Our Blog - and Breakfasts

Top Your Own... Bagels!

John came across the name Peter Reinhart many years ago, when the latter had an article publish in Fine Cooking magazine (here) with great instructions for making outstanding bagels at home.

Over the years, as Peter published more and more cookbooks, John assiduously acquired each one... Brother Juniper's Bread Book (Peter was a lay-member of a religious order); Artisan Breads Everyday; Bread Baker's Apprentice (James Beard Award winner); Crust & Crumb; American Pie (a great exploration of the various forms of pizza).  In other words, John was sort of a Reinhart-groupie, and has been lucky enough to meet Peter on a couple of occasions, as well as swap helpful (to John) emails with him over the years.  You can read about Peter's most recent adventures on his blog here.

FYI, Peter is an instructor/chef at the prestigious Johnson & Wales university/cooking school.  In addition, as John and some colleagues lovingly referred to him, Peter is the "dough god." :)

We had some guests (who turned out were wonderful folks) stay with us for a stretch, who specifically said that they had read this blog, and one of them didn't like quiche, frittata or anything else "eggy." As we thought about what to serve them, the memory of Peter's bagels surfaced.

So, here's a photo-journal of the process!

Dough shaped into little balls (very dry, stiff dough, made with high-gluten bread flour):

After proofing, in a more bagel-like shape:

After the boil, which gives bagels their characteristic chewy texture, topped (and bottomed) with a mix of sesame, poppy and fennel seeds:

Just out of the oven:

 

The "top-your-own" part: smoked salmon (lox); heirloom tomatoes; red onion, lemon, capers, cream cheese:

 

Finished product:

Thanks Peter!

Filed under breakfast, Sep 26, 2013
 

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Chocolate Croissants

Earlier I wrote about some experiments to try to get croissants the way I wanted them.  Well, serving them again tomorrow, and am going to try yet a different proofing/rising technique.  Will post on that later.

However, a couple of days ago, I used the same basic croissant dough, but rolled it around some really intense chocolate I got from the folks at Chocolate Barr's here in town.  The owners, Derek and Jacqueline, were nice enough to form the chocolate (70% cocoa, which is very dark, rich and a little bitter) into a traditional baton, or stick, shape, which is perfect for tucking inside.  By the way, their retail store on Ontario Street is definitely worth checking out.  Unbelievable range of delicious goodies to choose from.

In my earlier attempts, I had been worried about the chocolate melting and running out, but it seems that as the dough rises, it forms a nice seal, and there were no unfortunate "leakage" events.

Technically, I guess these really aren't croissants, since they aren't in the classic crescent shape.  I understand the proper name would be pain au chocolat.  Sounds a little pompous to me, so I'll stick with chocolate croissants.

The following shows the proofed, raw dough, brushed with egg wash (to make the surface shiny and golden brown); the finished baked goodie; and finally, showing off the great flakey texture, and the treasure within.

Filed under breakfast, Aug 31, 2013
 

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Turn-Down Treats

Ok, so not really breakfast.... more like nighttime snack.

After the house emptied out this past week, John played around with some different ideas for next season.  We're thinking (hoping, wishing, praying) that if there is enough time, we'll leave turn-down snacks in guests rooms.  No promises, still an idea in development.

Think about the proverbial "mint on the pillow idea," but plused up.  Perhaps alternate between coconut macaroons, dipped in chocolate, and the classic French macaron, one night almond, the next chocolate baked/sandwiched within?  What do you think?

Filed under breakfast, Aug 29, 2013
 

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Eating Local

I did restaurant marketing for 20+ years, on both sides of the border, for very large (500-1,200 unit) chains. And while I loved alot about those assignments, one frustrating aspect was our inability to source food locally.  Too expensive, complicated, unreliable and inconsistent.  Consumers need to be willing to recognize that local food is higher quality, seasonal, and eratic.  One just can't get a good quality strawberry in January.

All of the above is a long-winded way of introducing today's post: local tomatoes.  We've enjoyed many outstanding meals at Mercer Hall, especially on their "Nosh Night Mondays."  Basic idea: $35 per person for all-you-can-eat tapas.  They keep bringing outstanding food (starting with savoury, and switching to sweets when you are ready) until you say "stop."  A great deal, and a wonderful establishment.  They also ascribe to the "eat local" idea.

 We were there a month or so ago, and they served a brilliant tomato salad.  Heirloom tomatoes, fresh sourdough, balsamic, a little cheese.  I loved the tomatoes, and the owner was kind enough to share the source.  Just up the road in Shakespeare.

We've been getting 10-20 pounds of tomatoes a week since then.  I serve them every other day or so, usually with whipped ricotta, basil oil, balsamic drizzle, and a little fleur de sel salt.  Or, with some fresh mozzarella and a light white balsamic vinegar dressing, for a riff on a Caprese salad.  Local and delicious - couldn't pull this off at a restaurant chain with more than one unit!

Filed under breakfast, Aug 27, 2013
 

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Sweet AND Savoury

I realize that I tend to do mostly savoury breakfasts, as that's what I personally enjoy.  Of course, the fresh fruit is sweet, and so is the baking, but the entrees I make most often aren't; quiche, frittata, hash.

However, I've noticed that the plates I put down to the most "ahhhs" and "ohhhs" is this combination.  Crème Brûlée French Toast, which I usually serve with local Perth County Sausage from here.

A little about the sausage... the meat comes from heritage breed pigs, usually Tamworth, and so the flavour is truly remarkable.  This isn't a commodity pork product.  They are raised on pasture, over in Sebringville, which is all of 8.2 km to the northwest of Stratford.  Heritage, local, pasture-raised.  The trifecta of pork!  We had a "whole house party" (i.e. a group that takes all six rooms) many of whom love the local pork.  One of the guests said she was a charter member of the PPLA.  I said I would need to google it, until she explained: "Perth Pork Lovers Association."  I like it!  We should start such an organization.

The French Toast has less of a "food romance" story, but still is pretty darn good.  Croissants soaked in an eggy-milk bath, layered on a brown sugar and maple syrup "brûlée".  A night in the fridge to allow the bread to absorb the custard.  Bake, rest, flip and slice, topped with powdered sugar and some berries.  True, I don't get out the blowtorch to caramelize, but it still turns out pretty well.

Filed under breakfast, Aug 26, 2013
 

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