Monday, April 30, 2012

Potato Brunch Casserole

What's big, family brunch at home without some sort of casserole?  This one was great, and with potato, cheese and bacon, how could it not be?  Mom and Gram even mentioned that they liked this potato casserole better than the one they usually make.  If that's not a seal of approval, then I don't know what is.

Like any good brunch recipe, you can put it together ahead of time.  I removed the pan from the fridge while the oven was preheating to take some of the chill off of it.

Even if you want to leave out the bacon, it would still be a great side dish for your brunch.

Potato Brunch Casserole
Adapted from
Yield: 12 servings

1 pound sliced bacon, diced
1 medium sweet onion, diced
6 eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups frozen shredded hash brown potatoes, thawed
2 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
3/4 cups shredded Swiss cheese
1 1/2 cups small curd cottage cheese

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large skillet, cook bacon and onion until bacon is crisp; drain. In a bowl, combine the remaining ingredients; stir in bacon mixture. Transfer to a greased 13 x 9 baking dish.

Bake, uncovered, for 35-40 minutes or until set and bubbly. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ham Asparagus Quiche and Spinach Mushroom Quiche

Spring time always makes me think of brunch.  I love brunch any time of year, but the association of brunch and Mother's Day makes me think of it as springtime activity.

Some of my family members were in town for the weekend recently.  Saturday night we picked out our dinner at The West Side Market, then cooked it together at home.  Before they left on Sunday, we brunched.  I made food I could prep before everyone arrived.  The spread included quiche (two flavors), a potato bacon casserole, fruit with yogurt, and coffee cake.

Quiche is perfect for making ahead, it can be kept in the fridge or frozen if you're making it more than a few days in advance.  This recipe was great, the quiche was soft and moist and there was a good ratio of egg to mix-ins.  Quiche is great brunch option, but pair it with a salad and you've got yourself a nice lunch.

Cook's Notes:
  1. The partially baked crust is an extra step that you can skip if you want, but I think it's worth doing.  For one thing, it keeps the bottom crust from getting soggy.  Another reason is that the unbaked pie dough can shrink, and the egg mixture might overflow behind the crust.
  2. Don't overfill the crust (make sure to keep it 1/2 inch below the top).  
  3. I ended up with a little egg mixture leftover so I made mini quiches.  Line a few cups in a muffin tin, sprinkle with a little cheese or other mix-ins, then fill cup 2/3 full with egg mixture.  Bake until egg is set.

Ham and Asparagus Quiche
Adapted from Baking Illustrated
Yield:  1 quiche, 8 servings

2 eggs
2 egg yolks
3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp table salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
A pinch fresh grated nutmeg
4 oz (1/2 cup) Gruyere cheese, grated (shredded Swiss can be substituted)
4 oz baked ham, diced small (thick cut deli ham works well)
8 asparagus spears, cut on the bias into 1/2 inch pieces (~1 cup)
9-inch partially baked pie shell (warm), baked until light golden brown, about 10 minutes  (pre-made pie shells can be used)

Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Blanch asparagus in 1 quart salted boiling water until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Drain thoroughly. 

Whisk all remaining ingredients except cheese, asparagus and ham in medium bowl.  Spread cheese, asparagus and ham evenly over bottom of warm pie shell (if the pie shell has been previously baked and cooled, place it in the preheating oven for about five minutes to warm it, taking care that it does not burn).

Set shell on oven rack. Pour in custard mixture to 1/2-inch below crust rim. Bake until lightly golden brown and a knife blade inserted about one inch from the edge comes out clean, and the center feels set but soft like gelatin, 45 to 50 minutes (the center of the quiche will be surprisingly soft when it comes out of the oven, but the filling will continue to set--and sink somewhat--as it cools). Transfer quiche to rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Variation for Mushroom and Spinach Quiche:
Replace the Gruyere, ham and asparagus with mushrooms, spinach and cheddar cheese.

1 Tbsp olive oil
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
8 cups baby spinach, wilted and squeezed dried (see Baked Spinach for instructions) or 1 box frozen
1/2 cup shredded cheddar

Heat a pan to med high heat, add olive oil.  Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, season with salt. Spoon half of the spinach mixture into the crust, add the cheese, then top with the remaining spinach mixture.

Make Ahead and Reheat
Quiche can be kept in the fridge for a few days, otherwise wrap it in plastic wrap and foil and put it in the freezer.
Preheat oven to 350 F.
While oven is preheating, remove quiche from fridge to let it warm up a bit (10-15 min).
Bake quiche for 10 min (covered with foil to keep moisture in and prevent browning)

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Cinnamon Rolls

This one was baked in the loaf pan (sides of dough didn't touch anything).

Okay, I'm going to tackle some brunch recipes.  First up:  Cinnamon Rolls!

I usually don't like homemade cinnamon rolls because they are dry and taste too yeasty and bready.  These however are actually pretty amazing.  With all that butter, how could they not be good?!

This recipe makes a ton of cinnamon rolls, perfect for giving away to friends, family and neighbors.  Don't forget to keep at least one pan for yourself though!  These cinnamon rolls freeze really well in different stages (unbaked rolls in the pan, or baked rolls with frosting).  I warmed a pan that was frozen fully cooked and frosted (250 F for 15 min), and they tasted just as good and fresh as they did before freezing.  I definitely recommend freezing them after the are fully cooked and frosted because you can have cinnamon rolls ready in a moments notice!

When I made them, I ended up with seven full 8x8 pans plus two cinnamon rolls which I baked in a loaf pan.  The two didn't rise as much and were far enough apart from each other and the sides of the pan so they were able to get some crunchy edges.  I really liked those edges!  I might even experiment with baking them on a cookie sheet so I can have more cinnamon rolls that are soft with crunchy edges.

Some tips and step by step pictures can be found on The Pioneer Woman's blog.

The recipe can easily be halved, but if you want an even smaller batch, KitchenMage shows the quantities scaled down to make 12 cinnamon rolls (I have not tested this). 

It's my favorite bun when they're baked in a pan (the one from the middle).

Cinnamon Rolls
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks
Yield: 7 (8x8 or pie) pans:  50-60 cinnamon rolls

1 quart whole milk
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
2 (0.25 oz) packages active dry yeast (4 1/2 tsp OR 0.5 oz total)
8 cups (plus 1 cup extra, separated) flour
1 tsp heaping baking powder
1 tsp scant baking soda
1 Tbsp heaping salt
2 cups (4 sticks) melted butter, plus more as needed
2 cups sugar, plus more as needed
1/4 cup cinnamon for sprinkling

Maple Frosting:
2 lb powdered sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
6 Tbsp (3/4 stick) melted butter
1/4 cup strongly brewed coffee (can be omitted)
1 Tbsp maple extract/flavoring (can substitute vanilla)
1/8 tsp salt

  • Add finely chopped pecans to the rolls after sprinkling with cinnamon sugar
  • Substitute 1 cup orange marmalade and 2 cups brown sugar for the cinnamon and white sugar, then substitute orange juice for the maple and coffee in the frosting.
  • If you want to make vanilla frosting substitute vanilla extract for the maple flavoring and replace the coffee with more milk.

To make the dough:
Heat the milk, vegetable oil, and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat to just below a boil. Set aside and cool to warm. Sprinkle the yeast on top and let it sit on the milk for 1 minute.

Add 8 cups of the flour. Stir until just combined, then cover with a clean kitchen towel, and set aside in a relatively warm place for 1 hour. After 1 hour, remove the towel and add the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and the remaining 1 cup flour. Stir thoroughly to combine. Use the dough right away, or place in a mixing bowl and refrigerate for up to 3 days, punching down the dough if it rises to the top of the bowl. (Note: dough is easier to work with if it’s been chilled for at least an hour or so beforehand.)

Remove half the dough from the pan/bowl. On a floured baking surface, roll the dough into a large rectangle, about 30 x 10 inches. The dough should be rolled very thin.

To make the filling:
Pour 3/4 cup to 1 cup of the melted butter over the surface of the dough. Use your fingers to spread the butter evenly. Generously sprinkle half of the ground cinnamon and 1 cup of the sugar over the butter. Don’t be afraid to drizzle on more butter or more sugar! Gooey is the goal.

To assemble the rolls:
Now, beginning at the end farthest from you, roll the rectangle tightly towards you. Use both hands and work slowly, being careful to keep the roll tight. Don’t worry if the filling oozes as you work; that just means the rolls are going to be divine. When you reach the end, pinch the seam together and flip the roll so that the seam is face down. When you’re finished, you’ll wind up with one long buttery, cinnamony, sugary, gooey log.

Slip a cutting board underneath the roll and with a sharp knife, make 1/2-inch slices. One “log“ will produce 20 to 25 rolls. Pour a couple of teaspoons of melted butter into disposable foil cake pans and swirl to coat. Place the sliced rolls in the pans, being careful not to overcrowd. (Each pan will hold 7 to 9 rolls.)  Repeat the rolling/sugar/butter process with the other half of the dough and pans.

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Cover all the pans with a kitchen towel and set aside to rise on the countertop for at least 20 minutes before baking. Remove the towel and bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until golden brown. Don’t allow the rolls to become overly brown.

While the rolls are baking, make the maple icing:
In a large bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, milk, butter, coffee, and salt. Splash in the maple flavoring. Whisk until very smooth. Taste and add in more maple, sugar, butter, or other ingredients as needed until the icing reaches the desired consistency. The icing should be somewhat thick, but still very pourable.

Remove pans from the oven. Immediately drizzle icing over the top. Be sure to get it all around the edges and over the top. As they sit, the rolls will absorb some of the icing’s moisture and flavor. They only get better with time.

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