Experimenting with a dessert no one likes but me

And writing this as I go.

I chopped five challah hamburger buns (I know, what a thing, but they were marked down,) and divided them; there were maybe six cups challah bread total. I don't know. I mixed each half with a couple tablespoons of melted butter and put them in 9 inch cake pans. So, as much as will fit in two of those. Whichever of these you try, just double everything for a 9x13 pan.

To one I added a generous amount (@2 tsp) of cinnamon and half a cup of brown sugar, and to the other, about a half cup of sliced almonds and a half cup of white sugar. 20170215_123748
Over each of them I poured two eggs and an egg yolk, whisked, and milk added to that to make two full cups of liquid. The brown sugar one got a splash (let's say 2 tsp) of vanilla extract, and the white sugar one got almond extract. I am going to use the extra egg whites along with their shells to clarify some soup stock which is reducing on the stove.

I forgot to add a little salt, but I think the salted butter will help with that. Also, and this is before I am tasting it, a half cup of sugar might be too much; it looked like a lot as I was sprinking it on, and might want only a third. 20170215_124824
They are in the oven at 350º for 35 minutes, and I am expecting them to need at least five more.

Before I finish, I want to point out that the longer the bread cubes soak in the liquid, the more puddingy they will be. Personally, I like them only half-puddingy, suspended in the custard around them, and with a tiny bit of crunch on top, so I don’t let it soak long before baking. That sounds super gross, doesn’t it? But it is delicious. I just adore bread pudding, as long as it doesn’t have raisins in it. It can have chocolate chips in it, if you like to do that*. I don't, but it occurs to me you could add some shaved chocolate and grated orange peel, and that might be really nice. Maybe with a splash of orange liqueur.

Also, sometimes people make a hard sauce to go over it. I do like that, however, as I need to reduce and have no business eating bread pudding in the first place, I’m going to skip it.


*I wish I could remember the name of the book in which an old lady is staying with some kids and they make chocolate chip stale bread pudding. The concept utterly fascinated me, but my mother refused to make bread pudding. Sigh. Screen Shot 2017-02-15 at 1.13.06 PM
In the end, these small pans baked for 39 minutes. The brown sugar one puffed up more, but settled down to the same level as the other. 20170215_132959
When you get bread pudding at a restaurant, it's much more dense, because they use a deeper pan, pack in the bread, and also start the custard process before pouring it over the bread cubes, by warming the milk and other ingredients first. I like my way better, and it's simpler to do. And so far, I like both versions, though I might favor the almond one slightly more, because I really love almond-flavored desserts. I'm going to taste them both again later to see if I feel the same way.  They would be divine with a little cream poured over the top, or with ice cream, if you really like ice cream. The brown sugar cinnamon one would be good with a chopped apple added to it; if you use a green apple, maybe toss the pieces with a spoonful or two of sugar first, and a squinch of lemon juice. The half cup of sugar was just right otherwise, for a lightly sweet dessert.


Slow food or convenient food? No. Both.

You probably know I generally have the time and inclination to take the long slow path toward dinner. I will spend all day making stock for sauce and soup. I don't mind making a thing to make another thing. Sometimes I roast heads of garlic, separate them, and put them in a jar with oil to use later. Etcetera.

Also, I have cookbooks from several eras, and I like to try the baking recipes. But that doesn't mean I don't buy Duncan Hines cake mixes several at a time when they're on sale, to use once in a while when I'm in the mood.

I don't like making cake with them just straight according to the recipe on the back. The cake is fluffy, but doesn't have much depth. You can do all sorts of things to them, though, and the company which produces them knows that, always offering new recipes to encourage people to buy them.

Mom, who cooked from scratch more than most moms in the 70s, sometimes made cookies with them, and this is a week I'm thinking about Mom, so I did, too.

But before I did that, I pounded some roasted garlic cloves in the mortar with oregano and thyme I picked a few weeks ago, and some sea salt, and smeared it over split chicken breasts to cook for dinner later on. After several hours, I roasted them at 400 degrees for about 50 minutes. We ate those with roasted (15 minutes at 400) zucchini and yellow squash, and then also strawberries and raw baby carrots because my son finished dinner for me. He will steam a vegetable, but not if it doesn't have to be.

DSC_3671I keep the herbs in a bag like this, then just shake some out or crumble a bit of stem to get what I want.

DSC_3672These chilled in the refrigerator all afternoon, then I took them out to start warming while I preheated the oven.

I buy big packages of semi-sweet chocolate chips at Costco, but stock up on these other varieties, plus nuts and coconut when they're on sale before and after holidays. I just keep them all together in a big storage container. I put 1/2 cup of each of these chips in with the cake mix.

The cake mixes generally want two eggs and 1/2 cup melted butter or oil to make cookies, and you can add a little flavoring. Some come out sweeter than others. They take a little longer to bake than most cookie recipes, at 350º.


The garlic mush, with the addition of a little olive oil before roasting, made a nice bit of crust over the chicken.

There is a little chicken left. One of my sons and I both cut a portion from our chicken breasts before eating, then he bagged the remainder for me to use for soup stock. This, and also cost per portion, and also better flavor, is why I buy chicken parts that have not had their bones removed.

PS: When I roast a whole chicken, I freeze the neck to use later. There is my special tip for you; chicken stock or soup tastes better if you simmer it with the neck.

Playing with grapefruit

I want to like it better than I do. It isn't that it's not sweet. It's the aftertaste. But I eat it anyway, because it is good for me. In advance of the citrus season, though, I played with turning some grapefruit into dessert. I got three last week from Green BEAN Delivery, along with two interesting Florida tangerines; a variety that is very sweet and juicy.
20131110_161028Yes, there is also a lemon there. It is just for show.

I peeled one grapefruit, then squeezed the juice out of all three. As they were small, and the pith was very thick, there was only a cup of juice. There was 3/4 cup of juice from the tangerines, so I topped off to a cup with store-bought orange juice.

Researching sorbet recipes led me to just come up with my own variation. But then I had the most miserable sinus headache yesterday, got a late start, decided to just let it be granita instead. And making it the way I did meant that I could take several outcomes from one process. 20131110_162405

First I made a thick sugar syrup; two cups of sugar and one cup of water, boiled for a few minutes with a bag of mulling spices.

I added 1/2 cup of the syrup to the two cups of (mostly) fresh juice, and also a tablespoon of Hendrick's gin, just for kicks. I put it in a shallow container in the freezer, and after a few hours, scraped and stirred, then again a couple times, until I got this. 20131111_112931It's delicious. But if made with only tangerines, would require only half the syrup; just watch this! 

While the granita was freezing, I added 1/2 cup of sugar and a cup of water to the remaining syrup, and set it to boiling again with strips from the grapefruit I peeled. They simmered under parchment for a couple of hours. (The parchment is a Martha Stewart recommendation.)

I shook them off, dipped them in sugar, and put them on a tray to dry. 20131110_200920

Then into a jar for storage. 20131111_093427

And the syrup remaining in the pan was thick and spicy; it will be great to use as a sweetener in some other recipe, but will probably require warming first. 20131111_093340

Three treats in one go; how frugal.