Archive for the ‘Breakfast’ Category

Betsy’s Breakfast Bread Pudding

25 March 2009

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A Note to Readers:
 
 
This blog has moved. For newer posts plus copies of all the old ones (even this one!), please visit me at the All-New IN OUR GRANDMOTHERS’ KITCHENS.
  
Tinky
 
Most people use maple syrup as a condiment rather than an ingredient. Here is a recipe for something on which you pour the syrup.

 

Betsy Kovacs babysat for me when I was little—and I in turn babysat for her children as a teenager. The pattern would probably have continued forever if I had had kids when I was in my twenties. As it is, we are still friends, and I appreciate her adorable children (and now grandchildren!) as much as ever. Disconcertingly, Betsy looks almost EXACTLY the way she did when she was babysitting for me (maybe even a little younger and cuter).

 

Betsy calls this dish French toast. I have rechristened it breakfast bread pudding because (a) it is one, sort of, and (b) I see pudding everywhere. (Yankee magazine did, after all, dub me the Queen of Pudding!)

 

Betsy’s rich concoction has a couple of advantages over conventional French toast. First, it is ready to eat all at once so you avoid the awkwardness of batches. Second, the prep work can be done the evening before you bake the pudding so it’s a handy thing to serve brunch guests.

Betsy usually makes a big batch of this for entertaining. She uses a whole loaf of bread (usually challah) and fills two large quiche pans. I was cooking for two so I made a tiny batch. This involved 2 to 3 slices of bread, 1 to 2 eggs, and slightly less than 1 cup of liquid. I had no challah so I used a dense homemade white bread.

 

I have left quantities vague as she did so that you can make as much or as little as you like. Betsy tells me that her version is usually a little browner and crispier than mine (I was a bit paranoid about burning the thing!) so feel free to leave it in the oven a little longer.

 

Betsy and her Jack

Betsy and her Jack

 
 
 
Ingredients:

 

a “tight” bread like challah, at least a couple of days old

unsalted butter as needed

eggs (4 to 6 for a whole loaf, depending on how eggy you like things: I say go eggy!)

enough milk or cream or a mixture to cover the bread (I used a mixture, with more milk than cream)

cinnamon to taste (I used 1/2 teaspoon for my small dish)

sugar (2 tablespoons for a whole loaf of bread; I used 1/2 tablespoon)

freshly grated nutmeg to taste (I used 1/4 teaspoon for my small dish)

 

Instructions:

 

Butter your baking dish or dishes. Slice the bread. Butter it on one side, and place it butter side down in the baking dish. Break up the bread as needed so that the bottom of the dish is covered.

 

Butter the side of the bread that is now facing up. In a bowl whisk together the eggs, milk and/or cream, cinnamon, and sugar. Pour this combination over the bread. Add a little more milk and/or cream as needed to make sure the custard goes just under (or just to) the top of the bread. Do not go over the bread as this will make the pudding erupt in the oven.

 

Grate the nutmeg over the top of the pudding. Cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least an hour and up to overnight. The bread should absorb all (or almost all) of the custard.

 

When you are almost ready to bake the pudding, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Bake for 20 minutes or more until the top of the pudding turns golden brown. The custard will puff up but deflate after it hits the table. Serve with lots of maple syrup. A large batch (2 pans) serves 8 to 10. My tiny batch served 2 to 3.

 

Betsy says that leftover pudding may be wrapped in plastic wrap after cooling, then frozen and reheated in the oven at a future date (sans plastic wrap, of course).

Sugaring Off at South Face Farm

20 March 2009

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A Note to Readers:
 
 
This blog has moved. For newer posts plus copies of all the old ones (even this one!), please visit me at the All-New IN OUR GRANDMOTHERS’ KITCHENS.
  
Tinky
 
March is Massachusetts Maple Month according to the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association. This organization of professional and amateur maple farmers is headed by Tom McCrumm of Ashfield. I figured I couldn’t visit a more appropriate farm than his to kick off my maple recipes this month so I headed recently to South Face Farm.

 

The sugarhouse at South Face Farm looks exactly as a sugarshack should. It sits on a quiet road, not far from Route 116 in Ashfield. Its low ceiling provides eaters with a sense of intimacy, and its décor is old fashioned. Old food tins and antique cooking implements line the walls. Large windows (many of them sporting a jug of amber syrup) look out on the farm Tom and his wife Judy Haupt steward.

 

The sugarhouse restaurant is open only about 12 days a year, on weekends during maple season. Nevertheless, Tom told me, those 12 days are vital to his sugaring enterprise. “The only way you can make a living in this business is to have a roadside sugarhouse and sell,” he told me, characterizing what he does as “agriculture as entertainment.”

 

“You’ve got to cut out the middle man. You’ve got to produce a good-quality product and sell it directly to the customer.”

 

Tom invited me into the kitchen to watch Skylar Abbatiello of Ashfield make one of the sugarhouse’s signature foods, corn fritters. Skylar is a lanky, genial high-school student who is in his fourth year at the sugarhouse but his first year of cooking. He sounded proud of having worked his way up through the ranks at South Face Farm. Tom told me that this pattern is common among the restaurant’s staff members, who are both local and loyal.

 

The kitchen definitely had a family atmosphere. Skylar was confidently and carefully supervised by the sugarhouse’s head cook (and kitchen designer), Bonnie, an Ashfield resident who preferred not to supply her last name. Bonnie explained that she and Tom McCrumm had developed the sugarhouse recipes to emphasize scratch cooking and local ingredients. The blueberries, eggs, milk, and ice cream served at the restaurant are all local—not to mention the maple syrup!

 

I asked Tom McCrumm about the ice storm in December, which damaged a lot of New England sugar maples. He informed me that his losses were moderately bad. “I lost ten to 15 percent of my taps,” he noted. “I put in a lot of time and labor for cleanup and replacing pipeline. It was a big expense.”

 

Nevertheless, he added, he perseveres. “I did what farmers have done for centuries. You put your head down and plow ahead and hope that next year is going to be better.”

 

 
 
 

Skylar with his Fritters

Skylar with his Fritters

 
South Face Farm Corn Fritters
  

Ingredients:

 

1 cup flour

3/4 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

3/4 cup milk

1 egg

3/4 cup corn—fresh, canned, or frozen (if using frozen, thaw and drain; if canned, just drain)

oil as needed for frying

lots of South Face Farm maple syrup

 

Instructions:

 

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper. In a separate bowl, beat together the milk and egg. Stir in the corn; then stir in the dry ingredients. The batter will be stiff.

 

Preheat the oil in a deep-fat fryer (or preheat a frying pan with at least a couple of inches of oil) to 350 degrees. Using a small scoop or a spoon, gently place quarter-cup blobs of batter in the oil. Do not overfill your pan; if it is too full the oil will cool off. Do not make larger fritters, or they will not cook through and will be doughy in the center.

 

Cook the fritters in the oil for 6 minutes, gently shaking them from time to time. Carefull remove and drain them. Drizzle maple syrup over the fritters. Makes about 10 fritters.

 

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