Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter! The lucky eater cooks (and posts recipes)!

It's not every day that I cook. To be honest, it's not even every year. I have been known to bake from time to time and make some desserts, but a whole meal? Not so much.

But when we decided to invite Jude's cousins over for Easter brunch, I immediately volunteered to take care of the food to give Jude a break. He was shocked, but happily accepted.

Jude's initial (and very important) contribution to my cooking this morning was taking Ruby out for a long walk to give me space to get everything done.



I had a lot of anxiety about making this meal. Yesterday afternoon, my friend Anu and I took Ruby to music class and to the Brooklyn Flea. I saw these vintage aprons and decided that was exactly what I needed to make me feel more domestic! I have to say--wearing a cute apron and pink shoes made working in the kitchen significantly more fun (and makes me want to figure out what to bake next so that I can wear it again)!



First things first. In honor of Easter, I felt the need to dye some eggs. Jude gets our delicious eggs at the farmer's market and, of course, they are brown...so I was skeptical that the colors would turn out okay, but they looked good (just not pastel).

Hard-boiling:

Using every mug in the house to dye them:

Drying the eggs on paper towels:

Displaying the eggs on an antique deviled egg tray from my mom:


Next item of business: CUPCAKES! I love cupcakes. But not just for their tastiness, but also for the adorableness factor. At Thanksgiving I made super cute turkey cupcakes (idea stolen from Colleen at Cafe Traditions). They looked great, but nobody really ate them--partly because there were pies and other desserts to eat, but also partly because they had a lot of random stuff (toasted coconut, marshmallows, candy) on them that didn't make them look particularly appealing. So this time around I wanted to make cupcakes that people would actually want to eat...which means good cake, good buttercream frosting from scratch, and only a little bit of extra bling. I found this idea for Easter basket cupcakes from Bakerella and knew immediately that I had to make them!

I made basic chocolate cake for the cupcakes. Nothing special or worth writing about.



Then, I made delicious buttercream frosting and added green and yellow food coloring to make it a nice shade of green that would most closely resemble the fake grass that you stick in an Easter basket. I got the recipe from Bakerella and it lived up to its name (Easy) and its promise (delicious). I made it in the stand mixer in no time.



Easy Buttercream Frosting

1 cup (2 sticks) butter (room temperature)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1b. 10X powdered sugar
1-3 teaspoons milk, half and half or cream

  • Using a mixer, cream softened butter and vanilla until smooth.
  • Add sugar gradually, allowing butter and sugar to cream together before adding more.
  • If you want your frosting a little creamier, add a teaspoon of milk at a time and beat on high until you get the right texture.
  • Then, just use icing colors or food coloring to tint the frosting the color of your choice.
I frosted the cupcakes and rolled the edges in sugar to get that sort of sparkly-new-Easter-basket look. Here are the additions that I chose for my "baskets." The little eggs in the dish are malted milk balls.



Here are my finished products. Cute, plus they got eaten! Ruby is allergic to cow's milk products that I eat, so I only got a taste of the frosting, but I wished I could have had more!





Now, on to my real "cooking." I had gone to brunch in February at my good friend Meghan's mother-in-law's house on the Upper East Side. She made the most delicious French toast I've ever had, so I recently asked her for the recipe so I could pull off this brunch. She happily obliged.

The three most important things I learned about French toast making from this endeavor:

1) Get good bread, preferrably Challah. Cut it the night before you want to make it. I kept the slices in the oven (off) overnight. This way, they get the very start of being stale and the edges stay rigid when you soak them in batter and cook them up the next day. You don't want soggy French toast!



2) Secret ingredient: cognac in the batter! It gives the flavor a little kick.



3) Use really good European-style butter to fry it in. The quality of your ingredients always matter in cooking!

Here is a slightly altered (I added cinnamon and nutmeg) version of Barbara's recipe:

Ingredients:
6 large eggs
1 1/2 cup half and half
1 T sugar
1/2 t salt
2 1/2 T cognac
1/2 t cinnamon
1 grated nut of nutmeg
1 large challah bread cut in 3/4-1 inch slices
In a large shallow bowl, whisk together the eggs, half and half, sugar, salt, cognac, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Soak slices in the egg mixture until well drenched.

Heat 1-2 T of very good butter in a very large fry pan over medium heat. Add the soaked bread and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side until nicely browned. Place the cooked French toast on a sheet pan and keep it warm in a 250 oven. Fry the remaining soaked bread slices, adding butter as needed until they are all cooked. Serve hot with honey or maple syrup, blueberry preserves, etc. You can also sprinkle with confectioners' sugar.

I served mine with powdered sugar sifted on top and choices for toppings included: honey, Vermont maple syrup from the farmer's market, and Sarabeth's strawberry and raspberry preserves.

Jude wanted to remember me being in his kitchen!


Starting to cook the toast. Jude taught me how to regulate the temperature to not burn the butter or the toast, the importance of cleaning out the pan in between each batch (in this case, three at a time), and to tilt the pan and put the toasts in on the opposite side as the pool of butter so I don't get splattered with hot butter.



Here are my toasts--golden brown!



And ready to serve, powdered with sugar!



By the way: we did not only serve sweets at this meal! Besides my hard-boiled eggs, Jude also cooked up some jowl bacon and we also served braised cabbage (from last night's meal) and sliced pineapple with chili.

Here is Ruby, anxiously awaiting the arrival of our guests while mama and papa set the table.





Here is Jude's cousin's adorable baby, Sebastianos, sleeping soundly in his stroller in our living room!



And, of course, Ruby. This is a picture I snapped while trying to get her down for a nap. Does she look like someone who wants to nap and miss all of the excitement?



Happy Easter!

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