Madrid Recap

Hey you guys!  No new recipes today… the last few days of school have been hectic this semester, and this past weekend I snuck off to Madrid to visit a college friend and spend some time re-exploring the city.  Madrid is where I lived in Spain four years ago, and where I originally applied to be a language assistant.  Palma found me, and it’s growing on me, but it definitely lacks the big-city-bustle of Madrid.  Also built-in heating, which I complain about daily but still baffles me.  It was was great to get away for a weekend and do big city things.

I was going to blog about all of the delicious food I ate, but after a rough encounter with some low-budget tapas, or possibly just my lack of self-control around fried food, I’m just going to stick to the highlights.

Thursday morning I flew from Palma bright and early.  So early it was before bright.  I thought I left the Arctic Circle when I left Montreal, but here in Palma, the sun doesn’t rise this time of year until 8am, and in Madrid, not until 8:30.  My first stop once I got into Madrid was at the famous bakery ironically named La Mallorquina.  I cannot stress enough how delicious it is.  I grabbed a chocolate napolitana to go {still hot from the oven}, smirked on the inside at some woman ordering an ensaimada {who would want an ensaimada from Madrid when you can get an authentic one in Palma?}, and made my way over to Starbucks.  You have never seen a person as happy as I was when I walked inside.

Again, and really I’m not sure why liking Starbucks has become something to apologize for, I don’t often go to Starbucks when I’m in the US.  It is, however, a welcome piece of home when I’m away.  And, Mallorca doesn’t have any.  They have this local chain called Cappuccino which has no point in my life, and if I’m going to pay too much for coffee it’s going to be for the red cups and the ambiance and people spelling my name wrong.  My Starbucks in Madrid (that’s what I’m calling the one I stopped at), was perfect.  It was all decorated with fake window snow for Christmas, and a sign saying something ridiculous like “unite yourself with happiness”, and, even though it was still early by Madrid standards, it was open.  I couldn’t stop smiling when I walked inside.

The barista was super nice and topped my Christmas blend latte with whipped cream and toffee bits, as he called them, “the magic touch”!  It was the perfect latte to go with my chocolate pastry, and I was in heaven!

I did make it over to Mercado San Miguel on Thursday, and wimped out with a chorizo empanada that definitely wasn’t worth it; think fancy pig in a blanket – but they do have lots of fresh and delicious options.  Plus it’s so pretty inside!!  Check it out!

After a long day of sightseeing and wandering around, I ended up having dinner at the Hamburguesa Nostra in Corte Ingles.  Again, it sounds questionable, but was so delicious!!  The top floor of the Corte Ingles I was in has lots of different gourmet stations – kind of like Eatily if Eatily had all the food in the world.  It turns out Hamburguesa Nostra is an actual restaurant, not just a kiosk in a department store, and I totally recommend it.  If you’re in Spain, and you need a burger {I hadn’t had a hamburger since September – I neeeeeded a burger!!} you won’t be disappointed here.  I ordered a 250g beef burger, cooked very rare, with lettuce, tomato, and Manchego cheese, and it may have been the best thing I ate in Madrid, and even in recent memory.  It was perfect.  The cheese was melty.  The burger was rare.  And, the check came in a burger-shaped box.  Sooooo good!

Friday, after picking up breakfast at La Mallorquina again {it’s the old timey bakery you see as soon as you get off the Metro in Sol; not the end of the square with the bear, the other end}, and a long morning of art at the Prado, I got lunch at El Azul de Fucar, one of my old Madrid favorites.  They had a Menu del Dia, and I was able to get the world’s best hummus, a veggie quiche, and a delicious honey-walnut cake, super reasonably.

Friday night is where it all went down – just remember more croquetas are not necessarily better – but not before we got churros and chocolate at San Gines.  It’s somewhere between Sol and Opera.  It’s open 24 hours, and they have pictures of famous people.  The chocolate is thick and delicious, and the churros were so good that I ate too many.  Next time I want to try the porras, the thick fat churros.  I’ll definitely be back!

Saturday we made it to the Reina Sofia museum.  It’s younger and funkier than the Prado, with a lot more war going on.  They had a really depressing Holocaust film, and, of course, Picasso’s Guernica.  I’d seen it before, but I thought it was worth going again.  It’s really big!  Like it probably wouldn’t fit in your living room.

The neat thing, if you’re under 25 and have a student id, is that you can get admission into both the Prado and the Reina Sofia for free.  For me this was perfect.  I’m so not artsy, and even though I spent two days getting overwhelmed by art I didn’t understand, at least I got my culture for free.  Definitely check them both out, but give yourself time.  Don’t try to run through the Prado in 3 hours like I did.

Also go to El Retiro, the big famous park.  They have a boat pond, which I skipped because I figured I would fall in the water in the middle of December, and lots of local crazies to entertain you.  The man dressed up as Minnie Mouse aggressively trying to give balloon animals to children was a plus, as well as the old guy in sweatpants and a backwards fanny pack ice dancing in roller skates {no, not rollerblades, the skates with 4 wheels} around a statue.  Ooh and the guy playing Jingle Bells on his saxophone who kept stopping long enough to shout “Jingle Bells dame monedas!  Jingle Bells muchas gracias!”  “Jingle Bells give me money!  Jingle Bells thank you!”  Very festive.

The best part of this time of year are the Christmas markets everywhere.  The biggest one is obviously in Plaza Mayor, but the whole city is covered with little shops and stalls.  The Christmas lights stay on until midnight too, and don’t get shut off at 10pm, which is also nice.

It was an exhausting weekend, but so much fun!

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Overnight French Toast Casserole

Hey  you guys!  Hope December is still going well!

As you can see if you’ve been following along, I’m on a bit of an overnight kick; things that you can make ahead and then roll out of bed and enjoy.  This weekend I had a 4-day weekend, and really had time to experiment.  I had picked up two loaves of my favorite Spanish bread made by the lovely nuns around the corner {isn’t that a delightful sentence?}, and knew I wanted some for French toast.  But sometimes French toast bores me.  I like to mix it up. {Like the time I made French toast waffles.}  This time I was thinking a sort of French toast casserole, scaled down for the sake of my favorite silicon loaf pan.  Yes, part of me does wish I could marry it.

A lot of the recipes you find online for French toast casserole are delicious, but super-heavy, and meant for a crowd.  I wanted something yummy, but I didn’t want to go overboard, so this is what I came up with.  The recipe is scaled down for a loaf pan, but you could increase it for something larger/feeding more people.

Ingredients:

  • Half of one very large baguette/one normal sized baguette.
  • 4 eggs
  • About 2 cups of milk.
  • Cinnamon

Directions:

  • Prepare your pan with butter if you need to.
  • Tear the bread into random chunks and stuff into the pan.
  • Mix eggs and 1 cup milk and a large dash of cinnamon.
  • Pour over the bread.
  • Add more milk as needed.  You want most of the bread to be sitting in milk.
  • Sprinkle with more cinnamon.
  • Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.
  • In the morning, take the loaf out of the fridge and preheat the oven at 350 degrees F.
  • Bake the loaf for about an hour.  {It does take a while, but it’s totally hands-off time, and I’m not entirely convinced that my Spanish oven isn’t as powerful as normal/I haven’t fully mastered the metric conversion.}
  • Keep in mind, the longer you bake the loaf, the crispier it will get.  For a softer texture, you can take it out sooner.
  • Slice and serve!  Butter, maple syrup, or even powdered sugar would go great on this!

Sorry for the lack of non-blurry pictures, but it really is yummy!

Do you have a go-to French toast casserole?

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Step one.

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Ready for the fridge.

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In the morning.

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After baking.

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I had my french toast with a sunny-side up egg and a sauteed apple. Delicious!

 

 

 

Super-Easy Overnight Cinnamon Buns, for a 9×9 Pan

Hi everyone!  I can’t believe it’s December, not just in the turn the calendar page over way, but in the, we’re a full-on-week-into December way, when it’s time to be festive now or never.  Because in a blink, I know this month will be gone, and we’ll be in dreary January.  So I want to make the most of it, which for me, includes a bit of baking, a lot of which is too cumbersome without a stand or hand mixer.  Lately I’ve been craving cinnamon buns, and I think I finally found the definitive recipe.  You do all the work the night before, which means the morning of, all you have to do is put together the icing and watch them bake in the oven as you enjoy a nice cup of coffee 🙂  You could even make the icing the night before, but it’s simple enough to do half-awake.

I found my recipe here, on one of my new favorite websites, Crazy for Crust.  I made phenomenal brownies last week that I found here and never got around to posting, and the cinnamon bun recipe did not disappoint!  I loved that this recipe was something I could do ahead of time, since I don’t have the patience in the morning, and that it was small enough for a 9×9 pan.  I didn’t want to risk a bigger recipe that would end up with me eating 15 cinnamon buns in a few days.

Ingredients:

Dough:

  • 1 package yeast
  • 3/4 cup warm milk {the original recipe called for non-fat milk, as well as 3 tbsp unsalted softened butter.  I used 2% milk and omitted the butter}
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3+ cups flour {I think I used closer to 4.  I used a combination of whole wheat, pizza, and all purpose flours, strictly because I was trying to clean out the half-opened flour bag section of my pantry}

Filling:

  • 5 tbsp butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts {I’m not a person who likes nuts in my desserts, so I left these out}

Frosting:

  • 3 tbsp melted butter
  • 2 tbsp softened cream cheese
  • 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Directions:

  • Dissolve the yeast into the milk in a liquid measuring cup.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar, butter, salt, and egg.
  • Add milk and yeast and stir.
  • Add flour and mix with a large wooden spoon/your hands until it resembles dough.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and let rest until doubled in size, anywhere from 1 to 4 hours.
  • Meanwhile, combine ingredients for filling until they form a sticky paste.
  • When your dough has doubled, roll it out on a floured surface until it’s roughly 10×14.  {This is a super-awesome forgiving dough.  I don’t currently have a rolling pin, and didn’t even have an old wine bottle lying around this time, so I smushed it into a rectangle with my fingers, and it still all worked out.}
  • Spread filling evenly over dough.
  • Roll it up so you have a long, thin, roll, not a short, fat one.
  • Slice into 9 relatively even rolls, and place in a buttered 9×9 pan.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  {I ended up refrigerating mine two nights, almost 36 hours, and they still came out delicious!  Again, super-forgiving dough.}
  • In the morning, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Take the rolls out of the fridge while the oven warms up.
  • Remove the plastic wrap and bake for about 25 minutes, until golden brown.
  • While rolls are baking, make frosting.
  • Melt butter and combine with cream cheese and powdered sugar.  It will seem runny at first, but will thicken up as it sets.
  • Pour over warm cinnamon buns.
  • Serve and enjoy 🙂
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Ready to go into the fridge.

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After 2 nights of resting.

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Perfectly baked in the oven, covered in frosting 🙂

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Buttery close-up.

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I love the sleepy chicken mug!

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I couldn’t have asked for a better breakfast.

Do you have a favorite cinnamon bun recipe?  Or a breakfast that you love to make the night before?  This one is definitely one of my new favorites!  It made my morning a little more festive 🙂