Suzi's Blog

Cookbook Review: Brunch from Gale Gand

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I recently posted a Loaded Potato Salad from Gale Gand’s lovely new Lunch book. There will be more recipes here from Lunch, but I did not want to forget her earlier book, Brunch.

What is so special about Gale’s food? It works, right out of the book. The recipes have the twist of a “little” complexity but you can read them and instantly know you will have something delightful. And successful. As author, chef, and restaurant owner, Gale understands a very basic fact of life: if the recipes fail, so would her business. She takes deep pride in her food and her recommendations to you. So, the ideas in Brunch [and Lunch] are honed to perfection.

Brunch has nine chapters that attack a brunch project from every direction. Here are the chapters along with some representative recipes:

Drinks: Hot Cocoa with Brown Sugar, Orange Lime Juice with Grenadine

Basics: 101 Courses for Omelets, Stratas, Frittatas, Quiches, and Crepes

More Eggs: Torta Rustica, Asparagus with Poached Eggs and Asparagus

Pancakes, Waffles, French Toast and Other Sweets: Almond Ciabatta French Toasts, Pineapple Noodle Kugel

The Bakery: Bacon Scallion Scones, Quick Pear Streusel Coffee Cake

Brunch Bites: Gougeres, Fried Quail Eggs on Eggnog French Toast

More Savories and Some Sides: Cheese and Tomato Galette, Goat Cheese and Chive Hash Browns

Salads and Soups: Apricot Chicken Salad, Beet and Artichoke Salad with Jicama

Fruits and Condiments: Roasted Pears and Rhubarb with Orange, Spicy Horseradish Mustard

The head notes for each recipe show the careful path that these recipes have followed: a fleeting glance of something in a San Francisco bakery that triggered her imagination and led to experiments that have finally unfold onto these pages. Why does she have brown sugar in her cocoa? Well, you’ll have to pick up a copy of the book and read to find out. Then I suspect you’ll be buying the book for a long, long series of test drives at home. You’ll immediately realize this: the whole brunch can come from this book.

Not surprisingly, Gale provides suggested menus for different holiday weekends, but I’m sure you will be tempted to pick-and-choose from the 100 recipes here. The benefit of Brunch is that you can scale the elegance and complexity of the meal. She offers a great Buttermilk Pancake recipe which you can pair with something delicately special, like a fruit butter. Or you can go all out and serve one of her upscale stratas with watermelon gazpacho along with cranberry angel-food muffins. Thanks to Gale, your brunch will surely be good and perhaps extravagant.

Brunch is an enjoyable book that will tempt you to spend next Sunday morning in the kitchen. Which is where you belong anyway. Right?

Nut Butter Scones from Maximum Flavors

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From Maximum Flavors comes this turn-the-world-around recipe for scones. Although the recipe below calls for nut butter and some kind of fruit, in the headnotes authors Aki Kamozawa and Alexander Talbot do give away their favorite combination: peanut butter and strawberries.

I know that “peanut butter” says “butter” but I never think of it as “butter” like the yellow stuff Suzen and I bake with. Yet here it is. And the result is a light, melt-in-your-mouth texture. The peanut flavor is an undertone with the strawberry highlights punctuating palate in unexpected surprises.

These scones are rich enough that no additional butter is needed. Pairing these scones with a hot espresso is precisely the way to begin a winter morning.

Nut Butter Scones

Yield: 12 smallish scones

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups/ 225 grams all-purpose flour
  • I ½ cups / 210 grams white whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup / 100 grams granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons / 12 grams baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon / 2.5 grams baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon / 3 grams fine sea salt
  • 1 cup / 270 grams nut butter (peanut, cashew, almond, etc.), cold
  • 1 cup / 260 grams whole milk (or substitute soy, almond, or rice milk)
  • ¾ cup fruit (berries, raisins, diced bananas, etc.)
  • 2 tablespoons / 25 grams raw sugar

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a food processor, combine the flours, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and pulse a few times to blend. Add the nut butter and pulse to blend. The mixture should look coarse and granular. Add ½ cup (195 grams) of the milk and pulse until the mixture begins to clump together. If it seems too dry, add the remaining milk, 2 tablespoons (32.5 grams) at a time, pulsing in between additions, until it begins to clump together and look like coarse streusel.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured countertop and scatter the fruit over the top. Use your hands and a bench scraper, if you have one, to gently fold the fruit into the dough, adding a bit of flour if the juices from the fruit make the dough too wet to hold together. It should just hold when you press the dough together. Form the dough into an 8-inch (20 cm) round and cut it into 12 equal wedges. Or you can shape it into two 4-inch (10 cm) rounds and cut each in to 6 pieces.

Put the scones on the baking sheet. Sprinkle the tops with the raw sugar. Bake for 8 minutes, rotate the sheet, and bake until golden brown, 4 to 8 minutes more, checking after 4 minutes. Let the scones cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before serving.

Source: Maximum Flavor Aki Kamozawa and Alexander Talbot

Photo Information [top picture]: Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/4.5 for 1/100th second at ISO-1000