French Toast Brioche

Sarabeth’s Brioche

When we arrived at a recent Holiday party with our Brioche Chestnut & Fig Stuffing adapted from the New York Times Well Recipes, a friend asked, “What is Brioche?”

Brioche is a flaky, buttery bread that is so light it could almost be a cake. While our recipe called for a loaf, brioche is more often baked in muffin tins where it rises to form happy, little puffed crowns, as in the photograph on the right from the cover of Sarabeth’s Bakery, a gorgeous cookbook from Sarabeth Levine.

Brioche is great for dipping, so it is a delight with coffee for breakfast or with afternoon tea. For an indulgent European breakfast, it is delicious with hazelnut chocolate spread, which has the added benefit of boosting brain power. For an Ayurvedic spin, spread your brioche with Chyavanprash, an immune-boosting, rejuvenating tonic disguised as an herbal jam and packed with vitamins and minerals to fortify your morning.

For our breakfast this morning, we made the best of our leftover brioche. Since the Stuffing we made yesterday needed only half the loaf and we also had to buy 6 eggs to get 2 for that recipe, we were left with the perfect ingredients for the world’s most succulent French Toast.

The Remains of the Day’s Brioche

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This recipe was inspired by my father who loved making Saturday breakfast while children of every age crawled all over him. Try it and see if people don’t come running to you.

Dorie Greenspan promises it doesn’t have to be difficult to make lighter-than-air, delectable, Marie Antoniette-worthy brioche, if you want to try your hand and make your own Greenspan’s new book, Around My French Table, has the recipe and many more savories suitable for vegetarians.

Vegetarian Gravy

Vegetarian Gravy

Yesterday we made Brioche Stuffing with Chestnuts and Figs for a holiday gathering with friends. It was delicious with steamed carrots, celery, fennel and a hot gravy.

Vegetarian gravy is fun to make, but yesterday we also had five boys over for a birthday celebration, so it was fabulous to be able to just add hot water to Macayama’s Savory Herb Mix, give it a whisk and pour it into the gravy bowl.

Here’s what we do most of the time ~

VEGETARIAN GRAVY

1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup chopped onion or shallots
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (or gf)
4 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour and soy sauce to form a smooth paste. Gradually whisk in the broth.

Season with sage, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring constantly, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until thickened.

Brioche Stuffing With Chestnuts and Figs

Photo by Michael Nagle for The New York Times

This Sunday we are going to celebrate the opening of our friend’s new Yoga Studio in Old Town Temecula. The studio will be called “Sacred Journey” after the sacred journey of healing our friend experienced in Yoga Teacher Training.

As it is a Potluck, I am bringing a dish that seems to make, foodwise, a sacred journey of its own from Thanksgiving to Christmas. As a “Stuffing,” it keeps Thanksgiving alive ~ after all, why should Thanksgiving, with its aromatic feast and endless gratitude, have to end? But with its redolent chestnuts and figs, it introduces us to the flavors of Christmas.

In London, where I lived for so many years, the dim, foggy streets not only came alive with holiday lights in December but with that distinct old world aroma of chestnuts roasting on an open fire.   Years prior, I lived in Italy, where figs were our cherished Christmas presents.  So this is a recipe that captures my heart as it recalls flavors and dishes and times and places and dear friends from the sacred journey of my own life.

My sister sent me this recipe from the New York Times. I used ghee instead of butter, added golden raisin and upped the amount of figs to a full cup. My family has asked me to make it for Christmas dinner, when I will also add 2/3 cup of cranberries for that great seasonal color and the tart that goes pop in the mouth, as well as 1/3 cup hazelnut pieces for an occasional crunch.

If you don’t eat eggs, use an egg substitute from your local grocer, or look under “Blogroll” on the right for the link to the Vegan Society’s web page for egg alternatives that are easy to make at home.

Thanks to Jennifer and to the NYT, and most of all to Daniel Humm, Executive Chef at Eleven Madison Park, for sharing your recipe.

Brioche Stuffing with Chestnuts and Figs

Chestnuts
Chestnuts

1/2 loaf of brioche
1/2 cup ghee
1/2 cup celery, medium fine dice
1/2 cup fennel, medium fine dice
1/4 cup Fiji apple, medium fine dice
1 cup onion, medium fine dice
1 pound Vegetarian Sausage, finely diced
2/3 cup Glazed Chestnuts, medium fine dice
2/3 cup dried figs, medium fine dice
1/3 cup reduced (syrupy) vegetable stock
2 cups vegetable stock
1 tablespoon salt
2 eggs
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh sage leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh marjoram leaves, chopped
1 pinch garam masala (or allspice)
2 teaspoons ground pepper

Dice brioche into a medium–fine dice and allow to dry in a low oven or overnight at room temperature. Once dry, you will have about 2 cups total.

Melt 1/4 cup ghee in a sauté pan. Sweat the celery, fennel, apple and onion until translucent and soft. (“Sweating” vegetables means slowly cooking them over low heat until soft but not brown.)

In a second sauté pan, melt the remaining ghee and cook sausage gently. Combine the butter and sausage with the diced brioche, celery and onion mixture, chestnuts, figs, reduced stock and stock in a large bowl and toss gently. Season with salt to taste. Gently add eggs and toss to combine. Finish with chopped herbs, spices and pepper.

About to go in ~
About to go in ~

Bake in a 9- by 13-inch baking dish at 350 for 40 minutes or until browned and hot throughout.

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Enjoy!