Celebrate Mom with a special breakfast

A special breakfast for Mom - French toast made with French bread, fresh fruit and a banana-strawberry puree. BY JACK CLEMONS
May 10, 2013

Sunday is Mother’s Day, and millions of people across the country have made plans to celebrate a special person in their life: Mom. Florists are juggling crowded delivery schedules, restaurants are overbooked with reservations and many of us are searching for just the right gift to tie up with a pretty ribbon.

Before going any further on the topic, I’ll point out the spelling of this holiday is the singular possessive, as trademarked by Anna Jarvis in 1912. Her Mother’s Day International Association wanted the focus to be on each individual person or family honoring their particular mother. That being said, you’ll still find alternate spellings.

How do you plan on spending Mother’s Day? Several friends have found ways to avoid the crowds on Sunday by taking their mothers out for brunch this past Sunday or out to dinner on Saturday. Chances are good you’ll have fewer crowds and a more pleasant experience: Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day are the busiest days of the restaurant year.

If going out for a meal isn’t your favorite idea, you may want to follow another familiar tradition - a fancy Sunday brunch at home. Here’s the moment to forget about calories and indulge in rich dishes like French toast or an elegant omelet. Another way to make the morning special is to ignore the everyday dishes and dress up the table with starched linens, fancy china and polished cutlery.

A quiet meal with only a few people opens up all sorts of menu opportunities, while serving a larger group may offer a menu challenge. Unless presenting a buffet table, it’s sometimes difficult to serve everyone at the same time. This is especially true for serially cooked items such as pancakes and waffles (unless you’re equipped with multiple griddles or waffle irons). Pancakes will harden and lose their fluffiness if not eaten immediately; waffles become soggy if they’re stacked or covered with aluminum foil.

Ricotta pancakes are an exception to this situation; they can stay in a warming oven and not lose their light texture. As you can see in the recipe below, the batter uses very little flour as compared to traditional pancakes, and whipped egg whites are the leavening agent instead of baking soda. Lemon zest brightens the flavor of these pancakes, which can be served with cinnamon-scented sautéed apples or fresh blueberries.

An obviously decadent alternative is breakfast bread pudding, with the added benefit of assembly the night before. You could also call it baked French toast, but it’s much richer than the sliced French toast in the photo. The key difference is the ratio of liquid to bread.

When sautéing thinly sliced bread in a buttered skillet, you need just enough liquid to barely moisten the pieces, or they’ll fall apart under the weight of all that moisture. With the barest of soaking, you’ll impart flavor and texture to complement a buttery crust. The casserole version needs much more liquid to allow the bread to soak up the custard overnight and bake into a creamy treat.

Any of these special dishes will go equally well with a champagne cocktail or the lovely purée of banana and strawberries shown in the photo. Happy Mother’s Day!

French Toast For Two

8 slices French bread
1 egg
1/2 C half & half
1/2 t cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
1 T sugar
1 t vanilla
2 T butter

In a small mixing bowl whisk together the egg, half & half, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar and vanilla. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Once the butter has melted, dip the bread slices in the egg mixture one at a time, turning to coat both sides. Allow excess to drip off and place slices in the pan. Cook, turning once, until lightly browned. Serve with maple syrup and garnish with fresh fruit.

Breakfast Bread Pudding

2 T butter
1 loaf of French bread
8 eggs
2 C half & half
1 C milk
1/3 C brown sugar
1 1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
1 T vanilla

Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish; set aside. Cut bread into 1-inch cubes and place in prepared baking dish. In a large mixing bowl, whisk eggs until light and fluffy. Add half & half and milk; stir until combined. Add brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla.
Pour egg mixture into baking dish to evenly cover the bread. Gently toss bread with a spatula to ensure all the pieces are coated with egg mixture. Cover dish with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning, remove pan from refrigerator and allow to warm slightly while preheating oven to 350 F. Remove plastic and bake until top is golden, about 45 minutes. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before serving with melted butter, warm syrup, fresh berries and whipped cream.

Ricotta Pancakes

4 large eggs, separated
1 1/3 C ricotta cheese
2 T sugar
1 T grated lemon zest
1/2 C flour
1 T butter

Preheat oven to 200 F. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together egg yolks, ricotta, sugar and lemon zest. Add flour and stir until barely combined; set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the batter until thoroughly combined. Melt butter in a griddle or nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Pour 1/4 C of batter into pan for each pancake. Cook, turning once, until golden, about 2 minutes each side. As pancakes are cooked, transfer to a plate and keep warm in the oven until all the batter has been used. Serve with lemon curd, sautéed apples or fresh berries.

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