Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Tomorrow's brunch and tonight's "supper"

While John and I aren't late risers, we generally don't get up earlier than 9:30 and sometimes don't eat "breakfast" until after noon. Tomorrow, however, will be different as I will be throwing a breakfast strata into the oven first thing.

John has been experimenting with ciabatta bread since we got the Cuisinart and the Family Baking Book. The first loaf didn't rise much and had chewy crust, but the middle was soft and tasty. Liz suggested if we didn't eat it we could use it for bread pudding, but it didn't last that long, crunchy or not. He'd frozen the other half of the dough so a few days later he made the second loaf, which turned out much better even though he pulled it out of the oven a little early so the very middle was a tiny bit doughy still. But it wasn't too noticeable as we were dipping it in lentil soup.

Yesterday John made ciabatta bread again, this time making halving the recipe and making two small loaves rather than one large. One loaf turned out lovely, though it didn't last very long as we stood in the kitchen and dipped it in our friend Andrea's Tofu Mushroom Spread. The other loaf, well, it was a little darker than it should have been and it sat out overnight on the cabinet.

As we looked at it today after lunch, John said he would make bread pudding with it. I grabbed the Family Baking Book and searched the index. The first thing listed under 'Bread Pudding' was something called "Breakfast Strata with Spinach and Gruyère." I was immediately intrigued. The recipe required half a loaf of French or Italian bread, or 8oz. I grabbed our new kitchen scale (Thanks, Brandon!) and we had just over that. Except for the gruyère, we had everything we needed already. The book listed several other suggestions for cheese, including sharp cheddar, which of course we had. Quite possibly the best thing about living here is the abundance of excellent cheeses at great prices.

I also was able to use the three shallots in the drawer that were nearing the end of their time. Shallots cooking in oil might be more lovely than onions and garlic.

The breakfast strata was easy to prepare. In fact, the hardest thing was finding an 8x8" baking dish, which I was certain that I possess but couldn't find. I did find in the basement a couple of disposable aluminum baking tins -- no idea when I bought them as John and I have moved them a few times now -- which will hopefully work fine.

Since John worked tonight I didn't feel like cooking, but I did feel like eating more of the Tofu Mushroom Spread. Alas, no bread or crackers, but Liz had sent me a recipe for her homemade crackers and I got to cooking. I generally have a hard time with dough that has to be rolled out with a pin but this one didn't give me any trouble at all. The first batch was chewy as I underestimated how done they were, but that was the only batch. The rest came out nice and crispy, with only a handful burnt -- and even then, they were still delicious. They are topped with sesame, poppy, and fennel seeds and garlic powder, and I can't wait to make more just to experiment with the toppings!

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