Friday, February 28, 2014

Orange Brunch Strata with Cranberries and Walnuts

This tasty brunch dish for 12 is very easy to make. It is the pièce de résistance of all the brunch dishes I’ve printed this week. This recipe contains almost every ingredient as those that appeared earlier this week, and also uses almost exactly the same method as yesterday’s recipe for Overnight Caramel French Toast.

A “strata” is a layered dish that is often served for brunch. With eggs, bread, and cheese in it, it may also contain layered meat and vegetables. 
As in a quiche, some stratas mix everything together (Real men do eat quiche! If you’re under 40, the reference may be lost on you. There, there, possum … you’ll be old soon enough).

You’ll find another excellent strata indexed in this blog under Brunch: Strata (Ham, Cheese and Spinach). It contains the same combination of bread, cheese, and eggs, with the extra muscle of meat and spinach. Today’s is a sweet, less robust strata thats sure to please almost everyone (see Note). 

Orange Brunch Strata with Cranberries and Walnuts:

12 oz. (375 g) cream cheese, softened

1-½ tsp. finely grated orange zest
9 eggs
3 c. light cream (10-to-12% fat content)
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
12-to-13 slices fluffy white bread (not a baguette or artisan bread)
1 c. dried, sweetened cranberries or “craisins,” divided
½ c. chopped walnuts
1 c. orange marmalade
¼ c. orange juice

The night before … Using an electric mixer and a medium bowl, combine cream cheese and zest. Add one egg at a time, beating between additions. Add cream, sugar, and vanilla. Batter will be lumpy, but do your best. Spray-grease a 9x13x2-in. (23x33x5 cm) glass baking dish. Place 6 bread slices close together, trimming thinner bits at the edges for a tight fit. Pour 1 c. egg mixture over bread. Sprinkle with ½ c. cranberries. Top with remaining bread, as before. Pour remaining egg mixture over bread. Loosely cover strata with cello wrap, pressing palm lightly onto bread so that both bread layers absorb milk mixture. Refrigerate several hours or overnight.

In the morning … Remove plastic and bring strata to room temperature before baking. Preheat oven to 325 deg. F. Sprinkle strata with walnuts and remaining cranberries, lightly pressing them into top layer of bread. Bake 35-to-40 nin., or until strata is puffed, firm at the center, and golden. In small saucepan over medium-low heat, warm marmalade and ¼ c. orange juice. Transfer strata from oven to wire rack, cooling 5-to-10 min. Serve hot, with orange sauce on the side. Yields 12 portions.

Note: Be sure to ask your guests about any food sensitivities they may have. It seems a quarter of the world is on a gluten-free diet, a quarter is lactose-intolerant, a quarter can’t eat nuts and seeds, and the rest can’t have sugar. That’s when you turn to gluten-free bread, almond or soy milk, and a natural sugar substitute such as sweetleaf stevia, which tolerates heat and can be baked in recipes.  You may have to ask guests on a complex diet to bring a brunch selection they can tolerate and enjoy. So ask about food sensitivities before you plan your menu, The last thing you want to hear is: “This is a great party! By the way, I’m a vegan.

Tomorrow: This one’s pretty special! Herbed Butter.

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