breakfast

Mother’s Day Popovers

by Caroline

Mother’s Day Eve, circa 1973. The kitchen is filling with smoke. My mother is upstairs pretending not to notice and my father is, well, probably off writing somewhere, really not noticing. My older brothers, older sister and I have commandeered the kitchen in order to make a Mother’s Day treat for the next morning. No matter that my mom doesn’t really care to celebrate Mother’s Day (preferring instead to celebrate the Anglican Mothering Sunday), no matter that none of us has baked entirely unsupervised before, or ever baked popovers, no matter that popovers should be eaten immediately out of the oven rather than baked in advance — this year, in my memory, my oldest brother and sister have decided that Mom will have popovers for breakfast.

A pretty new basket has been purchased, and a napkin laid inside it. The first batch goes up in smoke, so we forge ahead and bake a second, exhausting the supply of eggs and milk. I don’t remember if they are any good, if we serve them to my Mom while they are still hot and delicious, or if we really save them for the next morning. What I do remember is that my siblings and I all spent an evening in the kitchen together, and the result of that time is far less important than the happy little kid memory.

This year, my husband and I are taking a rare night away from the kids together (rare = the first in four years) and it happens to fall the weekend of Mother’s Day. I have no big objection to the holiday, myself; it’s commercialized now, yes, but it’s roots are in anti-war protest and I make a point of that when I talk about the day to my kids. Tony makes sure I get to sleep in, and generally organizes the boys to create some kind of extra breakfast treat to go with my standard bowl of granola; this year, perhaps it will be these sugar and cinnamon popovers which are such a good idea, I wish we’d thought to make these for Mom all those years ago. Because they’re still pretty tasty the next day.

Recipe by David Lebovitz

For the puffs:

Softened unsalted butter, for greasing the pan

2 tablespoons butter, melted

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup whole milk

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1 cup flour

For the sugar coating:

2/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 tablespoons butter, melted.

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Liberally grease a nonstick popover pan, or a muffin pan with 1/2-cup indentations, with softened butter.

2. For the puffs, put the 2 tablespoons melted butter, eggs, milk, salt and sugar in a blender and whiz for a few seconds.

3. Add the flour and whiz for 5 to 8 seconds, just until smooth.

4. Divide the batter among 9 greased molds, filling each 1/2 to 2/3 full.

5. Bake for 35 minutes, until the puffs are deep brown.

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6. Remove from the oven, wait a few minutes until cool enough to handle, then remove the puffs from the pans. You may need a small knife to help pry them out.

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7. Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Thoroughly brush each puff all over with melted butter, then dredge in sugar and cinnamon mixture to coat completely. Let cool on a baking rack. Makes 9 puffs.
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Banana Bread Today (or, Another Field Trip, Another Batch of Muffins)

by Caroline

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As I have written elsewhere, there’s always room in my repertoire for one more banana bread recipe; this one I found originally in The Baker’s Dozen Cookbook and have been tinkering with it (reducing the fat and sugar, upping the protein) ever since. You can make these as a quick bread (bake for about an hour) or muffins (bake for about 25 minutes); either way, they are banana-y, buttery and delicious.

Note: you can certainly make this with 1-1/4 c all purpose flour (omitting the whole wheat flour and wheat germ) and with 8 T (one stick) of butter (omitting the flax seed), and it’ll be delicious, just not so virtuous.

2-3 ripe bananas (about 1 cup, mashed)
3/4 c all purpose flour
1/4 c whole wheat flour
1/4 c wheat germ
9 T ground flax seed
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
3/4 c brown sugar
5 T butter
2 eggs
1/2 c chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 and grease an 8″ x 4″ loaf pan or a 12-cup muffin tin.

Mash the bananas in a medium bowl until pretty smooth.

Whisk the flours, wheat germ, flax seed, baking soda, and salt in another bowl.

Using the flat whisk in a stand mixer, mix the sugar and butter well to make a stiff paste (you can also do this by hand, of course). Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the mashed banana. Stir in the walnuts, if using (don’t worry if the batter looks curdled). Now add the flour mixture and stir until just blended (don’t overmix or worry about a few lumps). Put the batter in the prepared pan.

Bake until a skewer comes out clean, about 45 minutes to an hour for bread, 25 minutes for muffins. Cool on racks in the baking pan for 10 minutes, then remove from the pans and cool completely.

Muffins For the Road (Vegan Banana Wheat Germ)

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by Caroline

I have lost count of the number of field trips Ben’s first grade class has taken this spring, and we’re not done yet, and I seem to be driving them all. I’m not complaining; I’m not a committee mom — you won’t find me organizing this fund-raising gala or that anniversary celebration– I like to do the things that involve the kids most directly. I volunteer in the lunch room (more on that in a later post), I help out with messy art projects, and I drive field trips. And when I do, I bring muffins, because it seems no matter how short the drive might be (a recent trip to the symphony clocked in at about 7 minutes) it seems that as soon as the car doors are closed and the buckles are buckled, somebody’s hungry. A good muffin can satisfy hunger pangs and raise morale on a longer drive. Plus, although I have no particular guilt about offering my kids sweeter baked treats (I’m not as organized about it as Lisa, but I, too, let them eat cake), I haven’t found anyone yet who objects to a muffin. These are what I brought along on our farm field trip the other day, and they gave the car a nice banana scent, too.

1 c plain soy milk
1 t apple cider vinegar
2 very ripe bananas
1/3 c canola oil (I scanted the vegetable oil slightly and added a splash of walnut oil)
1/3 c sugar
1 t vanilla extract
1 1/4 c flour (I used a mix of all-purpose and whole wheat flours)
3/4 c wheat germ
1 T cinnamon
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt

Preheat the oven to 375 and line a 12-cup muffin tin with muffin papers, or lightly grease the cups.

Combine the soy milk and vinegar and set aside for a minute or two to curdle.

Meanwhile, mash the bananas in a large mixing bowl, then add the soy milk mixture along with the oil, sugar, and vanilla. Mix well.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, wheat germ, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Add this to the banana mixture and mix until just combined. Spoon batter into the muffin cups and bake for 22 minutes. Let the muffins cool in the pan for a couple minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely. My first batch didn’t last that long…

We might not have Paris…

by Lisa

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Not long ago, on a family trip to San Francisco, Ella, Finley, and I found ourselves staring at the counter of a French bakery, at a pile of croissants.  They didn’t know what they were, and as I explained to them the wonder that is a croissant, I found myself telling them not about croissant, exactly, and how good they can be, but about the summer I spent working in the French Alps at  a summer camp.  They know many stories from this time, including the fact that no one, not a soul, spoke even a word of English, so I was forced very quickly to abandon all pretense of speaking, looking, or acting even vaguely English-speaking.  They know that we ate baguette and cheese, or sugared candy or chocolate every day for afternoon snack.  They know that my first night, on the all night train, the youngest child, an adorable little 4-year old, looked up at me and said, “But you don’t speak French” (in French, of course), when I had uttered what I thought was a perfectly comprehenisble sentence in French.  Things changed quickly and by the end of the summer, I could enter the mountain village store and be served and local restaurant and be served without disdain; I dreamed in French, and upon my return to Paris functioned like a native speaker. Sadly, this is no longer true.

France was also the place where I learned to eat meat again, but that’s another story. The anecdote I found myself telling my children a we stared at that golden counter was about breakfast.

On the counselor’s mornings off, we got to order from the bakery, which meant croissant–plain, chocolate, etc.–and whatever we wanted would be brought to our room, with our choice of cafe au lait, chocolate chaud, etc…It was quite wonderful to wake up to perfect croissant and eat them and go right back to sleep while the French children screamed.

And every morning we drank big bowls of cafe au lait or chocolate, too, which Ella and Finn found really funny.

Not long after, as I was marketing I spied a box of frozen TJ chocolate croissants, so of course I bought them, and for some reason had the impulse to sneak them into my cart so Ella didn’t see.  Of course, Caroline and her family were fortunate enough to travel and eat in France last summer, and you can read about it all beginning here, but for the forseeable future, I’m going to have to recreate a little bit of France in our California home, so I bought the box.

We were in the midst of a rainy long weekend, and while many were away on ski weekends, I had been baking, and braising and nesting and so that night, I planned a petit dejeuner. The croissants are frozen, and you place them out on a cookie sheet overnight to proof, or rise.   I did this, set the table, boiled some eggs, set out bowls for the chocolate and coffee, prepped the espresso machine, and filled a bowl of fresh fruit.

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I also left a sign that said “Do Not Touch! Not Cooked!” on the croissants, since Ella and Finn are known to be curious when it comes to food, and they were bound to be up first.

The next morning, Ella was exuberant: “I can’t wait to taste my first croissant!” she said, and while they were baking, I made the chocolate and coffee and whipped some cream.  They thought the bowls of chocolate chaud were hysterical, but they happily slurped them up just like a child should on a cold, rainy holiday morning.

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When the croissant came out, Finn knew right away he was on to a good thing, because the moment he picked one up–before putting a single bite near his mouth– he exclaimed, “Mmmmm!  They’re so buttery and warm!”  And even though they are not the best croissant you will ever have, they were lovely, and that is all you really need to know.

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Family Romance

by Lisa

“I am more modest now, but I still think that one of the pleasantest of all emotions is to know that I, I with my brain and hands, have nourished my beloved few, that I have concoted a stew or a story, a rarity or a plain dish, to sustain them truly against the hungers of the world. ”   MFK Fisher


Yes, we did have pancakes on Valentine’s Day.  But it was such a lovely meal, and we were all so sated by it, that it’s worth writing about.

Aside from the memorable first Valentine’s dinner my husband & I had in Los Angeles, where Leo DiCaprio unwittingly paid for our dinner, I think we’re both inclined to take it or leave it.  But we wanted to do something for the kids, and so we (ok, I) started the grand tradition of Letting Dad Take Care of This One.  Kory came home with a lovely bunch of flowers and three little packages of cookies and chocolates. (He & I ate the chocolates, later.)

I had set the table the night before, and the children quite magically let us sleep in.

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When we woke, the board was written.

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I was out of baking powder for the panckaes , but had buttermilk, and so I did a quick subsitute in our staple griddle cake recipe and made buttermilk pancakes instead.  The pancakes were light, fluffy, and sweet, a nice alternative, and they held up to the fresh raspberry coulis/syrup we served on the side.   I whipped some fresh cream, set out the coarse pink sprinkling sugar, and a bowl of  Ella Bella Farm’s raspberries I had frozen in August.

Then, I used the very last of the raspberries to make a raspberry coulis, sweetened slightly with grade B maple syrup. Technically, I suppose, it wasn’t really a coulis, since it wasn’t pureed, but it wasn’t exactly syrup, either. It was tart and sweet and will be just as good on vanilla ice cream as it is on pancakes.

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The kids got pink-tinted vanilla milk (whole milk + vanilla + sugar), and we all chose how to top the pancakes.  Ella and Finn chose whipped cream and pink sugar and whole raspberries.  I chose the coulis + whipped cream + sugar.

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Kory & I took one bite of the pancakes and decided we needed to have some Valentine’s mimosas, but neither of us wanted to go outside to pick oranges and squeeze juice.  So we poured the prosecco straight and topped it with a few muddled raspberries.    Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I had anything even resembling a mimosa in the morning. I suspect it was before we were married, which would be nearly a decade ago.  But this may well be a tradition to revive.  We all lingered, then the kids played, and Kory and I lingered some more, and then with the house in order, we went the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco to see the Coraline show, which was truly amazing, then out for sushi, and a trip to the Japantown mall, all of which was so fun that I forgot completely that I was supposed to go to the markets to look for the giant fried squid.

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Buttermilk Pancakes

2 cups flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 egg

2 cups buttermilk

2 tablespoons melted butter

1. Sift together all dry ingredients into a large bowl. This is an essential step. We just use a sieve, and work over the sink for easy clean up.

2. In a glass measuring cup beat the egg.

3. Add milk to the egg.

3. Pour egg and milk mixture slowly over dry ingredients, whisking to incorporate.

4. Add butter.

4. Cook batter on a hot griddle. Don’t turn the griddle cakes too soon! Wait until they are bubbling all over the center and a little dry around the edges.

For the Raspberry Syrup I simmered in a small pot about 1 1/2 cups fresh frozen raspberries, a few tablespoons of maple syrup, and about 1/4 cup of water until the raspberries began to slightly fall apart and the mixture was a nice consistency.