Brioche Bread Pudding & French Toast

I first fell in love with Bread Pudding when my friend Megan who was cooking for Dave at Cafe Mirage was making it back in the late 90’s. I had never had bread pudding to my recollection, or at least not in this way- it was drier and more like french toast served in a cup that was crispy on the top. The bread puddings I think I had tried in the past were soppy gloppy structureless sludgy masses of dough and custard (sound appetizing? meh).

Then I discovered my Wife Rachel’s weakness for Bread Pudding- which was of a similar sort to the kind I wasn’t a big fan of, more bread texture and yet with a saucy kind of hard sauce that it was drenched in with maraschino cherries on top. As usual I set out to try to bridge the gap between what I was attracted to and what my love was attracted to. It’s still kind of a throw it together dish- that evolves each time I make it. I’ve made it with sourdough bread which was really yummy and less sweet and in this iteration- I’ve used the Brioche from Sweet Peas Bakery around the corner form us on Sound Beach Ave. in Old Greenwich. So without further adieu I bring you Brioche Bread Pudding/French Toast Hybrid.

Brioche French Toast Pudding

Brioche French Toast Pudding

Brioche French Toast Pudding

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Serves: 8

Where does the line between Breakfast and Dessert lie? Bill Cosby once said it was Chocolate Cake. With this recipe we may have a contender.
  • ¾ loaf of Brioche from your local bakery- fresh or stale is fine.
  • 3-1/2 to 4 cups of milk (2% or greater, your choice)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup of natural sugar
  • ¼ freshly grated nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp Indonesian Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Vanilla (I like the Penzeys double strength)
  • 2-3 tbsp of Salted butter
  • ⅛ cup of natural sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 375º
  2. Combine the Milk, Eggs, Sugar, Nutmeg, Cinnamon and Vanilla and whisk to dissolve sugar and incorporate the eggs. Tear up the Brioche and add it to the liquid mixture. Your finished produce should be quite wet still, with the Brioche filling your bowl and liquid still quite visible.
  3. Coat the inside of a loaf pan with the butter as best you can and cut the remaining bits up and leave them in the pan, tossing them in the ⅛ cup of sugar and coating the bottom and sides of the pan with the sugar.
  4. Fill the pan with the mixture until you are 1 inch form the lip of the pan (you can fill it to ¼ inch but it will overflow when it starts to bake)
  5. Bake for approximately 1 hour in the loaf pan placed on a jelly roll or baking sheet with an edge to catch any overflow.
  6. The bread pudding is cooked when the internal temp reaches 160º

Banana Bread, an adaptation.

OK Truth. My favorite baking recipe that I make, is Banana Bread. This bread is darker and richer than what you’re used to seeing because it cooks low and slow and caramelizes everything while cooking. Enjoy it- it’s super simple and fast to make- I keep old Bananas in the freezer and put them in warm water for 10 minutes to peel them. I’ve started playing with inclusions lately too- I did this recipe with Blueberries- YUM! and the most recent was with Strawberry preserves that I made from farmers market strawberries.

Banana Bread, an adaptation.


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Serves: 6

This bread is darker and richer than what you're used to making because it cooks low and slow and caramelizes everything while cooking.
  • 3 over-ripe Bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Cup of Sugar and a tablespoon or so of Molasses(or ½ C with a half C of any fruit Preserves you like- I just did Lemon Strawberry- OMG)
  • ¼ C Oil (Coconut or Canola, not Olive)
  • ⅓ C Buttermilk or Plain Yogurt (I frequently substitute Soy milk + zest and 1 lemon's juice- now that's a standard)
  • 1 Lemon's zest and juice
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 1-3/4 C Flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp Salt
  1. Start the bananas and sugar on medium heat until bubbling, remove from heat and let cool for 20 mins then add oil and vanilla. Combine dairy and lemon and egg together and add it to the banana mixture. Whisk dry ingredients together- Flour, salt, baking soda
  2. Turn Oven on to 325º and Grease and flour a loaf pan.
  3. Combine wet and dry ingredients and bake for 1 hour and 20 mins or until it's no longer soft in the middle. Minimum 1 hour 20 mins.

Let cool for at least a half hour- I know I know- Life’s rough.

Fall Chili

So I make chili. I think it’s pretty good chili too. My good friend Bryan, from the great state of Texas thinks it’s the best Chili he’s had (Don’t tell his family). What’s my secret? Think like a cowboy. Think like cooky, from city slickers, or just think like John Wayne. Whoever you decide to conjure up in your head, just make sure they can think on their feet, because that’s the basis we’ll be working from.

I got my Chili making method from my mom and aunt bear I think. It all started from the way I learned to make Curry- using over ripened bananas as a thickener, coffee for that earthy taste, but that’s another recipe.
On with it, already!



Fall Chili
  • 2 yellow onions, sliced thinly with the grain for caramelization.
  • 1 head of roasted garlic, mashed (roast at 325º for ½ hour, then 200º for an hour, you can do this days ahead and it's easier to de-clove cold)
  • 8 oz. of Fresh Apple Cider (that's what I had left in the jug)
  • 8 oz. of leftover coffee (again- whatever's in the pot)
  • 4 cups of chicken stock
  • 2 cups of dried mixed beans (pinto, black, kidney, etc...)
  • 5 Guajillo Chili's (dried)- slice a small lengthwise cut into them to allow liquid to enter
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 ceylon cinnamon stick bound with butcher's twine
  • 3 TB of Penzey's medium Chili spice blend
  • 1 tb of Penzeys BBQ of the Americas or BBQ 3000
  • 2-3 TB of dried Mexican Oregano
  • 1 TB of Paprika
  • 1 28oz can of Muir Glen crushed fire roasted tomatoes.
  • 3 lbs of Boneless beef Short ribs (grind half of it with coarse blade- Cut into strips 1"x1", throw it in the freezer for a half hour before grinding, flip once)
  • 2-3 TB of Molasses
  • ¼ bar of a high quality, high cocoa dark dark chocolate
  1. I start by caramelizing the onions, but I stop just short of caramelization- so count on about a half hour to 45 mins in a medium hot cast iron or steel clad aluminum 6-8 qt pot. Put the onions in the pot cold and then turn on the heat- you won't need any oil. Turn it down to medium low after a half hour, avoid stirring it for the first 15 mins. Put the onions aside in a bowl.
  2. Pour the cider into the pot to deglaze it and stir all the brown bits to dissolve. Add the chicken stock, Chilis Cinnamon, Chili Spice, BBQ spice, Oregano, and Paprika. Keep the pan on medium high heat. Cover and let simmer for a half hour. remove the Chilis and let them cool. Rinse and check the beans for pebbles (yes I've found pebbled on numerous occasions). Cook covered on medium heat for 40 mins. Add the coffee, molasses and chocolate
  3. Grind half the beef and cook in a hot pan until brown in 2 batches, setting each aside into the bowl of onions. Grill the other half of the beef, seasoned with Salt and Pepper, cook until well browned on the outside. Le the grilled beef rest for 5 minutes. While you're resting the beef, carefully scrape the flesh from the inside of the chilis, avoiding the seeds- toss as many seeds as you can out, we're looking for the flavor of these chilis, not the heat (don't worry, they have very respectable heat already). Dump this flesh into the beans and stock.
  4. Dump the ground beef, onions, beans and stock into a large (8 quart) pot and add the can of tomatoes.
  5. Slice the beef into bite sized cubes and put this into the mix as well.
  6. Cook on medium low heat for 2-3 hours or until beans and cubed beef are tender. You can also finish this in the oven, which will require less stirring, etc...
  7. Enjoy!



Liliko’i Cake Redux

This cake is my absolute favorite in the world. There simply is no better summertime cake than the Dee Lite Bakery Passion Fruit Cake. Unfortunately, you have to be in Hawaii to get one- and the only other option is to have one fedexed to you (half sheetpan size only from what i remember). So after years of wanting to make one of these so I could enjoy it away from home, I finally dove in and began seeking out my key ingredient. Passion Fruit juice. Not that sickly sweet stuff you see from Goya, or the stuff welches would have you believe is passion fruit, no, real passion fruit should almost turn your mouth inside out from tartness. Hawaiian passion fruits are bright yellow on the outside, not purple like you see in the US grocery stores. I know of at least three varieties of passion fruit, only by their outer color. Orange, yellow and purple all three varying somewhat in sweetness and tartness. It is a flavor that is often represented but rarely done well. There is too often a heavy handed apple juice, or peach juice sort of sweetness added to passion fruit to tame it for western audiences. If you want to experience the true glory of passion fruit in a dessert- read on.

At Shop Rite in Stamford, CT. I came across Dafruta Passion Fruit liquid concentrate- This is a brazilian product imported by liberty imports in Allentown, PA. Wegmans markets carries this as well as Hannafords in NY, MA and ME. I’m sure there are other passion fruit concentrates, but you must be sure that it contains NO sugar. You wouldn’t buy lemon juice that was presweetened, right? I mean, that’s Lemonade. OK, OK- on with it, right.

First things first- We need a fruit glaze for this cake, some to add to the frosting that will be used between the cake layers and some to top the cake with after frosting. A basic fruit glaze will call for too much of a sugar to fruit juice ratio so be sure to follow it the way I’ve outlined below.

1/2 C Sugar
2 TB Corn Starch
1 C Passion Fruit concentrate + 1/4 – 1/2 cup of water
2 Heaping TB of Strawberry Jelly (jam- no chunks) (we’re looking for a little glucose/corn syrup to disrupt the sugar recrystallization)

Begin with a 1/2 cup of the juice concentrate + 1/4 cup of water and add the sugar to it. Heat over medium heat stirring occasionally until it boils. While you’re heating the sugar and juice, add the corn starch to the remaining 1/2c of juice and 1/4c water and mix. Once the sugar syrup is boiling, add the corn starch mixture to the syrup and heat again until thickened and just before boiling. Finally, add the 2 Tablespoons of strawberry jelly and blend until smooth over medium to medium low heat and then remove from heat. it should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and should taste sweet, but tart.

Now for the frosting- I used a traditional buttercream frosting-
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 (1-pound) box confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Blend the butter and Cream Cheese, then slowly add the confectioners sugar (slowly or you’ll discover why I suggest “slowly”) I usually stop the mixer, add a cup or so, then mix again until it’s combined, repeat until you’re done with the sugar. Finally- slowly add 1/2 pint of heavy cream to lighten up the density of the frosting.

Chill all of this.

On to the cakes- I used Arrowhead Mills Organic Vanilla cake mix, because it’s what I had available though I would have been fine with a plain yellow or white as well. I adjusted the recipe in a few ways- first, I added an extra egg, but combined the eggs in a different way too. take the whites of 2 eggs and add the remaining 3 yolks and 1 white to the oil and milk for the cake mixture and combine them. Meanwhile, take the 2 whites that you reserved and whip them to medium stiff peaks. once the batter has been mixed fold half of the batter into the egg whites, then fold in the rest, take care not to combine so much that you take the air out. Continue with the recipe the way the box suggests. I put a round cut piece of parchment in the bottom of both pans- it’s easier to remove the cakes later.

Let your cakes cool-

Now when you’re ready to frost- Begin by putting a coating of the glaze on your bottom layer and delicately brush it in- alternately you could also just brush a bit of the concentrate onto the cake top and it will soak right in. Then mix a little glaze into a small amount of frosting for your first layer top coating so you have a nice fruity middle frosting. Do a crumb layer followed by finishing up the rest of the cake. I made a top trim edge to keep the glaze from running down the sides of the cake (also so I could add a bit more glaze). Let your cake chill for at least an hour, uncovered. If you want to chill it overnight I would cover it.


Mascarpone Chocolate Mousse

I have searched around for a good chocolate mousse recipe for a while now- Not much that I like, mostly because what I find omits one or another key ingredient that I think is required for a mousse. The ingredients you must have in a mousse, unless you’re trying to achieve dietary acrobatics are the following:

Chocolate (I like as high cocoa content as possible- go for 72-85%- if you want your chocolate a bit sweeter, add a little sugar- just a little.
Eggs (Local fresh eggs are key here- go to a farmers market or buy the “local” ones in your grocery store)
Heavy Whipping Cream.

That’s it! That’s all that is required! Now, on to my own recipe- it’s so basic, it’s probably what most chef’s would do because it just makes sense- less ingredients allow each other to shine. One thing I want to stress from the beginning is that I believe a good chocolate mousse should not be sweet, and it’s very easy for that to happen, after all cream has a sweetness all on its own. You may look at this recipe and think, it should have sugar in it- but don’t cave- leave it out. If you must, either choose a lower cocoa content chocolate or sweeten some whipped cream as a topper.  I think you’ll be amazed how the natural sweetness of cream comes through in this dessert.

This recipe will serve 10-15 people, depending on how addicted they are to Chocolate- I think I was able to serve about 15+ with this.

Alright. Here we go.
Tools: You’ll want a nice balloon whip (whisk) for the egg whites and a hand mixer for the cream. 2 large mixing bowls and a large pyrex bowl and a 3-4 quart saucepan (unless you have a double boiler) and an instant read thermometer- though it’s not essential, it’s nice to have- you should have one anyway.

Mascarpone Chocolate Mousse

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Cook time: 

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Serves: 10

I have searched around for a good chocolate mousse recipe for a while now- Not much that I like, mostly because what I find omits one or another key ingredient that I think is required for a mousse. I had a mousse made with Mascarpone up in Lakeville, CT years ago and decided to try my hand at making a recipe for it. It's a wonderful dense mousse, airy but firm.
  • 6 oz. plus 2 oz. (that's a half lb. total) of chocolate-I take a bread knife and break it up- if you get a thicker block of bulk chocolate it's easier to cut, like it was a hard cheese. just slowly push your way through and it will crumble.
  • 8 oz. Mascarpone cheese
  • ½ pint of heavy whipping cream
  • 6 large or jumbo local eggs-whites and yolks, separated. (if all you can find are medium local eggs- just add 1-2 more than what I call for.
  1. Combine your Egg Yolks with a whisk and set aside.
  2. Now put about 1-2 inches of water in the bottom of the saucepan and heat it over a medium low temp- you want it to simmer- place the pyrex bowl on top and put 6 oz. of the chocolate in the bowl and stir it with a silicone scraper until it is melted and set it aside, off the saucepan. it will need about 10 minutes to cool, so get whipping.
  3. Whip the creams together until they form stiff peaks and whip your egg whites until they also form fairly stiff peaks. —this is a good two person job- share the effort, (and share the reward).
  4. At this point- your chocolate should be cool enough to work with, about 110º-120º, give it a quick mixing before the next step, tempering your eggs. Have someone mixing the egg yolks with a small whisk while you pour a small amount of chocolate into the eggs, until the eggs resemble brownie batter at which point you can add the egg mixture into the chocolate bowl and combine well with the silicone scraper (spatula). Add half your whipped cream mixture and stir until combined (You can add an ounce or two of sherry or port, or brandy or other flavored liquor if you like, before moving on) and then add half the egg whites and mix just until combined- Now add the extra 2 oz. of well chopped chocolate which will provide you with a bit of texture to the final product. Finish up by folding in the remaining cream and then the remaining egg whites, being careful to not mix too much- it's ok if it doesn't look perfectly combined- you want to keep as much air in this as possible. Refrigerate, covered for a few hours or overnight.

Serve with whipped cream and or fresh berries.

Beef Stew Recipe to Warm Up Cool Nights

Le Creuset Blue

Created for the 5 1/2 qt. round French oven
Serves 8

This beef stew is certainly perfect for Christmas, but you’ll enjoy it so much you’ll make it several times throughout the year. It’s a great make-ahead meal, and the Le Creuset oven looks marvelous on the range top and buffet. Serve it with Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel.

The preparation time is only 20 minutes, but the total cooking time is 4 hours. This is a great dish to prepare ahead of time, and the oven will warm up the house while slowly cooking the stew. Enjoy!!


Beef Stew Recipe to Warm Up Cool Nights

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  • ¾ pound shallots, peeled and halved lengthwise
  • 2½ pounds beef stew meat, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 onions, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • 4 cups beef stock
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
  • ⅛ teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 3 large potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch slices
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen peas
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Season the beef liberally with the salt and pepper. Heat the oil in the French oven over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook, stirring as needed, until browned on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
  3. Discard any excess oil from the pan and return to medium-high heat. Add the onions and celery and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the wine and stir, scraping the bottom and sides with a wooden spoon. Stir in the stock, thyme, rosemary and marjoram. Return the meat and any juices that have collected to the pot. Add the potatoes and carrots, then cover and bake for 3 hours. Stir in the peas and bake for 1 hour. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cool off with The Perfect Iced Coffee

We’ve all been there: craving for a cool pick me up, of sweet iced coffee, only to be disappointed with the first sip of lukewarm and watery iced coffee. Fear not! Follow this recipe from the renowned food blogger, The Pioneer Woman, and taste what a proper iced coffee supposed to be…

Mix in the Fat Toad Farm goat’s milk caramel your coffee for an even better version of this drink. It’s not so sweet and we get all the natural caramel flavor. Is there such thing as too much of a good thing? We don’t think so!

Happy Summer!!

Charleston Gumbo


Ahhh… The first snow of 2012 got us thinking of a warming stew for dinner. So we tried this spicy thick seafood ‘soup,’ the Charleston Gumbo.  It’s easy to make and cleaning up is also easy because there’s only one pot to clean! This dish will definitely warm you up, and when served in one of Le Creuset‘s colorful Cast Iron Casseroles it will cheer up a wintry night.

Serves: 4/6                  Preparation and Cooking 1 1/2 hours

  • 125 grams chopped bacon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 green chilli, seeded and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
  • 2 small red chillies, seeded and chopped
  • 500 g peeled and chopped tomatoes
  • 500 g new potatoes cut into 1cm dice
  • 225 g okra, cut into 1 cm slices
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper, ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 cups fish stock or water
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 450 g cod fillet, cut into 6 cm pieces
  • 1 kg large raw shrimp
  • 1 kg small raw clams
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley, to garnish
  1. Preheat a Casserole on a low to medium heat for 3 – 4 minutes.
  2. Add the bacon and cook, stirring until the fat begins to run. Add the olive oil with the onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic and chillies. Reduce the heat to low and cook these vegetables until they begin to soften.
  3. Add the tomatoes and all the remaining ingredients, except the seafood.
  4. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the vegetables are very tender. Add all the seafood, stirring well.
  5. Cover again and cook for 5 to 8 minutes longer until the cod is cooked and the clams are open; discard any clams that remain closed.
  6. Just before serving, stir in the chopped parsley and season.
  7. To serve: Ladle over cooked long grained rice.
  8. Bon Appétit!

Peanut Turkey with Apples and Carrots

Photo: Tasting Table

Whoa… Hold the press! When I first got an email for Southern-inspired Thanksgiving recipes from Tasting Table, a daily “food culture” newsletter, I was immediately drawn to the peanut aspect of the recipe. Over the years I have read many turkey recipes that involve exotic spices, rubs, and brine liquids… But peanuts?? I have never heard of combining peanuts with turkey before! I would like to share this with our Cook and Craft family… Hope you enjoy it and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

— Mel Harjono

Yield: 6 servings    Cook Time: 2 hours
One 12-pound turkey–giblets removed, turkey rinsed and patted dry
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage, plus 3 sprigs fresh sage, divided
4 baking apples (such as Macintosh)–cored, halved and divided
1 shallot, peeled
Half a medium lemon
8 large carrots, peeled and sliced in half lengthwise
2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons peanut oil
Peanut-Butter Gravy
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup apple cider2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Salted peanuts
1. Preheat the oven to 425°. Sprinkle the cavity and skin of the turkey liberally with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, mash together 3 tablespoons of the butter with the chopped sage, salt and pepper. Carefully rub the seasoned butter under the turkey’s skin. Stuff the cavity with the remaining sage springs, 2 apple halves, shallot and lemon. Truss the turkey’s legs.

2. In a large roasting pan, add the 3 remaining apples and the carrots. Toss with the remaining teaspoon of sage butter. Season with salt and pepper and add the chicken stock. Transfer the turkey, breast side up, to a wire rack and fold the wing tips under the turkey; rub with the peanut oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Place the rack on top of the vegetables.

3. Place the pan in the oven and roast until the turkey is golden, about 45 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 375° and roast, basting every 20 minutes with the pan sauce until an instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of a thigh reads 165°, about 1 to 1½ hours.

4. Transfer the turkey to a cutting board, cover loosely with aluminum foil and set aside to rest for 30 minutes.

5. Make the gravy: Transfer the apples and carrots from the pan to a bowl and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. Skim the fat off of the pan drippings and set the pan on two burners over medium heat. Deglaze the pan with the cider vinegar and whisk, scraping up any browned bits from the pan. Add the flour to the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, whisking constantly, until the gravy is thickened and the starch flavor is cooked out, about 3 minutes. Whisk in the apple cider and chicken stock and cook for 3 minutes. Whisk in the peanut butter and cook another 30 seconds. Season with salt and pepper to taste and keep warm.

6. Carve the turkey and serve warm with the caramelized carrots, peanut-butter gravy and salted peanuts.