January 08, 2015

Holiday Eats: Christmas Brunch

Good morning! As I set out today to pack away our Christmas tree and other decorations, I thought I'd take the opportunity to recap some of our holiday eats.

My favorite Christmas tradition- which we started the first Christmas my husband and I were married- is Christmas brunch! Every Christmas morning, my hubby and I (and now the boys) get together with my in-laws to exchange gifts while sipping hot cocoa, and enjoy a special brunch. I love breakfast food, but seldom really get the chance to make it very special. (Lately I've been getting lazy and not cooking much on weekend mornings).

Christmas brunch at our house means really doing it up: we break out our fine china, champagne
glasses for mimosas (or sparkling cider like this year), fancy table settings (hubby learned how to fold napkins like Christmas trees!), and a decadent menu. I typically choose to make special items for a little challenge in the kitchen (a gift for me), and to pamper my family (a gift to them). Last year, for example, I made eggs over cheesy grits, served with freshly baked cinnamon scones and fruit salad with kiwis cut into the shape of stars.

This year I kept things much simpler... our son was super excited about Christmas this year, and I knew that I didn't want to miss a second of his enthusiasm and play time by being in the kitchen. My goal was to find something special that could be made mostly ahead so that I could be sipping cocoa, snapping photos and enjoying Christmas through the eyes of a 3 year old. I am happy to say that I succeeded! We had a very leisurely Christmas morning, and even got to go out for a family hike in the early afternoon.

The menu: Eggnog Breakfast Bread Pudding, Applewood smoked bacon and fruit salad.
I found the bread pudding recipe on thekitchn.com which is one of my favorite food/kitchen sites/online magazines. The fruit salad, I kept simple and Christmas colored, using sliced bananas, sectioned pink grapefruit and diced kiwis- a fresh and light accompaniment to the more rich and silky bread pudding.

I highly recommend the breakfast bread pudding to anyone who will be entertaining over the holidays and wants to serve a special breakfast/brunch and still be able to spend quality time with their guests! I prepared the bread pudding the night before, and let it rest on the counter as the oven was warming up to help ensure even cooking.

Eggnog Breakfast Bread Pudding
thekitchn: Serves 8-10 

1 (12 oz) loaf French bread, sliced
4 oz. unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups eggnog (I used light eggnog)
2 cups whole or 2% milk
5 large eggs
4 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
pinch salt
2 tbsp bourbon (or 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract)
Confectioner's sugar and/or warm maple syrup for serving

Butter the bread slices. Cut buttered slices into 1-in cubes and pile into a 2 quart baking dish (9x13 pan). Heat the eggnog and milk in a large saucepan over medium heat until bubbling gently but not boiling. Meanwhile, combine the eggs, egg yolks, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl and whisk vigorously until light and frothy. Whisk one cup of the eggnog mixture into the eggs to warm them. Gradually whisk in the remaining eggnog mixture and the bourbon. Pour the custard over the bread cubes, and gently mash down with your hands to make sure the bread is saturated. Set aside for a minimum of one hour or refrigerate overnight.
Preheat the oven to 375. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Place the casserole dish inside of a large roasting pan and transfer to the oven. Carefully pour the boiling water into the roasting pan, so that it comes halfway up the sides of the baking dish. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until the custard is set and the top is light golden brown. Remove the roasting pan from the oven, then carefully lift the casserole dish out of the water. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar and enjoy!!

(We found it sweet enough without using maple syrup).

What kinds of holiday food traditions do you have?? Any favorite holiday foods- please share!!

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