Brunch: The Sweet and the Savory

This week, Erin told you about a great, unsung savory brunch or breakfast food, fried rice. As the resident pastry person, I’m going to bring you another aspect of how to make a great brunch, involving Creme Anglaise, meringue, and eggs. Here are the directions for my absolute favorite brunch combo, Creme Anglaise French Toast and a savory souffle.

THE SWEET PART

Creme Anglaise French Toast? you may be asking. Isn’t that hard? It sounds fancy. Is it fancy?

Well, no it’s not hard, and yes, it is so fancy that you will want to make it all the time to impress your friends. Creme Anglaise is a classic pastry cream that’s used in desserts and ice creams, and basically it’s the equivalent of dipping your bread in ice cream base and frying it. You don’t even need syrup, it’s that good on its own. I would drink Creme Anglaise out of a glass if it didn’t have so much cream and egg it would harden my arteries in a minute. But as a treat, it’s a great, great breakfast.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

  • hearty bread, preferably brioche for its richness and sweetness
  • 750 grams milk (about 3.2 cups)
  • 500 grams heavy cream (about 2.1 cups)
  • a vanilla bean (or a splash of vanilla extract if you don’t have it)
  • 300 grams (1.25 cups) of yolks
  • 250 grams (1 cup) of sugar

This will yield enough for about 6 or 7 pieces of french toast. if you have any leftover, drizzle it on your ice cream!

THE PROCESS

Put your milk, your cream, and your vanilla into a large pot and bring it to a scald. (A scald is just before the milk boils, when steam rises off of it and it is hot.)

Just before it gets there, whisk together your yolks and sugar in a large bowl. Don’t do this too early! Wait until the milk is just about at a scald.

Take a ladle and pour some of the hot cream into the egg/sugar mixture, whisking while you do so. It takes both hands and a bit of concentration, but this is an important step, proofing the eggs. This will make the eggs resilient to the hot temps the milk will rise to, and prevent them from curdling and scrambling.

When you’ve got that step down, pour the proofed eggs into the milk (which is still heating). Stir constantly on low heat with a high-heat silicone spatula. It will take a few minutes, but eventually your mixture will thicken enough to coat the back of your spatula like this:

That’s how you’ll know it’s done. Pour immediately into a bowl and put in your refrigerator for about 15 minutes to stop the cooking process.

Take it out, strain it through a thin mesh sieve, and you’ve got Creme Anglaise. Taste that stuff. It’s heaven, right? And SO simple.

Next, take some slices of brioche and dip them in the cooled Creme Anglaise. Remove excess, as it will just come off in the pan.

Take a pat of butter and heat it in a skillet. Fry your French toast as you normally would. This will come out a bit softer, but you still want the fried brown crust as much as you can get it.

THE SAVORY

Souffles get a bad rap. They’re supposed to be finicky and difficult, when really basic pastry skills make them pretty simple. I’m going to give you two variations here, a mushroom-asparagus one and a crab one if you’re feeling very fancy. If you serve the Creme Anglaise French toast with this, you will have a problem: people will want you to make them brunch ALL THE TIME. This recipe will make about 4 1/2 cup servings.

WHAT YOU’LL NEED FOR THE MUSHROOM-ASPARAGUS ONE

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter (as with all pastry, it’s best to use unsalted and add salt yourself)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup whole milk or cream
  • 2 eggs separated into yolk and white
  • 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup of sauteed mushrooms and asparagus
  • 1/2 cup ramekins

WHAT YOU’LL NEED FOR THE CRAB ONE

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter (as with all pastry, it’s best to use unsalted and add salt yourself)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup whole milk or cream
  • 2 eggs separated into yolk and white
  • 1/4 cup of cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup of canned or fresh crab meat
  • 1/2 cup ramekins

THE PROCESS

The process is the same for either, though the ingredients are slightly different.

Take your butter and melt it in a pan. Add the flour to make a roux. When the roux is slightly browned (about 2 minutes), add your milk and cream and stir until thick. Then add your scrambled yolks and spices, stirring constantly to avoid curdling. Last, add your cheese (cheddar or cream cheese) to this mixture. You should have a thick, smooth, cheesy mixture at this point. Lastly add your mushrooms and asparagus or your crab to it.

While you let this mixture cool to room temp, you’ll take your ramekins and butter them and put the Parm around them evenly.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Then, take your egg whites and whip them to stiff peaks. (You will know they are there when you can lift your whisk and they make a solid, not-droopy point at the end of it.)

Gently fold half of the egg whites into the cheese mixture. Then fold the other half. Take the combined souffle base and put it into your ramekins. Put them in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until the souffles are fluffy and browned on top. Eat immediately, as they fall quickly.

This is my favorite brunch combo ever. You can add literally any cheese or extra fillings to the souffle, depending on your taste. Bacon! Goat cheese! Leeks! Whatever you like! Have fun, and now that you know how easy this is, you’re your friend circle’s brunch go-to. Don’t forget the mimosas!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: