Croissant Bake

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One of Will’s favorite desserts is bread pudding.  I never had much of it growing up so it never made a big impact with me.  I also have a huge dislike of soggy bread so it wasn’t something I would reach for if given the choice.

Silly me, I should have realized that bread pudding is so much more than soggy bread!  Now, I am a huge fan of it and love to play around with the makeup of the recipe – a base of bread that absorbs a sweetened milk mixture and maybe the addition of fruit, nuts or chocolate.  This recipe is one example of a play on bread pudding.  The light and airy croissants easily and quickly take on the cream cheese and milk mixture but are hearty enough to support the fruit. It’s a delicious take on one of my now favorite desserts.


Croissant Bake

  • 3 large croissants, or 6-8 small, cut up (about 5 to 5 1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, strawberries, blackberries
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup milk

Let’s start with those croissants.  Normally, when making something like a bread pudding I would say skip the knife and just tear the bread up into chunks.  For croissants though, my preference is to use a serrated knife to cut them into chunks.  Don’t stress about keeping the pieces the same size by any means, but using a serrated knife keeps the delicate bread nice and airy rather than crushing it.  This allows the croissant pieces to take in the liquid nicely but stay on the lighter side rather than being too dense.  By all means though, if that knife is just too far away… start shredding!

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Side note:  sometimes I feel like someone is watching me in the kitchen just hoping that something hits the floor…

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Grease a 9-inch square pan* and fill the pan with the croissant pieces. Spread the fruit along the top of the croissant pieces.  You can easily use fresh or frozen fruit here, whatever is easiest to work with at the time.  I’ve gone both routes and the end result is always delicious!  You can also switch out the flavors to whatever you prefer – add in other fruits such a banana or stick with one classic, add pecans or walnuts for a little texture, or toss in some chocolate chips for added decadence.

*As a variation, you can also bake these in individual ramekins for a different presentation.  See the end of the full recipe below for those baking instructions.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar, eggs, vanilla and nutmeg until smooth.  I’m a slightly impatient baker so I tend to leave a few little lumps in the mix… we’ll just call those “lumps of love” 🙂

Slowly add the milk, mixing as you go.  Once that is combined, pour the milk mixture evenly over the fruit.

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Here’s the hardest part – cover and let it sit for at least 20 minutes.  While you are letting it sit, preheat the oven to 350. You can also make this the night before, cover it up, then let it sit in the fridge overnight.

Waiting is hard for all of us.

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When ready, bake the dish, covered, for 20-25 minutes.  Then take the cover off and bake another 20-25 minutes, or until the top is a nice golden brown and the center is set – no jiggles.

Serve the Croissant Bake warm with a sprinkle of powdered sugar and/or a little whipped cream.  (I’ve also let the dish cool and frozen individual portions of the Croissant Bake.  It reheats quickly and nicely for a breakfast on-the-go!)

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Full Recipe

Croissant Bake

  • 3 large croissants, or 6-8 small, cut up (about 5 to 5 1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, strawberries, blackberries
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 9-inch square pan.

Place croissant pieces in the pan.

Sprinkle with fruit.

Beat cream cheese, sugar, eggs, vanilla and nutmeg in a bowl with electric mixer until smooth.

Gradually add the milk, blending well.

Pour evenly over croissant pieces.

Cover and let stand 20 minutes or soak overnight.

Bake, covered, at 350°F for 20-25 minutes.

Uncover and bake another 20-25 minutes, until the center is set and the top is browned.

Serve warm sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Variation:

Place croissant pieces evenly in 10 (1/2-cup) ramekins.

Sprinkle with fruit and pour cream cheese mixture evenly over croissant pieces.

Let stand 20 minutes.

Bake at 350°F for 20 to 25 minutes or until set in center and golden brown.

Roast Chicken, Gruyère Bread Pudding and Roasted Brussel Sprouts

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In case you didn’t already know… Will and I love food.  We love to stay at home and cook and we love to go out.  We find new restaurants to try, we hit up our favorite places multiple times, we are on a mission with another food-loving couple to go to as many of the Houston’s Top 100 restaurants as we can, we indulge in both Houston and Galveston Restaurant Weeks every year… basically, we love food.

In trying new places we try many new dishes.  Sometimes you just gotta try what the restaurant boasts as their specialty, right?  However, every now and then it’s all about the basics.  I mean, if the restaurant is good their roast chicken should be pretty darn good , right…?  I like to test this theory sometimes.

Will and I had the opportunity to travel to Colorado in the summer of 2016.  We stayed with a fabulous friend in the mountains for a few days and planned an anniversary dinner at Acorn in Denver our last night of the trip.  We shared a couple small plates to start but then landed on the their oak roasted chicken with a savory bread pudding, seasonal vegetables and whipped potatoes.  It was amazing – the whole meal was!  When we got home, I played with a recipe until I got what I am sharing today – Roast Chicken, Gruyère Bread Pudding and Roasted Brussel Sprouts.  Any one of the three recipes is a stand-alone stunner.  But together, they will always remind me of a special anniversary dinner we shared at a cozy spot on a wonderful vacation.

To me, recipes and memories make the best souvenirs. And a signed menu, of course 😉

Acorn dinner


Roast Chicken, Gruyère Bread Pudding and Roasted Brussel Sprouts

*For this recipe we are brining the chicken. We typically let a whole chicken sit in the brine overnight.  If you are using bone-in chicken pieces, let the pieces sit in the brine 3-4 hours.

For the chicken:

  • ½ cup Turbinado or raw sugar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup pink Himalayan salt
  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • 2 T whole peppercorns
  • bundle of fresh rosemary
  • bundle of fresh thyme
  • bundle of fresh oregano
  • Tea kettle of boiling water
  • 4-5 lb whole chicken, innards removed
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter, room temperature
  • 1-2 lemons

For the bread pudding:

  • Olive oil
  • 2 stalks leeks, or 1 small sweet onion, diced
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • 12 c cubed, day-old bread (Challah, Brioche, French)
  • 3 c Gruyère (or Swiss) cheese, shredded
  • ⅓ c chives, chopped
  • ⅓ c parsley, chopped
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 c chicken stock
  • 2 c heavy cream
  • 1 T salt
  • 1 T freshly ground pepper
  • 2 T scallions, chopped
  • kitchen twine

For the brussel sprouts:

  • 3-4 strips bacon, chopped
  • Brussel sprouts
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • Red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar

Start with brining the chicken.  A basic brine is 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of salt and 1 gallon of water.  We’ve tweaked this one a bit with some more flavor.  (see note about brining a little further down)

Mix the sugars, salts, peppercorns and 4-5 stems each of the fresh herbs together in a large container.  For a whole chicken, we use a plastic 8-qt container with lid.  Don’t have raw sugar?  Sub in some brown sugar.  Don’t have pink Himalayan salt?  Well, you just aren’t living right.  Just kidding – double up on the kosher salt.

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Pour the boiling water carefully over your mixture and stir to combine and melt sugar/salt.  Set it aside to cool or add some ice to bring the temperature back down before adding the chicken.

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When the brine has cooled, submerge the chicken.  You may need to add more water to the brine as you want the entire chicken to be covered.  Before placing the lid on the container, we used a coffee cup under the lid to hold the bird down a little.

Cover and chill overnight, or 3-4 hours for bone-in chicken pieces.  When ready, remove the chicken from the liquid and discard all leftover brine.

So – can you roast a chicken without brining it?  Definitely.  You can simply start here in the recipe for a flavorful chicken.  Will swears by brining though and I’d have to agree – he’s made some killer chicken and smoked turkey in many a cookoff.  Soaking poultry in a brine not only seasons the meat itself but keeps the bird moist as it roasts/cooks.  Try it at least once!

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and set aside.

Finely chop 3-4 stems of each fresh herb.  In a food processor, mix the room temperature butter, the chopped herbs and a pinch of salt until it is all evenly combined.

Work the butter under the skin of the chicken, all around the bird.  Use your fingers to gently loosen pockets around the breast, legs and wings then massage the skin to move the butter all around.  Get the butter all over the chicken until you have used the entire stick and a half.

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Quarter the lemon(s) and fill the cavity of the chicken with the lemon and any remaining fresh herbs.  Since we are using leeks later in the bread pudding, we also stuffed an extra stalk of leeks in here, you could also use quartered onion here.

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Truss the chicken to keep the wings and legs tight against the body.  Don’t be scared – that basically means use some kitchen twine to tie the legs together and to pin the wings to the breast so they don’t flap around or hang out while cooking. We may not truss the same way every time… but it gets done.  Here’s a good tutorial if you’d like to check it out.

This past Thanksgiving we moved our family time out to Sargent beach and took a Big Easy oil-less fryer with us for turkey-cooking.  We fell in love with it!  It produced a juicy, delicious turkey on Thursday, followed by a wonderful prime rib on Friday.  Since then, it’s been a go-to for roasting/”frying” meat.  We use it here but you can certainly oven-roast your chicken nicely.

We placed the buttered & trussed chicken in the basket of the Big Easy and roasted for about an hour and fifteen minutes before checking the internal temperature of the bird.

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To oven roast your chicken, place the bird on a rack over a sheet tray to catch the drippings. (Bonus: if you have any potatoes, carrots, root vegetables etc, you can place those under the rack to catch all the drippings or use them as the ‘rack’ itself!  Pile the veggies up and place the chicken right on top.  You just want some air to be able to get to the bottom of the chicken so that all sides crisp up while cooking).  Roast the chicken at 425 for an hour and 15-30 minutes, checking the internal temperature in the last 15 minutes.

**Food safety by definition means that chicken should reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees to be considered safe to eat.** Will usually pulls chicken closer to 145-150 and gives it some resting time before cutting into it.

Remove the chicken from the cooker/oven and let it rest a few minutes before carving.

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While the chicken is cooking, get the bread pudding and brussel sprouts going.  To plan ahead, both have about a 15 minute prep time and will bake for a total of 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For the bread pudding, place the day-old cubed-up bread in a large bowl.  You don’t have to be precise about cubing the bread – you can even just tear it up with your hands.  The size and shape of the bread is up to you!

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In a medium skillet heat about a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Saute the leeks (or sweet onion), the red onion and the garlic until soft.  Remove from heat.

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*Leeks can be fairly gritty.  To easily clean them, chop off the dark green tops and discard (you can use them for making stock, but they are too tough to eat).  Cut off the root end and then slice the stalk lengthwise.  Chop the stalks down to your desired size, then swish the chopped leeks in a bowl or sink of cool, clean water.  The grit will sink to the bottom leaving the clean leeks at the top to strain and dry*

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, stock, cream, salt, and pepper.  

With the bread cubes, combine the Gruyère, chives, parsley, and cooked onion mixture. Stir it all around, it’s okay if the cheese starts to melt a little bit.

Pour egg mixture over bread mixture. Using the back of a spoon, press bread to soak up liquid.  Let the mix sit 8 – 10 minutes or until bread has absorbed all liquid.

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For the brussel sprouts, rinse the sprouts and cut them in half lengthwise.  Smash and peel the garlic cloves, leaving large pieces to roast.

 

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and dump the veggies on top. Drizzle the veggies with olive oil, season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste, mixing well.  

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Butter a 3-quart casserole dish, or spray with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer the bread pudding mixture to the casserole dish and cover with foil.

Place the bread pudding and the tray of brussel sprouts in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.  Toss the sprouts a bit about halfway through.

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While those are cooking, saute the bacon for the brussel sprouts until cooked about ⅔ done – think chewy bacon, not crispy.  

After 30 minutes, add the cooked bacon to the sheet of sprouts and stir.  Remove the foil from the bread pudding and cook both dishes another 15-20 minutes.  The bread pudding should be nice and brown across the top.

During the last 15 minutes of cooking, add the balsamic vinegar to a small pot. Over medium-low heat, reduce the vinegar by about half, until it is thick and sweet, about 10 minutes.

Let the bread pudding rest and set a few minutes after coming out of the oven, then sprinkle on scallions before serving. Drizzle the reduced balsamic vinegar on top of the roasted sprouts before serving.

Look at this lovely meal!

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Play with the flavors of butter for the chicken – you can use any combination of herbs, any citrus or onions for stuffing.  You can roast a combination of veggies as a side and change up the cheese and onions in the bread pudding for different flavors.  This meal is a classic by nature but so very comforting and brings back a couple of my favorite travel memories.

What’s your favorite food souvenir?


Full Recipe

Roast Chicken, Gruyère Bread Pudding and Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Roast Chicken:

  • ½ cup turbinado (raw) sugar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup pink himalayan salt
  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • 2 T whole peppercorns
  • bundle of fresh rosemary
  • bundle of fresh thyme
  • bundle of fresh oregano
  • Tea kettle of boiling water
  • 4-5 lb whole chicken, innards removed
  • 1 ½ sticks butter, room temperature
  • 1-2 lemons
  • Kitchen twine

 

Mix sugars, salts, peppercorns and 4-5 stems of each herb in a large container.

Cover with boiling water and stir to mix, set aside to cool to room temperature or add ice to drop the brine temperature.

When cooled, place chicken in brine.

Cover with enough cool water to submerge chicken completely.

Cover and chill overnight (3-4 hours for pieces of chicken)

Remove chicken from brine and pat dry; discard brine.

Finely chop 3-4 stems of each fresh herb.

In a food processor, mix the butter, herbs and a pinch of salt until thoroughly combined.

Work the butter under the skin of the chicken, all around the bird.

Quarter the lemon(s) and fill the cavity with the lemon and any remaining fresh herbs.

Truss the chicken to keep the wings and legs tight against the body.

Using the Big Easy oil-less fryer – 1 ½ hours; oven roast 425 for 1 ½ hours

Let rest, serve.


Gruyère Bread Pudding:

  • Olive oil
  • 2 stalks leeks, or 1 small sweet onion, diced
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • 12 c cubed, day-old bread (Challah, Brioche, French)
  • 3 c Gruyère cheese, shredded
  • ⅓ c chives, chopped
  • ⅓ c parsley, chopped
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 c chicken stock
  • 2 c heavy cream
  • 1 T salt
  • 1 T freshly ground pepper
  • 2 T scallions, chopped

Preheat oven to 350.

In a medium skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil.

Add leeks, onion(s) and garlic and cook until soft, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Remove from heat and let cool a while.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, stock, cream, salt, and pepper.

In a large bowl, combine bread, Gruyère, chives, parsley, and reserved onions.

Pour egg mixture over bread mixture.

Using the back of a spoon, press bread to soak up liquid.

Let sit 8 to 10 minutes or until bread has absorbed all liquid.

Butter a 3-quart casserole dish, or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Transfer bread mixture to the casserole dish, cover with foil, and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove foil and bake until hot and browned on top, 15 to 20 minutes more.

Let rest 15 minutes, then sprinkle on scallions before serving.


Roasted Brussel Sprouts:

  • 3-4 strips bacon, chopped
  • Brussel sprouts
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • Red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 350

Rinse and half the sprouts.

Smash and peel garlic, leaving large pieces to roast.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and dump the veggies on top.

Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste, mixing well.

Roast 30 min, tossing halfway through.

While the sprouts are roasting, saute the bacon until cooked about ⅔ done.

After the first 30 minutes of roasting, add the cooked bacon to the sheet and stir.

Roast another 15 min.

Add the balsamic vinegar to a small pot.

Over medium-low heat, reduce the vinegar by about half, until it is thick and sweet, about 10 minutes.

Drizzle the reduced balsamic vinegar on top of the roasted sprouts and serve.