounds of it!)  I also used all of the optional ingredients.  I baked the casserole for the full 60 minutes and let it stand for 10 minutes before cutting into it.

Breakfast Casserole

This is such a tasty recipe and it absolutely reminds me of being back home.  When I wrote my original post I swore I’d only use challah bread for egg dishes from that point on, but the hamburger buns did an amazing job of soaking up the egg mixture.  (The casserole sat for 30 minutes at room temperature before I baked it; I didn’t refrigerate it at all this time.)    I was a bit concerned that it might not quite be done at the hour mark because the center looked slightly juicy; I used my instant-read thermometer to take its temperature, though, and it had reached a more-than-okay 180°F.  When I cut it after 10 minutes of resting time, it wasn’t runny at all.  (I might still give it an extra 5 minutes of baking time next time just because.)

If you’re looking for a creamy, cheesy, comforting crowd pleaser, this is your recipe. Give it a try!

Link to original post and recipe: Breakfast Casserole


Cinnamon Rolls

Are you interested in a trip to food heaven?  Pioneer Woman’s Cinnamon Rolls can take you there.

I’ve had some highs and lows when trying PW’s recipes, but these Cinnamon Rolls are the best of the best.  In her cookbook, she mentions that the recipe has been passed down through the family, and I can see why it’s still in use.  The rolls are sweet, gooey, and incredibly moist; it’s practically impossible to eat just one.  I brought them to my brunch-themed gourmet club meeting as the dessert course, and the recipe was branded a “keeper.”

Between dough making, rising, rolling, filling, cutting, rising again, and baking, the rolls require some effort.  I think they were delicious enough to be worth it, though, and even a half recipe will leave you with plenty of rolls to store or share.

As usual with PW’s recipes, I’ll let her show you how to make them.  Here are my notes from the experience, though:

  • I cut the recipe in half and ended up with around 23 rolls.  (My dough rolling wasn’t perfect, so I lost a few on the ends.)
  • After I scalded the milk, oil, and sugar, I let it drop to around 120°F before I proceeded with the dough making.  (This took about 45 minutes.)  I used an instant-read thermometer to measure the temperature.
  • After I added the first quantity of flour, my dough seemed a bit loose and I was worried.  Everything worked out fine with the rising and rolling.
  • I refrigerated my dough overnight before using it.  I just punched it down before I rolled it the next morning.
  • Rolling the dough (both into a rectangle and into a roll) was a bit challenging. Hopefully, I’ll improve with practice!
  • I used butter-flavored cooking spray to coat my baking pans instead of butter.
  • My rolls didn’t rise much during the 20 – 30 minute pre-baking rise period, but it didn’t seem to matter.
  • I used those 8 1/2-inch round aluminum foil cake pans that you can buy at the grocery store.  I was afraid they would be too shallow (they’re about 1 1/2 inches high), but I didn’t have any trouble.
  • I did a lot of needless worrying while trying this recipe.  Have you noticed? 🙂
  • I think the ideal number of rolls per pan is 7 or 8.  I did as few as 6 in one pan and as many as 9.  The more space you give them, the more they expand.
  • I baked two pans right away and froze one (tightly wrapped in foil).  I let the frozen one thaw on the counter for an hour and then factored in 20 minutes of rise time before baking.  I baked each pan of rolls (fresh and previously frozen) for 17 minutes at 375°F.
  • A half-recipe of icing makes approximately 1 3/4 cups.  Divide it among your pans accordingly.
  • When I say the rolls are sweet, I mean sweet.  I’m a bit of a sugar addict and I definitely enjoyed them, but they may be too sweet for some.  I think you could successfully cut the amount of sugar in the rolls in half; I was shocked when I had sprinkled the entire surface of the dough with sugar and still had half of it left in the measuring cup.
  • I think the rolls are best when they’re warm, but they really were delicious the entire day they were baked.  (I know because I couldn’t stop nibbling on them.)  They did start to take on a “day-old pastry” taste the next day.
Cinnamon Rolls

Baked cinnamon rolls before the icing

Cinnamon Rolls

Ooey-gooey iced deliciousness!

I can’t wait to make these again!

Recipe link: Cinnamon Rolls

Apple Fritters

Like thousands of other people who follow Pioneer Woman’s blog, I’m sure, my friend Christopher and I set out to make her apple fritters this past weekend.  (Our Saturday night also included her pot roast and mashed potatoes, which I’ll write about later, and The Hurt Locker, which I highly recommend.)  Due to my level of red wine consumption, I was kindly demoted to sous chef.  I can’t say I minded, since I rarely get to see someone else in action in my kitchen.

Since I didn’t do anything besides chop the apples and pull the ingredients out of the refrigerator and pantry, I can’t give a first person step-by-step breakdown of this recipe.  I do know that Christopher followed it as written, though, and that the results were absolutely delicious.  Here are a few photos from our project:

Apple Fritter Batter

This shot shows the consistency of the batter and the size of our apple dice.

Undusted Apple Fritters

This photo says it all. We have the freshly fried, undusted fritters; the arm of C.Go, who made it all happen; the powdered sugar that had to be transferred to a Ziploc after I dropped most of the regular bag into the batter bowl; the red wine that got me demoted; and the arm of Dr. O, ready to taste the finished product.

Apple Fritters

Finished fritters!

It took us a few tries to find the right amount of batter for fritters that were golden brown and cooked through, but once we got it, we got it good.  The result was a soft, puffy fritter that was lightly crisped on the outside; the cinnamon and the apple bits were what really made them sing.  They were super tasty and definitely worth the fry mess, especially since we were able to re-crisp the leftovers in the oven the next morning (350°F for 8 minutes) for a second round of deliciousness.

If you’re going to try this recipe, I have a few recommendations:

  • Dice the apples pretty finely.  You can see the basic size we used in the photo of the batter.  I was pleasantly surprised by how cooked they were even after only a minute or so in the oil.
  • Start with your oil at medium-low heat.  We started at medium heat and our test fritters were browning way too quickly; the centers were undercooked while the outside was practically burned.  Once we hit our stride, we were using about 1 tablespoon of dough (half of my cookie scoop), oil over medium-low heat, and only about 90 seconds of cooking time (45 seconds on each side).
  • Definitely wait until the fritters cool down a bit until you dust them with powdered sugar; otherwise, they’ll just soak it up.  (If you just can’t wait, though, go for it; you’ll still taste the powdered sugar even if you can’t really see it.)

Recipe link: Apple Fritters

Twice-Baked Garlic Soufflés

It’s my turn to host gourmet club this month, and I’ve chosen French food as the theme.  (It’s not very original with all the Julia Child buzz from last fall, I know, but I thought it would work well since French food and February are generally known for romance.)  My first test recipe (which I failed to photograph!) was Ina Garten’s Boeuf Bourguignon.  It was absolutely delicious and can be made a day ahead, so I put it on the official menu.  The recipe serves six, though, and while there are only six people in my gourmet club, I wasn’t completely comfortable without a bit of wiggle room in terms of portions.  Rather than make more Boeuf Bourguignon, I thought it would be more interesting to curb appetites a bit with a first course.  I originally thought to serve salad and even tried a recipe, but it just wasn’t fitting with my vision.

Luckily, an Epicurious search turned up fancy, make-ahead food gold: Twice-Baked Garlic Soufflés.  In my mind, soufflés were always temperamental intermediate- or expert-level dishes that had to be served immediately.  These do take a bit of work for the initial assembly, but you end up with perfect individual portions waiting in the refrigerator.  A bit of seasoned cream and 15 minutes in the oven are all that stand between you and heaven on a plate.

I followed the recipe as written, so I won’t go through the step-by-step here.  I do have a few notes, though, that may be helpful if you want to attempt the recipe:

  • When the recipe says “5 cloves dried garlic,” it’s talking about the garlic we are accustomed to buying in the produce section of American supermarkets.  (Take a bulb, separate and peel five cloves, and chop them.)  I’m not even sure where to buy fresh garlic.
  • I used regular white vinegar, whole milk, and Cantal cheese (which I actually managed to find in the “fancy” cheese section of my regular old grocery store).
  • I brought my eggs to room temperature before using them.  Either let them sit on the counter for 30 minutes or submerge them in a container of warm (not hot!) water for 2 minutes or so.
  • I used my immersion blender to puree the garlic milk; it worked beautifully.
  • My ramekins only had a 1/2-cup capacity (not 3/4 cup as the recipe recommends), but I didn’t have any problems.
  • My first round of baking was 25 minutes at 350F.
  • I wasn’t as thorough as I could have been when I buttered my ramekins, so I struggled just a bit to get my soufflés out of the dishes.  Next time, I’ll butter generously.  It doesn’t really matter if they don’t come out perfectly anyway since no one will see the bottoms when the finished product is served.
  • To hold the soufflés until the next day, I put them in larger ramekins (as the recipe says), let them cool completely, covered them with plastic wrap, and then placed them in the refrigerator.
  • I put salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese in the heavy cream to make my sauce.
  • To serve the soufflés, I pulled them out of the refrigerator, removed the plastic wrap, and placed them on a rimmed baking sheet.  I spooned the cream sauce over them, baked them for 15 minutes at 400F, and served them immediately.

Here are the soufflés straight out of the oven after the first round of baking (nice and puffy!):

Garlic Souffles Fresh From the Oven

Here are the cooled soufflés in the larger ramekins before I covered them with plastic wrap:

Cooled Garlic Souffles

And here’s the final product:

Twice-Baked Garlic Souffles

They didn’t puff up quite as much as I had hoped after the second baking, but they were so incredibly delicious!  The savory combination of the garlic, thyme, and Cantal cheese was seriously to die for.  The texture was really light and fluffy, and baking them with the cream sauce creates a flaky, crusty top.  I loved how Dr. O said that he really enjoyed the sauce…  What’s not to like about something that’s 95% heavy cream? 😉

I served the soufflés with vegetables as a light dinner the first night; Dr. O liked them so much that he had two more for breakfast the next day (a good sign!).  The recipe only mentions making the soufflés one day ahead, but the fact that they were just as delicious that morning tells me that you can easily get away with two days.  I’m just so excited to have found a make-ahead recipe that is flavorful, gorgeous, and perfect for entertaining; this one will definitely be filed as a “keeper.”

Recipe link: Twice-Baked Garlic Soufflés

Ham and Cheese Buttermilk Breakfast Muffins

What if you could invest 20 minutes of active cooking time to have a healthy, satisfying breakfast ready in 60 seconds or less for the next 3 days?  Ham and Cheese Buttermilk Breakfast Muffins from Jim Romanoff of the Associated Press is a recipe that allows you do to just that.  I made these easy, savory muffins on Saturday morning and we’ve been enjoying them since.

First, I prepped my ham and veggies.  I thinly sliced 1 bunch of scallions to yield 3/4 cup (the recipe called for 1 cup), diced half of a red bell pepper to yield 1/2 cup, and diced 6 ounces of sliced ham to yield 1 cup.  Next, I prepped my muffin pan by spraying it with cooking spray.  (I used a silicone muffin pan for easy release, but any old muffin pan is fine.  You can use liners as well, if you want.)

In a large bowl, I whisked together 3 cups of flour, 2 1/4 teaspoons of baking powder (the recipe actually calls for 1 tablespoon, but I adjusted for altitude), 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.

In a medium bowl, I whisked together 2 large eggs, 1 1/3 cups of buttermilk, 2 tablespoons of canola oil, and 3 tablespoons of melted butter.  I stirred in the prepared ham, scallions, and red pepper along with 1 cup of grated sharp cheddar cheese.

To form the batter, I added the wet ingredients to the dry and mixed with a rubber spatula just until everything was combined.  (Don’t overmix.)  I used an ice cream scoop to transfer the batter to my prepared muffin pan; 1 heaping scoop per muffin cup was just about right.  (The cups were very full.)

I baked the muffins at 400F until the tops were browned.  The recipe said 20 – 25 minutes; at Denver’s altitude, I got the results I wanted in 28 minutes.  I let the muffins cool in the pan for 15 minutes, turned them out, and served them warm.

Mmmm.  These were seriously good.  The muffin itself was moist and fluffy with great density, and I loved the chunky texture of the ham and pepper pieces.  The scallions and cayenne pepper added the perfect amount of zing.  I did feel like they could be a bit saltier, so I think I’ll double the salt to 1/2 teaspoon next time instead of 1/4 teaspoon.

The recipe made 12 muffins, which is far more than Dr. O and I can eat on our own.  I wrapped each muffin individually in plastic wrap and placed the leftovers in the refrigerator.  (They’ll keep for 3 days.)  As promised, these warmed up beautifully in the microwave…  Each muffin just needs 30 seconds on high to be back to warm, moist, and delicious.

TIPS: I always ask my deli guy or gal to slice my meats thick when I need them for dicing.  The person behind the counter usually has *some* idea of how thick a slice should be to yield the amount I need (though I never expect them to get it exactly right!).

Also, if you have a silicone muffin pan and you choose to use it, remember to put it on a baking sheet for support before you put it in the oven.

Recipe link: Ham and Cheese Buttermilk Breakfast Muffins (inactive)

Update 8/23/12: The recipe is no longer published on the Dallas Morning News website.  I’ve written it out in a separate post (and mine isn’t going anywhere!); click here to visit.

Sweet Sundays: Blueberry Crumb Cake

I recently caught an episode of Barefoot Contessa where Ina Garten made an absolutely incredible-looking blueberry crumb cake. I happened to have some blueberries on hand and I am *always* looking for easy brunch recipes, so I just had to give it a try.

First, I buttered a 9-inch springform pan. I sprinkled flour inside, rolled it around to coat the buttered surface, and then tapped out the excess. The recipe says to use a 9-inch round baking pan (not a springform pan, specifically), but I have no idea how you’d get the cake out in one piece without the springform release mechanism. The cake magically went from pan to counter during a commercial break when I was watching the episode, of course.

To make the streusel, I combined 1/4 cup of sugar, 1/3 cup of lightly packed brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, and 1/8 teaspoon of ground nutmeg in a medium bowl. I stirred in 1 stick of melted unsalted butter, followed by 1 1/3 cups of flour. Once everything was well mixed, I set the bowl aside.

To make the cake, I creamed 6 tablespoons of room temperature unsalted butter with 3/4 cup of sugar until it was light. (This took 5 minutes at high speed using my stand mixer with the paddle attachment.) I reduced the mixer speed to low and added 2 large eggs (one at a time), followed by 1 teaspoon of vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon of grated lemon zest, and 2/3 cup of sour cream (reduced-fat is fine). In a separate bowl, I sifted together 1 1/4 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon of coarse salt. With the mixer on low speed, I slowly added the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. I turned the mixer off and folded in 1 cup of fresh blueberries with a spatula.

I spooned the batter into my prepared springform pan and smoothed the top. With my fingers, I crumbled the streusel topping over the batter. (It’s better to make the crumbles small to avoid any large, too-crunchy pieces; I spent about 3 minutes finely crumbling the mixture.) My cake came out perfectly after exactly 40 minutes at 350F; a toothpick inserted in the center was clean except for a few tiny moist crumbs. I cooled the cake on a wire rack for about an hour. When we were ready to sample it, I ran a knife around the inside of the pan and unmolded the cake to serve.

There is only one word to describe this cake: DEADLY! I think it might just be the best cake I’ve ever made. Ever. Dr. O actually said “whoa” after he took his first bite. It was perfectly moist with a hint of lemon, and the topping was “just right” crunchy. It cut beautifully with a serrated knife, so serving it was a breeze. I have to say I was thankful that Dr. O took most of it to work the morning after I baked it… I can just hear this one calling my name. My only boo-boo is that I forgot the sprinkle of powdered sugar before serving. (Terrible, I know!)

TIPS: Ina Garten always uses extra-large eggs in her recipes. I really only buy large eggs, though. Two large eggs worked well with this recipe; here’s an egg size conversion chart if you’re interested.

Also, don’t worry if your streusel mixture isn’t crumbly until you physically crumble it over the cake batter. It won’t have coarse texture like an oatmeal topping for a fruit crisp might.

A final tip: Always toss fruit (or chocolate chips, or whatever) with a bit of flour before you fold the ingredient into a batter. I tossed the blueberries with about 1 tablespoon of flour before I added them to the cake, which ensured that they didn’t all end up at the bottom of the pan. (Discard any excess flour that doesn’t cling to the ingredient you’re adding.)

Recipe link: Blueberry Crumb Cake

Canadian-Bacon Strata

Technically, I suppose the “week of breakfast” ended yesterday, but I have one more post for you.  (I’m on a wedding/business trip, and my Saturday was nonstop!)  Canadian-Bacon Strata from the May 2006 issue of Everyday Food is a recipe I actually tried for the first time on Easter.  *Tried* would be the key word here, but I’m not sure I failed for lack of skill.  I was in a condo kitchenette in Whistler, and the 1970s oven had some heat issues.  (As in I had home fries in the oven at 350F, and they weren’t warm to the touch after an hour.  Yikes.)  The strata we ended up with tasted good, but it was really, really wet because things didn’t set up properly.  I decided to give it another try at home with an oven that could do the recipe justice.

First, I buttered a 2-quart baking dish and set it aside.  I split and toasted 4 English muffins, and then cut each half in half.  I also cut 8 slices (8 ounces) of Canadian bacon in half.  I arranged the English muffins and Canadian bacon in the buttered dish, cut side down, alternating between the two.


Next, I sprinkled the muffins and bacon with 1 1/4 cups of shredded sharp cheddar cheese and 1/3 cup of finely shredded Parmesan cheese.  I set the dish aside.

In a large bowl, I whisked together 8 large eggs, 3 cups of milk, 1 1/2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, a pinch of pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon of Tabasco.  I poured the egg mixture over the muffins and bacon, tightly covered the dish with plastic wrap, and placed the dish in the refrigerator.

The recipe says to refrigerate the strata for 2 hours minimum or up to overnight; I refrigerated mine for about 6 hours.  I put the dish on a baking sheet, removed the plastic wrap, and baked it in oven at 350F for 90 minutes.  I let the strata stand for 10 minutes before serving.


Dr. O, Brent, Adi, and Caroline…  THIS is what Easter dinner was supposed to look like. 🙂  We did OK, but I think we should have a reunion in Dallas so we can give it another shot.  The strata was puffy and moist, but there was only a trace of moisture at the bottom of the dish.  I’ll definitely be putting this recipe in my rotation of reliable and tasty brunch dishes.


TIPS:  The strata actually does puff up quite a bit, so make sure you don’t have an oven rack too close to the top of the baking dish.  Also, if the strata begins to brown too quickly, just tent it with foil for the rest of the baking time.  (I tented mine at the 80-minute mark.)

Recipe link: Canadian-Bacon Strata

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