Sunday, 30 May 2010

French Toast

There’s nothing I love more than to sit down to a freshly cooked breakfast on a Saturday morning.  For most North Americans a typical weekend breakfast would be a hearty omelet or something nice and sweet like pancakes, French toast or waffles, all topped off with syrup or fruit and whipped cream.  During my time in the UK I’ve found that people here just don’t really appreciate a sugary start to their weekend as much as we do back home.  A typical weekend breakfast for my friends here in the UK is a full English breakfast, commonly known as a “fry up”.  The English breakfast consists of eggs, back bacon and/or sausages, grilled tomatoes, fried mushrooms, baked beans and fried bread or toast.  Since I grew up in Canada I have what I call a “Saturday Sweet Tooth”.  It’s been quite a while since I made French toast, so I figured it was about time I made a batch.  

Start out with the basics - milk and eggs. Add in some cinnamon and nutmeg, and a dash of vanilla.
You'll also need some equipment - a non-stick frying pan, a whisk and some measuring cups and spoons. And remember, everything tastes better when it's made with PINK!

Whisk everything together in a dish that's wide enough for the bread to lay down in.  Dip each piece of bread in the liquid and fry until golden brown on each side.

Pour on some syrup and enjoy.

Ta da!!!!!

Spiced French Toast:

2 eggs
cup (160 ml) milk
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
6 thick slices of bread
In a shallow container whisk together the eggs, milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and vanilla.  Heat a non stick frying pan over medium high heat, and coat with non stick cooking spray or a bit of butter (see below).  Pick up a piece of bread with a fork and lay it flat in the milk and egg mixture.  Let the bread soak up a bit of the liquid (approx 20-30 seconds) before flipping over to soak the other side (again for 20-30 seconds).  Place in pan, and cook until golden brown before flipping. Once both sides are cooked, place the French toast on a place and sprinkle with powdered sugar and top with syrup or berries and whipped cream.

•    I prefer to use bread from the bakery that hasn’t been pre-sliced, and is nearing its expiry date. The crustier the bread the better, that way it won’t get too soggy and fall apart when you soak it in the egg/milk mixture.  It also helps to cut your bread in thicker slices than you would normally.  A French baguette also works well with this recipe.
•    Immediately after placing the soaked bread in the frying pan, place a lid over the bread in order to help cook the bread thoroughly and prevent it from getting soggy.
•    Non-stick cooking spray helps cut down on calories, but also doesn’t burn as much as butter will.  Burnt butter will affect the taste your French toast and cause it to turn quite dark.  If you’d like you can spread a bit of butter on the French toast once it’s on your plate before drizzling with syrup.

I haven’t been able to find aerosol non-stick cooking spray here in the UK.  In fact the only thing I’ve been able to find is an olive oil pump spay, which works well for cooking, but doesn’t coat baking pans nearly as well as the aerosol stuff.  Luckily when we were in Texas a few months ago I picked up a can of the aerosol kind – it was even butter flavored!!!

I prefer to top my French toast off with syrup, and for me it’s gotta be Aunt Jemima!  Real pancake syrup was one of the first “North American” things I really missed when I moved here.  The UK sells something called Lyle's Golden Syrup, which was the closest thing to pancake syrup I could find, but for me it didn’t really come close.  The taste was totally different, and the consistency is a lot thicker than the syrup I’m used to.  Syrup in the UK is considered more of a dessert topping, and is often used on ice cream as well as waffles (which are much smaller than the ones in North America) and pancakes (which are closer to a crepe), both of which are more typically eaten as a dessert or “pudding” as it’s known in the UK.  Above are bottles of syrup from Canada, the US and the UK. Whenever I go back to North America I come back with an extra suitcase filled with food and baking supplies!  

On a side note, I found it interesting to compare my Canadian Aunt Jemima to the bottle I picked up in the US.  Although the name is the same "Aunt Jemima - Butter Flavored Syrup" the ingredients are very different. The Canadian version is made with regular sugar, while the American version is made with high fructose corn syrup.  I wonder if the corn syrup version will taste as good.  I'll report back in a few months.....

Sunday, 23 May 2010

My First Iron Cupcake Challenge

A couple of months ago I came across something called the Iron Cupcake Challenge, and I just knew I had to participate in the next contest which happened to be at the beginning of May. 

The Iron Cupcake Challenge began in Milwaukee USA in 2008, and has since spread to a total of 15 different locations throughout the USA, Canada and the UK.  Each city's Iron Cupcake Challenge operates independently from the others, and therefore will have a different flavour theme.  The theme for May's Iron Cupcake London Challenge was fruit, and I immediately knew that I wanted to do a cinnamon and peach combination.  When I was younger and living in Canada one of my favorite ways to eat fresh fruit was to cut up fresh peaches and sprinkle them with cinnamon and sugar.  The flavour combination was amazing, and I often enjoyed them on top of vanilla ice cream, and even waffles. Back home in North America cinnamon and peach is a very common combination and can be found in cobblers, pies, tarts, etc, but here in the UK the flavor combination is virtually unheard of.  I'd never made a peach cupcake before, so I tried out 5 different recipes until I found the perfect combination - a cinnamon and peach flavoured cake,  filled with a cinnamon and peach compote, and then topped off with a cinnamon cream cheese icing.  To participate in the Iron Cupcake Challenge each baker can enter as many different cupcake flavors as they'd like, providing that they bake a minimum of 18 cupcakes of each flavor.  The Cupcake Challenge starts off with all the bakers laying out their cupcakes so everyone can get a good look at the entries.  When "eating time" comes along bakers and eaters (yes, you can enter as an eater for £5)  get to eat as many cupcakes  as they 'd like, and then vote for the winner.  Sitting with a group of friends  works best so that you can take one of each cupcake, and then divide them into several pieces so they can be shared amongst everyone at the table.  Doing this allows you to  every flavor of cupcake without stuffing yourself so full that you never want to see another one again.  When it came time to announce the winners, I was pretty sure my name wouldn't be called since I had found out that cinnamon peach wasn't a flavor combination that was popular here in the UK.  To my surprise my name was called first, meaning that I had come runner up out of 25 entries in the amateur competition!  Not bad for my first time entering a cupcake competition. 

Above picture courtesy of Iron Cupcake London's Dave Shipman

The theme for June's challenge is "Celebration" and I'm already busy planning my next entry, so check back the week of June 7th to see what I whipped up and how I did!

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Girls Weekend Away

When a good friend of mine asked if I could make her some themed cupcakes for a friends stagette weekend, or "hen-do" as they call it here in the UK, I knew that this project was going to be fun.  The girls were travelling on the Eurostar from London to Disneyland Paris, and needed a sweet treat to eat while on the train. I pretty much got free reign of what the cupcakes were going to look like. The only prerequisites were that one set had to have a Mickey or Minnie Mouse theme, and the other set had to be in lilac and dark purple - the bride to be's wedding colors.  I made the Minnie Mouse decorations and flowers out of gum paste, and the sparkly purple balls out of MMF (marshmallow fondant).  It was my first time using the edible glitter, and I loved the look of it.  There's just something really fun about eating something that is so sparkly and pretty.  Overall, I was really pleased with the way they turned out, and the girls absolutely LOVED them!




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