Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tuesday at the Table

Our Christmas Day tradition for the last several years had been brunch, Christmas story, gift exchange, take a breath, add more family, snack, stockings, dinner. whew. For some reason, during this most hectic time of year, I try all sorts of new recipes. I usually make up a menu so I can remember where all the recipes are - cookbooks, clippings, etc. Here's last year's menu:

Now, undoubtedly, I'll be trying some new recipes, but brunch - I think I'll be bringing back the Coffee & Brown Sugar Bacon and Cinnamon French Toast from last year, since they got such rave reviews.

When my coworker gave me this bacon recipe, I thought it sounded down-right weird, but oh is it good!

Coffee & Brown Sugar Bacon

1# thick-cut bacon
1 Tb. ground coffee (I use espresso powder)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tb. freshly brewed coffee (again, I use espresso)

Preheat oven to 375-degrees. Line a rimmed baking pan with parchment and set a rack on top. Lay bacon stripes on rack, overlapping slightly if necessary. (I don't have a rack, so I just drain off into a couple of times, as needed.) Sprinkle top of strips evenly with ground coffee/espresso. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and brewed coffee/espresso, stirring just to blend to a paste. Brush top of strips with half of sugar mixture.

Bake 15 minutes. Turn bacon over and brush with remaining glaze. Bake until crispy-ish, 10 minutes more. (It will crisp up a bit as it cools.) This supposedly serves 8, but plan on folks eating more bacon than they, uh, usually would.

And this French toast is something special! It's from Leslie Mackie's Macrina Bakery & Cafe Cookbook. Macrina is local, so we occasionally get to pick up some goodies fresh from the bakery. Thankfully, our grocery store carries some of their products, which is where I picked up the orange brioche I'm going to sub in this year, omitting the lemon zest in the filling. Brioche freezes well, so it's ready for me when I need it on Christmas morning!

Cinnamon French Toast with Ricotta Filling

For the Ricotta Filling:
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 Tb. granulated sugar
1 Tb. freshly grated lemon zest
Combine ingredients in a bowl. Filling can be made in advance and stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

For the Cinnamon Topping;
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 granulated sugar
2 Tb. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
8 Tb. unsalted butter, room temp
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
Combine ingredients in a small saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir frequently until butter is melted and all ingredients are combined, about 2 minutes. Set aside.

For the French Toast:
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tb. light brown sugar
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 loaf brioche
1/4 cup canola oil
powdered sugar

Combine eggs, vanilla, brown sugar, and milk in a medium bowl. Mix with a whisk, then pour into a shallow baking pan.

Cut 4 generous (about 1 1/2" thick) slices from the brioche loaf. Using a sharp paring knife, cut a pocket into the side of each slice. Try not to cut all the way through the slices. Fill each pocket with 1/4 of the ricotta filling, taking care not to tear through the bread.

Preheat oven to 400-degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment.

Preheat a large saute pan over medium heat and add half of the canola oil. Gently dredge 2 slices of stuffed brioche in the pan of batter, making sure all sides are evenly coated. Lay slices in the preheated pan and cook until both sides are golden brown, then transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Add remaining canola to the saute pan and repeat process with remaining slices.

Spoon warm cinnamon topping onto the browned slices of French toast and bake on center rack in oven for about 5 minutes, until topping starts to bubble at the edges and a thin crust has formed on top of the bread.

Serve French toast drizzled with any remaining cinnamon glaze from the baking sheet; sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serves 4. (Once I got typing, I realized how long this recipe is! But parts can be done ahead, and it really is worth it!)


  1. YUM! What time should I be there?

  2. Oh, so that's where the Orange Brioche fits into the Table. :) So clever. I've been working on my Christmas Eve Brunch menu without inspiration until now - Cinnamon French Toast is now in the starring role. I love how you try new recipes on holidays - I do too but always receive comments from those who worry about how it will go over with a crowd. Can't wait to see what your Christmas Menu for 2011 will be.

  3. I agree with Katie, what time should I be there? I swear this is the fanciest menu I have ever seen, I can't imagine doing something so amazing every year! So awesome!

  4. I can testify to the amazing-ness of the Cinnamon French Toast. As a dear friend of mine says, "It is LIFE CHANGING. Hello!" (You've got to say that it your best MN accent for it to work.)
    I look forward to seeing the rest of this year's menu. I can't hardly wait to eat this year's menu!!!

  5. It really is too bad that you live halfway across the country or I would totally crash your Christmas brunch. And dinner. Everything sounds amazing!

  6. If you liked the coffee & brown sugar bacon, you should DEFINITELY try Praline Bacon. I live in New Orleans and it's a local favorite for breakfast/brunch!

    Here's the recipe I use. It's from one of my favorite restaurant called Elizabeth's:


  7. The French toast sounds so rich and yummy.