Baked Pumpkin French Toast

This is full of warm autumnal spices, brown sugar and pumpkin. The inside is soft, fluffy and smooth – all topped with a crisp, brown sugar and pecan streusel.

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I think this is the perfect weekend breakfast or brunch dish to make you feel warm and cozy on a chilly autumn day with the family.

It’s super easy to prepare and is actually better if it is prepared the night before you want to bake it. Just whisk the custard ingredients together, pour over the bread cubes and refrigerate. The streusel topping should be scattered over the casserole just before baking.

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Ingredients:
Butter for greasing the dish
1 large loaf of brioche or challah, cut into cubes
8 large eggs
1 ½ cup/360ml of whole milk
1 ½ cup/360ml of double/heavy cream
Zest of one orange
1tbs vanilla extract
½ cup brown sugar – lightly packed
1 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree (about half a can)
2tsp pumpkin pie spice
1tsp cinnamon
½ cup raisins
Pinch of salt

Streusel topping:
2/3 cups/80g plain/all-purpose flour
2/3 cup packed soft brown sugar
Small handful of pecans, roughly broken into pieces
1tsp cinnamon
113g/4oz/1 stick of cold butter cut into dice

Warm maple syrup for serving

Method:
Butter the casserole dish

Streusel:
Mix the flour, sugar and cinnamon together in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment fitted. Add the butter and mix until the topping resembles rough breadcrumbs. Stir in the pecans and set aside. This step can easily be done by hand by rubbing in the butter. Set aside while you make the pumpkin custard.

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Method:
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, pumpkin, vanilla, spices, zest and sugar in a large bowl until fully incorporated and smooth.

Pile the bread cubes into the casserole dish, scattering a few raisins throughout. Pour over the custard, making sure all the cubes are soaked. Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours, or overnight if this going to be baked for breakfast.

When you are ready to bake the casserole, pre-heat the oven to 180°C/360°F and scatter over the streusel. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and then bake for a further 30 minutes or until the custard is set and the top is crunchy, browned and caramelised.

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Serve hot with warmed maple syrup and good hot coffee for a perfect Autumnal weekend or holiday breakfast.

Choux Buns filled with Orange Crème Pâtissière

My youngest son William and I popped out shopping when he was on half term holidays recently and he asked if we could buy some pizza.  He was just choosing one when the lady in the shop asked if we wanted to get a meal deal which included a dessert option.  Of course we then found ourselves choosing one of those too.

We went for some little profiteroles with a white chocolate topping that looked pretty ordinary, but how wrong we were!  Absolutely delicious!  The insides were full of orange flavoured cream and I decided there and then to try and recreate at home.

These were going to be topped with white chocolate too, but when I came to melt my chocolate, I discovered my oldest son Sam had eaten it all!  Luckily enough, I had some dark chocolate and so we had a last minute recipe change which worked out really well.

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Pâte à choux buns:
250ml/9floz water
110g/4oz cold butter – diced
1 tsp caster/superfine sugar
150g/5oz plain/all-purpose
4 large eggs

Orange Crème Pâtissière:
1 vanilla pod, halved and seeds scraped out
300ml/11floz whole milk
2 large egg yolks
75g/3oz caster/superfine sugar
20g/¾oz corn flour
300ml/11floz heavy/double cream
Zest and juice of 1 large unwaxed orange
1tbs Nielsen-Massey Pure Orange Extract

Topping:
200g/6oz of good quality dark or white chocolate
60ml/2floz heavy/double cream

Method:
Start with the crème pâtissière and mix together the egg yolks sugar and cornflour in a heatproof bowl.

Add the vanilla seeds and pod to the milk and heat to bring up to a boil, taking care not to let it boil over. Remove from the heat and add to the eggs and sugar, whisking well.

Return to the pan and bring to a full boil, whisking all the time. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.  Remove the vanilla pod and squeeze out any remaining precious seeds.

Place the cream, zest and orange extract into a bowl and whisk into soft peaks. Fold into the orange custard and place into a piping bag fitted with a small attachment and refrigerate until needed.

Pre-heat the oven to 220°C/430°F and prepare a lined baking sheet

Heat the butter, water and sugar in a pan until the sugar has dissolved then bring to the boil. Keeping the heat on low to medium, add the flour all in one go and beat with a wooden spoon until completely smooth and coming away from the side of the bowl.

Transfer the dough to a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed for one minute. You want the mixture to have cooled enough to add the eggs without scrambling them.

On medium speed add the eggs one at a time and carry on beating until thoroughly mixed.  The dough will be shiny and smooth.

While the dough is still warm, place into a piping bag with a large plain tip.

Pipe small mounds onto the lined sheet – at this point, you can go small for profiteroles or a little larger for buns. Use a wet fingertip to press down any pointed bits as they will burn.

Bake the buns for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 190°C/375°F and continue to bake for about 15 more minutes until they are light and a lovely golden brown colour. Switch off the oven.

profiterole

Take them out and pierce a small hole with a sharp knife in the base of each one to allow the steam to escape and place each one on its side and return to the oven for a final 5 minutes to crisp up.

Place on their sides on a cooling rack and leave to cool completely. They must be completely cold before you fill them.

To serve, melt the chocolate. I normally do this in the microwave as it is less likely to seize. Heat the broken up chocolate on high for around a minute and stir well, keep heating for 10 seconds and stirring until almost melted. The residual heat will continue to melt the remaining solid pieces. Add the cream and stir well

Pipe the delicious, zesty orange crème pâtissière into the profiteroles through the little hole in the bottom and dip in the warm chocolate sauce.

You can serve right away, or refrigerate for an hour or two. I actually prefer them quite cold and think they are perfect for a summer dessert.

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Try not to eat too many!