Now on to my usual musings…
If there is one meal that gets an unfair lot in my household its breakfast. Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s the most important meal of the day, or so they say.
And I’m sold on things like Eggs Benedict, pancakes, and muffins so clearly it’s not because I don’t think breakfast foods are delicious. They are generally carb-y and rich, the two things I love.
The problem is there is a big part of my personality that is in direct conflict with making creative breakfasts – I’m not a morning person. (Actually, I’m not a night person either as when given the choice I prefer a bedtime that is more suited to a middle schooler, but that is beside the point.) Peek into my room on a given morning (or don’t because that would be creepy, but just pretend with me) and you’ll find me scrunching my eyes closed until the last possible second. So yes, this leaves me barely enough time to dress properly let alone conceive a creative breakfast.
But brunch, for whatever brunch is a different animal. Maybe it’s because it’s more of a weekend thing. Or because I typically make it for others. Whatever the reason, I find making brunch a relaxing, homey, comfortable affair. It’s the kind of thing I always envisioned myself doing when I was a sophisticated adult, I guess like I kind of am now.
Most recently, I made brunch for my family at my parents’ house. My challenge – to recreate a few of our favorites from Orange, a contemporary brunch spot in Chicago. Their menu is pretty fabulous including a pancake flight that changes weekly. For the main dish, I decided to recreate the restaurant’s Chai French Toast.
I made mine casserole style. Think rich, eggy challah bread, chai-infused custard, and a sweet cheesecake filling. And I let the whole mixture sit overnight so the chai flavor is well incorporated. Heaven right?
Well things get even better! I finish it off with a cinnamon-laced streusel topping before baking it in the oven.
And serve it in a bowl with a warm chai latte reduction instead of syrup, just like at the restaurant.
The result is sinful. Chai flavor sings through the entire dish and there is a perfect contrast of textures from the eggy interior of the french toast to the crunchy challah topping. The chai latte reduction is especially fun. I enjoyed dunking my french toast pieces in it far more than in syrup. It makes the dish even more warm and comforting, perfect for enjoying on a cold winter morning.
Accompanying the french toast, I served frushi, another Orange staple.
The frushi was actually quite simple since Cooking Light had a recipe that actually seemed to be from the restaurant itself. Served with fruit coulis, it was a fun and innovative side dish and one I could see children enjoying assembling. Overall the meal was a huge hit. There was a bit of work involved, but because the french toast steps were broken down between two days my morning was still surprisingly relaxing.
Roughly adapted from Oregon Chai
Serves 6-8 Ingredients:
-5 eggs, divided
-3 cups chai concentrate, divided
-1/2 cup half and half
-1 cup plus 1 1/2 teaspoons flour, divided
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1 6.5 ounce container Alouette Cheesecake Spreadable Cheese
-12 thinly sliced pieces of Challah or Brioche (about 10 ounces)
-1/2 cup butter, softened
-1/2 cup granulated sugar
-1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
-1 cup whole milk
Spray a large baking dish with cooking spray. (Note that you will want to use a baking dish with high sides as the french toast rises slightly when baking.) Set aside. In a blender, add 4 eggs, 1/2 cup chai concentrate, half and half, 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour, and salt. Blend until the flour is well incorporated. Set aside.
In a bowl, whisk together cheesecake spreadable cheese and remaining egg.
To assemble french toast, lay 1/2 the slices of bread in the bottom of the baking dish. Spread cheese mixture over the top of the bread. Top with remaining slices of bread. Pour chai mixture over the top. Cover and refrigerate the french toast over night.
Before baking, uncover the french toast and bring to room temperature. (This will take approximately 30 minutes.)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Meanwhile, make the streusel topping. Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add granulated sugar and brown sugar, beating well. Add remaining flour and cinnamon; beat just until blended. Break streusel into 1-inch pieces and distribute over the top of the french toast. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until puffed and edges are golden brown.
While the french toast is baking, prepare the chai latte. Add the remaining chai tea concentrate to a saucepan and simmer over medium heat until the mixture is reduced to about 2/3 cup. Slowly add the cup of milk and simmer gently until the mixture is hot.
To serve, fill a bowl with approximately 1/4 cup of the chai latte mixture and top with a slice of french toast.
What about you? Are there any meals that get neglected in your house?