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Entries in breakfast (23)


Trusty as trusted

In many ways, my world is a small one. It isn't broad or grand or glamorous, really.

Most days I wear a familiar routine, worn in places from use, and I think it suits me well. I have an affection for that sameness; I am loyal to it and and it is reliable in its service. There is a luxury in contentedness that I have come to appreciate.

Fo us, that contentment with the regular is what prepares us for the extraordinary - good or bad. The security in knowing that the familiar will always be around gives us firm footing for standing up to hold close or defend against the happenings of the world beyond.

This undemanding coconut bread from Bill Granger is as trusty as trusted can be. We've been making this recipe for years, a recipe famous already and without need of my seal of approval as it has already been decorated by far grander folk. Nonetheless, I thought I'd bring it out in the chance that you might not have heard of it before, and for those who have, to remind you of its strong points.

If you have ever wanted to eat macaroons for breakfast, but felt the need for an excuse to do so. Here's you go, here it is. This bread is coconut through and through, a buttery base barely holds together that coconut in a texture that is moist and toothsome, like the centre of a Bounty bar in bread form.

Even better, this is a useful bread to have around. For the earlier-mentioned breakfast, toast it until crisp at the edges and serve with butter and marmalades, or save it for afternoon tea and serve it with a veil of confectioner's sugar sifted over its crust, or pack away blocky slices in the freezer where they won't mind the cold one bit.

It's also a bread that welcomes variation, one takes citrus beautifully (into the wet ingredients whisk in the zest of your choice, lime or grapefruit is especially nice). Or, if citrus isn't your thing, finely-chopped candied ginger or chocolate chips folded into the batter with the butter also make a top-notch additions.

There is nothing difficult about the recipe itself; in the matter of the ingredients or the method. It's made up of baking staples, simply stirred together wet into dry, in the muffin method - meaning just barely, so that all the liquid is absorbed and the flour is dampened and incorporated, but no more than that. No whipping or creaming required. In truth, anything that athletic is frowned upon, since overworking the batter will result in a firmer bread than is our aim. Lethargy wins the day. As it should.

So go forth, with sturdy slices tucked into your pockets or squirreled away for when they're needed. Come rain or shine, regular or remarkable, whatever the day brings you can be happy in the knowledge that there's coconut bread waiting for you.

It's good like that.

Bill Granger's Coconut Bread
Adapted slightly from the original.

2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
Seeds scraped from half a vanilla bean
2 1/2 cups flour, more for dusting pan
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup superfine sugar
5 ounces flaked coconut (around 1 1/2 cups)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
Soft butter for greasing the pan

Preheat an oven to 350°F (175°C).

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and vanilla seeds. Set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Stir in the sugar and coconut. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, and slowly add the egg mixture, stirring until just combined. Fold in the melted butter, being careful not to overmix.

Grease and flour a 8-by-4-inch loaf pan. Pour in the batter and bake in the preheated oven until the loaf is golden and a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean, around 1 hour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in its tin for 5 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack. Position it again side up to cool a bit more.

Slice thickly and toast, or serve as is. A smear of butter or a dusting of confectioner's sugar is optional, but either would be a really good idea. Grapefruit marmalade would be exceptional.

Makes 1 loaf.


• I had the urge to make this one day, and found that I only had a few ounces of each sweetened, flaked coconut and unsweetened, finely shredded coconut. I tossed them together equal parts of the two to get my full amount and haven't looked back since. It's not a necessary change, but worthy of note.
• If you do not have fresh vanilla beans on hand, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract can be substituted.
• The crust on this bread is something special; it has the crunch and lacy feel of the golden edge of a macaroon. To encourage a higher crust-to-middle ratio, I bake mine in a long and narrow loaf pan, it is 10-by-3 1/2-inches - in that case, I use a sling of parchment paper to make it easier to remove. This batter also makes pleasantly-dense cakelets when baked in a muffin tin.


A humdinger

Hello my dears, will you do me a favour? Preheat your oven to 400°F. While you're at it, start slicing some leeks while we catch up.

I was feeling pretty good about my preparedness for the coming holiday season this whole year-end business, that is, I was until a friend sweetly pointed out that as of today, there were a mere six days left until our merriment begins. How'd that happen?

Their math must be wrong. Let's see, 24-18 equals ... oh.

Shoot. No such luck. We're almost at the count-the-days-on-one-hand stage, people.

Before I go on, how are those leeks coming? All sliced? Take a second and put a skillet on to heat with a knob of butter in there. When that's melted, toss in your leeks and stir them around so that everybody's friendly.

Where was I? Yes, there's a lot going on. I'm particularly giddy to report that Menu for Hope is off to a rip-roaring start. We've just hit the $20,000 mark, with fingers crossed that the momentum continues through the second half of the campaign.

And we've got some happenings that should help in the momentum department, first off let me extend my thanks and welcome to the kind folks at EAT Magazine, who have donated another raffle item to our efforts. "Taste of British Columbia" brings together a variety of offerings from producers from this gorgeous province, including Untamed Feast’s delicious dried wild mushroom products (Forest Blend), locally grown roasted hazelnuts from Butler Hazelnut Farm, Vista d’Oro Farm’s Turkish Fig with Walnut Wine, a ½ lb. bag of Mile 0 Roasters Niagara Blend, Gathering Place’s Organic Rooibos Tea, and two chocolate bars from organicfair. To bid on their item, enter code CA12, when donating.

There are lots of new raffle items being added every day; be sure to keep checking the worldwide listing for the most up-to-date information.

Speaking of donations, we've got a brand spankin' new donation form for you; it lists all raffle items available worldwide, with a simple widget alongside that tallies your bids. To see it in all it's point-n-click glory, click here.

Oh! Back to the leeks. How are they doing? Are they all loopy and lithe yet? No? Okay, we've got a few more minutes to go.

More news. Remember way back in June when I said I'd be in the summer issue of UPPERCASE magazine? Well, Janine was kind enough to extend the invitation for me to write for them again. I'll be in the Winter issue, out in January 2010, talking about Maple Walnut Caramel. It's the recipe that started my recent walnut fixation.

While we're on the subject of UPPERCASE, a first look at the cover for the issue was recently available for subscribers to their newsletter. I'm sort of in love with it. I think you will be too.

The leeks should be looking about there by now - give them a poke with your spoon. They should be soft and sweet, still green and brightly fragrant. Good stuff, we're ready to go.

Now this is probably only exciting to me, but I've finally settled on what I'm making for the savoury portion of our Christmas breakfast. As you might have surmised, those scrummy leeks play a big part in the deliciousness to come this December 25th's a.m.

I have been looking for a partner to the Breakfast Bread from Donna Hay from years ago. A steadfast presence our menu that's focaccia in feel, but with a biscuit method for the base. A thick, spongy dough lays beneath a Christmassy landscape of wilted spinach and oven-dried tomatoes, with a crowning snowdrift of Gruyère to cover all. This is a bread that I start thinking about in the fall, when the last of the tomatoes are coming off the vine and I'm drying and preserving them in oil in eager anticipation of their winter debut.

Whatever arrives alongside that bread has to be a humdinger of a dish.

Enter the wonderful Lusia Weiss, with exactly what I was looking for. The Baked Eggs in Cream she introduced last week are, as she says, adorable. And boy are they tasty.

From the softly-set egg that is lush and dreamy, to the supple leeks hiding underneath the whiteness, it's ridiculously easy to get all swoony about this recipe. What's even more brilliant for my needs is that I can cook the leeks the night before, so they're ready and waiting come Christmas morn; crack an egg and spoon over some cream, in to the oven they go. En masse, everyone's taken care of.

If I'm being honest, the presentation of the individual ramekins was of specific appeal. Not only does this recipe allow you to cook for many with minimal fuss, it also allows for some greedy indulgence. A fleet of these little darlings on the table looks abundant and generous, but to each is own means that nobody has to share.

With all the support we've had for Menu for Hope, a moment of mine-all-mine gluttony can certainly be overlooked. You've all earned it.

Camino's Egg Baked in Cream
A multiplied rendition of Camino's original, via The Wednesday Chef. Luisa's advises cooking the leeks longer than in the original recipe, and I am not one to argue. A cluster of oil-packed dried tomatoes nudged up against the yolk added an appreciated acidity.

6 tablespoons butter
4 leeks, cleaned and the white and light green parts sliced thinly
2 sprigs thyme, leaves roughly chopped
2 sprigs parsley, leaves roughly chopped
4 large eggs
1/2 cup half-and-half or coffee cream
Freshly ground black pepper
Grilled or toasted bread slices to serve

With a rack set in the middle, preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).

In a small sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the leeks, along with a splash of water and a pinch of salt. Cook until the leeks are tender, around 10 minutes. Stir in the herbs. Divide the herbed leeks among four small dishes or ramekins, flattening the vegetables out slightly to make a nest for the eggs.

Crack one egg in the middle of each dish. Add enough cream to just over the white, then season with salt and the freshly-ground black pepper. Set the dishes on a baking sheet and bake in the oven until the white is set, between 8 to 12 minutes. Serve immediately, with the grilled bread.

Serves 4. Or really 2, as you'll want seconds. Trust.


Layers of protection

I won't beat around the bush.

Banana Bread Waffles. Think about that for a minute, say the words slowly and out loud so that you get the full effect. Banana Bread Waffles.

I know. What could be better, right? Here's the story.

Tuesday morning was damp and dark, and there were some bananas laying about, past their prime and looking woebegone. Upon the sight of them my mind went to banana bread, as I am nothing if not a creature of habit.

My reaction was hardly original. A dreary sort of day pretty well begs for the heartening presence of banana bread. It is the goose down duvet of baked goods; it swaddles everything in layers of protection, like heirloom Christmas ornaments you find in your Grandmother's attic. The morning feels treasured, as do you.

I forget why I didn't make the banana bread, although I was possibly influenced by our full cookie jar and the bowl of Halloween candy residing on the countertop, but either way, come evening the bananas were still around, and still despondent.

Waffles came into my consideration then, with the curious notion of substituting bananas into one of the many pumpkin versions appearing temptingly on my screen for the last while. Even though I am a rookie when it comes to waffle-makery, this being the second batch of my career, I think we might be on to something here.

I will caution that this was the first go-round of the recipe, and I fiddled as I went along. But I do believe we're friends enough that I can give you a peek at my notes, like my best friend and I maybe did in grade school. (And that was only once and it was homework not a test, I promise, pinky swear.)

In introducing you to these waffles, let me start with something important - they are not all that sweet. Leavened with yeast and rested overnight, they have the slight sourness typical of similarly-raised baked goods. To compound that trait, thick spoonfuls of sour cream were added to the batter and underscores that tang, bringing along with the smooth freshness of dairy. I left the job of sweetness to the maple syrup, warm and waiting, on the table.

We were met with a waffle that was crisp on the outside, slightly tortoiseshell in its look, with a thick and soft interior. Rousingly spicy and fragrant with fruit, they had the best qualities of the crusty end piece off of a loaf of banana bread, my favourite part and the bit we fight over most often.

Now look at that, I've gone and kept you far too long when there are waffles to be made. So sorry. I'll leave you to it.

Banana Bread Yeasted Waffles
With inspiration from a variety of sources, including Dorie Greenspan (via Williams-Sonoma), and these Overnight waffles (from Better Homes and Gardens). With most of the preparation done the night before, the morning of only requires a few stirs of a spoon and you're ready to go. It's not a bad way to wake up.

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of ground clove
2 eggs, beaten lightly
1 cup mashed ripe banana, about 3 whole
2 tablespoons sour cream or greek yogurt

In a small bowl, whisk together the butter, milk and vanilla. Set aside, the mixture should be warm but not hot.

In a large mixing bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, brown sugar, yeast, salt and spices. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, whisking until smooth. Stir in the beaten eggs. Cover the bowl loosely with clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 12 hours, but up to 24.

About 30 minutes before you want to make waffles, take the batter out of the refrigerator to come up to room temperature slightly. It should be doubled in size and the surface will be covered in bubbles.

When ready to begin, stir the sour cream into the mashed bananas and then mix the fruit into the batter. It will deflate, but use a light, quick hand to thoroughly combine.

Heat your waffle iron and bake the waffles as per the manufacturer's instruction.

Our waffle maker is Belgian style and yielded 5 round waffles; I think a classic round iron would make 6 or 7.

• Leftovers can be frozen and then reheated in a toaster or in an oven; keep the heat low and an eye on them though, they brown quickly.


Munched, gleefully

I failed. F-a-i-l-e-d. It was epic.

It was gnocchi.

Had you walked into my kitchen in the late-afternoon hours of Wednesday, September 16, 2009, you would have found me covered from hand-to-elbow with dough and in near exasperated tears, with every viable work surface buried under the detritus of my humiliation, my father at my side in a valiant effort to salvage the day, my husband on the phone patiently talking me down from my fit of pique and, in calm, even tones, assuring me that takeout would be more than fine for dinner.

I tell you, I can make gnocchi. Honestly. While not regularly enough to say often, I've made it enough times to consider myself passably adept. But this, this was a new, devil of a recipe. A recipe that wanted to take me down.

And boy, did it ever.

It went straight for the knees, pinned me to the mat and had me calling for Daddy. I won't go into too many details or point any flour-encrusted fingers, since I'm not entirely sure that the fault is that of the recipe or my own. Or a combination of the two. The blame may lie with the potatoes. Who knows.

I will tell you that the dough refused to come together in any semblance of a workable substance. I had a languid blob lounging smugly on my kitchen counter. No matter how much flour I fed it it would not be sated; it was still boundless, still a slowly-oozing, formless mass.

That's when I called in reinforcements.

We rallied, we prevailed. Somewhat. My father and I managed a handful of successful dumplings, those few sent into the boiling water, then tossed with softened butter and a handfuls of Parmesan. Optimistically, we each tried one.

It was a joyless mouthful. They tasted of defeat. Defeat and cheese.

So abject was I, I was tempted board up the kitchen and declare it all a lost cause. If it weren't for the Fig and Walnut Bread we had made earlier in the day, I might have scrapped any tattered remnants of faith I had in my culinary ability.

The bread was a riff on Julia Child's white bread that we make quite often, a fruit-filled version based on a combination of flavours I have done before. Enriched with milk and fragrant with honey, the sturdy crumb is the ideal sort to be wrapped around a swirl of dried figs, walnuts and the subtle, savoury presence of thyme. It is a bread to be cut into thick slices, toasted enough that you hear the fruit sizzle ever so slightly, slathered with sweet butter in lavish proportion and then munched, gleefully.

And we did exactly that, while we waited for the delivery man.

Fig and Walnut Bread with Thyme
Adapted from Julia Child's Homemade White Bread.

More than just saving my pride, the bread saved today - if it wasn't for the bread, I'd be here empty handed. And I hate to do that. So while this may have not been my intended offering, please accept it, with the admission that since this was an unplanned debut, I did not take notes as conscientiously as my usual. But we are all good enough friends that I hope that my best guess will suffice for now.

The loaf in question is already a thing of the past, and there has been another petitioned for the weekend; I will retry the recipe then, to double-check my recollection.

Saturday, September 19, 2009: I tested the recipe again last night, and made two changes - both pertaining to butter. I added the 2 tablespoons of butter to the milk/water mixture to reduce the number of steps, with no ill effects to the final bread. Surprisingly, I also decided it is better to forgo the smear of butter in the swirl since the fat causes the layers to separate, leading to loss of filling when the bread is sliced. Without the butter the dough gripped the figs and walnuts more firmly.

3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4-1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
fine grain sea salt, optional
1 cup water
1 1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
6 cups all-purpose flour (or thereabouts)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup muscovado sugar or dark brown sugar
1 cup chopped dried figs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

In a medium skillet over medium heat, toast the walnuts for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Once the nuts are lightly-golden and fragrant remove immediately from the heat and into a bowl. Toss through with a sprinkling of fine sea salt, if using, and the chopped thyme. Set aside to cool.

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, gently warm the water and milk. Add the honey, stirring to dissolve. Stir in the butter, heating gently until melted. The mixture should be warm, around 105-110°F. Pour liquids into the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl. Stir in the yeast and allow to stand for five minutes.

To the yeast, add 3 cups of the flour and the salt. With the dough hook attachment or by hand, mix to combine (if using a mixer, proceed on medium speed). Continuing to stir, add the remaining flour a little at a time, until the dough begins to pull away cleanly from the sides of the bowl; it should still be slightly sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic. The amount of time will depend on if you used a mixer or worked by hand, anywhere from 2-10 minutes. Place the dough in a large, lightly-greased bowl, turning the dough over to coat. Turn the dough right side up and cover loosely with plastic wrap or a tea towel. Set bowl in a warm, draft-free spot to rise until doubled in bulk, around 2 hours.

Butter two 8-by-4-inch loaf pans and set aside. Punch the dough down gently, then divide into two equal portions on a lightly-floured work surface. Taking one ball, roll out to a rectangle around 9-by-12-inches. Sprinkle half the sugar over the dough, leaving a thin border at all sides. Repeat with half of the figs and half of the toasted walnuts.

Start rolling the dough from the short end, forming a tight cylinder, pinching the seam together to seal. Bring just the edge of the ends of the roll up to enclose the sides and pinch to seal. Place the dough into one of the prepared pans. Repeat process with the second ball of dough.

Cover loaves loosely with plastic wrap or with tea towels, and allow to rise in a warm spot until doubled again in bulk, around 45-60 minutes. Preheat an oven to 375°F (190°C).

Brush the loaves with the remaining melted butter, and bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes. The bread is done when it is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped from the bottom. Turn loaves out immediately onto a rack, turning them right side up to cool.

Makes 2 loaves.


• It is best to use a mild honey here, nothing with so much presence that it overshadows the mellow sweetness of the figs.
• Raisins, dates or dried cranberries would all be good substitutes for the figs, and resh rosemary for the thyme.
• For a straightforwardly-sweet filling replace the thyme with a generous sprinkling of cinnamon. Feel free to be generous with the muscovado as well.
• I scatter the figs and walnuts somewhat erratically; I think the uneven distribution results in a more interesting loaf. If you want a perfect coil of filling, be more precise.
• Zoë has a helpful photographic step-by-step of how to roll such breads on her (lovely, inspiring) site. Any of the doughs she mentions would be a fine match for this filling.


Moving without haste

When Sean and I were considering menus for this weekend, I gave him the declaration of "I feel like something Labour Day-ish" as my input into the proceedings. I always try to be helpful.

My description may have been cryptic, but it was the best that I could do. It is the last long weekend of summer, and no matter how we'd felt the week preceding, I wanted to take full advantage. I wanted summer sent on its merry way with every bit of its deserved fanfare.

And so we're laden with corn to be husked, peaches for pies and tomatoes (from our garden!) for jam. We're thinking of burgers and coleslaw and drinks so cold that they send shivers down your spine.

But even hours before a grill was lit, our celebrations were well underway.

You see, my Monday through Friday breakfast is merrily unvaried. Lately, with the day starting cooler, I chat with the boys over a bowl of steel cut oats, drowned with extra milk, finished with a palmful each of granola, pepitas and blueberries. It's filling and simple, and I like it that way.

However yesterday morning, instead of reaching for the oats I built towers of buttermilk pancakes. And then to begin today, we made something equally special.

Clearly, I define Labour Day weekend not by barbecues, but by breakfasts.

I am wary to christen these early meals brunch, for all its connotations of rubberized omelets and Hollandaise gone awry. But Saturday or Sunday breakfast, enjoyed with leisure, now there is a meal I can get enthusiastic about.Without the hustle to get everyone ready or out the door, we have the luxury of moving without haste. A long weekend's hours before noon, why, that's the time to revel inactivity.

Before I continue, I know what you're thinking. "Hold up here. Your discourse is all well and good, but that photo looks like Brussels sprouts. For breakfast? And this is supposed to be festive?"

I promise you, these sprouts feel fancy. And I'd be happy with them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Elevenses and tea, too.

These are not those grayed-out and useless Brussels sprouts, boiled within a moment of their lives and then left in their misery on cafeteria steam trays. These were shredded whisper-thin, jade and emerald strands wilted only barely by a warm slurry of bacon and sweet shallots. A slice of country bread charred in black tiger stripes by a grill pan, was tucked under the salad - but not before a smear of blue cheese had its opportunity to melt into its cragged surface.

The crowning touch to the plate was a simple egg, fried in butter and with frizzled, brown tips, its yolk still soft and lazy. Broken open, the yellowness provided sauce for all, its fat the vehicle for the aromatic notes of the cheese and opposition to the twang of vinegar.

Tomorrow morning is the last morning of the last long weekend of summer, and I'm planning my finale. I'm might even break out the water goblets.

Good times.

Eggs with Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad
Once the Brussels sprouts are in the pan, the cooking should take only 2-3 minutes to prepare - at most. The sprouts are treated as a warm salad rather than a cooked vegetable; their raw edge is tempered, but their crunch should not be completely lost.

1 pound Brussels sprouts, cleaned of their tough outer leaves
4 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
2 shallots, minced
1-2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
4 tablespoons Gorgonzola Dolce, at room temperature
4 thick slices peasant bread
4 eggs
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
Butter or oil for frying eggs

Using a mandoline or the slicing blade of a food processor, slice the Brussels sprouts finely. Toss through with fingers to separate into strands.

In a medium skillet over medium heat, fry the bacon until crisp - but not terminally so. You want crunch, but not bacon bits. Remove the bacon from the pan and drain on paper towels. Reserve around 1 tablespoon of bacon fat in the pan, discarding any excess.

With the pan still on medium heat, sauté the shallots for 30 seconds or so, stirring constantly. You want them translucent, but not scorched. Add the prepared sprouts, tossing them through the shallots and bacon drippings. Season sparingly with salt and pepper. Once coated, it should only take a few seconds, deglaze the pan with the vinegar, scraping up any sticky brown bits from the bottom of the skillet. Continue tossing the sprouts until they are brightly coloured and barely cooked. Remove from the pan immediately, stir in the reserved bacon, and check for seasoning. Set aside.

Meanwhile, toast the bread slices on a grill pan or toaster. Spread 1 tablespoon of Gorgonzola on each. Top with 1/4 of the Brussels sprouts.

Fry the eggs at the last minute to your liking, my suggestion is with the whites set and the yolks still quite soft. (Season with salt and pepper while cooking.)

Top the salad with the eggs and serve immediately.

Serves 4.


• The sherry vinegar can be substituted with white balsamic. For those wary of blue cheeses, Gorgonzola is on the milder side of the spectrum. If you would like an even more subtle blue cheese, I would recommend Cambozola, a cross between a Camembert and Gorgozonla - it also sometimes known as Blue Brie.
• If you prefer your Brussels sprouts softer, add a tablespoon or two of water (or chicken stock) to the pan with the vinegar to give them a quick steam. Keep stirring the vegetables until the additional liquid has evaporated.