Innkeepers Dish: Cozy Winter Breakfasts

When the weather outside is frightful, cozy breakfasts are so delightful.

Snow days are great excuses for creating menus to keep your family lingering at the table in celebration.

And who better to help create memorable first meals than local innkeepers who have perfected the art?

“We know that when people are making reservations in an area, what tips the scales is if a place has great food,” says Debbie Mosimann, innkeeper of Swiss Woods Bed and Breakfast Inn north of Lititz, who is a contributor to the national bed and breakfast food blog Eight Broads in the Kitchen.

“We tend to get a lot of foodies,” agrees Jan Garrabrandt, innkeeper at the Artist’s Inn and Gallery in Terre Hill. “Part of the charm is being pampered.”

Carl Kosko, chef and innkeeper at the Harvest Moon Bed and Breakfast in New Holland, who is as well known for his cooking classes as his inventive breakfasts, says the entire food experience, from visiting local farms and markets to source ingredients, to coming back and creating a meal, to savoring the finished product, is the chief draw for many of his guests.

“So many wonderful, specialty foods come from Lancaster, so it’s easy to be creative,” he says. “So when I’m going to make something as simple as an omelet, I’ll make it out-of-the-ordinary with smoked ham from Shady Maple and Henry Lapp’s wonderful gruyere cheese, and then after I sauté it, I’ll finish it in the oven to give it more height and density, which creates a richer breakfast.”

These three innkeepers know that creating a memorable breakfast is the key to delighting guests and ensuring repeat business. But they insist that unlike some labor-intensive dinners, a gourmet breakfast can be whipped up relatively easily.

“With a lot of breakfasts, like my museli pancakes, you can get most of it ready the night before so that in the morning you’re not hurried and rushed and you can relax too,” says Mosimann.

Mosimann elevates the humble oatmeal into a baked concoction that has become her most requested recipe.

Garrabrandt created a simple soufflé that can be mixed up in a blender before baking.

And Kosko uses up leftover brioche to make for a marquee French toast that is a sensory delight.

“The key to a great winter breakfast is that it has to be warm and rich and homemade,” says Kosko. “And adding chocolate doesn’t hurt. The flavonoids in chocolate open up your mouth. It’s rich and warm in sweet or savory foods.”

But you don’t have to go all gourmet to make the meal special, they insist.

“Use your tried and true, simple recipes, but serve them in a different way,” suggests Garrabrandt. “Dress them up. Get your crystal out of the cupboard. Light lots of candles. Do some simple, inexpensive little splurges like buying berries out of season.”

Kosko says the key to creating a cozy, warm breakfast experience is to pay attention to the entire sensory experience, from lighting a fire and candles, to music to create the mood, to a colorful tablescape to create a setting for the meal to come.

“As a chef, I am always intrigued on ways of pushing meals to be just a little nicer or just a little more. For instance, instead of just dipping strawberries in chocolate, add a bit more charm to make them exceptional with some nonpareils or heart-shaped sprinkles,” he says. “Your garnishes can really make the presentation spectacular. Garnish the rim of the glass of fruit juice with a slice of star fruit or blood orange for a bit of drama. Mix your butters with honey and fennel or anise seed to enhance your toast in the morning. Learn a unique way to primp up your napkin.”

Mosimann likes to enhance a cozy breakfast experience with touches like syrup warmers on the tables. And although her guests don’t come to the table in pajamas, they’re perfectly appropriate in creating a comforting home indulgence.

“My whole philosophy with food is that it’s a connector. It pulls people together and gives them time to talk and enjoy each other’s company, which can feel indulgent when we’re normally too busy to do so,” she says.

And a decadent breakfast experience isn’t complete without dessert.

Garrabrandt, who is known for her signature four-course breakfasts, says she makes “dessert portable, so that if they’re too stuffed, they can take it with them and have it while they’re touring the county.”

From Carl Kosko, chef and innkeeper at Harvest Moon Bed and Breakfast

Brioche French Toast with Winter Chutney and Cardamom Crème Fraiche

Brioche itself is an indulgence, but after you’ve had plenty and are looking for something to do with what you have left over, this is a sure fire way to bring your brioche to the next phase of splendor. Slice brioche and treat like you would with any bread for French toast. You may want to embellish the egg mixture with a bit of cardamom. Assemble on plate, top with a smear of winter chutney and then a drizzle of crème fraiche that you’ve enhanced with some cardamom. For a special presentation, you can make colored candy forms to decorate the plate.

Brioche Recipe:

This recipe is from Gourmet: May 2000,

For starter:

1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 cup warm milk or water (105°F)

1 (1/4-oz) package active dry yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)

1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour (sift before measuring)

For dough:

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon hot milk or water

3 large eggs

1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour (sift before measuring)

1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch slices and well softened

Make starter by stirring together sugar and milk in a small bowl. Sprinkle yeast over mixture and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. Stir flour into yeast mixture, forming a soft dough, and cut a deep X across top. Let starter rise, covered with plastic wrap, at room temperature, 1 hour. Make dough by combining salt, sugar, and hot milk in a small bowl and stir until salt and sugar are dissolved. Fit mixer with whisk attachment, then beat 2 eggs at medium-low speed until fluffy. Add sugar mixture and beat until combined well. With motor running, add in order, beating after each addition: 1/2 cup flour, remaining egg, 1/2 cup flour, about one fourth of butter, and remaining 1/2 cup flour. Beat mixture 1 minute. Remove bowl from mixer and fit mixer with dough-hook attachment. Spread starter onto dough with a rubber spatula and return bowl to mixer. Beat dough at medium-high speed 6 minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic. Add remaining butter and beat 1 minute, or until butter is incorporated. Lightly butter a large bowl and scrape dough into bowl with rubber spatula. Lightly dust dough with flour to prevent a crust from forming. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise at room temperature until more than doubled in bulk, 2 to 3 hours. Punch down dough and lightly dust with flour. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill dough, punching down after first hour, at least 12 hours. Dough may be chilled up to 3 days. Punch down dough each day. Butter brioche molds. Form into balls and place in molds. Create a dimple in the top. Form a piece of reserved dough into a ball and place in the dimple. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover with kitchen towel and allow to rise until tripled, about 2 ½ hours. Beat together egg and a large pinch of salt and brush loaf with egg wash. Bake in 400 degree oven until golden-brown and a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

Winter Chutney

Sautee small bite-size pieces of pears, apples, and dried figs in butter. Deglaze pan with a touch of water and add a bit of sugar to taste. Next add a pinch of nutmeg, clove, and two pinches of cardamom. Simmer for about five minutes.

From Jan Garrabrandt, innkeeper at the Artist’s Inn

The Artist’s Inn Roasted Corn Souffle

I had fun making this one up. This is a very friendly soufflé; you don’t have to tiptoe on the floor to keep it from falling. In the summer I freeze fresh corn so I have it on hand for this recipe in the winter. It’s a nice taste of summer when it’s cold out. Roasting it in the pan brings out a nutty flavor.

1 ½ c fresh or frozen corn

1 Tablespoon garlic flavored oil

1 Vidalia or other sweet onion, chopped

9 eggs

½ c heavy cream

½ teaspoon dry mustard

salt and pepper to taste

6 oz cheddar cheese

6 oz cream cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray six ramekins with non-stick spray. Pour corn into a non-stick pan and toss occasionally over medium heat until “browned.” Pour corn in blender. In same pan, pour the oil and cook the onion until tender. Pour into the blender. Add all other ingredients to the blender and pulse until all contents are completely incorporated. Pour mixture into the ramekins and bake for about 35 minutes, but keep an eye on them. They will poof up pretty nicely. Recipe will serve six.

Dried Blueberry and White Chocolate Scones

These scones are so yummy that you won’t need any jam or cream with them.

2/3 c butter

3 ½ c flour

½ c sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

2/3 c dried blueberries

1 c white chocolate chips

2 eggs

2/3 c half-and-half

Heat oven to 400 degrees. In food processor, process butter, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt until mixture is crumbly. (I just use a pastry cutter and do this by hand.) Stir in blueberries and white chocolate chips. By hand add eggs and just enough half-and-half so dough forms a ball. Turn dough onto floured surface. Knead lightly ten times. Pat into a form about an inch high and cut in small triangles. Sprinkle with sugar if desired. Bake on silpats on cookie sheet about 15 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm.

Note: I halve this recipe and it still serves six people. I also like to cut the scones into small and larger sizes so people have a choice. They will also keep their shape if cut into hearts for Valentine’s Day, stars for the Fourth, and trees for Christmas. This recipe will not get hard, even if the scones are eaten the next day. They also freeze well.

Almond Crepes with Mangoes and Nutmeg Whipped Cream

Basic Sweet Crepes:  (Any crepe can be used in this recipe) I like to make my crepes the night before, laying wax paper between each crepe. Wrap them in plastic and store in the fridge overnight. The filling takes just a few minutes the next morning.

1 c flour, measure first and then put through sifter

¼ c confectioner’s sugar

1 c milk

2 eggs

3 Tablespoons melted butter

1 teaspoon almond extract

¼ teaspoon salt

Melt the butter in a pan and then combine all ingredients in bowl. Whisk until thoroughly blended, scraping down sides often. Using the pan that you melted the butter in, with a large serving spoon, place enough batter on pan and quickly swirl with left hand to spread the batter to a thin layer over bottom of pan. If you have a gas stove, this will take about half the time than on electric. Do not walk away – they will cook very quickly. Cook until they look just dry or slightly browned; flip, brown other side and layer crepes on dish with wax paper between them to keep them from sticking. Should make about 16 crepes.

Mango Filling:

2 Tablespoons butter

8 oz mascarpone (or cream cheese if you can’t find it)

¼ c sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 mangoes

brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Place butter in a 13×9 pan. Place pan in oven for a few minutes to melt the butter and cover the bottom. Remove pan and set aside. Beat the cheese, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Cut the mangoes in half and discard the pit. Thinly slice each half into about eight slices. Spread about two tablespoons of the cheese mixture over the middle part of a crepe, top it with four slices of mango, fold the left side over and roll up. Place seam side down in the pan. Repeat with remaining crepes, saving a few of the mangos for garnish. Sprinkle the crepes with brown sugar. When pan is full, place it in the oven and cook until heated through, about 15 minutes. Serve warm, garnished with three mango slices and whipped cream.

Nutmeg Whipped Cream

Pour 1 cup cold heavy cream into mixing bowl. Using whisk attachment, beat on high until soft peaks form. Add two teaspoons sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Grate fresh nutmeg  (about five strokes on the microplane) over the whipped cream and blend in.

Serves 7 to 8

From Swiss Woods innkeeper Debbie Mosimann

Muesli Pancakes

This was one of the first recipes we served here at Swiss Woods. It never fails to get rave reviews and is so very simple. We use our homemade granola that has bits of dried fruit in it, but any variety will work well. Just remember to soak the granola so that it softens some. I love freshly grated nutmeg and use my microplane to grate it directly into the mixture. Regular ground nutmeg works equally well. These are particularly good served with Lemon Brandied Apples and whipped cream.

2 c milk

1 c granola

1 c rolled oats

¼ c butter, melted

½ c flour

2 eggs, beaten

2 Tablespoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

¼ teaspoon cinnamon, preferably Saigon or Vietnamese

¼ teaspoon salt

Combine milk, granola, and rolled oats the night before you want to make the pancakes. Cover and refrigerate. Next morning, combine the remaining ingredients and stir into the granola mixture. Combine until smooth, but do no overmix. Preheat a griddle until hot. Spoon mixture and bake until bubbles appear. Flip the pancakes.

Lemon Brandied Apples

In the 60’s, my parents took their first trip to Germany. Traveling through the Black Forest area, they stopped for dinner in one of the old farmhouses typical to the area. For dessert, the chef wheeled out a cart and prepared these apples tableside. They are a favorite here at the inn. We use our own honey from our hives.

5 large apples, cored and thinly sliced

2 Tablespoons honey, good quality, preferably raw

1 lemon, juice and zest

¼ c brandy (rum works as well)

Peel, core, and slice apples directly into a small flat pan. Add lemon zest and juice. Drizzle honey over the apples. Cook over medium heat, cover and steam until soft. In a separate metal saucepan, gently heat the brandy just until you see steam. Carefully touch with flame and pour over the apples, stirring until the flame goes out. Serve hot.

Almond-filled Baked Plums

Winter and warm fruit seem to go hand-in-hand with snowy winter and these plums just hit the spot. I love plums, fresh from the tree or baked in tarts, or, as in this recipe, baked on their own with a sweet almond filling. Finish with a bit of crème anglaise, sweetened whipped cream, or vanilla bean ice cream.

8 ripe deep purple plums

½ c almonds

¼ c butter

2 Tablespoons dark rum

1 large egg

¼ c sugar

¼ c honey

Cut the plums in half and remove the seeds. Place the remaining ingredients, except the honey, into a food processor and blend until it is smooth. Place the plums cut side up in a baking dish. With a spoon, fill the center of each plum with the almond filling. Drizzle all the plums with honey. Bake at 350 degrees until the almond filling is lightly browned. Serve warm. Serves 8.

Baked Oatmeal

This is our most requested recipe. We just change the middle layer with whatever is in season.

1/3 c oil (canola or corn, not olive)

½ c sugar (white or brown)

1 egg

¾ c quick oats

¾ c rolled oats

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ c milk

½ teaspoon vanilla

¼ teaspoon cinnamon (more if you use a layer of apples)

Chopped apples, pears, dried cranberries, nuts, or other fruit (optional)

Cream oil, sugar, and egg together in a small bowl. Add all other ingredients and mix. Pour into greased 8-inch square baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve with milk.

At the inn we do double and triple batches of this, always putting in a layer of fruit. My all time favorite is leftover lemon brandied apples. Put half the batter into your greased baking dish, layer the fruit on top and then put the rest of the batter on top and bake.

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