Wednesday, December 12, 2012

5 Tips for Hosting a Successful Brunch

This past weekend I hosted a brunch for some of my fellow grad students. Brunch is a great way to bring friends together in one place. Hosting an event like this can be fun, but it's common knowledge that any event can get a little stressful. Brunch doesn't have to result in you pulling your hair out and guzzling a pitcher of mimosas by yourself.  Through my experience, and research,  I determined there are a few key things to keep in mind to help make your brunch go smoothly.

Here are 5 tips for hosting a stress free brunch.
  1. Choose a dish you can do the prep for the night before. 
  2. Buy paper plates and cups from the dollar store (cheap, cheap, cheap)
  3. Always plan for having more (ingredients, servings, guests) instead of not having enough 
  4. Expect the unexpected
  5. Have fun!

For my brunch, I served Vanilla - Almond french toast (recipe from Aida Mollenkamp) and Cinnamon Sugar French Toast. I prepped both of these items the night before.

Vanilla-Almond French Toast
1 French baguette
4 eggs
2 egg whites
1 3/4 unsweetend almond milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
4 Tbs sugar
sliced almonds

Aida suggests getting your french bread a few days before so that it is slightly dry and almost stale. I sliced my baguette and  just threw the pieces in the oven at 250 degrees for about 5 minutes. Keep on eye on these to make sure they don't brown - you just want them to be a little dry. Once toasted, put slices in a rectangular cake pan.

Whisk together the eggs, egg whites, almond milk, vanilla extract, salt and sugar until the mixture is well combined.  Once whisked together, pour mixture over bread slices. Make sure the slices are thoroughly coated, you may have to flip them over a couple times. Cover the pan and put in fridge overnight. The recipe I found recommends leaving the slices in the fridge for up to 12 hours, mine were in for about 14.

In the morning, as guests begin to arrive, take out your soaked french bread and pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.  Cover a plate with the sliced almonds, and coat one side of the soaked bread with them. Once coated, place bread, almonds side up, on an oiled cookie sheet.  Once you have covered the cookie sheet, cook in oven for 20 - 25 minutes. The bread pieces will expand a bit and the bottoms should turn a light toasty brown. Remove from oven, and let your guests feast!

I used the basis of the recipe to also make a cinnamon-sugar version.

Cinnamon - Sugar French Toast
1 French baguette
4 egg whites
1 3/4 unsweeted almond milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
4 Tbs of a sugar, brown sugar and cinnamon mixture. ( I had a lot leftover from a cinnamon-sugar almond recipe I also made - the overall mixture was 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1 1/2 cup brown sugar and 3 tablespoons cinnamon - I probably used half of that on my almonds.)

Prep the same way as the almond vanilla french toast. Leave in fridge overnight.
The only difference between these two delightful dishes is that you sprinkle some more sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon mixture on this version instead of almonds.

Both cook successfully at the same temperature for the same amount of time. I had to cook a few different batches at a time because I didn't have enough space on my cookie sheets. That just meant the early birds got their french toast first!

I also offered my guests mimosas, bloody mary's and coffee. Needless to say we had a great time.
Scrambled eggs were also served for those who requested, I even shared a bite or two with my dog. She definitely enjoyed all the attention.

All-in-All the brunch, in my opinion, was a hit. I asked my friends which version of the french toast they liked better and we came to the conclusion that both were great. I really hope they weren't lying to me. :)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Banana-Nutella French Toast

I must have a thing for cooking with leftovers. That seems to be how my greatest creations come to life. When I actually try to plan something, it usually doesn't end up the way I want. High expectations.

The other night I was really in the mood to cook but wasn't really hungry so I figured I would just prepare something that could sit in the fridge overnight and I could just throw it in the oven in the morning. I pretty much knew instantly what I would make. I had bought some french bread the day before, and had been eyeing the leftover slices that I didn't use to make crostinis. Leftover french bread = leftover french toast. There is a recipe by Aida Mollenkamp that I have been wanting to try out for a really long time but I didn't have anything almond related so I just put the concept to good use. I had some nutella, I had some bananas, eggs, almond milk and duh french bread. What do you think I did?

Banana-Nutella French Toast!!
  • 6-8 slices of "Pan Frances Bread" from HEB (already sliced)*
  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 1/2 bananas sliced
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Nutella

Whisk the eggs and milk in a medium bowl, then stir in the vanilla.

Tear or cut the bread slices into halves, it doesn't really matter the size. I tore mine into pretty large sizes which ended up making some of the servings bigger - but who can so no to more nutella? Spread the vanilla on a piece of bread and lay it in a buttered baking dish with the nutella side facing up. Continue this until the bottom of you baking dish is covered. Next put the slices of bananas on each of the nutella topped bread pieces, I fit about 3 or 4 banana slices on each halve - even if they did have to be stacked. Next slather some more bread with nutella and make sandwiches with the already laid out nutella and banana goodness.  Now you should have two layers of bread with nutella and banana in the middle. If you have some leftover nutella you might as well put some more on top of the some (or all) of the slices.

Are you drooling yet?

Pour the egg and milk mixture over the nutella sandwiches, making sure you adequately soak the bread pieces in it. Test out each piece and check for sogginess.  Cover and put in the fridge overnight.

In the morning pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 35-40 minutes uncovered. I first cooked mine for 30 but felt it could use a little more brownness, so added some additional time.

Once baked you can top the french toast with whatever you usually do, maple syrup, powdered sugar, frosting or more nutella. Whatever you please. I didn't top mine with anything and it was still mouth-watering good. It was sweet but not overly sweet like some breakfast treats can be.

This recipe made quite a bit of french toast. I have had it for breakfast two days in a row and still have a lot to go... I think I can manage eating the rest of it within a day... probably. It is nutella after-all.

One of these days I'd like to have a bunch of my friends over and host a brunch. I'd make Aida's almond vanilla french toast and make whatever eggs my friends requested. I'd let them know if they want any kind of meat for breakfast, they have to cook it themselves.

Sorry.... :  )