Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Cinnamon on the Mind

After spending a bit browsing on the Master Baker site and the first challenge, Cinnamon, one of my favorite ingredients, I came up with a few things I wanted to try out. Our friends Hank and David were in town and I was cooking AND baking up a storm. The following recipes were scooped up in the whirlwind and turned out fairly well.

First, Cinnamon Toast Blondies-- RAVE reviews. At work, then at home with the house guests... the pan was gone in one day.

Cinnamon Toast Blondies

Oven Temp.: 350°
Approx. Bake Time: 20-25 minutes
Yields: 8×8 inch dish

Ingredients

1 c. flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
7 tbsp. butter, melted
1 c. brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. pecans, toasted and chopped

Topping:
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

Instructions

- Whisk the flour, salt, and cinnamon together. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar with the melted butter. Stir in the egg and vanilla. Stir in the dry ingredients. Stir in the pecans. Spread batter into an 8×8 baking dish.
- Mix together the cinnamon and sugar for the topping. Sprinkle this mixture over the batter. (You will likely have more than enough.)
- Bake for 20-25 minutes. Don’t over-bake. The blondies may seem underdone, but will set as they cool. Allow to cool before cutting into bars.
- Once cooled, you may opt to top the blondies with cinnamon glazed pecans.

Cinnamon Glazed Pecans

Ingredients
3 tbsp. powdered sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
milk, as needed
pecans

Instructions
- Combine the powdered sugar and cinnamon. Slowly add milk until the mixture reaches a syrupy consistency.
- Dip the pecans into the mixture, then place them on top of the blondies. As the glaze dries it will adhere the pecan to the blondie.

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I was still thinking cinnamon, but wanted to go for something that might be a notch above cinnamon rolls, healthwise. I opted for a Baked French Toast Casserole. I made it the night before then baked it up the next morning. Or rather, two mornings later, as I woke up late the first morning after. =] As with anything I try to make before I leave for work, it did not receive the attention I normally pay to foodstuffs in my charge. I believe it's relevant to mention I leave for work at 6:20AM. I felt it should have been cooked longer. Also, despite trying for something less sweet than cinnamon rolls, these were INTENSELY rich and sweet in a way you can only understand upon trying them. Also, next time, WAY less butter. I'm thinking cut that shit in half!! I also used ridiculously fresh French Bread that was still warm when I was cutting it. Suffice it to say, bread a little more on the stale side would suit this recipe better. It seemed too doughy the way I made it.

Although the masses approved, it was a breakfast for work and then at home for a second day. At work we got smart and rested the pan atop a space heater so it was warm all day. Yum!

Without further ado, French Toast Casserole recipe:

1 loaf French bread (13 to 16 ounces)
8 large eggs
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Dash salt
Praline Topping, recipe follows
Maple syrup
Slice French bread into 20 slices, 1-inch each. (Use any extra bread for garlic toast or bread crumbs). Arrange slices in a generously buttered 9 by 13-inch flat baking dish in 2 rows, overlapping the slices. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, half-and-half, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and beat with a rotary beater or whisk until blended but not too bubbly. Pour mixture over the bread slices, making sure all are covered evenly with the milk-egg mixture. Spoon some of the mixture in between the slices. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread Praline Topping evenly over the bread and bake for 40 minutes, until puffed and lightly golden. Serve with maple syrup.

Praline Topping:
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and blend well. Makes enough for Baked French Toast Casserole.


With my cinnamon supply almost exhausted, I've decided to give it a rest, but if I am jonesing for some cinnamon goodness again, I may try this out.

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