Archive for category Breakfast

Maple Pumpkin Cornbread

Thanksgiving is almost upon us. Normally this means a two-hour drive to see the in-laws, but we’ve moved now. I suppose if we were diligent young people we would make the drive this year as well, either back to Texas for his family or down to Florida for mine.

We are staying in New Orleans. The original plan was a low-key Thanksgiving dinner at home, just us corvids and our cats. But people are really nice here. A pair of our new friends discovered we were planning to spend Thanksgiving alone and invited us to join them.

Obviously we’re bringing food. Lime pie. Biscuits. And this corn bread.

The best thing about this is how moist the pumpkin makes the finished bread. I wasn’t even remotely tempted to add butter or more maple syrup to serve. It’s also unbelievably easy to put together, but don’t tell our new friends that. I want them to be impressed.

This recipe is adapted from the Comfort of Cooking.

Ingredients (makes two 9-inch round loaves. serves 12-16)

8 T butter

2/3 C sugar

3 T maple syrup

2 eggs

3/4 t baking soda

1/2 C milk

2/3 C pumpkin puree

1/2 t salt

1 C corn meal

1 C flour


Melt the butter.

Add sugar and maple syrup to the butter.

Whisk to combine.

Add milk and eggs.

Whisk again and add the pumpkin.

More whisking. Such a lovely shade of orange.

Add the dry ingredients.

Do not whisk. Fold the flour and corn meal and baking soda salt into the batter. Do not over-mix.

Scoop the batter into two buttered 9-inch cake pans.

Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes.

This is perfect unadorned. Mr. B likes to dunk his cornbread in milk. I like mine with a side of simmered greens. And of course it goes perfectly with Thanksgiving dinner.



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Peanut Butter Waffles

Waffles are, quite simply, superior breakfast foods. They have handy compartments for syrup, berries, or whatever other toppings you deem appropriate, for one. Unlike pancakes, it’s easy to keep a waffle fluffy and light while adding flavors to the batter. As much as I love gingerbread pancakes, they’re kind of dense for a pancake. A bit chewy, even. These peanut butter waffles, though? Not a bit. They’re crisp on the outside, moist and light in the middle, and seriously peanut buttery. Add a bit of cocoa powder and you may never eat anything else again. (Assuming, of course, that you understand that Reese’s candies are the best of all possible flavor combinations and should be emulated elsewhere whenever possible. If not, that’s all right. We just can’t be friends anymore.)


I adapted this recipe rather heavily from the Culinary Institute of America’s Breakfasts and Brunches recipe for buttermilk waffles. Their recipe contains no peanut butter. Also, I used goat milk instead of buttermilk. Feel free to substitute buttermilk or regular old milk for the goat milk if you don’t have any on hand, but consider keeping the goat stuff around in future. It’s tasty.

Ingredients (makes 8-10 waffles)

1 3/4 cups flour

1 t salt

1 T baking powder

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

4 eggs, separated

1 1/2 cups goat milk

8 T room temperature butter

1/2 cup peanut butter


Combine butter and peanut butter in a mixing bowl.

Mix until smooth.

Add goat milk and egg yolks.

Mix again. It will be messy.

Combine flour, salt, and baking powder in a sieve.

Sift them over the peanut butter mixture.

Mix the dry ingredients in gently, then add the brown sugar and mix it in, too. (note: brown sugar probably ought to have been added with the peanut butter and butter in the beginning. It worked out just fine this way, though.)

Whip the egg whites to stiff peaks.

Add the egg whites to the batter. Fold them in gently, leaving a few swirls of egg white throughout. Over-mixing will break all those lovely air bubbles you’ve just added for lightness.

Cook waffles using approximately 1/2 cup of batter per waffle, or otherwise if your waffle maker is bigger or smaller than mine.

Serve with a generous handful of Reese’s peanut butter chips and some honey.

Prepare to swoon.

These waffles are minimally sweet (before you cover them in candy and honey, that is), and extremely peanut buttery. Honey brings out the peanut flavor better than syrup, and a pile of peanut butter chips seal the deal. Mr. Blackbird doesn’t usually like waffles–normally I have to bury one under about a pint of blueberries before he’ll eat it–but he devoured these and went back for seconds. I know waffles aren’t the quickest breakfast food, but if you want to make a lazy weekend morning absolutely decadent, add these to your repertoire. They’re pretty much fantastic.


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Gingerbread Pancakes

Some mornings, we skip breakfast. We all do it, in spite of constant assurances that it’s the most important meal of the day, in spite of the fact that we know that by lunch time time we’ll thoroughly regret it. Sometimes you run out of yogurt, or forget to grab a banana on the way out the door. I won’t judge.

But what about those other mornings? Weekend mornings, or those brilliant days when, for no reason, you wake up half an hour before usual (for some this means actually getting up the first time the alarm goes off)? What if I told you you could make pancakes that taste like gingerbread cookies in fifteen minutes?

If you’re feeling extra fancy, make a batch of royal icing to drizzle over these instead of syrup.  I like the combination of maple syrup and gingerbread, so that’s what I went with.

I did realize after getting out all of my ingredients that there was no leavening anywhere in the apartment. There’s nothing wrong with flat pancakes, but use some baking powder to get yours nice and fluffy.

This recipe is adapted heavily from the CIA Breakfasts and Brunches‘ recipe for buttermilk pancakes.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

3/4 cup flour

3 T granulated sugar

2 T ginger

1 T cinnamon

1/2 t salt

3/4 t baking powder

1 egg

1/4 cup molasses

3 T milk

butter or oil for cooking the pancakes


Heat a skillet over medium-high heat.

Combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, ginger, and cinnamon in a bowl.

Stir to combine.

Combine molasses, egg, and milk in a small bowl.

Mix well. If your ingredients are all at room temperature, they will mix more evenly. If the egg and milk are cold, you get molasses blobs like these.

Stir the molasses mixture into the flour mixture with a fork. Just give the batter a few good turns, and don’t worry about a few pockets of unincorporated dry ingredients. Over-mixing is bad.

Butter the hot skillet. Pour 1/4 cup of batter onto the skillet. a 10-inch skillet should comfortably hold 3-4 pancakes at a time. One at a time is easier to manage when one’s dominant hand is full of camera.

When the holes formed by popping bubbles on the surface of the pancake don’t close, it’s time to flip them over.

Cook the pancakes on the second side for 3-4 minutes.

There’s something delightfully rustic about both molasses and maple syrup.

Serve piping hot with a sprinkling of powdered sugar or malt powder, a pat of butter, and maple syrup. Alternately, make it more dessert-like with a drizzle of royal icing and a puff of whipped cream. Either way, make these pancakes while there’s still a chill in the air. They’re worth getting up early for.



Homemade croissants can be a daunting task. One has to make laminated dough, after all, and that is no small feat in itself. I’ve mentioned before, though, that it’s worth it, and I stand by that. On the other hand, when is the last time you had one of these– –piping hot from the oven, exterior crisp and shattering, full of layer after layer of steaming, buttery, flaky pastry? If your answer is “I live in Paris; there are three cafés withing two blocks of my apartment,” then fine, you don’t need to do this. Everyone else? Get out your rolling pin and start cowing some butter into submission. It’s the only way. I actually made these when we still lived at the old apartment, which two months after move-out is still making me tear my hair out over the security deposit (grumble, grumble). I forgot to mention them until I made a second batch yesterday. Clearly, this could not be allowed to stand. The world must know that making croissants something you can do! The technique here comes from James Peterson’s Baking, and it’s pretty much spot on. You’ll need prepared laminated dough for the purpose, and an egg wash. That’s it.  Directions  The night before you want croissants, get out your laminated dough and roll it into a rectangle about 7 inches by 21. The dough should be just a bit more than 1/16 of an inch thick. Cut the dough into about 6 long triangles like so. Cut a little notch in the base of each triangle. Fold back the dough from the notch like you’d fold down lapels on a coat. Roll the triangles into croissant shapes, pulling on the end as you approach it to give the croissant more layers. Pull the ends of the croissants towards each other to form a crescent shape and arrange the croissants on a parchment lined baking sheet in a formation suitable for Space Invaders. Put the baking sheet in the refrigerator overnight. The dough will rise slowly and after 8-10 hours you’ll be able to pull it out and bake them for breakfast. If you don’t want to wait overnight, let them rise for 1-3 hours at room temperature instead. After the croissants have risen, brush them with an egg was made from 1 egg, 2 teaspoons of milk, and a pinch of salt. Bake the croissants at 375°F for 30-35 minutes. These can be served as is, of course; a fresh homemade croissant is rich and moist enough to be enjoyed without any kind of topping. On the other hand, I have always eaten croissants with jam, and black raspberry jam is my particular favorite. The best part is pulling off the horn of one end of a croissant, which leaves a great big hollow space behind it. Stuff that with jam, wait a minute for the steaming hot croissant to warm it up, and prepare to be amazed. These are also good, if a bit overly decadent, with a smear of double cream and of course a bit of espresso to perk up your morning. This is definitely something worth getting out of bed early for.

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Pain Au Chocolat (or Giant Chocolate Danish)

Pain au chocolat are lovely single serving pastries, found perched cheerily alongside the croissants in some bakeries. Laminated dough is wrapped around a stick of chocolate and baked so that when you bite into it hot, a flaky, buttery croissant crust bursts apart in a river of molten chocolate. They put chocolate lava cakes to shame, and yet they’re a perfectly acceptable breakfast food. I hope you understand what a wonderful world we live in, that we can eat chocolate in the morning.

I'll take the slice in the back.

I didn’t make proper pain au chocolat. I made huge braided pastry filled with chocolate and Nutella. It came out perfectly, even the bits of chocolate that leaked out at the end. We’re going to say that was deliberate. It was surprisingly easy to put together and came out looking very impressive. Use any chocolate bar you like, and don’t use one as dark as I did unless you actually enjoy eating chocolate that dark. 86% chocolate is pretty intense, and there’s no sugar in the dough. I used the method Joe Pastry makes much prettier over here to wrap up the chocolate.

Ingredients (serves 6-8)

1/3 recipe laminated pastry

1 3-4 ounce dark chocolate bar

2-3 T Nutella

1 egg

pinch salt

powdered sugar, to serve


Roll the dough out to fit three of your chocolate bars side by side.

Score the dough into thirds to mark where the chocolate goes.

At this point I put the dough on a sheet of parchment paper. Spread the Nutella over the center third of the dough.

Place the chocolate bar over the Nutella.

Slice the sides into about 14 ribbons at an angle, cutting off the oddly-shaped bits at the ends. Use those bits to shield the top and bottom of the chocolate bar.

Fold the ribbons over the chocolate like so.

Once the chocolate is fully braided into the loaf, cover it with a towel and let it proof for an hour or so. Towards the end of that time, start the oven preheating to 400°F.

Now it wants an egg wash.  Take an egg and a bit of salt.

Mix them together.

Brush the mixture over the pastry.

Bake at 400°F for 30 minutes until golden brown.

Let it cool a few minutes, then transfer it to a serving dish (cutting board, in my case) and dust with powdered sugar before serving.

If you love croissants, you must try this. The pastry shatters apart when you bite into it, leaving a delightful mouthful of molten chocolate in its wake. It goes perfectly with my morning tea and makes the early morning altogether pleasant to get through, no matter how busy I am.

The same recipe could easily be used to make more traditional pain au chocolat. Just roll out the dough, cut it into 6 long rectangles, place 1/6 of  a chocolate bar on the end of each, and roll ’em up. Brush on an egg wash and bake as above.


Laminated Dough for Croissants, Pain au Chocolat, and Danishes

Laminated dough, like that used to make such delightful pastries as croissants, pain au chocolat, cheese danishes, or delightful little asparagus and cheese tarts, is one of those things that seems to make some people flee the kitchen in terror. The rest roll their eyes and tell me I have too much time on my hands.

Because only a madwoman would want to wake up on a Saturday morning and find a whole loaf of chocolate bread waiting for her.

I admit, I wouldn’t make this dough on a workday. I wouldn’t make it on a particularly lazy week-end, either. But if I’m up and about and antsy for some reason, I’ll make this dough. Then I’ll freeze it, and be able to thaw it out and make croissants whenever I want them.

That, my friends, is power. These are not the strangely flavorless, apparently butter-free (but very flaky) croissants found at your local supermarket. This dough makes pastry that is light, flaky, buttery, even more buttery, and billowy as a cloud thanks to the added yeast that allows it to soar above even puff pastry.

I adapted this recipe only slightly from James Peterson’s Baking and the technique from Joe Pastry, who is almost certainly a pastry god.

Ingredients (makes just shy of 3 pounds of dough)

For the sponge:

1 cup flour

1 cup warm water

1 T vanilla

1 t dry yeast

For the dough:

sponge (above)

2 1/2 cups flour

1/3 cup cream

1 t salt

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks, 24 T) butter


Add the yeast and 1 cup of flour in a mixing bowl.

Stir to combine.

Add vanilla. I know, it’s against the law according to the French but I will have vanilla in my sweet pastries.

Add water. Now, we want the yeast to start happily breeding and producing carbon dioxide bubbles so don’t cook them, and don’t keep them inactive in the cold. Use water just a bit warmer than your skin.

Stir it up a bit, and you have a yeasty slurry.

Cover the bowl with a towel and amuse yourself elsewhere for an hour or so. Or stand in the kitchen staring at it, if you like, but that sounds boring.

After an hour the slurry will have risen and be full of bubbles.

Add the remaining 2 1/2 cups of flour and the salt to the yeast mixture.

Then add the cream.

Stir the dough with a spoon just until it forms a shaggy ball.

At that point, put the shaggy dough on a well-floured counter top.

Knead the dough by hand for about 10 minutes.

Wrap up the dough and toss it in the fridge while you prepare the butter for laminating.

Lay down a double layer of plastic wrap. Cut the sticks of butter in half laterally and dust them with about 3 tablespoons of flour.

Lay another double layer of plastic wrap over the butter.

Get out your beat stick. Incidentally, if your rolling pin has moving parts, or you don’t want to frighten everyone in your building with the rather loud, violent noises you’re about to start making . . . well, you came this far; you may as well get out some aggression.

Beat the butter and flour together until it forms a smooth, putty-like slab. It should be pliable but not shiny.

Take the dough out of the refrigerator and roll it into a rectangle about 11×18 inches.

Center the butter on the dough.

Fold the sides over the butter and pinch them together at the top and bottom.

We’re not done with the mindless aggression yet. Smash the butter into the corners of the pastry with the rolling pin.

Roll the dough back out into an 11×18 rectangle.

If the edges of your rectangle are uneven, just shove them back in place with the side of your rolling pin. Fold the dough in thirds again and roll it back out to 11×18. At this point the dough will need to be refrigerated for a while to chill the butter and keep it from erupting, Alien-like, from the layers of dough.

After about half an hour, pull the dough out of the refrigerator. Roll the dough out and fold it in thirds another three times.

Cut the finished dough into three equal pieces and wrap them in plastic wrap.

I set aside and froze two thirds of the dough for later, and made an enormous pain au chocolat out of the remaining third. I’ll post about what to do with this lovely dough in a couple of days.

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S’mores French Toast

I love breakfast. If there’s nothing but fruit or yogurt for breakfast, I will grump about the apartment all morning and probably not let up until (a) I have to go to work or (b) lunchtime.

Five days a week, I have either fruit or yogurt for breakfast. I love yogurt. I love fruit. What I don’t love is eating cold meals first thing in the morning when I’m already cold because Mr. B likes to keep the thermostat set to approximately four degrees Kelvin. (Okay, it’s not that bad. I’m just cold if it’s under 85°F, and that’s weird apparently.) But who has time to make waffles on a workday? Or pancakes? Even hash browns are a stretch if I want to have time for my morning run (and if I’m going to eat potatoes fried in butter or duck fat I had better not skip the running).

French toast is the easy breakfast, the I’m-too-lazy-too-cook-but-I-don’t-just-want-a-yogurt breakfast. It’s ten minutes from idea to meal. Add chocolate and marshmallow fluff and prepare to swoon.

You could make this even more s’more-like by dredging the French toast in graham cracker crumbs after soaking it in the egg and cream mixture, but in the spirit of keeping this quick and easy (Okay, I was lazy and sleepy) I left it as-is.

Ingredients (makes 3 French toast sandwiches, serves 2-3)

6 slices challah (not too thick)

4-6 T Nutella

3-4 T marshmallow fluff

2 eggs

1/2 cup heavy cream (or milk, but let’s be realistic; you’re not gonna make this healthy)

3 T brown sugar

1 t vanilla

pinch kosher salt

1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs (optional)


Combine the eggs, cream, sugar, and vanilla in a nice wide bowl.

Mix the batter well.

Spread Nutella on three of the bread slices and marshmallow fluff on the other three, and sandwich them up. Try not to use too much marshmallow fluff; it will ooze out the sides while you cook the French toast and burn. Which smells delicious at first, but then it starts to burn too much and is not so great.

Get ready to cook the French toast. Plop a pat of butter in your favorite pan.

Melt it over medium-high heat.

Soak the Nutella-fluff  sandwiches for about 15 seconds in the batter. Dredge the soaked sandwiches in graham cracker crumbs, if using, then transfer them immediately to the pan to fry. Fry them about 3 minutes on the first side.

Flip and fry about 3 minutes on the second side.

Serve as is or with a drizzle of honey if you’re feeling particularly decadent (of course I was. Do you even have to ask?) The filling are molten and delicious, the edged crisp and crunchy, and the challah perfectly sweet. This is definitely the breakfast for not having to work until 11 A.M.