ultimate brunch - french toast
Sunday, 5 Feb 2017

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My ultimate brunch cookbook is by Clinton Street Baking Company - purveyors of my ultimate brunch. I went to their NYC location and promptly bought the book when I got back to London. Happily they’ve spread out around the world with branches in Singapore, Bangkok, etc. so you don’t have to be in NYC to have their (amazing) pancakes and huevos rancheros. Just, y’know, one of the other cities they’re in.

None of which are London, so I had to make my own. Here’s the Ultimate Brunch: French Toast Edition.

The french toast itself I made according to the recipe from the book, bananas and pecans and maple butter and all.

But first, you need your:

bread

The Clinton St book says they use a special brioche that makes their french toast awesome. No doubt. Without access to this special brioche, I chose to make challah instead.

I did this Friday evening.

I used this recipe from Jewlish with some necessary modifications, ie. as I ran out of eggs and honey, and forgot the cinnamon in the filling. I kneaded the dough in my food processor and made the filling in the food processor and it was all pretty hands off, as much as a braided bread can be.

To be honest the challah didn’t turn out that great. The churros-esque topping was crisp and tasted great, but overall it lacked the shine of an egg-wash. I’d forgotten the cinnamon and salt in the filling, and maple syrup mellows out a lot during baking, so the flavour was a little underwhelming. It wasn’t Breads level challah, but it was okay challah, better than some breads I’ve bought. It was at least good enough for french toast.

Next you need your:

Bloody Mary

I’ve been reading a book about (and entitled) The Bloody Mary (obligatory disclaimer: I received this free from the publisher and courtesy of Netgalley, for review consideration; this in no way affects the content of the review below).

My ultimate brunch must include some variety of bloody (virgin) mary. It’s a drink I associate exclusively with brunch, the only time I’ve seen it on the menu. It serves as a nourishing, savoury vegetabley counterpoint to what sweet brunch foods.

This book is serious about the Bloody Mary. Or at least, serious about cocktails and entertaining.I’m a great admirer of Bloody (mostly Virgin) Marys, an eater of brunch, a cocktail drinker. I’m a woman in a small apartment with a galley kitchen in a high-rise building in a high-rent city, and reading this book, I had the distinct feeling that it wasn’t written for me. It’s written for someone else (I imagine this person to be a man in suburban North America), someone who regularly holds large parties, in a house large enough to have a bartending area (!) near a sink (!!), someone who’s willing to spend some time behind the bar making drinks for their guests.

Someone with a backyard, who has backyard barbecues, and invites their neighbours over. Maybe even someone who holds parties to watch sporting events. Somebody…more socially inclined.

There is no glassware here, no muddlers, no vodka varieties, no high school fight songs.

That said, this book has some ideas most people will find useful, re: garnishings (salsa! grilled lemons!), flavour combinations (balsamic vinegar! kimchi!), and of course, tomato ice cubes. I’ve also learned the correct way of mixing a Bloody Mary: not shaken, not stirred but ‘rolled’, where you transfer it from one half of your shaker to the other, kinda like teh tarik, or when you invert your test-tube in biology.

I don’t have a variety of alcohol in my kitchen and don’t like cheese or sausages skewered across my cocktails (sorry), but I’ve earmarked a few recipes that will be useful. I love recreating (well, attempting to recreate) meals from restaurants around the world, a kind of kitchen-travel if you will. I like that the book is essentially a collection of Bloody Mary recipes from different cocktail-people and bars. The history of the Bloody Mary seems well researched and I enjoyed reading the little write-ups that accompany each recipe. It’s a good book, just not for me.

I didn’t actually end up making any garnishings because it’s kinda an additional layer of fuss on top of making brunch, but I did try two different Bloody Mary recipes, one ‘original’ and one modern, both virgin-style.

The modern one is from Zuni Cafe of roast chicken fame. It includes balsamic vinegar.

The original recipe is called Mr. Boston’s Bloody Bloody Mary, which has powdered sugar (which apparently used to be a common cocktail ingredient) and lemon juice.

They were both good. I’m more inclined towards the Zuni Cafe Bloody Mary, I felt the balsamic vinegar gave it a warmer, more rounded taste, though that might depend on your vinegar (I use this, as a good balance between flavour/quality and price). There are a few other recipes I’ve ear-marked: one with coconut water, one garnished with kimchi, and a virgin mary made of ginger beer and various juices.

food processor maple walnut challah

Ingredients
  • 2 tsp dry yeast
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2/3 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup + 4 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 + 1 eggs
  • 4 cups flour 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • cinnamon sugar (about 2 tbsp white sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon)
Method

First, make sure the dough hook attachment is in your food processor.

Mix the dry yeast, honey and warm water in the bowl of your food processor and wait a few minutes while your yeast feeds.

When the yeast starts foaming, put in the 4 tbsp maple syrup, oil, salt, eggs, flour. Pulse. When things look like they're mingling, more or less, start blitzing it until it comes together as a ball, then continue for about 3-5 minutes. Keep a spatula handy to scrape the dough off the sides and help it on its way.

In the meantime find a bowl that's at least double the size of the dough ball. Oil it.

Put the dough in the bowl and shape it into a ball. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave it somewhere nice and warm and dry to rise to double its size.

Heat oven to 190 deg C.

Rinse out the food processor. It's time to make the filling.

Fit the food processor with the chopping attachment.

Add 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup walnuts. Blitz to a paste-like consistency with bits of walnuts.

When your dough has risen, separate it into three.

Take one section and flatten. Put about a quarter of the filling in the middle. Fold over and roll into a cylinder