I love breakfast food and often find it difficult to decide what meal I want when we go out for brunch. It is always a toss-up between ordering eggs, like Eggs Benedict or in the pancake / french toast category. Breakfast meals are sweet and savory comfort foods that just make the day start off on a happy note. French toast made with good quality bread soaked in a light vanilla custard always makes me happy. Yet today, I wanted to do something slightly different with some make in advance options and fruit topping. Baked French Toast with Apple Cranberry Compote, is a special occasion breakfast or brunch with easy do-ahead preparations.
Baked French Toast
The type of bread is the first key ingredient. I recommend a Country White Boule or Country White Sourdough Boule. The bread is sturdy and will hold up to an overnight soaking without falling apart. I bought my Country White Sourdough Boule at Whole Foods. It does not have a thick crust which is better suited for french toast. Challah or Brioche are other good choices, but I have yet to test them in this recipe. I do not recommend using regular sandwich bread as it will just fall apart before you start.
I don’t know about you, but whenever I make french toast by the time I get to the last 4 pieces the egg and milk custard is used up and I need to make more. The first slices of french toast soaked up more than their fair share of custard leaving none to spare for the last few slices. In this recipe, you soak all the bread slices at the same time overnight and every slice gets an even soaking of vanilla-nutmeg custard.
Another advantage of making baked french toast, is you bake the slices of bread at the same time in the oven. This frees up the cooks’ time to enjoy a cup of coffee or make the compote. At first, I was doubtful that baking the french toast would produce browned slices of french toast, but it does. Baked french toast has a great texture with crispy and buttery browned edges and soft and tender insides.
Apple Cranberry Compote
The compote combines fresh apples and cranberries with a spiced apple cider reduction. The fruit is gently cooked in butter until the cranberries start to pop. For this recipe, I reduced the amount of sugar, so you can taste the fruit and not the sugar. The cranberries are tart and contrast with the sweet apples. If the cranberries are too tart feel free to add more sugar a tablespoon at a time but make sure all the sugar dissolves before you remove the compote off the heat.
I made the compote with Fuji apples because they were on sale, but any apple that keeps its’ shape will work. Golden Delicious apples, Granny Smith apples, or Gala apples are all good choices. If you use Granny Smith apples, then you may need more sugar.
Use real apple cider and not apple juice. It just does not taste the same using apple juice. The apple cider reduction is flavored with cinnamon and fresh ginger, that steep in the apple cider while it simmers. Real maple syrup and orange juice add natural sugar to sweeten the compote giving the compote extra flavor the highlights the fruit and not the sugar.
This recipe is inspired by and adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine, December 2001, Eggnog French Toast with Cranberry Apple Compote. I love the idea of using eggnog for the custard in French toast, but I decided to tone down the amount of sugar in the compote, and over-the-top sweetness in store-bought eggnog. In this recipe, I use half-and-half and milk in the base with eggs, and flavor the custard with vanilla, sugar and freshly grated nutmeg. If the eggnog custard appeals to you, substitute the milk and half & half with 4 cups (1 quart) of eggnog and only use 4 eggs instead of 7. Also, do not add sugar to the mix.
Transferring the saturated bread slices from the baking dish to the sheet pan, and turning them over to brown, requires a thin and flexible spatula. The best tool is a fish spatula and is the most versatile kitchen tool I own. The flexible and thin metal base easily slides under all types of food and does not stick to the surface like with most spatulas. I own the Victorinox one, but the Wusthof fish spatula is highly recommended by America’s Test Kitchen.
More Breakfast Love
More Cranberry Love
This recipe is part of a collaborative social media project featuring the beloved fall fruit, cranberries. This collaboration would not exist without the efforts of Ruth and Rebecca of @squaremealroundtable and Annie Garcia of @whatannieseating. Thank you, Annie, Rebecca, and Ruth for all your efforts and keeping the seasonal collaborative projects going. Check out what all the food bloggers and Instagramers have created by following #yesyourcranberry on Instagram or click on the links below.
Baked French Toast with Apple Cranberry Compote
I deliberately used less sugar in the fruit compote and custard, because every baked French toast breakfast I’ve eaten is cloyingly sweet. I like the tartness of the cranberries to counter the sweet apples. Add more sugar, either in the egg custard or fruit compote to your taste, but please use restraint. Or, pass some maple syrup around with the french toast and apple cranberry compote if you prefer the compote with a more syrupy consistency and sweeter.
This recipe is inspired by and adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine, December 2001, Eggnog French Toast with Cranberry Apple Compote.
- 1 ¾ - 1 lb. (350 - 450 g) loaf of Country White Boule
- 7 eggs
- 2 cups (500 ml) half and half
- 2 cup (500 ml) whole milk
- ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 TB (24 g) sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 4 TB (56 g) melted butter divided for the baking pan and top of French toast during baking
Apple Cranberry Compote
- 2 cups (500 ml) apple cider
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 2 1/4-inch (.5 cm) slices of fresh ginger
- ¼ cup (60 ml) real maple syrup
- ¼ cup (60 ml) orange juice
- 6 TB (74 g) butter divided
- 3 apples cut into ½” pieces
- 2 cups (500 ml) fresh cranberries
- 2 TB (24 g) sugar
Prepare the French Toast
Cut the boule in half across the equator, then cut each half in 1-inch (2.5 cm) slices. Arrange the bread slices on their sides, equally divided between two buttered 9 x 13 xx 2 inches (23 x 33 x 5 cm) baking dishes. Set aside.
In a medium-size bowl, beat the eggs with a fork or wire whisk until blended. Add the milk, half and half, vanilla, nutmeg, and sugar and whisk until combined.
Pour half of the egg-milk mixture into one baking dish with the bread slices, then pour the remaining in the second baking dish. Cover each dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Bake the French Toast
Preheat the oven at 450°F (230°C / Gas Mark 8) with rack in the middle position.
Melt the butter then use half of the melted butter to baste a rimmed sheet pan, large enough to hold all the slices of french toast. Arrange the bread slices, on their sides, on the sheet pan. A thin flexible spatula is the best tool or an offset spatula. Baste the remaining melted butter to on the top of each slice.
Bake for 10 minutes. Carefully turn the bread slices over then continue to bake 10 minutes more, or until each slice is golden brown with crispy edges and soft in the middle.
Serve the baked French Toast with Apple Cranberry Compote
Apple Cranberry Compote
Make the apple cider reduction
Add the apple cider, cinnamon stick, slices of ginger, maple syrup, and orange juice to a medium saucepan on medium-high heat. Bring the cider to a boil then turn down the heat slightly to keep a brisk boil. Cook until the cider reduces to 1 cup, (250 ml), about 20 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and ginger slices. Whisk in 2 TB of butter.
Meanwhile, melt 4 TB of the butter in a large pot like a Dutch Oven. Add the apple pieces and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the cranberries and sugar, stir then cook until the cranberries pop and the fruit begins to soften but maintains their shape.
Add the apple cider reduction to the apples and cranberries, stir and cook at a simmer for 3 minutes.
The compote can be made up to two days in advance, stored in an airtight container and refrigerated until ready to serve. Heat up on the stove, then serve.
Serve with the Baked French Toast.
What Annie’s Eating Cranberry Mojitos
Square Meal Round Table’s Cranberry Orange Streusel Pie
Easy and Delish — Avocado Cranberry Hummus Dip
Flottelottehaan Buchteln with Cranberry Oranges Jam
The Cooking of Joy’s Cranberry Curd Tart
Jessie Sheehan Bakes – Cranberry Buckle
Ciao Chow Bambina – Cranberry Pecan Cracker Spread
Baking The Goods – Cranberry Apple Brown Butter Crumble Pie
Katiebird Bakes – Cranberry Sauce Breakfast Rolls
Crumb Top Baking’s Cranberry Orange Overnight Oatmeal Muffins
The Baking Fairy – Vegan Cranberry Apple Bundt Cake
You Can Live Rich On Less – Cranberry Cherry Tarts
Sift & Simmer – White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies
Bappy Girl – https://bappygirlyum.blogspot.com/
Ronnie Fein – Baked Goat Cheese with Honey Sauce and Cranberries: http://www.ronniefein.com/blog/on-hanukkah-lets-not-forget-that-a-woman-played-a?rq=Cranberries
Lemon Thyme and Ginger https://lemonthymeandginger.com/baked-french-toast-apple-cranberry-compote
Cranberry Agua Fresca with Mint and Lime: http://www.holajalapeno.com/2016/11/cranberry-agua-fresca.html
Cranberry Pie with Dried Figs and Cashews: http://www.ronniefein.com/blog/honey-cashew-pie
Susannah Chen’s Cranberry Pico de Gallo
Katherine in Brooklyn: Cranberry Cinnamon Buns
Pie Girl Bakes: Dark Chocolate Chunk Cranberry Cookies
Clean Plate Club: Glazed Cream Puffs with Cranberry Buttercream
Tiny Kitchen Capers: http://www.tinykitchencapers.com/white-chocolate-cranberry-oatmeal-cookies/
Le Petit Eats: Dark Chocolate Tart with Cinnamon Sugared Cranberry
Prickly Fresh’s: Cranberry Crostini with Prosciutto & Port Salut
Zestful Kitchen: Naturally Sweetened Cranberry Curd
Simple and Sweet Food: Fresh Ricotta and Spiced Cranberry Crostini
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Most of us had, and possibly still have, foods we did not, or still won’t, eat. Currently, raw oysters are on my list of undesirable foods, but when I was a kid I disliked peas, mushrooms and Brussels sprouts. Honestly, it is a miracle I overcame any of my childhood food prejudices, especially vegetables. Mom only made frozen vegetables and she burnt them 8 times out of 10. Over time I grew to love all vegetables with Brussels sprouts being the last holdout.
About 15 years ago at a holiday celebration, a beautiful plate of Brussels sprouts was served with dinner. Up until then I did not give this cruciferous vegetable any thought or attention, but out of politeness and curiosity I put aside my childhood opinion and ate them. After one small spoonful of Brussels sprouts, my attitude changed forever. I cannot remember how my sister-in-law made them, but what I do remember was how surprisingly sweet they tasted. Even with the innate bitter components found in all types of cabbages, a tender and sweet flavor emerged. My sister-in-law’s meal tasted nothing like the Brussels sprouts of my childhood.
It is possible my attitude changed because now I tolerate bitter flavors. Whatever the reason, Brussels sprouts are one of my favorite vegetables during the fall and winter seasons. The key to delicious and sweeter tasting Brussels sprouts is cooking them properly. What I learned over the years is, they taste their best with fast cooking methods because the longer they cook the more bitter they taste. The cooking method that retains the most amount of nutritional benefits is steaming them. This is true for all vegetables. Yet, I like to sauté, braise or roast Brussels sprouts. Each technique creates a caramelized sear on the sprouts that add contrasting color and flavor. They are not as quick to prepare as green beans or asparagus,, but like most green vegetables they finish cooking within 20 minutes.
How to Cook Brussels Sprouts
This recipe uses two cooking methods. I first sear them in a hot skillet. Once they are nicely browned I add garlic, shallots and add some hot red pepper flakes then sauté them with the Brussels sprouts. For this recipe, I add the garlic after I sear the Brussels sprouts because I do not want the garlic to brown or burn. Then, I braise them in stock or water until they are just tender. I believe the steam from the liquid cooks them faster than they would if only sautéed. Plus the liquid gives the Brussels sprouts a nice coating for the pomegranate glaze to adhere to. Once they finish cooking, I add a glaze of butter and pomegranate molasses over the tender sprouts. It is just that simple.
The pomegranate molasses has a bitter-sweet taste adding just a touch of acid to brighten up the flavor. You can find pomegranate molasses at specialty markets, like Middle Eastern markets or Asian markets, or online. Or, you can make it. I recommend store-bought pomegranate molasses because it has a long shelf life. You can also use pomegranate molasses in a variety of recipes like, Muhammara.
There are so many variations for additions and garnishes for this meal. I added pomegranate seeds for a pop of color and compliment the pomegranate molasses. A touch of acid like lemon juice brightens the meal, but too much lemon juice, or any acid, will change the color to a drab green.
Other nice additions are crispy pancetta or fried prosciutto. Anything salty like cured meats or anchovies will cut out some of the bitter flavor. If you use anchovies, omit the pomegranate molasses.
Brussels Sprouts with Pomegranate Glaze
- 1.5 lbs (750 g) Brussels Sprouts
- 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt plus more to taste
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 cloves shallots thinly sliced in half moons
- 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper or dried red pepper flakes
- 1/2 - 2/3 cup (125 - 150 ml) chicken stock, vegetable stock or water
- 2 TB butter
- 2 tsp pomegranate molasses
- Fresh ground black pepper to Taste
- Garnish with pomegranate seeds or fried slices of prosciutto, or crispy pancetta (optional)
Wash and dry the Brussels sprouts. Cut off the bottom stem then slice the Brussels sprouts in half lengthwise. Remove any loose outer leaves that are not in good shape.
Add 2 TB of extra virgin olive oil to a very large skillet and turn the heat to medium-high. Once the olive oil starts to shimmer add the Brussels sprouts and lay them cut side down. Sear the Brussels Sprouts until golden about 2-3 minutes. Once seared to your desired color, stir them around then add the minced garlic and sliced shallots. Cook until the shallots start to soften, about 2 minutes.
Add the stock or water, cover with a tight fitting lid and cook until the Brussels sprouts are tender in the middle, when pierced with a fork. about 7-9 minutes.
When the Brussels Sprouts are tender, remove the lid and cook off any remaining liquid in the pan.
Once the pan is just dry, add the butter, or 1 TB olive oil for a vegan dish, and pomegranate molasses, stir to combine. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.
Garnish with pomegranate molasses, lemon zest, and or crispy prosciutto.
If you are cooking for a large crowd, roasting Brussels sprouts is the easiest way to prepare them. Coat them in extra virgin olive oil and roast in a 400°F / 200°C oven for about 35 minutes on rimmed sheet pans. Turn them over from time to time during roasting. Add the pomegranate molasses immediately after they finish roasting with extra olive oil or melted butter and salt and pepper to taste.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Whenever I try a new food or learn a new trick I like to share it with you on my blog. This week I discovered a winter squash I never had before, kabocha squash. It is a gnarly looking green winter squash like a small pumpkin, and tastes like a blend of sweet potato and pumpkin. Kabocha is sweet and dense like a sweet potato, but with as silkier texture. Compared to a sugar pumpkin, it has a deeper burnt orange color, smoother texture, and a richer sweet squash flavor. It is not a new variety, but one that is gaining in popularity throughout the US. Like most winter squashes, you can substitute Kabocha in most recipes using winter squash.
My curiosity was piqued after reading a recipe for Red Curry Ginger Squash Soup. In the recipe the author described Kabocha squash as the sweetest of winter squashes available. Of course, I had to test her statement and bought it to make her soup. This soup is made up of some of my favorite flavor combinations, Thai red curry paste, coconut milk, fresh ginger, and lemongrass. I have a weakness for Thai coconut curries and love stews and soups made with them. With that in mind, I knew this soup recipe is a winner.
Red Curry Ginger Squash Soup comes from Meyers and Chang At Home, by Joanne Chang and Karen Akunowicz. This is a wonderful cookbook featuring dishes from the restaurant Meyers and Chang in Boston’s South End neighborhood. The book is filled with amazing recipes celebrating Taiwanese food and Joanne Chang’s Taiwanese American heritage. For their ginger curry soup recipe, they recommend using one of three different winter squashes, with Kabocha high on their list. I found soup is a great meal to make when trying an unfamiliar vegetable. In the event you are not totally in love with the flavor, it is easier to doctor-up soup into something preferable. Fortunately, kabocha’s flavor satisfied like I thought it would, and required no doctoring. The rich and sweet flavor, and silky texture of the kabocha was perfect with the fresh ginger and Thai curry paste. This soup is giving my all-time favorite pumpkin soup some competition.
This is an easy soup to make, but there are a couple of considerations.
How to peel Kabocha squash 2 ways
Like a lot of winter squash, Kabocha has a very tough outer skin. Peeling off the skin is tricky. You need a good cutting board and sturdy surface, and a sharp chef’s knife.
First, cut the kabocha squash in half, then pull the two sides apart. Then scoop out the seeds like you would for a pumpkin. Scrape out as many stringy strands too. Once cleaned, cut each half into 3 or 4 wedges depending on how big your kabocha is. Finally, lay each wedge on its side with the skin facing out, and run your knife down along the outer side, slicing along the curve of the wedge.
The alternative method is to roast the Kabocha then slice away the peel. First, cut the kabocha in half, scoop out the seeds, then slice in wedges like the method above. Place the wedges on a sheet pan. Drizzle a little olive oil over the kabocha wedges and sprinkle with some Kosher salt. Place the sheet pan in a pre-heated 400°F/ 204°C oven. Roast the squash until the flesh is very tender, about 40 minutes to an hour. Using a spoon or a knife, scoop or cut out the flesh away from the peel. This method cooks and peels the vegetable at the same time.
More delicious Asian Cuisine inspired recipes:
Tips for making Kabocha Coconut Curry Soup
The other consideration is keeping the coconut milk from separating or curdling. This happens when the coconut milk reaches a certain temperature and the proteins that link the fat to the water change shape, denaturing of the protein, and no longer stay emulsified. It is a natural process and does not cause coconut milk to go bad. It just looks unappetizing. To prevent the coconut milk from curdling it is important to make sure the coconut milk is at room temperature and the ingredients in the pot are not boiling. I work at controlling the temperature, so the coconut milk stays emulsified and smooth. Stirring the soup helps with this as well.
While making this soup, I lowered the temperature after the kabocha became tender and mushy. Then I let the liquids in the pot cool down to barely a simmer. Once the soup cooled, but remained warm, I added the coconut milk while stirring constantly until the coconut milk incorporated. Once the coconut milk is added, the soup needs to cook for an additional 30 minutes. It is important to control the soup’s temperature, so it does not boil. I slightly turned up the heat to a low simmer and continued to stir the soup at regular intervals.
I have yet to determine if Kabocha is the sweetest of winter squashes around, but I am eager to continue testing that theory. My next kabocha adventure might be adding it in my pumpkin pie recipe, or my sweet potato cake recipe. What is your favorite Kabocha or winter squash recipe? Let me know in the comments section below the recipe.
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Kabocha Coconut Curry Soup
- 2 TB olive oil or butter
- 1 small yellow onion chopped
- 2 TB fresh ginger peeled and minced
- 1 TB Thai Red Curry Paste
- 1 1/2 - 2 lbs 750 g - 1 k Kabocha or butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2" chunks
- 1 stalk lemongrass
- Zest from 2 limes (or preferable if you have access to Asian markets 2 makrut lime leaves)
- 1 13.5 oz 403 ml can of coconut milk
- 2 TB fresh squeezed lime juice more to taste
- 1 tsp sugar plus more to taste
- 1/2 - 1 tsp Kosher salt more to taste
Heat a large stock pot over medium high heat. Add the olive oil and heat for about a minute. Add the onion and garlic and gently cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. While the vegetables cook, stir frequently to prevent the onions and ginger from sticking to the bottom.
Add the curry paste and stir until incorporated. Cook for about 1 minute.
Add the kabocha, or butternut squash, and 2 cups (500 ml) of water. Bring to a gentle boil and cook until the squash is tender and mushy. About 15 minutes.
Prepare the lemongrass. Peel off the outer papery layer and discard. If your lemongrass is not already trimmed, cut off the top 2/3 of the stalk, leaving about 6-7 inches of a pale and pliable piece. Cut off the dense base of the stalk. Slice the stalk down the center lengthwise.
Turn down the heat to low. Add the lemongrass and lime zest, or lime leaf if using.
Once the soup ingredients stop boiling and cooled to a low simmer, add the coconut milk. Constantly stir until the coconut milk is thoroughly mixed in. Be careful not to allow the soup to a boil, or the coconut milk will curdle. Frequent stirring will also prevent the coconut milk from curdling.
Turn the heat up to medium-low and cook for about 30 minutes. Make sure the temperature does not get above a gentle simmer. Stir the soup at frequent intervals to prevent curdling.
When done, remove the lime leaves (if using) and lemongrass from the soup. Use a fork to help fish out any loose lemongrass strings.
Purée the soup. In a blender, food processor or immersion blender, process the soup until smooth. If you are using a blender leave a vent for the heat to escape. Also purée the soup in batches so the soup does not explode. I used my immersion blender with good results and avoided possible explosions with a blender. However, blenders do a better job at getting a smoother purée.
Once puréed, pass the soup through a fine mesh strainer.
Place your soup back in your stock pot and taste, and turn the temperature to medium low. Add the lime juice and correct the seasoning with the sugar and salt. Taste and adjust the seasoning. When adding the sugar and Kosher salt, start with less amounts then taste. You can easily add more. Add more lime juice if needed. Also, add more water if the soup is too thick. The texture should be light and smooth and not too thick.
Serve warm right away.
Can be made 2 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, or freeze up to 2 weeks.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.