Harvest + Honey

An open-ended love letter, culinarily inspired.


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milk toast

Milk Toast16 Dulce de Leche French Toast

Dulce de Leche French ToastMilk Toast13

Once I was shopping at the grocery store with my Mom and I guess the sweep spirit moved me because I decided to reenact the show as we were walking around the store. I got so into my little supermarket make believe game that I then started strategizing my own game-winning plan. I was yelling out all of the items that I would select and chucking them into my cart, one by one.

“Corn! Peanut Butter! Diapers! Diapers! Diapers!” As I was deep in the thick of my shopping shenanigans, a can of sweetened condensed milk exploded all over the floor right in front of me, just oozed all over the place.

“Oooops!” Game over, I thought. I looked up and saw a whole group of people watching me in total amusement. I suddenly became very self-aware and mortified at how silly I was being. I have to admit that I kind of wish I had a little more of that childhood recklessness in me now. Being too self aware and polite and normal and not silly all the time is a bit boring. But with tomorrow comes new opportunity, I guess, and also a much needed grocery-shopping trip. So who knows? Maybe I’ll stage a little Supermarket Sweep reenactment again for old time’s sake. Lord knows I could use the diapers …

Milk Toast12Milk Toast9

French toast is one of those things that is tough to screw up. Even bad French toast is usually pretty good – like pizza or cheeseburgers (unless you burn them, then it’s a different story entirely). Even if all you do is toss basic sandwich bread around in some beaten eggs and a little milk, it’s still pretty darn tasty when topped with some maple syrup. My Mom was telling me recently about how it was always her breakfast dish of choice when she was a kid. Morning in and morning out, my Grandma would make it for her and I assume that it was probably little more than the above-described version: basic bread, a couple of eggs, splash of milk, and syrup. Reliable. Classic. Simple. If you’re eating French toast on a daily basis, then this is probably the route to take. But what if you want to elevate your French toast to something that’s just a little bit MORE?

Dulce de Leche French ToastMilk Toast1

There are plenty of recipes out there for extra-super-over-the-top-tricked out French toast that have been grabbing my attention and pulling at my heartstrings lately. I’ve seen French toast bagels, French toast doughnuts, stuffed French toast, baked French toast casseroles, and almost every other iteration of the dish that you can think of. But I simply wanted to come up with a way to infuse a little more flavor into the actual custard itself, in hopes that it would boost the overall flavor of the bread. This is where the dulce de leche comes in.

A common recipe in Mexican cuisine, dulce de leche literally translates to “candy made of milk.” By making dulce de leche and adding it to the custard, you boost the milk and sugar components and ultimately wind up with a tastier, more impactful liquid with which to drown your bread. It’s sort of like inviting Superman to take a swing at the birthday party piñata in place of say, your Uncle Frank. Frank is great, but Superman is better. Such is the case with this custard. Regular sugar and milk are fine additions to a traditional French toast batter, but dulce de leche is better. It’s Superman.

Dulce de Leche French Toast

You can make your own dulce de leche totally from scratch, and it’s actually pretty easy. I’ve done it once and it’s fine. But you can mimic the exact same flavor and texture by simply boiling a can of sweetened condensed milk for a few hours. Easy as pie. Easy as TOAST. My second trick to creating extra special French toast is to soak it in the custard over night. This works wonders for the finished product. The custard seeps into every pore – every single nook and cranny of that bread picks up that eggy goodness and it really helps it become something more than just bread with scrambled eggs on the outside. I made my own bread here and then just sliced it as I pleased, but that’s clearly not necessary. I WILL say that purchasing an unsliced loaf and then slicing it yourself into thick, 1” slices is the way to go though. Just say no to pre-sliced bread! Save those skinny sandwich slices for, well … your sandwiches.

So there you have it. My three tricks for killer French toast:

1) Dulce de leche custard

2) Overnight soak

3) DIY slicing.

It’s as simple as that. I’m confident that Superman himself might even be fond of this one.

Dulce de Leche French Toast

Dulce de Leche French Toast RECIPE

1 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk

5 slices of bread (any kind you like), sliced 1-inch thick

4 eggs

1 cup of half and half

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Butter for frying the French toast (4 – 5 tablespoons)

Ricotta, crème fraiche, whipped cream, or sour cream for topping

Mixed berries for topping (optional)

Maple syrup

 

Place the can of condensed milk into a pot of boiling water, ensuring that the can is fully submerged (at all times). Cook the can at a simmer for three hours, making sure to add more water as it evaporates. Remove the can after three hours and cool for about 15 – 20 minutes before removing the lid. Now you have dulce de leche! Note: It is easiest to use while it’s still warm.

Meanwhile, make the custard. Whisk together the eggs, half and half, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Whisk in 1/2 cup of the still warm dulce de leche, stirring until everything is nicely combined.

Arrange the bread slices in a single layer in a large, rectangular baking dish (9 X 13 works). Pour the custard mixture over the bread slices, cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight (or for at least 8 hours).

To cook: Heat a griddle or large skillet over medium heat. Add two tablespoons of butter to the pan and cook the bread slices for about 5 minutes per side (do this in batches), or until golden brown and cooked through in the center. Add more butter to the pan as you go.

To serve, I like to top each slice of toast with some mixed berries (I always have frozen ones around) that I cook for about 10 minutes in a small saucepan to allow the juices to escape. I then mix a little of the dulce de leche with some ricotta or some crème fraiche and use that as a creamy topping as well. Maple syrup is always welcome on my French toast too. But top as you like! Enjoy.

Milk Toast10


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chicken n’ dumplings, collard greens + hummingbird cake

Chicken and Dumplings and Collard GreensSouthern Food Post

Growing up, some of the best school days were the ones that involved some sort of field trip. Whether it was to a different city for the day, a museum, or maybe a theatrical performance, the opportunity to leave the regularly scheduled educational premises for a while was always a bit of a thrill. For my friends and me, the destination was usually secondary to the leaving aspect of field trips. It was purely the fact that we were leaving school and getting to soak up some fresh scenery for a little while that was best part of the gig. Unless, of course, the field trip was to Cracker Barrel.

Hummingbird Cake Chicken and Dumplings and Collard Greens

Yes, Cracker Barrel. For some reason my third grade class took a field trip to Cracker Barrel once and I’ll never forget it. Why we went still remains a bit of a mystery to me, I’ll admit. But to a bunch of bright-eyed, small-town eight and nine-year-olds, this was a glorious occasion for some truly delectable dining. I’m pretty sure my younger brother’s class also field tripped to The Barrel at some point so it must have been a thing. A Kentucky thing? Maybe. A Southern thing? Probably.

Hummingbird CakeBest ever collard greens

I remember the school bus pulling up to the restaurant in Richmond, KY and all of us kids anxiously spilling out of it like we’d just arrived at Disneyland (that’s the leaving again – it often results in increased excitement levels not necessarily appropriate for the situation at hand). No offense to Cracker Barrel …

Fights over the rocking chairs on the “front porch.” Intense games of oversized checkers. Significant time spent perusing the ample candy section of the country store – you know the drill. Or actually, maybe you don’t. If you’re reading this post from say, Hong Kong or Sri Lanka, you might very well have no idea what I’m referring to here with all this talk of Cracker Barrel. Essentially, it’s just a chain restaurant that you will find, quite literally, at almost every exit in the American South. When we were on lengthy drives or road trips in high school and college, my friends and I used to play that game in the car where you amass points for certain things you spot along the way. Two points for a rest stop. Five points for a car with a missing headlight. Twenty points for a car with Hawaiian plates. I can tell you that Cracker Barrels usually garnered very little by way of points in this game because they’re everywhere, and they’re almost always crowded. People love a good comfort food filled meal, to be sure.

Chicken and Dumplings and Collard Greens

I don’t remember the last time I ate at a Cracker Barrel, but I definitely remember that field trip. We didn’t actually get to choose what we wanted to eat when we all sat down at our reserved tables, my classmates and I. No freedom of menu for us that day, but it was no matter. We were there for the chicken and dumplin’s, and that’s what everyone was served. I truly wish I could remember why we were all at Cracker Barrel eating chicken and dumplin’s instead of being back in the classroom working on our multiplication tables. What was the significance of it? What was the educational value? Ah well. Doesn’t really matter so much, I guess. All I know is that those bowls of chicken n’ dumplins were the subjects of so much excitement and anticipation for my classmates and me that day. Probably due to the “leaving” again. We were eating them away from school, which automatically made them more exciting. Doesn’t take much.

Southern Food Post11Best collard greens

These three recipes I’ve got here are some of my new and old Southern favorites. I say “new” because prior to making these, I had no idea how much I loved collard greens. Hummingbird cake and chicken n’ dumplins, sure – I was well aware of how wonderful those two recipes are. But these collards with blue cheese and toasted pecans were the star of this show, no question. One of the tastiest and most satisfying things I’ve made in a while, this is a recipe that will make its way into my regular mealtime rotation, I’m quite sure. It’s a stunner. As for the chicken n’ dumplins, I make mine very traditionally but I add a bunch of black pepper to the dumplins and I boost the flavor of the traditional broth a bit. For my cake, I swap in freshly pureed pineapple for the canned stuff and incorporate some vanilla pudding mix and fresh nutmeg as well. This cake is impossible not to love, I’m telling you. Moist, sweet, and nostalgic for most Southerners, this Hummingbird Cake will complete ANY meal beautifully, be it dumpling filled or otherwise.

Southern Food Post10Southern Food Post12

RECIPES

 

Chicken and Cracked Pepper Dumplings

 1 (3 – 4-lb.) whole chicken

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 carrot, cut into chunks

1 stalk of celery, cut into chunks

1/2 onion,

2 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided

1 teaspoon pepper, divided

1 teaspoon chicken bouillon granules

 

For the dumplings:

3 cups self-rising flour

1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning

1 tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper

1/3 cup shortening

1 tablespoon bacon drippings

1 cup milk

Garnish: chopped fresh parsley, chives, scallions, etc.

 

Directions:

Bring chicken, water to cover, garlic powder, thyme, carrot, celery, onion, 1.5 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper to a rolling boil in a Dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Cover and reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for an additional hour and a half. Take out the chicken, and strain the veggies from the broth. Reserve broth.

Cool the chicken for half and hour. Remove the skin and pick the chicken meat off the bones – dark and light. Skim the fat from the top of the broth. Add the chicken, bouillon and the remaining teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper to the broth. Return the pot to a simmer.

For the dumplings: Combine the flour, poultry seasoning and black pepper in a bowl. Cut in the shortening and bacon drippings with a pastry blender or fork until crumbled. Add the milk, and stir to combine. Transfer the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll to a thickness of 1/8-inch and cut into 1-inch pieces.

Drop the dumplings into the broth, stirring gently as you do. Cover and simmer, stirring frequently, for 30 minutes. Garnish as desired.

 

Collard Greens with Blue Cheese and Toasted Pecans

12 slices of bacon, finely chopped

2 medium Vidalia onions finely chopped

3/4 pound smoked ham, chopped

5 cloves of garlic cloves, minced or grated

3 (32-oz.) containers chicken broth

3 (1-lb.) packages fresh collard greens, washed, trimmed – ready to use

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Crumbled blue cheese, for serving

Toasted chopped pecans, for serving (to toast: place the pecans in a dry pan over medium heat and toast for about 5 minutes, tossing/stirring occasionally)

 

Directions

Cook the bacon in a 10-qt. stockpot over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until it is almost crisp. Add the chopped onion to the pot with the bacon and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the ham and the garlic, and sauté for another minute. Stir in the three boxes of broth and remaining six ingredients. Cook the collards for 2.5 hours or to your liking (sometimes I go longer, if I’ve got the time).

Serve hot with crumbled blue cheese and toasted pecans on top.

 

Hummingbird Cake

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups sugar

1 box of French vanilla pudding

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

3 eggs, beaten

1 cup vegetable or canola oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup fresh pineapple puree (I process 1.25 cups of fresh pineapple chunks in my food processor until smooth)

1 cup finely chopped pecans

2 bananas, mashed

 

For the cream cheese frosting:

1.5 sticks (12 tablespoons) of unsalted butter, at room temperature

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 box confectioner’s sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

 

Grease and flour three 9-inch cake pans. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Add the eggs, oil and vanilla, and stir gently, just until all of the dry ingredients are fully incorporated. Stir in the pineapple, pecans, and mashed bananas.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, and then remove the cakes from their pans, and cool completely on wire racks.

Spread the frosting between the layers and on the tops and sides of the cake.

 


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blood orange cake with lavender buttercream

IMG_2229Blood Orange Cake with Lavender Buttercream

I stood stock still in the doorway of the old man’s house, my eleven years on this earth not having quite prepared me for a moment like this. Sticking his head out far enough for me to observe his bushy eyebrows and stark white strands of long, stringy hair, he wrapped his fingers around the edge of the door and pulled it open just enough for me to catch a glimpse of a glowing TV in the other room. The sound of the Jeopardy theme song was playing softly in the background. 

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cookbook roulette + ottolenghi’s eggplant with buttermilk sauce

Roasted Eggplant with Curried Buttermilk Sauce and Dried FruitRoasted Eggplant with Curried Buttermilk Sauce and Dried FruitFullSizeRender-91

I’ve got a real thing for cookbooks. Always have and always will, most likely. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve read them like novels. That practice, combined with my love for cooking shows and frequent observance of my mother, is really what taught me how to cook. I would come home from school and grab a cookbook off the shelf where my mom displayed them, make myself a giant bowl of cereal, and get lost in the recipes and their charming anecdotal stories. I loved them all – from Southern Living’s Annual Christmas book and hand-me-downs from my grandmother to all of the utterly charming homegrown church and community-driven books. I have a real soft spot for those; the dependable, tried and true recipes from local people who take so much pride in them, passing them down from one generation to the next. My favorite cookbooks in my mother’s kitchen were usually the ones with the tattered and torn pages and simple plastic-ringed binding, stained from many years of use and eventually, the pink tinted milk from my own cereal bowl. Continue reading


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slippin on the dock of the bay (plus cioppino, sourdough and a chocolate bar)

Homemade CioppinoCioppinoHomemade Cioppino

“If you’re alive, you can’t be bored in San Francisco. If you’re not alive, San Francisco will bring you to life. San Francisco is a world to explore. It is a place where the heart can go on a delightful adventure. It is a city in which the spirit can know refreshment every day.”  - William Saroyan

I think it’s true that San Francisco is a place that will bring you to life. I distinctly remember the first time I visited, crossing over the Bay on that famed bridge, eagerly waiting for the fog to lift so I could catch my first real glimpse of the city. I’d seen it so many times; in magazines, on screens big and small, and in others’ photographs, and while yes, a picture is said to be worth a thousand words, it cannot hold a candle to seeing something in person, live and in living color. There’s really nothing like seeing a new place for the first time, feeling its distinctive heartbeat and taking in all of the myriad sensory experiences with which vibrant cities are always waiting to provide you. Continue reading


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dark chocolate souffles with lavender + thyme

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the vanilla years + chocolate cupcakes with a cinnamon & salted pretzel buttercream

Chocolate Cupcakes with Cinnamon and Salted Pretzel Buttercream Chocolate Cupcakes with Cinnamon and Salted Pretzel ButtercreamChocolate Cupcakes with Cinnamon and Salted Pretzel Buttercream

Happy birthday to you!

Happy birthday to you!

Happy birthday dear <insert name here>

Happy freakin birthday to you.

>> Cue chocolate cake and chocolate ice cream; stage right <<

That was me. The cynical child, begrudgingly singing along to the birthday song at each and every party I attended, knowing full well that I would not be partaking in the chocolate cake that was to immediately follow, nor would I be scarfing down any chocolate ice cream. No way, no how. Continue reading

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