Last weekend, I tried my second recipe out of my ACE bakery cookbook. It's actually something that didn't require a recipe, it was more that I liked and used the idea - so for once, I didn't have to struggle with imperial vs metric conversions.
In Europe, breakfasts are usually either savoury (most of the time) or sweet... on weekends, I tend to make something hearty and filling for starters (ham & eggs, huevos a la mexicana, eggs benedict etc), followed by some fresh fruit and something to satisfy my sweet tooth over a steaming mug of freshly brewed coffee - usually brioche, croissants or scones with jam.
Very rarely do I cook up sweet breakfast: recently, pear pancakes with blueberry sauce were a sure hit, though!
Combining the sweet and the savoury in one dish is something very North American, I believe - and the simplest version (and the first I ever came across) is to serve your pancakes not just with maple syrup, but with rashers of fried bacon. The syrup itself is something that is not widely used in the Old World, and although I don't know enough ways of using it, I do like the taste - sweet, but earthy, and not as concentrated in its sweetness as honey.
I added my continental twist to these savoury French toasts by stuffing them with Brunswick ham and Gruyère cheese. Soaked in egg & milk and fried in a pan, they're certainly not the healthiest, but they do combine all of your foodgroups in just one dish. And with the maple-glazed pears on top, you're even getting some vitamins - thus combining what I tend to eat in three breakfast courses into one, simple dish... the sad thing is that you can't linger over it with for family for quite as long!
Savoury French toast with maple-glazed pears*
(serves 3 generously)
6 slices of bloomer** (I used a slow-fermented buttermilk variety)
12 - 18 thin slices of smoked, cooked ham (I used Brunswick)
200 g gruyère cheese (cut into thin slices)
3 large eggs
150 ml milk
For the maple-glazed pears:
1 big, firm-fleshed pear
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
First, prepare the pears.
Peel and core the pear, then slice into wedges - 12 or more in total, cut them in half if they seem too long.
Heat the butter in a pan, throw in the pears and cook for about 3-4 minutes until starting to soften. Turn them frequently, so they don't brown, and avoid them getting all mushy.
Spoon in the maple syrup and sprinkle with the thyme leaves, stir gently, then take off the heat and keep warm until ready to serve.
Now stuff the toasts. Take a slice of bloomer, top with a layer of cheese, a layer of ham and another layer of cheese. Season with pepper, if you like, then top with another slice of bread. Repeat for the other toasts.
Beat the eggs with the milk in a large, shallow recipient that will hold your toasts, then put the first toast in, carefully turn and make sure it is absorbing the egg mixture well. Put aside and leave to rest while you soak the other two.
Heat some butter in a frying pan, then fry the toasts one by one, adding more butter as needed. When they're starting to brown and crisp up, transfer to an oven-proof dish and keep warm in the oven (ca 100 C) while you make the other two.
The toasts are ready to serve when the cheese is melting.
Cut each toast in half, arrange on a plate and spoon over some of the pears and the maple syrup. Serve warm.
* Based on a recipe in More from the ACE bakery
** A bloomer is a soft white bread with a reasonably crunchy crust, baked in an oval shape. A slice would be roughly 15-20 cm long and 8-10 cm high, and about 2 cm thick). You can use any bread, though, ciabatta works very well and so does a thick French stick, although you'd be making more toasts then, depending on the size. White bread works better as it soaks up the milk & egg mixture more readily.