Entries from January 28th, 2013

Almond Bread Pudding & Salted Caramel Sauce

Monday, January 28, 2013

Almond Bread Pudding with Salted Caramel Sauce

My boyfriend loves bread pudding.  With this knowledge in hand, I was pretty sure fate was on my side when Bon Appetit’s January issue came out featuring an Almond Bread Pudding with Salted Caramel Sauce just days before it was time to celebrate said boyfriend’s birthday.  To be sure, this was not the standard cinnamon-y raisin flecked bread pudding.  This bread pudding had a focus on almonds and custard, and, even though I was worried it wouldn’t be as well received, the fact that it was practically inhaled by the four of us having birthday dinner and Apples-to-Apples battles was a pretty good indicator that this recipe was a winner.

I thought that the slightly tedious circular bread cut outs were just to look fancy, but, given that each round has a slather of almond butter on the underneath side, it worked surprisingly well at having that almond flavor perfectly marbled throughout the entire dish.  It worked so well, in fact, that I want to make another one soon, maybe with some cream cheese and cinnamon, knowing that there will be just the right amount of spice in every bite.

Note: you can make the caramel sauce well in advance, to save some time.  Always important when planning special desserts!


Almond Bread Pudding with Salted Caramel Sauce
Recipe slightly adapted from Bon Appetit, Jan ’13
Serves 8-10


  • 1 1/4 cups half-and-half
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 loaf (1 lb) brioche or challah
  • 1/2 cup almond butter (with no added sugar)
  • 3 tablespoons sliced almonds
  • 2 tablespoons raw or white sugar
  • powdered sugar
  • butter

Caramel Sauce

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the half-and-half, cream, and seeds scraped from vanilla bean.  Add the bean to the pot as well and bring to a simmer, then turn off the heat.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks, eggs, sugar and salt.
  3. Pouring in just small amounts at a time, add the hot cream mixture into the egg mixture, whisking thoroughly each time before pouring in a little more.  Continue until fully combined.
  4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, strain in a fine mesh sieve to remove any bits of cooked egg and the vanilla bean.
  5. While the custard is resting, heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a round cake pan, 8″ wide with 2″ high sides.  Using something close enough will be fine, just don’t use a springform pan, like I did.  I was only worried about getting a pan as close in size as possible and in the process forgot that the custard would leak out!
  6. Still in that 30 minute time frame, slice the bread into 3/4″ slices (you’ll need 10-12 slices).  Cut the crusts off each slice, then, using a 3″ wide round biscuit cutter, cut a circle out of the middle of each bread slice.  Save the scraps- you’ll need them!
  7. Arrange the bread scraps into the bottom of the buttered pan, fitting them in tightly like a puzzle.  Press gently with your fist to squish them down slightly.
  8. Spread one side of each round piece of bread with almond butter, then place slices, almond side down, into the pan, arranged in an overlapping circle, as seen in the picture above.  Save one slice to place in the center of the circle.
  9. Pour the custard over the arranged bread, making sure to do so evenly.
  10. Sprinkle the almonds and 2 tablespoons of sugar over the top of the bread.
  11. Place the cake pan in the center of a large roasting pan and fill the roasting pan with water that reaches about half way up the sides of the cake pan.  Cover the roasting pan with tin foil.
  12. Bake for 25-30 minutes before removing the foil and raising the temperature of the oven to 375 degrees for another 25 minutes.
  13. Move the cake pan to a cooling rack for a few minutes before dusting with powdered sugar and serving with the salted caramel sauce.
  14. To make caramel sauce: In a medium sauce pan, whisk together sugar, cream of tarter and 3 tablespoons of water.
  15. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring to make sure the sugar dissolves.  Once the sugar is boiling, do not stir until the mixture begins to darken in color, then stir to ensure the sugar cooks evenly.
  16. Watch the mixture carefully as it will darken extremely quickly.  Once it reaches the color of honey, turn the heat down to low and continue until almost an amber color before turning the heat off.  The mixture will continue to darken for another minute or so after you turn the heat off.
  17. Carefully stir in the butter (caramel will bubble!).  Once that is melted, stir in the cream and salt.
  18. Let cool slightly before serving and enjoy!


Toast Two Ways

Friday, January 18, 2013

Toast Two Ways from A Gilt Nutmeg

On my way home from my favorite yoga studio, I walk by this phenomenal diner called Swingers.  Specializing in classic American diner food but with twists to make it organic/vegetarian/vegan, they have this amazing avocado toast, and after a hard work out class, absolutely nothing sounds better to my rumbling stomach: rich avocado on hearty toast, fruity olive oil and just the right amount of spicy heat from the red pepper flakes.  Now as much as I love Swingers and the juke box that plays ‘Freebird’ and the purple cows on the wall, I eventually realized that I could just make the avocado toast at home.  It’s such a simple combination that it’s hard to believe that I didn’t come up with this on my own, but now that I’ve started making it at home, I can’t get enough of it.  Whenever my boyfriend calls to ask if I need anything from the store, my response now is usually “can you grab me an avocado?”  For those of you who want something a little more sweet in the mornings, I also love banana toast with brown sugar, a little honey, and cinnamon.  Either way, you can’t go wrong!

avocado toast watermark

Avocado Toast
Adapted from Swingers Diner

  • 1 slice hearty, whole grain bread (trust me, I love white bread, but this just tastes better on whole grain toast)
  • 1/2 of an avocado, peeled and sliced
  • about 2 Tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • red pepper flakes
  1. Toast bread
  2. Arrange avocado slices on toast
  3. Drizzle with olive oil
  4. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes to your own desired amount and enjoy


banana toast watermark

Banana Toast
Adapted from Seasaltwithfood*

  • 1 slice whole grain bread
  • 1 banana, peeled and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • cinnamon
  1. Toast bread
  2. Arrange banana slices on toast
  3. Sprinkle with brown sugar and drizzle on honey to taste
  4. Lightly dust with a pinch of cinnamon and enjoy

*Seasaltwithfood’s version is baked and broiled for a great creme brulee like sugar crust on the bananas.  While simple enough, I wanted something even easier for a Sunday morning, which means no oven-but I can’t deny, I’m excited to try the broiled version, too someday!

Quiche Lorraine

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

quiche lorraine


The name “Vegas” means different things to different people.  To some it means losing a lot of money, to others it means consuming lots of alcohol and dancing in a dark nightclub.  To me, though, it means eating.  Even when I’m on a budget, I never want for interesting new places to experience a meal.  With all the fancy restaurants you can drop your dollars at along the strip, my favorite came as quite a surprise…

In the shadow of the Eiffel Tower at the Paris Hotel, you’ll see a cafe, Mon Ami Gabi.  If you’re like me, you’ll assume that it’s a tourist trap, because it’s under a fake Eiffel Tower and it has a great view of the Bellagio water fountains across the street.  You’ll assume that it’s sickeningly overpriced and sub-par quality.  Hopefully you’ll be dragged in there one time, though, and you’ll realize that all of your assumptions were 100% incorrect.  There, under that Eiffel Tower, I was served the best quiche I have ever had in my entire life and it didn’t cost an arm and a leg.  Well, my aunt got the quiche, I got the eggs Benedict, but I wished desperately I had gotten the quiche.  It’s creamy and custard-like, instead of stiff and eggy, and it’s chock full of cheese, bacon and sweet caramelized almost jam-like onions.  I thought I was going to have to beg the waiter to beg the chef for me for the unbelievable quiche’s recipe, but imagine my second surprise of the morning when the waiter brought me a special little card to fill out, to request that the chef send me the recipe.  Clearly, they get asked a lot.  Also, once I received the recipe, I realized why it was so tasty:  there was more heavy cream in it than eggs.  Did I care?  No.  Still easily the best quiche of my life and I have no regrets.

Because this isn’t one of those giant deep-dish quiches, don’t expect to make this recipe to feed a large crowd.  It should serve about 4 if you pair it with a light side salad like they do at Mon Ami Gabi or another side dish.  Or one home cook-blogger and her boyfriend, because it’s not like they didn’t eat enough rich food over the holidays as it was.  Also, make sure to use a shallow, wide bottomed pie dish- the wider the bottom, the more room for that bacon and cheese and onion!

Quiche Lorraine
Adapted from Mon Ami Gabi, Las Vegas
Serves 4

  • 1 sheet of puff pastry dough, thawed
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 pieces bacon, cooked & crumbled
  • about 1/4 cup Jarlsberg cheese, shredded (can substitute Swiss or Gruyere)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups heavy cream
  • small handful of chopped fresh herbs — chives, parsley and tarragon are a great combination
  • salt & pepper
  1. If you want to save time the morning you make the quiche, cook the bacon and caramelize the onions ahead of time and refrigerate until ready to use.  I’m sure you know how to fry up a couple of slices of bacon, but if you’ve never caramelized onion before, it’s quite easy.  I leave a little bit of the bacon drippings in the pan, add the diced onion, sprinkle with a tablespoon of sugar and cook on low heat, stirring frequently, very slowly and very gently browning the onion.  The process can take quite a while, but the more you go through the steps and know what to look for, the faster you can go in the future.  The onions will be a very deep brown and, if you put them in the fridge overnight, they’ll turn into a jam like texture.
  2. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  3. In the meantime, lightly roll out the puff pastry if it needs it, to better fit the pie plate.  Mine was a square sheet, so I arranged it in the plate, then trimmed the corners off with a knife so that the dough was an even circle all around.  It’s okay if it doesn’t reach the top of the plate like a normal pie crust.
  4. Blind bake the puff pastry — spray a piece of tin foil with non-stick baking spray and place it on top of the puff pastry, with the spray side facing down.  Fill the covered pastry with some sort of weight: rice, dried beans, or specifically designated pie weights.  Bake for 12-15 minutes until fully baked but not particularly browned all the way.
  5. Once the puff pastry is baked, pull it out of the oven (leave the oven on).  Sprinkle the pastry crust with an even layer of the caramelized onion, then the crumbled bacon, then the shredded cheese.
  6. Whisk together the eggs, cream, herbs and salt & pepper (to taste) in a small bowl.  Pour the mixture over the crust and fillings until the fillings are just barely covered.  You may not use all of the egg-cream mixture, just set the extra aside.
  7. Carefully move the quiche to the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, until the filling is dry on top and starting to lightly brown in spots.
  8. Serve warm with a light side salad and enjoy a taste of France!…or Vegas, rather.

Farewell 2012, Hello 2013

Friday, January 4, 2013

Honestly, I can’t believe the year is gone.  In 2012 I tried my hand at catering.  I made cheese at home for the first time and it was delicious.  The blog turned 1 and then I putzed out on it, but only after the LA Times and NY Times recognized me on various internet platforms…because that makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?  In honor of a great year for food, may I present to you, a retrospective:

The most popular recipes on the blog, as dictated by my precious readers, were all sweets.  I guess I know where my strengths lie?


 Mexican Chocolate Cakemexican_chocolate_cake

The Pastry Queen‘s Mexican Chocolate Cake was the year’s big winner by a long shot, and rightfully so.  The intense chocolate flavor with that hint of cinnamon and pecan taught me that not all chocolate cakes are created equal.


Blueberry Supremes

blueberry crisp ice cream

These little Blueberry Supremes count as one of my favorites of the year as well, because they were from a recipe handed down from my Great Aunt, who had the recipe from an old Junior League of Tulsa cookbook.  Not much more than blueberries, a little butter sugar and flour for the topping, and voila!  Those ladies sure knew how to cook!  Pulling these hot and bubbling from the oven is one of my favorite food memories of the year.


Caramel-Filled Brownies

caramel-filled_brownies watermark

Another winner from The Pastry Queen, these Caramel-Filled Brownies were definitely some of the richest treats to ever come out of my kitchen.  Wash down with a tall glass of milk.


Chewy Coconut Lime Sugar Cookies

chewy coconut lime sugar cookies

I don’t blame people for loving these Coconut Lime Sugar Cookies- they are without a doubt the best basic sugar cookie recipe I’ve ever come across (Thank you, Cooks Illustrated!).  The best part is how easy it is to add in great twists of flavor, like the coconut and lime in this particular variation.




Lemon Sugar Dutch Baby

lemon sugar dutchbaby

If you want a way to make breakfast more interesting without adding a lot of extra work to the process, look no farther than this fun treat.  The Lemon Sugar Dutch Baby is a fabulously easy and equally impressive for guests.


Fat Tuesday King Cake


This soft, cinnamon and cream cheese twisted brioche King Cake makes the list of my favorites because (trumpet fanfare) it was the first yeasted recipe I was able to pull off properly.  For all the failures I’ve endured this year, I was finally rewarded with a soft, tender bread dough filled with spicy cinnamon and rich cream cheese.  Leave off the colored sugar and you’ve got yourself a breakfast item that you’re going to want to eat all in one sitting.


Creamy Chicken Taquitos


I know, I know, Creamy Chicken Taquitos certainly made the rounds in the food blog world this year, but it did rightfully so.  They’re the perfect minimal effort fun dinner.  They’d also be great for leftovers, if only some lasted beyond dinner whenever I make them…


French Yogurt Cake

french yogurt cake

Rounding out my favorites of the year is a delightful French Yogurt Cake.  Easy to make but tasting far more complicated, it’s a light, airy version of a pound cake.  It was gone within 24 hours- you can’t argue with results like that!


Even though 2012 is looking hard to beat, I’m sure 2013 will be even more tasty.  I can’t wait to see what comes out of my kitchen to share with you.  Given that Santy Clause left a Himalayan Salt Plate and a sparkly new Ice Cream Maker under the tree for me this year, I predict we’re going to see lots of new recipes rolling out very soon.  Happy New Year, everyone!