Where to begin

Breakfast has remained pure amid all the food trends. The honest simplicity of breakfast is so captivating. The most delicious breakfasts usually derive from the humblest ingredients (money alone does not buy good food).
~ Marion Cunningham

I have some news. There is a wonderful recipe down below – yes, yes – actually, there are two! But there is also something else. It is a book. It might even be a book for you.

Let’s back up a minute. For the next six weeks, I’m going to start each week with a recipe  from one of my favorite and most-used kitchen books – and then, one lucky reader each week will win their very own, brand spanking new copy! I’m super excited. I think we’ve picked some great books – ones that inspire, ones that intrigue, ones that introduce new ideas and ones that instill confidence in old techniques. Ones that you can dream over, but ones that I hope you will also turn to time and again, to actually cook from.

I have been so excited about this selection process that I have actually had a hard time sleeping. Really! Insomnia has plagued me these past weeks as we debated which books to include, which most-loved volumes would make the cut.

I couldn’t decide where to begin – and then suddenly as I sat looking at my list, it was obvious. We should begin with breakfast, of course.  

Marion Cunningham’s Breakfast Book has all those things that make cookbooks stick with you: delicious recipes, good tips, funny lists, thoughtful quotes. Marion’s own introductory statement makes the best case for why a breakfast book is such a good idea. She writes simply, “I often ask people what they think of breakfast, and most reply instantly that it is their favorite meal.”

The Breakfast Book is new (to me), but it is already stained, already spine-broken – and, most importantly, I have already made half the recipes in it (including here and especially here). Some of you might have been reading back when I first decided to order it for myself.  You might remember that I was not always a believer. But Molly’s version of her risen waffle recipe made me reconsider her, and now Marion is an important friend in my kitchen.

Here’s what we will do, then: you tell me in the comments about your favorite breakfast food, recipe, book or story. On Monday the 28th we’ll do a random drawing for the winning comment number. For fairness’s sake, only your first comment will count for the drawing … but please, feel free to comment more than once if you have more than one favorite!

While we all wait with baited breath for the random drawing, I will tell you about some orange-rye rolls that I made, inspired by two of the recipes in this wonderful book. The two original recipes happen to live side-by-side, on pages 14 and 15, and an initial mix-up while gathering ingredients inspired me to combine them into a third recipe: the Orange-Rye Roll of Bliss.

* this isn’t really a good picture, except that you can see how frantically L tries to get these rolls whenever he spies them – but especially when they are toasted and have a little homemade ricotta and honey smeared on top …

And down below the rolls, for those who don’t have time for dough to rise this morning, you’ll also find a little orange-and-rye pancake recipe … 

And so it begins :) 

Orange-Rye Rolls of Bliss
The Oatmeal Orange Bread (page 14) and the Orange Rye Bread (page 15) in The Breakfast Book  both look really delicious. But I cannot vouch for either of them because I accidentally made these rolls instead. And we love them too much to go back. The food-processed whole orange from the Oatmeal bread meets the dark rye flour from the Orange Rye bread and as Marion herself says, “Rye and orange go together like ham and eggs.” Roll them up and sprinkle with a tiny pinch of sugar, and then skip around your house and smell them while they bake. Or sit next to your oven and smell them while they bake. Either way, really, is fine. 

3 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (body temperature)
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon sugar

3 1/2 cups dark rye flour
3 1/2 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour
1/2 cup oat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 egg
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons butter

1 orange, quartered and seeded (but not peeled!) and ground in the food processor or finely chopped into about 1 cup of orange-chop-stuff

1 cup additional flour (all-purpose or rye or a mix) for dusting and kneading

2 tablespoons sugar, for dusting tops before baking

Place warmed water, 1/4 cup milk, the yeast, and the first tablespoon of sugar in a small bowl or liquid measuring cup. Stir together, then let stand 5 minutes so the yeast dissolves.

In a large mixing bowl (or your stand mixer bowl, if planning to use your bread hook to knead), whisk or sift together the flours, salt, and brown sugar. In a separate bowl, mix the egg, milk, and butter. (The butter will be chunky and that’s okay, it will work itself out in the kneading).

Pour the yeast mixture into the flour mixture and stir. Add the remaining liquids and mix everything together – you should have a dry but manageable dough. Add the orange and mix that in – you will now have a stickier dough. Knead by hand for 1 minute, then let the dough rest for ten minutes. Resume kneading, either by hand or with the bread hook in your stand mixer. Add additional flour if needed to make it workable. Knead for ten minutes by hand, or five or so in the mixer, until the dough is very workable. It will still be shaggy – Marion says “Rye dough never gets smooth and elastic the way wheat flour does, so don’t worry about the dough remaining a little tacky.”

Put the dough in a greased bowl, cover with a damp towl or oiled plastic wrap, and let it rise 1-2 hours, until doubled. Punch down, then divide in half. Divide each half into ten pieces (or more – we made ours small – they can be most any size as long as they are equal). Roll the pieces into snakes, then coil them into roll shapes. * * Place on parchment-lined baking sheets, cover, and let rise about an hour. (You could also make two loaves in standard loaf pans, if you don’t feel like making rolls).

Preheat oven to 375 F while the rolls are doing their second rise. Just before baking, sprinkle the rolls with the remaining two tablespoons of sugar. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp. (Loaves would need to bake for about 45 minutes).

* * My friend Joanne was eating a toasted orange-rye roll with ricotta and honey with us for lunch one day, and innocently asked “So, did you roll the dough into a log and then slice them for baking?” Ack. No I did not. But I totally could have! And now you can. Thanks Joanne :)

Marion suggests that if company is coming you could try making a quick orange marmalade (cook one cup orange pulp with one cup sugar for about five minutes, or until shiny), and then glazing the top of the bread about ten minutes before it is done baking. I suggest that you could alternately get decadent with these by rolling a little melted butter and sugar into them, making them almost like sweet rolls. The dough itself would still be orangey and not-to-sweet, but with a little sweet-sticky-goodness inside, it would transform into a real treat … remember though, we’re talking breakfast here, not brunch, so don’t get too carried away :)

Orange-Rye Pancakes of Bliss
This is adapted from the Classic Griddle Cakes recipe in The Pancake Handbook from Bette’s Oceanview Diner – my favorite adaptable pancake recipe. Kyle’s Uncle Mick gave us this book many years ago, and since then I have replaced the all-purpose flour in this recipe with all sorts of things (spelt, cornmeal, buckwheat, oat flour, whole cooked oats, even ground hazelnuts!) and have always gotten good results. After making the rolls above, I decided to try an orange-rye version. I count on having at least half my pancake batches to freeze for later in the week – but these disappeared. Something about that orange-rye combo really is magical … You can absolutely go all-in with the rye flour here. Your pancakes will still be light and fluffy and wonderful, even without any white stuff.  

2 cups dark rye flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup butter (half a stick), melted
Zest from one orange, plus two tablespoons juice

In a large mixing bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and butter. (Make sure that the butter doesn’t cook the eggs and the milk doesn’t harden the butter :) ) Add the orange zest and juice to the liquids. Stir well. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ones, all at once, and stir just to blend. The batter will be a little lumpy.

Let the batter rest 5-10 minutes while you heat your largest cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. (My skillets are well seasoned, but I still lightly oil them with canola oil before making these). Once the pan is hot, turn the heat back to medium. Pour scant 1/4 cups of batter onto the hot pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until the edges are set (these pancakes don’t always clearly bubble over the entire surface, so just keep an eye on those edges). Gently turn and cook 2 minutes more, until lightly browned on both sides.

I cool these on wire racks because my kids eat them plain, out of hand. You could also keep them warm in a low oven and serve the lot at the table. They are wonderful smeared with butter, spread with a little tart-orange marmalade (or fukushu kumquat marmalade!), sprinkled with cinnamon (or cinnamon sugar if you must), or of course dipped into maple syrup …


41 thoughts on “Where to begin

  1. I love this idea! And not just because it gives me six chances to win a new cookbook. :) I love learning about other people’s favorite cookbooks and recipes. I took this one out of the library a few months ago and wanted to make so many things but only managed a few (those Orange-Rye rolls above are going to be next!). One of my favorite weekend breakfasts is a yeast-raised waffle.

    • We love the raised-waffles too Emmy. So good! And new for us. I also love hearing about other people’s favorites — in part because, there are SO MANY at the library, and having other people vouch for them really helps narrow it down. I think Marion Cunningham is probably on everyone’s list — or at least, she should be!

  2. You can see Hannah’s love for cooking and writing in Jacob and Lucas. These two guys share her curiosity and love of food. They will try almost any food placed on their plates. Jacob even ate pickled herring at a family brunch! Go Hannah…you are an awesome mom, writer, and creator of delicious meals. xoxox The Bubbe

  3. Favorite breakfast these days are our from-scratch pancakes (1/3 cup flour [was buckwheat, now whole wheat], 1/3 cup milk, 1 egg, baking soda, cinnamon, vanilla, olive oil, honey). Very quick and easy, and makes 3-4 dense and tasty pancakes, just enough for the 3-4 of us. Sonia loves stirring the batter up, then doing the ‘second flip.’ But if I had the wherewithal to make those orange-rye roll things up above, that might be our new favorite…?

    • This sounds terrific. I never think to make a small batch of pancakes, because I am always thinking about freezing them – but really, what a good idea – and if you only have to cook one round, pancakes suddenly become a quick breakfast, too … Hm. I have never tried olive oil pancakes, but I think that is going on the list!

  4. Here’s a memory and a breakfast: The breakfast that most stuck with me to sustain me through my day in my early years of teaching – in a 70s alternative ‘free school’ – was a fried brown rice and egg combo on home made whole grain bread. I would cut out nearly all the middle of a thick slice of the bread, quickly eating this along with my first cup of coffee, while throwing a tablespoon or more of butter into my cast iron skillet. As soon as the butter melted, I throw in about a half cup or so of left-over brown rice, and after heating it up quickly, gather it into the open middle of the bread which I used to contain it. Next came an egg dropped over the rice. Cover it with a spare lid from a sauce pan and cook for a few minutes on low heat. What comes out is an open sandwich type thing that sticks to your ribs until lunch time….

    • There are several awesome things here, but “70s alternative ‘free school'” might be my favorite. The sandwich sounds pretty good too though. Lots of salt I hope. :)

  5. Once my dear friend Molly’s mom served us her homemade olallieberry pie for breakfast with a fresh cup of coffee. Dessert for breakfast. Sinful and totally worth it. :)

  6. Great blog Hannah! How have I never heard of The Breakfast Book?! It seems like a kitchen “must have”. Breakfast/brunch is definitely the meal of choice in the Halferty house (with mimosas of course!). I think my favorite breakfast item to make is the breakfast sandwich and depending on how greasy I want it to be I usually go with pesto eggs, tomato slices and mozzarella cheese melted an English muffin or bacon, fried egg with melted cheddar on croissant. However, if I want to be really indulgent then stuffed french toast is my go to choice…nutella stuffed, fruit stuffed, or cream cheese stuffed they are all amazing!

  7. Hi Hannah! Lovely post (as usual) and I love that you picked this book to give away! I have been a fan of The Breakfast Book for over a year now but do not own a copy (hint, hint, hint!).
    Can’t wait to try the orange rolls!

  8. Well, Hannah… As you know, I’m not the best cook nor do I do much of it any more, but I love reading your blog – everything looks wonderful, sounds wonderful, and I’m pretty sure tastes wonderful! I’m thinkin’ I’d love to try the orange rye rolls and pancakes. And I’m pretty sure that breakfast is good any time of the day! Oh, and did I love those delicious cookies you made and shared in Santa Cruz. Your beautiful children are the perfect targets for all this yummy cooking and baking. Wishing you wonderful success – and lots of fun too! xxoo Auntie M

  9. Years ago, I would wake every Sunday morning and stroll around the corner to a little hole in the wall restaurant, order 3 Swedish Oatmeal Pancakes, a side of homefries, toast and a bottomless cup of coffee, and spend the next few hours writing and overfilling my belly. It was by far my favorite time of the week and the best breakfast ever. I unfortunately don’t have any special creations, though think fondly to a little apartment in San Rafael when I was first married, waking up every Saturday morning and finding a collection of ingredients to make homemade scones.

  10. Breakfast is, of course, the best meal of the day. Most days I enjoy a simple “smoothie” made from frozen berries, greek yogurt, and a banana, but on Sunday’s, sometimes, Ellie makes the most wonderful whole wheat pancakes. Rather than syrup, I add some strawberry greek yogurt and enjoy.

    • Breakfast is best! I wake up excited to make it! Versus dinner, well … Smoothies are big here too. And strawberry greek yogurt on pancakes – I have not tried that, but those are two excellent things, I imagine wonderful together. Maybe this weekend …

  11. The Hess go-to pancake recipe from “The Pancake Handbook” from Bette’s Oceanview Diner is the Crunchy Whole-Wheat Walnut Hotcakes (p28). Although I use local wildflower honey and tend to exceed the recommended 3 tablespoons.

  12. I love waffles and rolls and other yummy breakfast things, but I really enjoy over easy eggs and some sourdough toast. So simple, but so very enjoyable. If I’m feeling fancy that morning, I’ll throw a little spinach in the pan to wilt, a few tomato slices to heat up, a slice of ham to brown, and pile that all on a toasted English muffin with my over-easy egg on top. Delicious.

  13. That orange rye recipe looks fabulous! I really appreciate that you substitute all purpose flour for more interestesting and healthy things! I wish you ran a bed and breakfast so I could just pop in for some of your yummy fares! ;) One of my family’s favorite breakfasts is waffles with a strip of bacon baked right in….pour on the syrup and you’ve got the best of all worlds. I like mine with an egg over-easy on the side!

  14. I love a good egg and cheese sandwich for breakfast, but few things beat a really good pastry, especially a croissant. My favorite breakfast, then, would have to be a beautifully made, French-style cheese croissant. Mmmm…

  15. I love a good egg and cheese sandwich for breakfast. But my truly favorite thing to eat would be a lovingly made cheese croissant. Buttery, decadent, sweet and delicious! Yum.

    • Hi Molly! You know, this might say something really strange about me, but I don’t think I have ever had a cheese croissant! And now, I am thinking I must try one. Plain of course, chocolate definitely, ham and cheese I think, and for a while I was hooked on these fresh apricot croissants with unsweetened fruit in the middle, made by a Haitian pastry chef in Princeton who is totally incredible — by which I mean, I love croissants, but plain cheese I have not had! It sounds like it is sweetened cheese, too, versus the savory ham-and-cheese variety … Hm. I am going to seek this out! Thanks for your response :)

  16. Breakfast is my favorite meal, both to eat and to cook for my family. Our favorite breakfast is huevos rancheros. We lived in El Paso for a few years and always talk dreamily of the amazing food. I wouldn’t want to live there again, but I’m glad to have the huevos recipe in my arsenal.

    • Hi Maura – I have similar feelings about Arizona. I lived there very briefly, wouldn’t ever want to live there again, but have a totally changed appreciation for true southwestern cuisine — not to mention the subtle desert beauty … Would love to hear your huevos recipe! Hint hint :)

  17. I have eaten the same breakfast at home for nearly 6 years now. Dannon Lite’n’Fit yogurt (vanilla, blueberry, lemon, cherry, lime or raspberry), a small banana sliced in quarters and a quarter cup of Eating Right lowfat granola with raisins. So I clearly have a favorite! But if I’m eating out then I particularly like a veggie scramble with LOTS of veggies and some thick wheat or whole grain toast. Mmmmm!

  18. Juat discovered your blog after your amazing, tear inspiring post on dinneralovestory! Well done! My current breakfast obsession- Jenny’s quinoa breakfast cookies – just what I need before a long run, or whatever life throws my way!

    • Wow Angela, thanks! I am still in total shock about the DALS thing – I am such a huge Jenny & Andy fan. Quinoa breakfast cookies sound like the perfect to-go breakfast … I think we need to try them. Yum!

  19. Hi Hannah,
    Love your blog. You are such a sentient writer. Favorite breakfast ( for the time being) is:
    Cooked Oats with almond milk, a little sliced banana, a small scoop of almond butter, a touch of cinnamon and a drizzle of June Taylor’s apricot syrup. MFK and me…..we are waiting for you!

  20. I love just about everything about breakfast and it’s hard to choose just one favorite, but I have to say that oatmeal with walnuts and bananas really never gets old. Oh, and the scones my mom makes. And my dad’s pancakes. I’ve really been wanting this cookbook so I am very happy to see this post… I love your blog and am so glad to have been introduced to it by DALS!

Post a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s