Sunday, April 24, 2005

Is My Blog Burning? #14: Orange you hungry? 

While lost somewhere in the blogosphere yesterday evening, I discovered that Is My Blog Burning? #14 was going on through today, with the theme of orange-colored food. I've thought for a while about joining in a food blogging meme, but hadn't before found the time. However, I had already planned a menu for brunch today featuring preserves that I'd made that are both orange in color and flavored with orange. It seemed like a sign. (Never mind that the preserves were only a small part of the meal.)

French Toast with Orange Brandied Peach Preserves

(Hmmm... a different placemat would've been better for the photo. The yellow in this one really brings out the yellow from the egg yolks in the French toast.)

Orange Brandied Peach Preserves

I made these peach preserves in August, as part of my annual summertime obsession with the glorious fruit of the Pacific Northwest. The peaches came from Pence Orchards, a farm near Union Gap, WA that has been operated by the Pence family since the late 1800's. I buy Pence peaches because I want to support family farming, and because they are luscious. The process that I use for making preserves, garnered from Well Preserved, takes three days. This recipe is adapted from the Brandied Peach Preserves in Well Preserved. It goes something like this:

Day 1: Peel and slice peaches. Perform random quality control on peach slices. Yum. Make sure that you have 8 cups sliced peaches left after QC. Layer peaches and 5 cups sugar in preserving pot. Place lid on pot; set aside until next day.

Day 2: Juice from peaches has dissolved most sugar. Boil peaches in resulting syrup for 15 minutes. Add 1/2 cup lemon juice. Pour mixture into shallow pans to allow for "plumping" of peaches with sugar and evaporation of liquid. Place pans in cat-proof location - oven is good - overnight.

Day 3: Return peach mixture to preserving pot. Bring to boil. Open kitchen window. Boil 15-20 minutes; syrup should now be thickened. Open back door; latch screen door so that cats do not escape. Continue boiling. Begin heating water in canner, and sterilize 6 8-ounce jars, lids and rings. Why has the syrup not thickened? Continue boiling. Decide syrup is thick enough. Remove preserves from heat. Add 1/2 cup orange brandy. Watch brandy boil on top of no-longer-boiling preserves; think about relative boiling points of liquids. Ladle preserves into jars, screw on lids, process in boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove jars from canner; remove self and cold diet Coke from kitchen. Allow to cool.

This preserve is delicious as a topping for vanilla ice cream, or on any sort of toast, including French toast.

French Toast

I learned to make French toast from my mother, who never used a recipe. It's probably my favorite breakfast food. I feel compelled to try the French toast at any restaurant that serves it... and I am often disappointed. The restaurant at the Morrison-Clark Inn in Washington, D.C. has perhaps the best French toast that I have ever tasted; inch-thick slabs of crustless brioche are soaked in an egg custard, then deep fried. The resulting 'toast' is very rich, with an ethereal texture. The French toast that I make is sturdier stuff; it can tolerate 15 minutes in a warm oven when I'm cooking for a crowd, and reheats nicely in a toaster. This recipe scales easily. We had a friend over for brunch this morning, so I made three servings.

For each serving:
2 1/2-inch-thick slices rustic white bread (I use Essential Baking Company's Fremont loaf, which is a mild sourdough)
1 large egg
1/3 cup milk (whole is best, 2% is fine, don't use skim)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla (or to taste - I like a lot)
1 1/2 teaspoons butter

Slice bread the night before, so that the slices dry out slightly.

Beat together eggs, milk and vanilla in a glass baking dish. (A 9x13 baking dish works well for three servings.) Grate nutmeg across top of egg mixture. Place bread slices into egg mixture. Allow to stand, turning bread once, until all of egg mixture has been absorbed (10-15 minutes).

Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add bread slices to skillet. Cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes per side.

Add strong coffee and fresh strawberries, and you'll have yourself a lovely brunch.