A Dessert Worth Sharing

And by sharing, we don’t just mean sharing the recipe here, but actually sharing the dessert with family and friends. It’s far too dangerous to keep too many of these lying about the house! At least it would have been for us. So what is the dessert that earned the coveted 4 spoon vote all around (400 spoons from each of the kids in fact)? It’s the Paczki!
paczki ingredients

A few weeks ago, Miss A announced that she was ready to start cooking around the world again. It had been a while what with the whole Chopped Challenge thing. I asked her if she had a country in mind for our next culinary adventure and she announced it would be Poland. Mike then instantly suggested that we make the Polish dough nuts, paczkis. butter and sugar

The timing worked out perfectly. Paczkis are traditionally eaten in Poland on Fat Thursday (the Thursday before Lent). It was a way for families to use up the lard, sugar and eggs which was forbidden by Catholic fasting during Lent. Here in the states, and especially Chicago, paczki are more commonly eaten on Fat Tuesday (the Tuesday before Lent). In fact, here in the Chicago area, Fat Tuesday is more commonly known as Paczki Day; and wouldn’t you know that’s in two days! creaming butter and sugar

We’ve never once had a paczki. Nor have we ever come close to attempting to make dough nuts – particularly given my history of unsuccessfully working with yeast. So needless to say, I was nervous. proofing yeast

The sous chefs were a big help preparing the dough. Mr. N managed the proofing of the yeast, while Miss A worked on the dough ingredients. It’s a simple combination of butter, sugar, milk, yeast, salt, flour, eggs and a bit of rum. eggs and rum

The dough came together very easily in the stand mixer. It was soft and springy. paczki dough

Most importantly, though, it rose. My dough actually rose! This was the first victory and it made me much more hopeful. first rise

After the first rise, the dough gets punched down and then set aside to rise again. You can guess who was more than willing to punch the dough. punch the dough

After the dough rose yet again (another little victory), we rolled it out to a 1/2-inch thickness. rolling dough

Next we cut the rounds using a 3-inch biscuit cutter.
paczki rounds

Miss A loved smashing the leftover scraps and rolling it out again. I believe we ended up with 27 paczki rounds.
smashing dough

We then set the rounds aside for the final dough rise of about 30 minutes; and guess what? They rose again! paczki dough rounds

Now for the fun part, or as I told Mr. N, “Time to make the dough nuts!” Mike was right, I had wanted to use that line all day! We heated a gallon of oil to 350F. The thermometer is important to maintain the temperature (especially if you’re like me and afraid of heating oil!). thermometer

The paczki rounds are placed top-side down in the hot oil and fried for two to three minutes, or until golden brown. We fried just a few at a time to make flipping easier.
frying dough nuts

Then we flipped them over to fry the other side. So far so good! golden brown paczki

After another minute or so on the remaining side, we carefully removed the paczki and placed them on paper towels to drain. While they drained, Mike filled half the batch with a lemon custard filling by cutting a small hole in the side of the dough nut and squeezing the filling through a ziplock bag. Although we chose a lemon custard filling, paczkis can be made with a variety of jellies, jams and custards. The most traditional of fillings is the plum jam or rose hip jam.filling the dough nuts

Finally we rolled the dough nuts in granulated sugar (both the filled and unfilled paczkis) before serving. sugar dough nuts

The paczkis are best served the day they are made, which definitely was not going to be a problem for us. Paczki Day

We stood in amazement looking at the paczkis. They actually turned out exactly as planned! Not only did they look great, they tasted just like a dough nut! We decided that these little Polish dough nuts now hold a special place in our recipe hall of fame (reserved for seemingly hard recipes that not only turn out well, but are enjoyed all around). We currently have two such dishes in this esteemed category – the paczkis and our baklawa. Both are sure to be made again and again. paczkis

Needless to say, the paczki were a hit. We each had to sample both a lemon custard filled paczki and a plain paczki. They were equally delicious – light and airy on the inside and deliciously sugary on the outside. As we were licking our fingers we decided we had to share the rest of the dough nuts or we would find ourselves in some deep trouble. So we set a few aside for the next morning and packaged the rest up for the kids to deliver to the neighbors. fat tuesday paczkis

The best compliment and testament to our adventure came from one of our neighbors. As he and Mike were outside shoveling today, he told Mike, “Hey, those weren’t dough nuts you brought over. Those were paczkis!” fat thursday paczkis

All the neighbors greatly enjoyed the paczki, as did we again this morning. I’m very thankful they are all gone now though. These little devils would seriously derail our healthy eating.

Print this recipe: Polish Paczki
Polish Paczkis

Now that we’ve had our very first paczki, we highly suggest enjoying one this Tuesday. Many bakeries and churches in our area will be selling them this week, but you can make them at home too! Have a great Fat Tuesday everyone. We’ll be back next week with another Polish recipe selected by Miss A. Mardi Gras-Paczki

Eggcellent Adventure

After about a year of dating Mike things were getting serious, and we decided to take a big step and spend the holidays together. So on Thanksgiving our plan was to spend the day at his parents’ house. He picked me up at my mom and dad’s and off we went. Little did Mike realize I would be crying for the entire drive. You see this was the first holiday spent away from my family, and for me that was a big deal.

Fast forward 15 years and I was crying again, but this time as we said bon voyage to Mike’s parents. They are now part of my family which is something I’m grateful for every day. Cliff and Marilyn have left their home (which was a few blocks away from ours) and headed for bluer skies and greener grass. Look out Florida – here come Nana and Papa! bye nana and papa

While we are all very excited for them to begin their “excellent adventure” that has been 30 years in the making, we are also very sad that they’ll no longer be one mile away. When we moved back to the Chicago area after our stint in Minnesota, we lived with Mike’s parents while we waited for our house in Winona to sell. Now, I’ll admit to being nervous about moving in with my “in-laws”, but in reality there was nothing to be nervous about at all. They gave us our space, made for great company on the nights Mike was teaching, provided the kids with hours of entertainment, and sent Mike and I out on regular date nights. We really all came together as a family that year, getting to know each other and making a lifetime of memories.

I could go on and on about what Nana and Papa mean to us, but they’re not the mushy sort and they know how we feel. What I will say is that what I am the most grateful for is how my kids have gotten to know their Nana and Papa. It’s truly a gift. And while there are many things the kids will miss dearly about Nana and Papa, if you ask them, tops on their list will be Papa’s breakfasts. Papa’s breakfasts were not fancy, but they were absolutely created for his grandkids – waffles topped with ice cream, chocolate syrup and sometimes a bit of fruit. Only a Papa could get away with that!

So in honor of Nana and Papa’s departure we thought we’d share an equally decadent, but a bit more grown-up breakfast treat. You may remember a few months back, Miss A and I had the opportunity to visit Miss C at the farmy – a trip Miss A is still talking about regularly. One of her favorite memories of the farm (aside from Ton and Boo) was collecting eggs with Miss C. Miss A at the Farmy

Miss C was gracious enough to send the eggs Miss A collected home with us and we knew right away how to put them to good use. With our trip to Canada and New York around the corner (the one we just returned from – is it just me or is time flying this summer!), we figured it was time for a stateside recipe. Did you know that according to one account Eggs Benedict originated in New York City at the Waldorf Hotel in 1894? And did you know that Eggs Benedict is best when made with fresh eggs? Well, we can now attest to that! farmy eggs

We made our Eggs Benedict by poaching Miss C’s farm fresh eggs. poaching an egg

We also used regular bacon since the kids aren’t all that big on Canadian bacon (yet – it will grow on them). frying bacon

Mike worked on our Hollandaise sauce made from the farmy egg yolks. Hollandaise sauce

And Miss A buttered our English muffins. buttering toast

Once assembled, we topped our Eggs Benedict with paprika, chives and a wee bit of truffle salt, because let me tell you – truffle salt and eggs equals ooh la, la to me! There is just something about that combo that brings eggs to a whole new level. Eggs and bacon

Now I had never had Eggs Benedict before and was never really a big egg eater. Aside from the occasional omelette, I rarely eat them. However, this little breakfast delight completely changed everything. Perhaps it was the farm fresh eggs – they really do make a BIG difference in flavor. bacon and eggs

Or perhaps my tastes have changed, or maybe I just know how to cook them a bit more properly now. Whatever it was, thanks to this meal, I’ve been eating poached eggs left and right (and making sure to get eggs on my trip to the farmer’s market). Needless to say this dish got a 4 spoon ranking from me – Mike too! Eggs Benedict

But it wasn’t just my diet that this recipe transformed, even the kids were won over. The same two kids that moaned and groaned whenever we served an egg dish, devoured the Eggs Benedict. Despite even asking for more, they weren’t ready to give it a full 4 spoons and were adamant that it was a 3 spoon dish for them. Well, I’ll take it! That’s certainly progress over the usual, “Ugh! Eggs? I hate eggs!” Hollandaise sauce

The Eggs Benedict was creamy, fresh and full of flavor. While it may not be as kid-friendly as ice cream and waffles, it’s just as rich! It’s definitely not a diet breakfast, but my goodness it is worth every little calorie. I can guarantee I will be making this again sometime soon. Maybe even the next time Nana and Papa come back for a visit (See we’re already trying to entice them to come back soon!) breakfast

Print this recipe: Eggs Benedict
Print this recipe: Hollandaise Sauce

We hope you all enjoyed our little stateside adventure this week. And Nana and Papa – perhaps you can keep your eyes open for some good Florida recipes we can test out. We’ll be back next week to continue our French cooking adventure. It’s becoming our summer in France (don’t I wish!). Until then, I thought I would share a series of photos from the Farmy. This time it’s from the perspective of Miss A, so a bit of a different vantage point.

The farmy through Miss A’s lens:

mommy meets boo

Mommy meets Boo. She likes dogs.

ton

This is Ton Ton. I call him Ton. He liked me.
ton and boo

Boo was silly. He kept trying to take Ton’s frisbee.

Piggies

The pigs were as big as me!

ton again

I like Ton.

chickens

These are the chickens. I got to pick their eggs with Miss C. Then we ate them.

Like kissing your…brother?

An oft-repeated quote in sports goes like this: “A tie is like kissing your sister.” A google search attributes the origin of the quote to former Texas football coach Darryl Royal, Alabama coach Bear Bryant, Michigan State coach Duffy Daugherty, or Navy coach Eddie Erdelatz, but regardless of who said it first, it sure fits. A weird combination of completely unsatisfying, and could have been worse. We had a tie in last year’s Banana Bread challenge, and needless to say, we weren’t eager to repeat that again in our French Toast Challenge this year.

The final showdown pitted the top two seeds against each other, with #1 Bermuda French Toast taking on #2 Blueberry Stuffed. Bermuda struggled in the first round, but ultimately just had too much and managed to avoid the upset. Blueberry Stuffed prevailed in a tough battle in its previous match-up to earn its spot in the finals. Both recipes were at their best on challenge day, and it was clear when we got them both on the plate that we were in for an entertaining and enjoyable challenge. Continue reading

Spring in Our Step

Today we’ve got a special team post from both Mike and I. I’ll let him start with the March Madness update:

Like millions of office workers around the nation, we’ve taken a break from our regular schedule to fill out our brackets this month. We’ve also done some other stuff too, but more on that in a minute. First we’ve got another French Toast matchup to tell you about. This week’s clash paired second-seeded Blueberry Stuffed French Toast against the three seed, Grand Greenlandic French Toast, for the right to meet Bermuda French Toast in next week’s finals.

First out of the gate was the Blueberry Stuffed French Toast, and it brought its “A” game this weekend. Kristy sliced up the bread and made the blueberry syrup and pecans, while Mike whipped up the stuffing and tucked it into the bread pockets. We stuffed them a little fuller than we did the first time we made them, and that proved to be an excellent strategy. Continue reading

March Madness is upon us

While the rest of the nation has been filling out their brackets with their favorite college basketball teams, we’ve been stuffing our brackets (and bellies) with French Toast. About this time last year, we announced our French Toast Challenge, and since then French Toasts from around the globe have been battling it out for French Toast supremacy. We made 13 in all, but only four can be selected for the big dance.

But before we get to the competitors, it wouldn’t be March Madness without some controversial snubs by the selection committee. Miss A and Mr. N did a fantastic job on the selections, but two French Toasts found themselves on the wrong side of the bubble despite having strong performances. Romanian French Toast, a savory style French Toast surprised everyone, but fell just short of making the cut. The most controversial decision, though, was the omission of Bananas Foster French Toast. A top pick in the preseason, they fell short as the committee decided that two banana recipes was too many. Fans of Bananas Foster complained of the committee’s hypocrisy and argued that if they were in the top four, they should have been given a bid. Mr. N and Miss A were having none of it, though.

But enough of the also-rans. Here are the brackets: Continue reading

Fostering Another Contender

Today’s post is another installment in our French Toast Madness Tournament AND a stateside adventure. Today’s recipe comes to you from none other than the Big Easy. NOLA

The Crescent City. Jackson Square

New Orleans, Louisiana! French Quarter Continue reading