French Toast


How is is possible that I’ve never written a post on french toast?? We’ve done waffles, we’ve done pancakes, but I’ve neglected my true breakfast love. French toast, if you can hear this, please accept this humblest of apologies.

Anyway, so french toast, why aren’t we making this more often? And even better question, why would you ever buy the pre-made frozen crap? I don’t get it. Listen, as much as I don’t agree, I can understand you saying making waffles and pancakes from scratch is a hassle, but there’s no excuse for french toast. The point of what i’m saying is to make you feel bad about yourself, and  for you to reflect on how poor your decisions are…that’s all…I joke! You’re the best, and that’s why you deserve some french toast, so let’s get some stale bread shall we?

It’s actually a pretty amazing thing.. french toast that is…(are you not following??) I mean you take some old bread which has gone stale (more on that in a second), you add some eggs and milk, and fry. If you really delve into it, there are two things going on, first is the bread staling, which the actual technical term is retrogradation, and the other thing that’s happening is we’re cooking a custard.


Let’s start with retrogradation. Bread is made up of starch, which is a long molecule made up of smaller glucose molecules, and how those glucose molecules are stacked makes the starch either amylose or amylopectin, which are the two main starches found in bread. When starch and water meet, they gelatinize, which basically means the starch absorbs water, and once that happens the starch starts to undergo retrogradation, which means the starch starts to gel, and slowly start to expel moisture. Once a bread is done baking the staling process starts, and given enough time, it will expel enough water to make it feel dry. This is essential for french toast, because what we then do, is replace that lost moisture with the custard (ie – the milk and eggs). Now we’re not really going to get into the custard part, because frankly it’s not that important here, and we’ve done it before.

So just to recap – we need to expel the moisture from the starch network, and then replace it with awesomeness. One way to do that is allow the bread to stale by drying it out on the counter, which will allow the moisture to leave naturally. However, America’s Test Kitchen did a study and found that if you allow the bread to dry out in the oven, it actually will release a lot more moisture, because the process of retrogradation isn’t really that great, so we end up with a lot of moisture actually trapped inside. Basically, the best way to dry out bread is in a very low oven. That being said, this batch of french toast I made by allowing to dry out on the counter over night. By the way, if you’re wondering, don’t use the bread you buy in the supermarkets that mysteriously take weeks to go stale. There are so many preservatives that it won’t stale properly.


Once the bread is good and dried, it’s a matter of allowing it to soak up the eggs and milk, and then frying in some butter. So allow the bread to sit in the egg mixture for a minute or two, to make sure it’s sopped up enough liquid, and then fry, over medium heat.


That’s it. Easy as pie.


By the way, after I wrote all this I realized that I kind of did cover this, in my stuffing post. Bread pudding, which stuffing is a form of, is like french toast’s step brother. Also while we’re on the topic, can I air out one grievance? You know that dish that people make called: “french toast souffle?” That drives me crazy. First of all a souffle is a specific type of dish (you’re still reading, and want to know what defines a souffle??? Well since some people want to go back to their real lives, I’ll leave it for the comments, just ask away…as usual, I don’t bite)…and it’s a freaking bread pudding, so let’s call it that! Whodathunk I’m such a stickler.


Anyway, you’re free to go back to real life.

Good Shabbos, Y’all.

Cinnamon Buns


I know you like cinnamon buns, heck who doesn’t? And don’t give me that “Oh, I’m more of a candy person, than a cake person” because it’s just bogus, and you’re lying to yourself, and you have years of cake eating to catch up on, so let’s get started.

Cinnamon buns start with a yeasted dough, which falls under the category of doughs known as rich doughs. In general, there’s your regular run of the mill bread, which is some sort of variation of water, flour and yeast. Once you add fat you get into the realm of “Enriched breads.” Add even more fat, and you’ve got yourself “Rich breads” which by definition have at least 10 percent by weight (in ratio to the flour) of fat and/or sweeteners, but usually have more than that. An example of enriched breads are a whole wheat loaf with some olive oil added, or soft rolls. An example of rich breads are challah, or cinnamon buns.

When you add fat to a dough, besides adding flavor, it tenderizes it, and locks in moisture, which will soften the bread, and extend the shelf life (staling happens when water gets expelled from the starchy network, in a process known as retrogradation, and fats help hold this process off longer). Sugar (whether in liquid form or not) obviously make the dough sweet, but it also makes the dough soft, and will also help to retain moisture (sugars are “hygroscoptic” which mean they like to hold on to water). They also contribute to the color of the dough in the way of caramelization. When also adding eggs or dairy, they pretty much bring their own fats, sugars, and flavor, so to an extent they have similar properties as adding fats and sugar. One thing eggs have that makes it a kitchen powerhouse is the phospholipid called lecithin, which acts as an emulsifier (which for bread making, makes it useful when creaming butter, and will help trap air better, and make a lighter bread).

These cinnamon buns, which I got from Peter Reinhart’s book Artisan Breads Every Day, doesn’t call for eggs, but in baker’s percentages (which means the % is based on the weight of flour, and I’ll explain in a second) it calls for 14.25% fat, 61% milk, and 10.7% sugar. I feel like we’ve discussed this before, but baker’s percentage is a ratio of the ingredients in the recipe, but it uses flour as a starting point, and everything is based off of it. So let’s say for example you have 100 grams of flour, if the recipe calls for 61 grams of milk, then we say it’s 61% milk. And if the recipe tells you the baker’s percentage is 14.25% fat, that doesn’t mean 14.25% of the total recipe weight is fat, it means 14.25% of the weight of the flour, is fat. So in our example (of 100grams of flour) there will be 14.25grams of fat. Kapish?

(Just as an aside, if this isn’t good enough reason to buy a scale, I don’t know what is. Basically, all you need to know is the baker’s percentage for any particular bread you want to make, and you can scale it up or down based on how much you need. So let’s say you want to make ciabatta, which normally is a very “wet” dough, and usually is at a 70% bakers percentage [aka 70% hydrated], all you need to do is plop a big bowl on a scale, weigh out however much flour your cranium desires, and then multiply that number by .7 to figure out how much water you need, and you have your 70%.)


This dough, as Mr Reinhart calls it, is an All purpose Sweet dough. You can make cinnamon buns, sticky buns, or any type of danish. I made this dough, and had so much leftover dough, that I made his version of coffee cake with this dough (which wasn’t that great). For some reason I got it in my mind to do a reverse cinnamon bun also. Often times cinnamon buns come with a cream cheese frosting, so I decided to make a cream cheese bun with a cinnamon frosting. Sounds good right? A+ for idea, and somewhere around a D- for execution. Anyway, let’s get going.

Make the dough and roll it out to a 12×15 inch rectangle.


And spread a layer of melted butter over it


Then spread your cinnamon-sugar mixture over top.


Because I wanted to kick it up a notch, I decided to grind my own cinnamon. Now, I’m not going to say how you have to grind your own cinnamon, or you’re going to go to foodie hell, but what I can say is, you can smell and even taste the difference. It’s minimal (gasp, now I’m going to go to foodie hell), but just the knowledge that you did it yourself I think makes it worth while, but that’s me.

Then roll it up (not like a jelly roll!…wait, didn’t get that last reference? Well fear not, click here, read through the post, and you’ll be all caught up) like a cinnamon bun!


(That’s a picture of the cheese bun by the way, which we’ll get to shortly)

Then cut it up. I find it better to cut through it in a sawing motion, as opposed to a crushing motion (ie don’t use a bench scraper like I did for some of them, use a knife, and actually cut it).


Allow the dough to rise for 2 hours, and then bake in a 350 oven for 15-20 minutes rotating halfway through, until golden brown and delicious


So back to me genius idea. For the cheese buns, I just took cream cheese, and creamed it with 1/4 cup of sugar, which I then spread on the 12×15 inch rectangle of dough, then I rolled it up (as you saw earlier), and cut it upDSC_2263'

Nice right? What can go wrong right? Well here’s where things started going downhill. You see, I don’t really make frosting all too often, and in my mind, I wanted some sort of thickened cinnamon glaze; like confectionary sugar with some cinnamon and milk or what not. You know what I’m saying? Well, yeah, that didn’t work out…I ended up with this gloopy thick cinnamon soup of some kind. It tasted good, but it wasn’t really what I wanted. Oh well.

Cinnamon Buns

adapted from Artisan Breads Every Day


For the dough:

  • 6 1/4 cups (794 grams) all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons (14g) salt
  • 6 tablespoons (85g) sugar
  • 5 teaspoons (15.5g) yeast
  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (482g) warm milk (whole or low fat)
  • 1/2 cup (113g) melted butter or vegetable oil

For the topping:

  • 3 tablespoons (43g) cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup (170g) sugar
  • melted butter


  1. To make the dough, combine the flour, salt, and sugar in one bowl, and whisk to aerate the flour.
  2. Combine the yeast with the milk, and mix until frothy, and add the butter.
  3. Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture, and mix with the paddle attachment on the lowest setting until it just comes together.
  4. Switch to the dough hook, and knead on medium for about 6 minutes, until the dough is soft, supple, and tacky (adding more flour or milk as needed)
  5. Transfer dough to an oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise.
  6. At this point, you can place it in the fridge to allow a cold fermented rise for up to 4 days, which will develop flavor (just remove the dough 3 hours before you plan on baking), or if you’re in a rush, you can just allow to rise in a warm place, until doubled.
  7. When you’re ready to bake, divide the dough in half, roll each half into a ball, and set aside the other half.
  8. Roll out the dough into a 12×15 inch rectangle (you can trim it with a pizza cutter, which is what I did), and to make the cinnamon buns, spread the melted butter over the whole thing, leaving a 1/2 inch empty on the edge closest to you.
  9. Combine the cinnamon and sugar in a bowl, and spread it evenly over the melted butter.
  10. Starting from the part farthest from you, roll it up tightly, into a snake.
  11. Cut it into 1 inch thick rounds, and place the rounds in your prepared oiled container, and set aside to rise for 2 hours
  12. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and when dough has risen, bake for 10 minutes, rotate the pan, and bake for another 5-15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Crème Caramel

In my humble probably wrong opinion, proteins are probably the most versatile and important molecule in cooking. They’re responsible for those awesome Mailard reaction flavors that we’ve spoken about before, but they’re also responsible for a lot more. We don’t have to look any further than the ever versatile egg. Want to whip up egg whites? Make an omelet? Yeah that’s right, it’s all thanks to proteins. Proteins are like big balls of yarn, all tangled up and such, and a lot of cooking involves unwinding the big ball, and re-forming them into a cohesive structure.


When you want to make an omelet, you crack open some eggs, which are a liquid, and put some heat on it, and blammo – you got yourself a solid. The same thing happens when making whipped egg whites, some mechanical intervention, and baddaboom, you got yourself a different structure. But how?

Well heat “denatures” proteins, which is the technical term for un-tangling the ball of yarn, and the newly opened up protein thing-a-ma-bob can now reform into a more solidified thing-a-ma-bob. So basically all there is to it, is the protein denaturing, and re forming. So pretty much, when we cook any protein (think meat, eggs, chicken, etc..) we first have to denature the protein (un ravel the yarn) and then put it all back together, in a way we want it. What’s going on, is imagine this newly unraveled yarn as a long string, and all along that string there are different areas that can now bond to a different unraveled yarn, and when they bond to each other, that gives you the dish’s structure. That’s it.

There is however one caveat, we don’t want all of the different areas that can bond, to actually make that bond, because then the proteins will clink too strongly to each other, which is bad (ie – chewy steak and chicken, rubbery eggs, whipped eggs that weep…), so the trick when cooking pretty much any protein is to not overcook it (yeah I know – thank you captain obvious).

Ok on to crème caramels. Crème caramel is a custard, which has caramel on the bottom of the dish, and then baked, and then turned over so the caramel is pretty much on top of the custard. Traditionally a custard is any egg and milk mixture. It can be baked, served raw, made into an ice cream, and all that fancy jazz. I say traditionally, because it really doesn’t have to be made with milk, and for us on team kosher, we sometimes need to find good substitutes for milk. Since you hate when I talk all chemistry up in this house, I’m going to spare you the details, but suffice it to say, that if it was plain water and eggs, it wouldn’t work, but if you add some added “stuff” to the water, then it will work. (There really is a good enough explanation for it, and anyone willing to risk their brain imploding with information overload, just ask away, and I’ll be happy to explain…by the way, now that I have you here in between these parenthesis, have you checked out The Kosher Gastronome fan page on Facebook yet? Well you should, and you know what else you should do, click on the “like” button over there, because you love me, and there’s no “love” button, so “like” will just have to do it for you…Oh and feel free to comment away over there also, that way people will think there’s a whole party going on over there, and they’ll be jealous…it will be awesome…Ok that’s it for now, I’ll let you go back to reading the rest of the article)

Ok, so if you’re lost, and trying to figure out what’s going on – custard…milk and eggs…don’t really need milk…water with “stuff” is good enough…so basically any parve milk substitute will work. Heck, chicken soup will work, even water with just a few pinches of salt will work…but it will probably not taste all that good.

First make the caramel.

Just to clarify, caramel is 2 parts sugar and 1 part water cooked together to a certain temperature, depending on what your final product is. The stages are – 1) thread, 2) soft-ball, 3) hard ball, 4) soft crack, 5)hard crack, in that order, and of course each one is a description of how the caramel behaves then, and the best way to know you’re at a specific stage is by temperature. So for this dish, we cooked the caramel to the soft crack stage, which is about 280 degrees, although if/when I make this again, I would go all the way to the hard crack stage, which is about 300 degrees. You’ll see why below.


While the caramel is still hot, and liquidy, pour it in to your dish, and let it cool.


Now it’s time to whip up the custard part. Most recipes call for the milk substitute to be heated, and then adding it slowly to the eggs while whisking (aka – tempering). You really don’t need to heat up the milk substitute (I’m just going to call it milk, because you know what’s annoying? spelling the word substitute, there’s just way too many “t”s in there), unless you’re trying to infuse a flavor that can’t be readily mixed in. Meaning, if you’re going to use vanilla extract, just mix it all together, and skip the heat up part. However, if you’re so devoted to being a foodie elitist, like myself, and decided you just had to use real vanilla beans, then you will have to heat the milk up.


You just need to heat it up to a simmer, and let it sit for a few minutes so the flavors blend.


Whip together the eggs, yolks and sugar until it becomes pale in color.

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Then, if you heated up the milk, it needs to be strained of the vanilla pod, and added slowly to the eggs. The easiest way to do this is, is to wrap a towel around the base of the egg bowl, and pouring the milk into a measuring cup.

 IMG_8712 IMG_8711

That way, you can pour and mix at the same time, without holding on to the bowl…brilliant!


See? My mom was right, I am a genius.

Pour the custard over the now hardened caramel, and put all of your dishes into one big baking dish, and pour hot water into the baking dish, so it comes about half way up on the custard dishes.


Baking the custard in a water bath allows the proteins to cook more evenly, and not over cook.


Then pop these in the fridge for at least 3 hours, and when you’re ready to serve them, just run a knife around the edges, place a small plate on top, and flip it over, so it pops out.

Look how fancy


That last picture was from my phone, and if you don’t like the picture, well here at Gastronome headquarters, we’re looking for someone to sponsor a D-SLR camera. I don’t know the first thing about photography, but I can pretend I do with that shiny new camera, and buying it for me will make you feel good about yourself too.

As for the custard, I thought it was great. The caramel top (or is it bottom?) became a little too runny, and I would have rather it stayed put on top of the custard, and that’s why next time, I’m going to cook the caramel to the hard-ball stage. The actual custard tasted great, and I loved the real vanilla in it, and had the consistency of, well, custard. Someone, who shall remain nameless, thought it tasted like “lukshen kugel,” I know, a complete disgrace, and someone poignantly retorted – “no, lukshen kugel tastes like this.” To explain – lukshen kugel (noodle kugel for the inundated), is also a custard, with some noodles baked in it. So, when you’re trying to figure out what it tastes like, just know if it reminds you of lukshen kugel, it’s because lukshen kugel is a type of custard.

Are we done yet?

Crème Caramel


For the caramel:

  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/4 cup of water

For the custard:

  • 2 cups of milk substitute
  • 1 vanilla bean (or 1.5 teaspoons of vanilla extract)
  • 2/3 cups of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 yolks


  1. To make the caramel – combine the sugar and water together, and turn the heat up to high, and let it cook until a thermometer registers 300 (for the hard-ball stage)
  2. Preheat the oven to 350, and bring a kettle of water to a boil.
  3. To make the custard – if you’re using a vanilla bean, bring the milk to a simmer, scrape the bean, and it and the pod to the milk, and let the vanilla and milk sit for a few minutes for the flavors to infuse. (If you’re using vanilla extract, just mix milk and vanilla together, and you can add it all at once to egg mixture, once the egg mixture is thoroughly whipped.)
  4. In another bowl, mix together eggs, egg yolks, and sugar, and whisk vigorously until it becomes pale in color.
  5. Add the milk mixture to the egg mixture slowly, whisking the whole time.
  6. Pour custard into your dish of choice, and put that dish, into a larger baking dish, and add boiling water to the bigger dish, to come halfway up the sides of the custard dish.
  7. Bake for 40-50 minutes. The middle will be a little jiggly, and that’s ok. Remove from the water bath, and allow it to cool in the fridge for at least 3 hours.
  8. When ready to serve, run a knife around the edges, and place a plate on top, and flip over to un-mold