Croissant French Toast with Red Berries

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The idea of getting up early to cook breakfast for someone has always struck me as an incredibly thoughtful gesture. But in the middle of winter, it’s not always to leap out of bed first thing in the morning, so I wanted to come up with a recipe that was special enough for Valentine’s Day breakfast- but not so complicated that you’d sooner roll over and go back to sleep than actually make it.

Croissant French Toast is definitely a little more festive and decadent than traditional French toast, but because this recipe calls for using day-old bakery croissants, it’s no more difficult or time consuming to make. In fact, because croissants are lighter (so to speak) and flakier than brioche or challah bread, they absorb the milk and egg mixture much more quickly. Assuming you are fully awake when you begin, this entire recipe should take less than a half hour from start to finish.

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The French toast custard is flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla extract and orange zest. Ina often uses a splash of liqueur to deepen the flavor of her baked goods and desserts, and she suggested adding a splash of Grand Marnier to really bring out the orange flavor. You’ll be amazed at what a difference it makes. I find that another splash mixed in with the berries gives them a nice little zing, too, and makes the out-of-season fruit much juicier.

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The croissants cook through pretty quickly over medium-low heat, but if you’re worried about the first one getting cold, just turn your oven on the lowest temperature and keep the croissant halves warm until you’re ready to serve them.

When I first thought about this recipe, I imagined a breakfast-in-bed scenario, complete with a picture-perfect tray, big mugs of coffee, and sunlight streaming through the window. But in reality, February mornings are freezing and dark, and frankly, eating in bed is a little awkward.(Maybe it’s telling that the only times I can remember actually eating breakfast in my bed involve Jell-O and a bad case of the flu.)

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I tested this recipe on my friends Lulu and Julia and fortunately, they agreed it tasted just as good at the kitchen table as it would have in bed. That said, if you want to go the breakfast-in-bed route, don’t let me deter you. Just don’t forget the whipped cream!

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Croissant French Toast with Red Berries

Ingredients

  • 2 croissants, preferably a day old, sliced in half horizontally
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten with a fork
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp grated orange zest
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 tsp Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur, divided
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 1 tbs unsalted butter
  • maple syrup, for serving,
  • whipped cream (optional), for serving

Directions

  1. Place the croissant halves, cut sides down, in a shallow baking dish just large enough to fit them in one layer.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, orange zest, vanilla extract, Grand Marnier and salt until well combined. Pour mixture over the croissant halves. Soak the croissants for 10 minutes, using a spoon to ladle the custard over them halfway through.
  3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, toss the raspberries and strawberries with the remaining 2 teaspoons Grand Marnier.
  4. Melt half the butter in a large sauté pan over medium-low heat. When the butter is hot, place both halves of one of the croissants, cut sides down, in the pan. Immediately sprinkle the outsides with granulated sugar and cook for 4 minutes, until the cut sides are golden brown. Using a spatula, flip the croissant halves and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, until golden brown.
  5. Remove and repeat with the remaining croissant. Serve immediately with the berries, maple syrup and whipped cream, if using.

Giant Chocolate Chunk Skillet Cookie

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Originally published on Delish.com

Experimenting with new recipes for chocolate chip cookies feels a little like reinventing the wheel—the formula is tried and true, beloved, and many would argue it needs no tampering. But I’ve learned from Ina that taking a familiar recipe and making it on an entirely different scale can turn a dish that’s expected into one that’s a refreshing twist on the original. With that idea in mind, I made a rich chocolate chunk cookie dough and baked it into one giant cookie-for-a-crowd. Add a few heaping scoops of vanilla ice cream, and the humble cookie is transformed into a delicious, totally over-the-top dessert.

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Because the batter is baked in a cast iron skillet instead of scooped into individual cookies, the perimeter of the cookie comes out crispy and golden brown while the center remains soft and ever-so-slightly under-baked.

The other secret to this recipe is sugar’s best friend: salt. I sprinkle coarse sea salt onto the bottom of the pan before spooning in the cookie batter, and then sprinkle another big pinch over the top before baking. This ensures that every bite has a perfect little marriage of sweet and salty. Finally, I chop up semi-sweet chocolate bars into big chunks instead of using pre-packaged chips. You might as well pull out all the stops if you’re making a cookie the size of a Frisbee.

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My favorite way to serve this recipe is to put the pan directly on the table (on a hot pad!), scoop lots of ice cream on top, and let everyone dig in. The more elegant option would probably be to serve scoops or slices of the cookie in individual bowls, but where’s the fun in that?

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I made this cookie for a Super Bowl party at a friend’s house a few years ago, and it has been a tradition ever since. Depending on the number of spoons in the game, there can be some teamwork involved in finishing the entire cookie, but I’ve never seen a group too small to get the job done eventually.

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Giant Choclate Chunk Skillet Cookie

  • Servings: Makes one 10
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Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • – ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped into small chunks
  • 2/3 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • flaked sea salt, such as Maldon
  • vanilla ice cream, for serving

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula. On low speed, add the eggs one at a time, and then the vanilla. Mix until well combined.
  3. Combine the flour, baking soda, and kosher salt in a small bowl, and with the mixer on low, add it to the butter mixture and mix until just incorporated. Using a wooden spoon, gently fold in the chocolate chunks and walnuts.
  4. Sprinkle a large pinch of sea salt over the bottom the bottom of an un-greased 10 inch cast iron skillet. Spoon the cookie batter on top and smooth the surface with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle with another big pinch of sea salt and bake for 30-35 minutes, until baked through but still slightly soft in the center. (This will leave the very center of the cookie slightly under-baked. If you prefer a crisper cookie, cook for an additional 5 minutes.)
  5. Serve hot with vanilla ice cream.
  6. Note: If serving directly from the oven, use a dish towel or oven mitt to cover the handle of the skillet- it’s very easy to forget it’s hot and burn yourself!