Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A French Toast Day

I have a few memories involving french toast, and they are all very good.  One is the french toast our youth pastor in high school made the morning we were to go to our respective schools for prayer at the flag poles.  I remember his wife telling us that sometimes she could get her boys to ask their dad for his special french toast, so he would make it for the family...
I remember a special brunch a friend and I threw for our husbands and their students one year at the end of school.  And even though I grew up on pancakes for Sunday night dinner, now I can walk into my parents' house and find everyone around the center counter making french toast on the giant electric griddle.
When I have all of my family home for the better part of two weeks, and the time comes to go back to the routine of daily in-and-out: work, school, errands, housekeeping, and most terrible of all, alarm clocks - I could only begin this day in one way - french toast.  My husband has a wonderful job, and our children attend an amazing school, but knowing that the alarm would go off at 5:30 this morning, I was packing lunches last night thinking that it just had to be a french toast morning.  You know, to start everything off just a little better.
Three of the five of us out the door by 7am, Little Girl and I greeted our three-year-old friend at 7:30, spent our first hour of the day reading, and then it was time for me to get started on the dinner party we are hosting tonight!  We will still celebrate these last few days of Christmas, school or no school!!!
Key Lime Pie:
Friends, I love following recipes just as they are, but sometimes you have to think outside the box.  This morning, it happened to be the graham cracker box.  Now, when my children brought the box to me last week asking for a snack, I thought this was the opened box, and I had an unopened box still in the pantry.  That's what I thought.  
 Do you see those round things in there with the graham crackers?  That was a bit of a stroke of genius I applauded myself with this morning when I searched the pantry and only found one, almost gone box of graham crackers!!!  I thought, "well, I have made crusts with vanilla wafers before, so I'll just mix to make the 3 cups of crumbs I need."  Worked just fine.  Imagine that.  :)
 After I beat them inside the bag with a rolling pin, they looked like this.  Alternatively, if you find yourself without a big zipper bag, you can place the crackers in a bowl and crumble with a pastry cutter, you will just end up with slightly larger crumbs.
 Mixed with butter (there's that butter again - I did take out 1/4 cup from the recipe) and sugar, I tamped the crumb mixture down into a 9 inch springform pan.  The recipe calls for a ten inch tart pan, but I don't own one of those, and yes, the edges would be prettier if they were fluted, but you know what?  It all tastes the same.  The main thing is to have a pan with a removable bottom, so the pie can actually be served without having to be scooped out with a large spoon.  I use a measuring cup with a flat bottom to tamp down the crumbs.
 This tool is one of my favorites in the kitchen.  It makes juicing lemons and limes so easy and fast, and you don't have to fish out the seeds when you are finished.  Get one.  I know you'll love it.  And what to do if you sent your husband to the market last night for limes, but you did not count on them being so small, and thus the 7 you told him to get don't quite make enough juice?  Ah...make the pie anyway!  Go with it!  What's 1/2 a cup, when I've already reduced the amount of sweetened condensed milk?  It'll be great!
Do you see that cookie sheet underneath the cheesecake pan?  Stop everything right this moment and promise me that you will NEVER make this pie without a cookie sheet underneath it.  When you do, and your house fills with smoke because of the butter dripping out of the pan onto the bottom of your oven, and you have to work all day with doors open and candles lit to get rid of the smoke smell before your party, I will look at you and say, "I told you to put a cookie sheet under it."

Here's the recipe, modified from The Pastry Queen Christmas:
crust:  3cups graham cracker crumbs
            1 teaspoon sugar
            3/4 cup butter, melted
mix together and tamp into a 9 inch cheesecake pan with removable bottom.

filling:  3 large egg yolks (eat the whites scrambled for lunch)
              1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice - use key limes or regular - still call it key lime pie.
              2 14oz cans sweetened condensed milk
whisk ingredients together and pour into crust, place pan on cookie sheet, and bake in an oven preheated to 300 degrees.  It will take about 30-35 minutes for the crust to deepen its brown color, and the filling to partially set.  Then the pie goes into the fridge to set.  Make sure you have at least 8 hours for this setting, or cutting will not go well for you.  You can also make the night before, just to be safe.  Enjoy!

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