Your New Year’s Breakfast: Skiers French Toast

There is a recipe that I’ve known for years as “your mom’s French toast.”  Popular at any brunch gathering, but especially on New Year’s Day, this casserole is delicious and easy.  Especially on a holiday when you are likely to be very tired and perhaps slightly, um,  “dehydrated” in the morning, the beauty of this breakfast is that you make it the night before.  In fact, if your New Year’s Eve celebration starts early, you can even put it together the afternoon before with no ill effects.   And on New Year’s Day, if you’ve got 45 minutes and a working oven, my mom’s French toast can be yours too!

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My mom and my cousin Jamie, Christmas 1988.  This old photo does not accurately capture how shiny this blouse was.  Very, VERY 1988.

Somewhere, my mom is pretty angry with me for posting this picture from Christmas 1988.  And she likely wouldn’t be too pleased that I’m about to tell the secret of “her” French toast… that it is actually from a cookbook!   Page 67 of The Bed & Breakfast Cookbook: Great American B&Bs and Their Recipes from All Fifty States (which, through that link, you can get on Amazon for as low as $.25!), to be exact.  Each recipe in the book includes a blurb about the B&B where it originated, as well as a photo and address.  Unfortunately, my research on Google indicates that the Pentwater Inn B&B in Pentwater, Michigan, the originator of this Skiers French toast, is no longer in business.  However, the recipe lives on in the stained page of my mom’s original 1991 copy of the cookbook, and on New Year’s Day (and plenty of others) in my house every year.

This recipe is infinitely forgiving and flexible.  It is easily halved (use an 8×8 square pan instead of a 9×13 & reduce cook time slightly), you can substitute different breads and milks (whole, skim, half & half, almond), and add cinnamon, orange zest, or any other flavor you desire.  This Christmas, I discovered that I really like making homemade panettone, and I have leftovers galore, which I am using for my Skiers French toast.  My mom usually used a baguette, but just about any bread will suffice.  I am copying the original recipe exactly below, but feel free to get creative!  Any version of this will make your house smell amazing on New Year’s (or any other) Day!

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[Not into breakfast, but still need something to make for Sunday night?  Check out Grandma’s 1-2-3 Hors D’Ouevres, a family NYE classic!]

Skiers French Toast

from the Pentwater Inn Bed & Breakfast
Pentwater, MI
excerpted from The Bed & Breakfast Cookbook by Martha W. Murphy

serves 6 to 8

This makes a delicious French toast casserole, particularly suitable for winter as its name implies.  Busy cooks will like the fact that the recipe must be assembled and refrigerated overnight, to be baked in the morning.  As with all French toast recipes, use a good bakery or home-baked loaf of white bread.

 

Skiers French Toast
Author: 
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Serves: 6-8 servings
 
Ingredients
  • 2 Tablespoons corn syrup (light or dark)*
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 loaf white bread, thickly sliced
  • 5 eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ tsp salt
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan combine the syrup, butter, and brown sugar; simmer until syrupy. Pour this mixture into a 9 x 13″ baking pan. Set aside.
  2. Slice the loaf into thick slices, remove the crusts, and place on the syrup in the baking pan. You will have 2 even layers.
  3. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, vanilla, and salt. Pour evenly over the bread. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  4. In the morning leave the casserole at room temperature while the oven preheats. Bake at 350 degrees, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Cut into squares and serve immediately. Serve with butter and a selection of syrups.
Notes
*I never include the corn syrup because I never have any! I imagine it gives the caramel sauce a smoother texture, but the toast is plenty delicious without.

 

Whether or not you enjoy this Monday morning, we wish all readers of Grandma’s Icebox a healthy, happy and peaceful new year!  

Our goal for 2018 is to bring more recipes and stories to this site, so please stay tuned!

A Super-Easy Appetizer (easy as… 1-2-3!)

So, the Super Bowl is this weekend, and whether you are a fan of the Falcons, the Patriots, football in general, Lady Gaga, commercials, or none of the above, it is an EXCELLENT day for snacks.  I’d like to share with you an old family favorite that is one of the easiest and tastiest things around.

These little delicacies, known as 1-2-3 Hors D’Oeuvres, were a New Year’s Eve staple in my family.  Growing up, I’d spend every New Year’s at my Grandma’s house as a guest at one of the most glamorous parties around.  My sisters, Cabbage Patch Kids and I would all have new outfits to wear for the occasion.  We’d sample food from an elegant, well-stocked buffet all night, and be treated to any kind of pop we wanted to drink, often encouraged by adults to mix them together in a multi-color concoction called a “suicide.”  We’d wear sparkly headbands or hats, choose our noisemakers from an overflowing box, stay up dancing until well beyond midnight and eventually pass out in our sleeping bags among piles of colorful confetti on Grandma’s living room floor.  It was the height of sophistication for elementary school kids.

Of course, as an adult and in the clear light of day, I know that what we were actually doing was eating a bunch of sausage, sour cream and Cool Whip-filled appetizers piled on the kitchen table, drinking off-brand soda, bobbing around with our Cabbage Patch kids in a sea of mildly-to-moderately (perhaps sometimes “heavily”?) intoxicated adults crammed into my Grandma’s wood-paneled basement, all of us throwing around piles of round paper scraps emptied from someone’s office hole punch, the mess of which probably caused my grandma a minor cardiac event every January 1 and may have sent one or two vacuum cleaners to early graves.

However, when I recently made a batch of these hors d’oeuvres, I was instantly transported the enchanted New Year’s Eve parties of my youth.  I think these would make an excellent addition to anyone’s Super Bowl spread – whether or not you are aching to add some 1980s Basement Party Magic to the occasion.

1-2-3 Hors D’Oeuvres

(originally published in the George Worthington Co. cookbook)

This recipe is pretty flexible.  I’m including the original below, along with some footnotes that you can use as variations.  These are best enjoyed shortly after they are made and I can’t really tell you if they’d freeze or keep well, because I’m not sure we’ve ever had leftovers!

  • 1 lb. Bob Evans sausage
  • 2 c. grated cheddar cheese
  • 3 c. Bisquick

Combine ingredients in a large bowl with your hands.  Roll into little balls, about 3/4-inch in diameter, adding water if the mixture is too dry.  Place on baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.  Serve hot.  Makes approximately 80 balls.

NOTES:

  • I have made this with chicken sausage and vegetarian sausage in place of the Bob Evans pork sausage, and while both versions are tasty, I’d recommend you add some form of fat (a few tablespoons of olive oil, butter, etc.) to the mixture to get the texture right.  The perfect 1-2-3 Hors D’Oeuvres have a crispy exterior with a soft filling.
  • If you, like me, don’t have a box of Bisquick at the ready, there is an easy substitution that I found online.  For every 1 cup of Bisquick (so for this recipe, multiply by 3), use a pastry cutter to combine:
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Careful if you substitute both the sausage and the Bisquick!  The reduced amount of fat could give you dry, less-than-perfect treats that really only taste good the first 10 minutes they are out of the oven (trust me, I speak from experience!).  I recommend subbing only one ingredient at a time.

Kolachy (also: Kolache, Kolachki, Kolacky, Kolace, Kolachi, Kolachke)

I have always loved almonds, but I never truly appreciated them until I visited an almond tree farm in Spain and learned how they are actually grown and harvested.  Almonds grow in little pods of one nut each, and at harvest time the trees are shaken to release these pods, then each one is cracked open, collected, and processed.  Almond trees take about 5 years to produce a harvest, and once the trees are mature it’s about 7 months from flower to almond.  This all makes $6.99/pound seem like a real steal when you consider the time and work involved!

Why all this talk about almonds?  Because I recently discovered that Kolachy are like the almond of the holiday cookie world.  My aunt makes them every year, and I’d usually eat one here or there, but it wasn’t until I spent a day making them this fall that I came to truly appreciate the detail, care and deliciousness that go into each one of these little treats!

[A note here on spelling… like so many other Eastern European foods, Kolachy have about 50 different spellings and 8,000 different countries of origin.  I wish I could tell you that these are the definitive Slovenian version, but just like my decidedly non-Polish family’s habit of listening to Bobby Vinton singing “Santa Must Be Polish” every year on Christmas Eve, I think it’s fair to assume that these are a mishmash of several different ethnic traditions.]

Kolachy has as many recipes as it does spellings, but they are all pretty similar – a soft, cream cheese dough with your choice of filling.  I’m sharing my family’s recipe below.  For filling, we used some purchased at a local baking supply store (also available online).  Occasionally, you can also sometimes find it in the grocery store (just make sure it is for pastry, as “pie” filling tends to be too watery).  You can also use a very stiff jam (again, just nothing too watery).  And, of course, there are recipes online if you’d like to try making your own.

Kolachy

  • 3 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup any flavor fruit jam or pastry filling
  • 1/3 cup confectioners sugar for dusting
  1. Mix cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Add flour slowly until well blended.  Shape into a ball and chill for several hours or overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Roll out dough on a floured surface into 1/8 inch thickness (check out our favorite rolling tip here!)
  3. Cut into 2-1/2 inch squares.
  4. Move squares to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper*.  Place approximately 1/2 tsp filling onto each square.
  5. Overlap opposite corners and press dough together — you should press hard so all three layers of dough make contact.
  6. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until very lightly browned at the edges.  Cool on a wire rack, and sprinkle lightly with confectioners’ sugar.

(*this is a really helpful step that most recipes neglect to mention.  It is so much easier to move the dough to the tray before you fill and seal the kolachy!!!)