Resolution Recipe 2: Cinnamon Toast French Toast

Final Plating 2

Recipe 2 is complete and I’m excited to say how easy this resolution has been so far. It’s always a major drag to start a New Year’s Resolution and within the first week you know just how hard it is going to be to keep it up.

However, before I get too excited, let’s consider that I’m still on vacation, school hasn’t started back up yet, and I am not back to my regularly scheduled program. Who cares…I’m going to continue to be optimistic about this one!

On the brighter side, I’ve had more viewers, visitors, and new subscribers  to my blog generated off my last post then I’ve ever had. Don’t get me wrong…we’re not talking bunches and bunches (more like 3 or 4) but everyone has to start somewhere. Thank you new subscribers for making my week exciting! To those of you who decided that I might have something interesting to say about food…I warn you…I probably do not. But if you like a little comedic relief in your life, I do believe this blog may meet your needs with my questionable writing, overly detailed anecdotes, and dumb cooking mistakes. I’ll take any audience. But seriously…thank you. It is fun to do this whether people are reading it or not, but it makes it a ton more fun to share the experience with others.

Recipe Number 2: Cinnamon Toast French Toast

(from Deb Perelman’s The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook [])

You can read Deb’s original post about this recipe by clicking here. You’ll get to see just how fun she is with her easy to read instructions and beautiful photography. I’ll let you check that out for her exact recipe and instructions.

For this post, I just wanted to show-and-tell about my adaptations to her recipe that went well and…not so well.
Tray of cin toastFirst of all, I decided to half Deb’s recipe since I was just cooking for myself. I’m glad I did this because it produced enough breakfast for me to enjoy for the next few days but not the next few weeks! We’ll see how it heats up tomorrow to see whether it’s left over worthy.

Instead of the suggested 16 slices of toast I only did 8 and used parchment paper to lay it out. I have never done toast in bulk like this, but it was so easy that I do believe it will be my new method for toasting (…the art of toast making of course…) if I’m ever cooking breakfast for an army. I just need to remember 450 degrees for 7-10 min. 7 min was perfect in my oven.

Toast with Custard 2

Deb has a very long explanation of how you should cut your toast and place it in the pan. I was reading it through with a scowl  on my face because I thought…”Why in the world is she telling me how to cut and place the toast in the pan like it’s a Jenga column?? It’s french toast for goodness sake…you just put it in the pan and call it a day!” (If you read her directions you’ll know what I mean) Well, she’s not being a pest by telling you to cut and place your toast like that in your pan. You’ll see in my picture that I just cut all the pieces in half and filled my pan. What you’ll notice about hers that is different from mine is that you can see all the pieces of toast in her pan from the middle to the top. More on what I think that was all about towards the end…

Flipped and soaked toast with custard 2

Final plating 1I was a little concerned that the “custard” to toast ratio was going to be way off.  Splitting the recipe in half was not a big deal but when she says the toast needs to sit 15 min to soak up the custard, I was not totally sold that it was actually going to happen. Be encouraged! It does indeed happen. If you notice in the picture, the custard reaches about 3/4 the way up the cut toast in the pan. You’ll see the next picture was taken after 15 min or so when the custard had saturated the toast. To help it along, I did flip the toast from crust side up to cut side up. That seemed to help soak up the last of the custard so the bottom of the pan was nearly dry. 

Something that Deb says in her recipe is to butter your pan well. I thought I had buttered my pan just fine, but I ended up having quite a bit the toast sticking to the bottom and a ton of fun scrubbing that pan afterwards. Since I had crust side down, many of the pieces I pulled out were less then attractive so do yourself a favor and do as she asks. Butter liberally…even if there are chunks of butter on the side. Who cares anyways…it’s butter!

Okay back to the crazy instructions on cutting and placing your toast in the pan…I think Deb suggests you cut and lay your toast in such a way so that you don’t end up with soggy bread. I think mine was a little softer then I would have liked it for french toast, and I’m thinking that if the pieces had been more exposed, they would have firmed up better. My trouble was in having a pan big/small enough to allow me to set up my toast to look pretty like hers. The 9×13 was way too big for half the recipe so I settled for a square casserole dish which held all the pieces just fine (if you sandwiched them against each other like I did!) but was not a good set up for her method. It might be worth making the whole recipe if you don’t have a small enough pan…or halving the recipe again to fit the small pan. I’ll have to let you know how it works as left overs to help you decide what the best idea is for you.

Overall, I REALLY liked this way of making french toast. Her recipe is delicious and it came out to be the best french toast I’ve ever made since the flavors were so much better set into the dish then I’m use to. If you want an easy do-ahead breakfast then Deb has some tips for you about how to go about doing that this dish.

I hope you give her recipe a try. You won’t be disappointed!

COMING UP NEXT….I’ll be attempting Deb’s next recipe which is a Gingerbread Spice Dutch Baby….wow, right? That just sounds super impressive. I think we are wandering quickly out of…”I’ve got this” territory to….”uh-oh…do I even have all the kitchen items required to make this/what the heck is a Dutch Baby??”. Looks like I’m going to have to invest in both a blender and an iron skillet before I make this recipe next weekend. I may be calling my sister to tell her I’m coming to her house to make breakfast Saturday morning since it may not be in my budget to buy new supplies just yet. I’ll let you know how that turns out…haha.

Happy cooking readers! If you haven’t already done so, please take the poll about this New Years Resolution adventure!


Olive Garden Bread…rolls

Who doesn’t love Olive Garden bread sticks?! Those fantastic things are often times the only reason I like going…that and their salad. Yum! I think these take a close 2nd to Pat & Oscar’s delicious bread sticks. If you’ve never had a chance to try the breadsticks from Pat and Oscar’s then get yourself over there this week! You can thank me later.

This bread stick recipe was once again inspired by a Pinterest recipe for Olive Garden Breadsticks. I decided to try these yesterday since it just felt like a bread making day! (originally posted by The Misadventures of Mrs. B but referenced by the following Chef in Training blog).

I decided that instead of making breadsticks I would make the recipe into little rolls. They make up quite a bit and I’m guessing if you use the dough for breadsticks you’re not going to get the 2 1/2 dozen I made up.

Another major plus to this recipe is how quick you’ll have fresh bread! I couldn’t believe that I only had  to knead once and then let it rise for an hour before baking them for 20ish minutes. Easy. If you’ve never made bread before, this is a great recipe to get started with.

I’ve made a bunch of different recipes for bread and I still have so much learning to do when making bread dough and working with active ingredients like yeast. One thing I would encourage you to have on hand is a thermometer. I know the quickest way to ruin your bread dough is not getting your water at the right temperature to activate the yeast or getting it too hot to kill the yeast. I’m sure someone out there could speak more science and purpose into that statement and also give you suggestions for assuring a good rise. Share your knowledge with me if you want, because bread is one of those things I would love to be really, really good at. I’ve been doing a lot of reading about different kinds of doughs and I’m still not turning out amazing bread. But, I’ve not given up just yet! I’ll keep passing on my wisdom as I learn and master the techniques.

Another reason I love making bread is that it doesn’t require too many ingredients to guarantee an awesome outcome. I think I get it in my head that you need oodles of ingredients on hand at all times if you want to be a skilled cook or baker. I don’t always have it in the budget to get the best ingredients so it’s comforting to know that some recipes just call for the basic pantry items we all have on hand! This novice cooks appreciates the simplicity of bread sometimes, especially when I’m in the mood to cook.

You only need a few ingredients to get going…AP flour (4.5 cups so make sure you’re not almost out) butter, salt, yeast, and sugar. The first thing you’ll want to do is get your yeast started. Each recipe I’ve made, gives different instructions for yeast, but here are three things I would suggest:

1. Read the yeast packet for instructions and then read your recipe and see what it suggests or requires. Sometimes it’s better to get the jar of yeast, but I like having the packets because 1 packet is usually all you need for one recipe.

2. Sugar is used to proof your yeast which takes about 10 min. Follow the packet or recipe to know how much sugar to add. You’ll know your yeast is doing it’s thing if your kitchen start smelling like yeasty bread! Proofing the yeast makes it foamy on top which is a good thing. The yeast is fueled by the sugar and that’s why it get’s like that….again, I don’t know all the science, but I’m sure Alton Brown has an episode of Good Eats that can fill in the blanks for me!

3. I mentioned it above, but have a thermometer, on hand to get the temperature of your water right before adding your yeast (read packet of yeast and recipe for tips on the right temperature range). I’ve made both mistakes with the water..too hot and killing it and too cool which does nothing to get it started. Proofing helps with the mystery of knowing whether the yeast is active so you don’t get an hour into your rising and realize it’s not doing anything. But to save some money on yeast, the thermometer is a nice thing to have on hand so you don’t have to throw anything out.

Now to make your dough, you’ll need to put your flour and salt in a bowl and make sure to melt your butter. Once your 10 minutes are up, your yeast should be ready to go. You can see in my picture that the once watery mixture has a foamy top to it now which is exactly what you’re looking for.

All ingredients can be dumped in with the flour and salt and the mixing can begin. They recipe suggests that you use a wooden spoon or paddles attachment on your mixer (what novice cook actually has a nice mixer?!…Well maybe it’s just me :0).

Here’s where my mistakes started…the recipe says not to over mix, which is what I was focused on preventing. However, I had bad luck getting the flour and salt mixture  incorporated into the dough which meant more mixing then was probably needed. The dough (sorry I don’t have a picture) was not soft but was already dense and tougher then I knew it needed to be. So, next time, I might do the combination process in reverse. Put the yeast and butter together and then gradually add the flour/salt mixture. I think that would have brought it all together better. My bread still turned out well, but it was not the fluffy texture I was hoping for. This is one of the reasons why bread can be so tough to make.

I went to lunch and came back so they had the chance to rise for a little more then an hour. They had not doubled like I was hoping, however, I’m sure if I had left them for another hour, that would have changed. If you have the extra 30 min or so to let them keep going, maybe give it a try and allow them more time to grow.

Our house is not the warmest place so I always use the oven to let the bread rise. I put it on warm or 170 degrees while I’m rolling out the dough and then turn it off before I put them in and cover them up. That gives bread a nice warm place to get started. If you do this, make sure to not leave the oven on. If the temperature gets too hot then the bread will go from raising to cooking. I’m always afraid that I’ll kill the yeast with a hot oven so I’m usually pretty careful on this step. Bread is easier to make in the summer since our house is a lot warmer, but you can get creative with how you let your bread rise  in a warm space.

The directions say to bake them for about 6/7 min and then take them out to brush the melted butter, garlic, and salt mixture on top. You’ll put them back in for 5/8 min before you take them out and top them with the rest of the buttery mixture.

Here they are cooling and ready to be eaten! They don’t look fluffy do they….hmmm. I will for sure to do this recipe again and try to get a fluffier version of the final product. I loved it because it was easy, if nothing else.

Tell me how it goes if you give it a try. I would love to hear from you bread making experts out there. Like I said, I have a lot to learn. I won’t even tell you about my potato roll experiment for a Valentine’s Day dinner. Again, they tasted pretty good, but they were too dense! One of these days I’ll figure it out…but I feel encouraged in moments like these that I didn’t name my blog…The Know-It-All Cook.

Enjoy, my small audience of readers, and happy cooking friends! 

Here is the recipe from the website.

recipe from: Full Bellies. Happy Kids.

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (between 110 – 120 degrees F)
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt

In a large bowl, dissolve sugar and yeast in warm water and allow to sit for 10 minutes, covered. Mixture should be frothy.In separate bowl, combine flour and salt.
Add to yeast mixture. Add melted butter. Mix with paddle attachment of stand mixer or wooden spoon until fully combined.
Knead dough for a few minutes just until dough is smooth. Do not overknead!
Grease a cookie sheet. Pull off pieces of dough and roll out into strips.
Cover the dough and let sit in a warm place for 45 minutes to an hour.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F and once heated, pop in the bread sticks. In microwave, combine the following:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter (or 1/2 cup margarine)
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoons salt

After bread sticks have cooked for 6 or 7 minutes, brush the bread sticks with half the butter mixture.
Then continue to bake. Bake for 5-8 more minutes.
Immediately upon removal from the oven brush the other half of the butter on the sticks.
Allow to cool for a few minutes before eating.


Cheesy Garlic Bread

I realized that I never posted the recipe for the cheesy garlic bread that goes amazingly well with the squash soup. I just made the soup this week so I will post some pictures from my experience…and it’s quite the experience :)

Anyways…here’s the recipe for the bread. Haven’t tried it yet, but if you do, let me know what you think!

Cheesy Garlic Bread

  • 2 T. Unsalted Butter
  • 2 T. garlic, minced
  • 1 pre-made pizza crust, such as Boboli (12″)
  • 5 oz. fresh mozzarella, silced
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 T. thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 2 t. chopped fresh parsley
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
  2. Melt butter with garlic in a small saucepan over low heat, brush over pizza crust, then top with cheese, salt, and pepper.
  3. Bake bread directly on the oven rack until cheese is melted and bubbly, 10 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle with herbs, and slice into 8 wedges.