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TIP OF THE DAY: Mini Cheese Balls For The Cheese Course

Mini Cheese Balls

Mini Cheese Balls

Mini Cheese Balls

Mini Cheese Balls

Port Wine Cheddar

[1] Mini cheese balls in phyllo cups. Here’s the recipe from A Spicy Perspective. [2] Stick a pretzel in it—or a carrot stick. Here’s the recipe from Five Heart Home. [3] Some like it hot. Here’s the recipe from Young Austinian. [4] Serve cheese balls with a green salad, combining the cheese course and the salad course. Here, the cheese balls are fried goat cheese. Get the recipe is from Anna Costa Food. [5] The granddaddy of cheese balls is cold pack cheese, which itself was inspired by Scadinavian potkäse.

 

National Cheese Ball Day is April 17th. But if you’re not having a party—home of the cheese ball—you can turn that hefty cheese ball mini cheese balls.

Serve them:

  • As appetizers.
  • With the salad course.
  • As dessert (sweet cheese balls).
  • As a fancy snack.
  •  
    A few different recipes will enhance the experience.

    If you don’t have your own favorite recipes, check the recipes in the photo captions.

    THE HISTORY OF THE CHEESE BALL

    The cheese ball is rooted cold-pack cheese, also known as club cheese or crock cheese, which began as a snack in Wisconsin taverns and supper clubs around the turn of the last century.

    Cold pack cheese originated in Wisconsin (we’ll get to that in a few paragraphs).

    In our youth, a crock of port wine cheddar was considered sophisticated party fare, served with party pumpernickel slices or fancy crackers (in those days, Stoned Wheat Thins and Carr’s Water Biscuits) or (never everyday crackers such as saltines, Ritz crackers, Town House or Uneeda Biscuits).

    According to the New York Times, the tradition derived from Scandinavia, where cooks would grind odd bits of cheese with seasonings and often a bit of alcohol, and pack the resulting spread into jars or crocks, with a top layer of butter to preserve it.

    It spread (no pun intended) to Britain, and then turned up in the U.S.

    At taverns and private clubs, sharp cheese and cream cheese were blended into a spread that went well with beer and drinks. The crock engendered cheese balls and cheese logs, coated with herbs and/or nuts.

    Cream cheese is an American invention from 1872 in New York State. It began to get wider distribution in 1880 (history).

    At Wisconsin taverns in the early 1900s (including Milwaukee’s Pabst Brewery), mixed bits of different cheeses were turned into a snack for customers that became known as pub cheese—a term that still survives, but is know better known in stores as cold pack cheese.

    The Center for Dairy Research (CDR) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison proposes that cold pack began as a type of dip or spread made from older cheeses that were beginning to dry out.

    Potkäse, a similar potted cheese recipe from Sweden and Denmark, would have been well-known to the many families of Swedish immigrants in the Midwest.

    According to the CDR, as reported in Edible Milwaukee, a beer depot operator named Hubert Fassbender began giving homemade cold pack cheese to his best customers in 1933.

    Customers started asking for the cheese without the beer. Fassbender created the Fassbender’s Kaukauna* Klub brand, making him the first manufacturer of cold pack cheese.

    The following year, in 1934, Armin Herke formed the Calumet Cheese Company, and used surplus cuts of cheese to produce cold pack. The brand later became known as WisPride and remains popular today (it is now owned by Bel Brands).

    A trend was born.

    It was just a jump from cold pack to cheese logs and cheese balls.

    A classic cheese ball combines shredded sharp cheese like cheddar or blue, blended with cream cheese (sometimes also with butter) for spreadability. Popular seasonings include chile, chives/onion, garlic and herbs.

    Chopped vegetables can be mixed in. The ball is then rolled in nuts and/or herbs.

    Sweet cheese balls evolved with time: fruit, sugar and cream cheese, cocoa, sugar and cream cheese, etc., mixed with anything from mini chocolate chips to cookie bits, and rolled in Oreo (or other cookie) crumbs, pomegranate arils, toffee bits or other sweet ingredient.

    They can be served as snacks or as dessert.

    From Wisconsin, the mighty cheese ball spread across the nation.

    Is there a part of the U.S. that doesn’t know about cheese balls?

    If so, let us know: We’ll clue them in.

    ________________

    *Kaukauna is a Wisconsin city situated on the Fox River, approximately 100 miles north of Milwaukee. The name is a Native American word for “place where pickerel [pike] are caught.”

     

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Hold The Hollandaise, Grab The Skyr

    Nordic Eggs Benedict

    Bowl Of Skyr

    Icelandic Provisions Skyr

    Skyr Breakfast, Eggs, Smoked Salmon

    [1] Nordic “Eggs Benedict” with skyr “hollandaise” sauce. [2] A bowl of plain skyr. You’ll also find it in vanilla and fruit flavors. [3] A container of plain skyr. [4] Don’t want the bread? Here’s another eggs and smoked salmon recipe with skyr. (all photos courtesy Icelandic Provisions).

     

    April 16th is National Eggs Benedict Day. This year, it also happens to be Easter Sunday.

    You want something festive for breakfast, but not so rich that you’ll be weighted down for Easter dinner.

    Here’s a tip to trim Eggs Benedict—laden with ham and egg-rich hollandaise sauce—into a streamlined Nordic version: Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict With Skyr “Hollandaise.”

    Authentic hollandaise is made with egg yolks and butter, and seasoned with lemon juice, salt, pepper and often, a dash of cayenne. (Here’s a recipe.)

    Hold the eggs, hold the butter: The skyr “hollandaise” is turned into a flavorful sauce with skyr and seasonings by Icelandic Provisions skyr), a major producer of skyr.

    They removed the fatty ingredients yet deliver an even creamier, flavorful sauce. We should call it “skyr sauce,” but few would understand what that means.

    Which brings is to:

    What is skyr?

    Skyr (pronounced skeer) is a densely concentrated (thicker than Greek yogurt but similar in texture—see photo #5 below), protein packed, cultured dairy product with a thick, creamy texture and mild flavor.

    It has been a dairy staple in Iceland for more than a thousand years. The Vikings ate it.

    In Iceland, skyr is typically fat-free because all the cream from the milk has been removed to make butter.

    Icelandic Provisions uses 200-year-old heirloom skyr cultures from Iceland, making it the only traditional Icelandic skyr available in the U.S.

    How does skyr differ from yogurt, another cultured product? We’ll get to that below. First, the recipe.

    RECIPE: NORDIC EGGS BENEDICT

    Prep time is 10 minutes, cook time is 6 minutes.

    Ingredients For 2 Servings

    For The Skyr “Hollandaise” Sauce

  • 1 container (5.3 ounces) plain skyr
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  •  
    For The Eggs Benedict

  • 4 large organic eggs
  • Salt
  • 2 whole grain English muffins, sliced in half
  • 1/2 cup baby spinach
  • 4 tomato slices
  • 2 ounces smoked salmon
  • 1 tablespoon dill, chopped
  •  
    Plus

  • Fine mesh strainer
  • Slotted spoon
  • 4 small ramekins or custard cups
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the skyr, lemon juice, mustard, turmeric, paprika, and sea salt in a small bowl. Whisk together until emulsified. Set aside.

    2. BREAK one egg into the strainer over a bowl. Tip it around to help separate the thin part of the egg white from the thick part of the egg white, and tap the strainer against the side of the bowl. The thinner part of the egg white will fall through and the thick part and the yolk will remain. Pour the egg into a ramekin and set aside. Save the thinner egg white in storage container for separate use. Repeat with each egg.

    3. BRING 4 inches of lightly salted water to a boil in a medium size saucepan. When the water reaches a boil, turn off the heat and slide each egg, one at a time into the water. Let them cook until egg whites are slightly firm about 2-3 minutes. The yolks will be runny.

    4. TOAST the English muffins while the eggs are poaching.

    5. REMOVE the eggs with a slotted spoon. Place them on a clean plate and set aside.

    6. ASSEMBLE: Place the spinach, a tomato slice, 1/4 of the smoked salmon and a poached egg on the bottom half of each English muffin. Pour 1/4 of the skyr mixture over each egg, and sprinkle some dill on top before serving. Serve immediately.

     

    IS SKYR YOGURT OR CHEESE?

    If you look for information on skyr, you may find it referred to as a cheese. So is it yogurt or cheese?

    It depends on the recipe of the individual producer.

    The difference between a cheese and a cultured milk product like yogurt or sour cream is that cheese, by definition, is set with rennet. Fromage blanc and quark are examples of this type of cheese.

    Each cheesemaker has his/her own recipe and process. Some skyr makers began to leave out the rennet. The Icelandic Provisions brand, made in the U.S., is made without rennet.

    Skyr is made from unique skyr cultures that are different from yogurt cultures. Most skyrs contain more than 20 grams of protein per cup, and flavored yogurts have less sugar* than Greek yogurt; and 30% more yogurt than a non-Greek, custard-style yogurt (also called French or Swiss style) and sundae-style yogurt with the fruit on the bottom.

    The recipe arrived in Iceland from Norway in the Middle Ages, originally made as a cheese, with rennet.

    The difference between a cultured dairy product, such as sour cream or yogurt, and a fresh cheese that looks just like it, such as fromage blanc or quark, is the addition of a coagulant, such as rennet.

    With cottage cheese and ricotta, you can see the curds. With fromage blanc and quark (and most other cheeses), you can’t, because of the particular recipe.

     

    Skyr

    [5] While each producer’s yogurt or soft cheese may have a different texture, here’s one comparison of skyr (top) with Greek yogurt (bottom), courtesy of Cook’s Science.

     
    You also can’t tell the difference by tasting it. The textures of fromage blanc, quark, skyr, sour cream and yogurt are very similar. You often can’t tell the difference without tasting.

    Also, don’t confuse these fresh cheeses with yogurt cheese like labneh. Yogurt cheese is regular yogurt, strained of its water to a thick consistency. It may be called cheese, but it’s the same cultured product as the yogurt it’s made from.

    SKYR & YOGURT DIFFERENCES

  • Regular yogurt is made by combining milk with live cultures. It is available plain and flavored, made from whole milk (5% fat), lowfat (1%) and fat-free (0%).
  • Greek yogurt follows the same recipe, but is triple strained, removing a portion of by the whey. This creates a thicker yogurt that is higher in protein. It may or may not be tangier than regular yogurt, depending on the processes of the particular brand.
  • Skyr, Icelandic yogurt, is even thicker than Greek yogurt. Think of it as quadruple-strained. It is made from skim milk (0%)—the cream is skimmed off to make butter. In Iceland it is often made from raw milk, which is not legal in the U.S. for fresh dairy products.
  • Skyr has more protein than Greek yogurt because it’s strained to such a thick density that it requires about three times more milk to produce than yogurt (twice more than some Greek yogurts). This makes it higher in protein and calcium.
  •  
    YOGURT DIFFERENCES

    Check out our Yogurt Glossary for much more on the different types of yogurt.

    ________________

    *According to the company website, on average, the flavored varieties of Icelandic Provisions skyr contain 33% or ¼ teaspoon less sugar and 20% more protein than the flavored varieties of the top 5 leading brands of Greek yogurt.

      

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    RECIPE: Robin’s Egg Cheesecake

    For spring, we love a “robin’s egg” cake: a speckled exterior, garnished with some chocolate Easter eggs.

    Last year we made this Speckled Egg Malted Milk Egg Cake.

    This year, McCormick sent us a speckled cheesecake recipe, developed by Amanda Rettke of I Am Baker.

    For step-by-step photos and a video, visit Amanda’s recipe page.

    Two white cake layers sandwich a bright yellow lemon cheesecake layer.

    For even more springtime color splash, tint one of the white layers pink. Just add 3-5 drops of red food color to the white batter until you reach the desired shade.

    RECIPE: SPECKLED ROBIN’S EGG CHEESECAKE

    Ingredients

  • 1 white cake recipe (you can use a box mix)
  • 1 lemon cheesecake (recipe below)
  • Garnish: candy grass and speckled eggs
  •  
    For The Lemon Cheesecake

  • 2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon McCormick Lemon Extract
  • 2 eggs
  •  
    For The Buttercream

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon Sky Blue food color, McCormick’s Colors From Nature (photo #3)
  •  
    Cocoa Water For The Speckles

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon Sky Blue food color
  •  
    Plus

  • Whisk
  • Cake stand
  • Small offset spatula
  • Bench scraper
  • Paint brush
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BAKE the white cake layers per box instructions. Set aside. (We baked the cake layers the day before and wrapped them in plastic after cooling.) When they are cool, level the tops if necessary.

    2. PREPARE the cheesecake: Heat the oven to 350°F. Prepare a springform pan: Line with parchment and spray with non-stick spray.

    Allow it to cool for at least 3 hours before assembling the cake.

     

    Robin's Egg Cheesecake

    Robin's Egg Cake

    McCormick Colors From Nature

    Blue Eggs

    [1] and [2] A cake for Easter or other spring celebration (photos courtesy I Am Baker). [3] The blue color is created with McCormick Colors From Nature. [4] The real deal, robin’s eggs in their nest (photo courtesy Erica Lea | Flickr).

     
    3. COMBINE the cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice, and lemon extract in the bowl of a stand mixer, until well blended. Add the eggs; mix just until blended. Pour into the springform pan.

    4. BAKE for 40 minutes or the until center is almost set. Cool. Refrigerate 3 hours or until firm.

    5. PREPARE the buttercream. In medium bowl, mix the sugar and butter with a spoon or an electric mixer on low speed. Stir in the vanilla and 1 tablespoon of the milk. Gradually beat in just enough remaining milk to make the frosting smooth and spreadable. If too thick, beat in more milk, a few drops at a time. Add 1 teaspoon of the sky blue food coloring. You can add more or less to reach your desired color. Set aside.

    6. ASSEMBLE the cake. Place the first layer of white cake on a cake stand. Carefully place the lemon cheesecake directly on top. Set the final layer of white cake on top of cheesecake. You may need to trim and level the cheesecake before putting the cake together. (No frosting between layers is necessary.)

    7. COVER the cake in buttercream and smooth with a small offset spatula. Go back with a bench scraper to get extra-smooth sides and top.

    8. WHISK together the speckling liquid ingredients. Place the cake on a table lined with newspaper and wear a protective apron. Dip the brush into the cocoa water and then hold it in your left hand near the cake. With your pointer finger of your right hand, run your finger along the bristles of the paint brush. The first time you do this, try to be a little farther away from the cake, just so you are able to gauge how much pressure you can use, how much liquid you need on your brush, and how close you need to be.

    Spatter the speckles all over the top and sides of the cake. If you get a big spot or an area you don’t like, you can carefully dab a paper towel onto the area and remove most of the brown, while still blending in with the cake. When done, clean off the edge of the cake stand.

    9. GARNISH the top with candy grass to center and add small chocolate eggs. Chill until ready to serve.

      

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    RECIPE: Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

    Mini Carrot Cupcakes

    Mini Carrot Cupcakes Recipe

    Carrots

    Lactose Free Cream Cheese

    [1] and [2] Mini carrot cupcakes are a lighter version of dense carrot cake (photos courtesy Kraft). [3] Shred extra carrots and add them to a salad (photo courtesy Stylepresso. [4] Lactose intolerant? Use Green Valley Organics’ lactose-free cream cheese. You can also substitute ghee for butter, at a 1:1 ratio.

     

    Yesterday we made carrot cupcakes. Mini ones. With a recipe from Kraft.

    While we usually dig into a slice of dense loaf cake instead of airy cupcakes, we deemed these just right for Easter week.

    We don’t add pineapple to our carrot cake, but the fruitiness was just perfect in these cupcakes.

    Bring them to work, bring them to neighbors, or enjoy the entire batch at home.

    A BRIEF HISTORY OF CARROT CAKE

    According to the Carrot Museum in the U.K., food historians believe that modern carrot cake most likely descended from medieval carrot puddings.

    During the Middle Ages, sugar and other sweeteners were expensive and difficult to come by, and carrots had long been used for their sweetness.

    Printed recipes for carrot pudding have been found as far back as 1591, but no reference to carrot cake appears until the 19th century. Thus, we don’t know how cake got to here from there.

    In the New York Cookbook (1992), Molly O’Neill says that in 1783, George Washington was served a carrot tea cake at Fraunces Tavern in lower Manhattan.

    She notes that an adaptation of that early recipe, which was printed in The Thirteen Colonies Cookbook (1975), is quite close to the carrot cakes of today.

     
    RECIPE: MINI CARROT CUPCAKES

    Ingredients

    For The Cake

  • 3 eggs plus 1 egg white
  • 1-1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups grated carrots
  • 1/2 cup crushed pineapple, including juice
  • Optional: 2/3 cup crushed pecans, plus more for optional garnish
  •  
    For The Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons whole milk
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Combine and mix the eggs, egg white, sugar, oil and applesauce in a mixing bowl.

    2. COMBINE all the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and beat together. Add the carrots, pineapple, and pecans and mix again. Spoon into 24 lined muffin cups, filling about 2/3 full.

    3. PLACE the pan on the middle oven rack and bake for 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes; then remove from the pan. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely on wire racks before frosting.

    4. MAKE the frosting. In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter, cream cheese and vanilla extract. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar. Add milk to the desired consistency. (Don’t make it too thin or the frosting will slide off the cupcakes.)

    5. FROST the cupcakes with a small spatula, or use a pastry and tip for a fancier presentation (you can use a plastic bag with no top, as shown in photo #2). Garnish with crushed pecans, if desired.
     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Overnight Breakfast & Brunch Casseroles

    Cinnamon rolls and sticky buns were the biggest treat of our childhood breakfasts: Better than waffles or pancakes.

    The Horn & Hardart Automat, Americas’s first fast food chain, had such popular items that customers clamored to take them home. They set up a retail arm to package and sell some of them in retail stores.

    Our family devoured many boxes of the honey buns. Today, they’d be called pecan sticky buns.

    Cinnamon Vs. Sticky Buns: The Difference

    The terms are often used interchangeably, but there are two categories of sweet yeast buns: cinnamon buns and honey (now called sticky) buns. Other terms include cinnamon rolls, cinnamon swirls, honey buns and sticky buns, among others (cinnamon pecan rolls, e.g.).

    All are made with a cinnamon swirl inside; all may have raisins as well.

    But a honey bun or sticky bun needs to have a sticky topping: caramel, honey, maple syrup or sugar syrup). These typically have a garnish of nuts. Those topped with white icing fall into the cinnamon bun category.

    And only the sticky bun has its own holiday: National Sticky Bun Day is February 21st.

    Now: What if you could bake a pan of sticky buns or cinnamon buns with ease, and bring them to the table warm and fragrant?

    If this sounds like your kind of good time, McCormick has created the easiest recipe, an “overnight” casserole (plus another for blueberry muffins, below).
     
    The Easiest Way To Make “Cinnamon Buns”

    You mix five ingredients together the night before—bread, milk, cinnamon and vanilla—just 10 minutes of prep time.

    The next morning, just bake the casserole for 25 minutes until golden brown. It then gets a drizzle of cream cheese frosting: 30 minutes total.

    We served it yesterday, and a very good time was had by all—with some leftover for today.

    While the recipe is a casserole, you slice it into square, bun-size pieces. The difference:

  • Conventional buns are individually shaped and then baked together side-by-side in a pan, and then pulled apart.
  • The casserole has bread cubes like a bread pudding. It bakes as whole and is then cut into pieces.
  •  
    RECIPE #1: OVERNIGHT CINNAMON ROLLS

    Ingredients For 12 Servings

  • 12 eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups plus 3 tablespoons milk, divided
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon, divided
  • 5 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 loaf brioche or challah bread, cubed
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup whipped cream cheese
  • 3 tablespoons confectioners sugar
  •  
    Preparation

    1. WHISK the eggs, 1-1/2 cups of the milk, 1 tablespoon of the cinnamon, 3 teaspoons of the vanilla and the baking powder in large bowl until well blended. Add the bread cubes and toss to coat well.

    2. GENTLY POUR into a 13″ x 9″ baking dish, sprayed with no stick cooking spray. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

    3. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Remove casserole from refrigerator. Mix the melted butter, brown sugar and remaining 1 tablespoon of cinnamon in small bowl until well blended. Drizzle the over casserole. Let stand 10 to 15 minutes.

    4. BAKE for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Meanwhile…

    5. MAKE the cream cheese topping. Mix the cream cheese, confectioners sugar and remaining 2 teaspoons of vanilla in small bowl until smooth. Slowly stir in the remaining 3 tablespoons milk.

    6. REMOVE the casserole from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes. Drizzle over the casserole before serving.

       

    Cinnamon Roll Casserole

    Cinnamon Roll Casserole

    Sticky Buns

    Cinnamon Rolls

    [1] and [2] Overnight Cinnamon Roll Casserole. See the process step by step, from Gimme Some Oven. [3] Side-by-side cinnamon rolls (white icing) and sticky buns (with nuts, photo courtesy Wolferman’s). [4] Conventional: Individual cinnamon buns are placed side-by-side in the pan (here’s the recipe from The Baker Chick).

     
    ROLL OR BUN: THE DIFFERENCE

    There are many Standards Of Identity defined by the USDA and the FDA, but buns and rolls are not among them.

    Thus, there is no official answer. According to the American Institute of Baking:

  • A roll is usually a hard-crusted small bread, such as French rolls and Kaiser-rolls. However, some hard-crusted individual breads are soft, like hot dog rolls.
  • A roll can also contain a filling, such as cinnamon rolls (which, in many areas, are sold as cinnamon buns) and Danish rolls.
  • A bun is generally more bread-like in shape (round or elongated) and soft. It typically does not contain a filling. An exception to this is hot-cross buns.
  •  
    So the answer is, there is no answer. Historic, regional and family traditions often determine what is a bun and what is a roll.

    You may buy hot dog and hamburger rolls, for example; we buy buns.

     

    McCormick Blueberry Muffin Casserole

    Blueberry Muffin Casserole

    [5] Lemon Blueberry Muffin Casserole (photo courtesy McCormick). [6] A conventional blueberry muffin (here’s the recipe from Unwritten Recipes).

     

    RECIPE #2: OVERNIGHT LEMON BLUEBERRY MUFFIN CASSEROLE

    If you prefer blueberry muffins to cinnamon buns, McCormick adapted the muffin concept as well.

    Prep time is 15 minutes the night before, and cook time is 30 minutes.

    Ingredients For 12 Servings

    For The Streusel Topping

  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) cold butter, cut into chunks
  •  
    For The Casserole

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk, divided
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 loaf French or Italian bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 8 cups)
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tablespoon pure lemon extract*
  • 2 cups blueberries, divided
  • ________________
    *You can substitute twice as much lemon zest (2 tablespoons) for the lemon extract. You can also make your own lemon extract by soaking lemon zest in vodka for two weeks, and then straining out the zest.
    ________________
     
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the streusel: Mix the brown sugar, flour and cinnamon in medium bowl. Cover and set aside until ready to assemble in the morning.

     
    2. MAKE the casserole: Whisk together the eggs, 1 cup of the milk, 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar and the cinnamon in a large bowl until well blended. Add bread cubes and toss gently to coat.

    3. POUR evenly into 13″ x 9″ baking dish sprayed with no stick cooking spray.

    4. MIX the cream cheese, the remaining 2 tablespoons each of milk and sugar, and the lemon extract in a medium bowl, until well blended. Gently stir in 1 cup of the blueberries. Spread evenly on top of bread cubes. Top with the remaining 1 cup of blueberries. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

    5. PREHEAT the ooven to 350°F. Remove the casserole from refrigerator and let stand for 10 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile…

    6. CUT the butter into the streusel mixture with a pastry blender or 2 knives, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over the casserole. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

      

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