Three Flavored Syrups

For the best taste, never boil the syrup—it has been boiled in production—but serve it warm. Choose a medium or dark amber.

The Ultimate Cook Book-Breakfast and Brunch

I. Vanilla Cinnamon Maple Syrup

Makes about 2 cups

2 cups maple syrup

One 4-inch cinnamon stick

1 vanilla bean

Place the syrup and cinnamon stick in a small saucepan set over very low heat. Split open the vanilla bean and toss it into the syrup.

Heat slowly, just until a couple of tiny bubbles fizz around the pan’s inner rim and a puff or two of smoke rises from the surface. Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and set aside for 30 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and vanilla bean before serving.

To store: Transfer to a glass or plastic container, cover, and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks; reheat in a small saucepan or in the microwave before serving.

II. Blueberry Maple Syrup

Makes about 3 cups

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 cup fresh blueberries

2 cups maple syrup

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan set over medium-low heat. Add the blueberries; cook, stirring occasionally, just until they start to break down, about 2 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the maple syrup until the simmering stops. Cover and set aside off the heat for 20 minutes before serving.

To store: Transfer to a glass or plastic container, cover, and refrigerate for up to 3 days; reheat in a small saucepan or in the microwave before serving.

III. Walnut Butter Rum Maple Syrup

Makes a little over 3 cups

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup chopped walnut pieces

2 cups maple syrup

2 tablespoons dark rum, such as Myers’s

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat; add the walnut pieces. Cook, stirring often, until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes.

Stir in the maple syrup and remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the rum, cover, and set aside off the heat for 15 minutes before serving.

To store: Place in a glass or plastic container, cover, and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks; rewarm in a saucepan or in the microwave before serving.

Whole Wheat Banana Waffles

Whole wheat waffles can get heavy, but these are lightened up with mashed bananas. Makes eight 8-inch waffles

Canola oil, vegetable oil, or nonstick spray, for greasing the waffle iron

2 large eggs

2 ripe bananas, finely diced

1 cup milk (regular, low-fat, or fat-free)

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

Lightly oil or spray a waffle iron, then preheat it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Whisk the eggs, bananas, milk, oil, and vanilla in a medium bowl until the eggs are lightly beaten; set aside.

Stir both flours, the sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Use a fork to stir in the egg mixture just until a slightly grainy but thick batter forms (see Note).

Place about ½ cup batter in the heated waffle iron or as much batter as is indicated by the manufacturer’s instructions. Close the iron and cook as directed until browned. You can place the cooked waffles on a large baking sheet in a preheated 225°F oven to keep warm until you’ve made all of them.

Note: Alternatively, place all the ingredients in a food processor fitted with the chopping blade; pulse several times to blend, then scrape down the sides of the bowl and process until fairly smooth. This method will give you a smoother batter, without any banana “lumps” in it.

Honey Wheat Waffles: Reduce the sugar to 1 tablespoon; whisk 2 tablespoons honey into the wet ingredients with the eggs.

Whole Wheat Peach Waffles: Omit the bananas and use 2 ripe medium peaches, peeled, pitted, and finely diced. (Do not use the food processor method to make the batter.)

Whole Wheat Banana Nut Waffles: Stir ½ cup chopped toasted pecan or walnut pieces into the dry ingredients with the flour. (Do not use the food processor method to make the batter.)

Oat Waffles

Soaking the oats in advance makes exceptionally creamy waffles. Makes six 8-inch waffles

1½ cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

¾ cup regular or low-fat buttermilk (do not use fat-free)

½ cup rolled oats (do not use quick-cooking or steel-cut)

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

¾ cup milk (regular, low-fat, or fat-free)

¼ cup canola oil, plus additional for greasing the waffle iron

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl; set aside.

Whisk the buttermilk and oats in a medium bowl and set aside for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, lightly oil or spray a waffle iron, then preheat it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Whisk the eggs, milk, canola oil, and vanilla into the buttermilk mixture. Then stir this mixture into the flour mixture with a fork.

Spoon ¼ cup batter into the iron, or as much batter as recommended by the manufacturer. Close the iron and bake until crispy, perhaps 2 minutes. To keep warm, place on a large baking sheet in a preheated 225°F oven while you make more waffles.

For lighter waffles, separate the yolks from the egg whites. Add the yolks where you would have added the whole eggs; beat the egg whites to stiff peaks with an electric mixer at high speed in a separate bowl, then fold them into the batter after the flour mixture.

Baked French Toast

French toast started out as a baked dessert, a way to turn day-old bread into bread pudding. So here’s an old technique for a breakfast favorite: a make-ahead baked casserole—best with maple syrup, of course. Makes about 8 servings

Unsalted butter, for greasing the pan

One 8-ounce plain Italian bread, challah, or brioche, preferably day-old, cut into 1-inch slices

6 large eggs

2½ cups milk (regular, low-fat, or fat-free)

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

Lightly butter a 13 × 9-inch baking pan. Lay the bread slices in the pan, fitting them in fairly snugly without any overlap. If there are some gaps, the bread will eventually expand to fill them.

Whisk the eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl until fairly smooth; pour over the bread in the pan. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Set the casserole out on the counter for 10 minutes to bring it back to room temperature.

Bake, uncovered, until puffed and brown, about 45 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes on a wire rack before serving.

Variations: Wedge ¼ cup dried raisins, cranberries, currants, blueberries, or chopped dried apples among the bread slices, taking care to distribute them evenly in the pan.

Reduce the milk to 2¼ cups; add ¼ cup gold rum with the remaining milk.

Add ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg with the cinnamon.

Baked Blintzes

We prefer these stuffed crepes baked because the filling has more time to melt and meld. We also like them with maple syrup on the side, an utterly untraditional approach. Makes 18 blintzes

4 large eggs

2 cups milk (regular, low-fat, or fat-free)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus additional for greasing the skillet and the baking dish

1 teaspoon salt

1½ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup regular or low-fat ricotta (do not use fat-free)

8 ounces regular or low-fat cream cheese (do not use fat-free), softened to room temperature

3 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 large egg yolks, at room temperature

Maple syrup for garnish

First, to make the crepes, place the whole eggs, milk, 2 tablespoons melted butter, and the salt in a large blender or in a food processor fitted with the chopping blade; cover and blend or process until smooth. Add the flour; cover again and blend or process until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl or canister once or twice to make sure all the flour is incorporated. Alternatively, make this batter in a large bowl with a whisk; once you’ve whisked together the egg mixture, whisk in the flour in small increments, just 1 or 2 tablespoons at a time, to create the smoothest, airiest batter.

Place a dab of butter on a paper towel or piece of wax paper and use it to grease a 10-inch skillet, preferably nonstick. Set the skillet over medium-low heat for 1 minute. Pour 3 tablespoons of the batter into the skillet; tilt and tip the skillet until the batter completely coats the bottom. Cook until lightly mottled, about 30 seconds. Peel up the crepe, preferably with nonstick-safe tongs, and flip it. Cook about 30 more seconds, just until blond and set. Remove the crepe to a plate and continue making more, greasing the skillet after every two or three and stacking the crepes on the plate as they come out of the skillet.

Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter a 13 × 9-inch baking dish.

Use a fork to mix the ricotta, cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and the egg yolks in a medium bowl until smooth.

Place one of the crepes on your work surface; spoon 2 tablespoons of the cheese filling in a long log shape in the middle of the crepe. Fold the crepe over the ends of the log, then roll it up. Place it seam side down in the prepared baking dish and continue filling more crepes.

Once they’re all filled and in the pan, brush them generously with some of the remaining melted butter. Bake until lightly browned, about 20 minutes, brushing every 5 minutes or so with more of the remaining melted butter. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes before serving with maple syrup on the side.

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