Last week, I wrote about things you can do with pumpkin puree. Here’s what I ended up doing with mine. It’s a little quick bread I tossed together this afternoon that has a really nice crumb and uses toasted millet instead of nuts for crunch (good if you cook for someone with a nut allergy).
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We’ve been back from our honeymoon for the last couple of days, but I haven’t done much of anything creative in the kitchen as of yet. I’m still eying the pile of wedding gifts, trying to incorporate the new gadgets and pots into my already overfull galley (truly, a blessed problem to have). However, the very first morning we were back, weary of having to shower and dress before venturing out for breakfast, I made my lazy morning specialty.
French toast is one of those meals that doesn’t really require a recipe. It’s about taking a few end bits from the refrigerator and making a meal that elevates those humble, half-stale, slightly sour ingredients into something satisfying (and refreshingly cheap)! In our case, I didn’t even have to resort to the slightly sour, as there was an unopened quart of half and half in the fridge with an expiration date that was still three weeks in the future. There were also three lonely eggs and four slices of multi-grain bread (two of which were the heels).
I beat those eggs in a shallow dish with several glugs of the half and half, until it was a mellow lemon color. Some cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg joined the egg mixture and a slice of bread went in. I heated my pancake/french toast griddle over medium heat and added a mostly unnecessary slick of butter (that griddle has been so well loved that it’s seasoned to the point where grease is hardly needed. But butter is so delicious).
My dad taught me to make french toast when I was young, and the point he always stressed was that it was important to give the bread a good soaking (but to watch carefully that you don’t oversoak). You want to get enough egg mixture into the fibers of the bread so that it puffs up like a custard while cooking. If your bread is particularly stale (which mine was), use a fork to score the slices in order to aid egg absorption.
Once your first slice is sufficiently saturated, carefully transfer it your pan. Follow suit with the rest of the slices of bread, as they’re ready. My griddle can accommodate four slices of bread, but if you don’t have such a roomy cooking vessel, feel free to cook them one or two at a time in frying pan (just don’t let them soak to bits if you’re using a smaller pan). Cook over medium heat, so that the slices have a chance to cook all the way through.
Serve on a messy dining table, with some previously canned pear butter or some Vermont maple syrup.
I made my first loaf of quick bread when I was seven years old (under very close supervision from my mother). It was from the back of a children’s book called Cranberry Christmas and it quickly became a holiday tradition (I still make it, with just a few alternations to this day).
Twenty plus years later, quick breads are still one of my favorite things to bake (I have several beloved banana bread recipes, as well as that delicious yogurt loaf). This time of year, when the zucchini plants threaten to take over garden plots and summer squash can be gotten for pennies, the quick bread is most decidedly a good friend to the gardener and cook. This recipe is easy to stir together, makes quick work of a nice-sized zucchini and is amazingly moist. It’s also fairly healthy, packed with whole grains and containing just one stick of butter between the two loaves.
One thing to keep in mind when making this bread. It’s not a super sweet loaf, and I’ve made it that way by design. I like to eat it for breakfast, and at that time of the day, I don’t want to be eating cake. However, if you want a more assertively sweet flavor, I’d add another 1/2 cup of sucanat or sugar (or just spread your slice with a bit of peach or apricot jam).
Go forth and bake!
Each time I find myself wanting to post a recipe here that is not jar-related, I tie myself up in knots for a moment, worrying that it is unseemly to break out from the blogging rubric I’ve set up for myself. Then I remind myself that this is my blog and I can do with it what I want. Besides, there are times when all you want a simple little loaf cake to go along side those jams and marmalades. And for those moments, this is a near-perfect treat.
I baked this one up on Sunday morning, intentionally splitting the batter unevenly between two half-sized glass loaf pans. The larger was destined for a friend who had a baby just three weeks ago and the smaller one stayed home. Una (the new mama) is the type of person I’ve always admired. She is so good about taking time for herself, even if it’s only a few moments, and, for as long as I’ve known her, has often done so in the afternoons with a slice of something sweet and a cup of coffee with milk. Goodness knows that this new baby will ruffle her previous patterns, but I felt like it was the least I could do to take her a treat that would allow her that recall those afternoon moments of calm.
The smaller loaf, the one that stayed home, was eaten up in short order as well. I left Scott alone at home with it while I was visiting Una, and when I returned, a big hunk was missing. We whittled it down to the final slice you see above before I realized I wanted to grab a picture. We split that last piece just before turning out the lights and heading to bed.
It’s a good, simple little cake that I adapted from a Dorie Greenspan recipe. I’ve dialed down the sugar a bit, wanting to ensure that it wouldn’t be cloying with the addition of jam and swapped out her lime zest for orange (I had two oranges and no limes on a Sunday morning, so I made do). I also used a bit less oil than she called for, because my yogurt was unusually runny and I didn’t want the batter to be too loose.
One thing I’ve learned over the years is that one person’s staple grain can be totally exotic, foreign or just plain unnecessary to the next person. For instance, my mom always has some Cream of Wheat in her pantry rotation. That’s one I skip, preferring steel cut oats or hull-less barley for breakfast (although lightly buttered and salted Cream of Wheat with a poached egg on top is one of my beloved childhood comfort foods).
In the last few years, millet has crept into my grain rotation and is now a very definite canning jar staple (along with short grain brown rice and quinoa) in my kitchen. The thing I love about millet is that it has a multitude of applications. When it’s steamed, it become light and fluffy, a cross between polenta and broken rice. When toasted, it becomes a nutty addition to pancakes, waffles, muffins and scones.
It was the Metropolitan Bakery (Fork You toured their factory last summer, here’s the video from that day) that opened my eyes to toasted millet and the ways in which can add the perfect gentle crunch to baked goods. They make an amazing millet muffins, and it was those muffins that inspired me to add toasted millet to anything that would stand still.
Toasting millet is really easy. Most of the time, I do it in small batches in the toaster oven, cooking it at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes on a dry baking sheet. The only thing to remember is that to get the best crunch from your millet, you need to make sure you toast at least half an hour prior to stirring the millet into the batter, so that it has time to cool and firm up. Also, don’t worry if it looks like it’s smoking, it’s actually steam that occurs as the moisture inside the millet dries and escapes (of course, if it’s starting to look blackened, then it is smoke. Use your judgment).
If millet is one of your staple grains, how do you like to use it? For those of you for whom it’s new, do you have any questions?
My adaptation of Metropolitan Bakery’s millet muffin recipe is after the jump…
These muffins are particularly good with a dab of Honey Lemon Marmalade.