Ellen Clifford
October 24, 2015 7:25 am

I’d say this classic needs no introduction, except clearly it does. I guess I have to write something. The Breakfast Book is an old favorite of mine. Purchased years ago on a whim, I soon realized that it is an old favorite for a good deal of people. I see famous chefs and food writers include it in their list of favorite cookbooks frequently. I go to foodie friends’ houses and I see it on their shelves. If you know about food you know about this book. After all, author, Marion Cunningham is also the author of the venerable Fannie Farmer cookbook. That’s some major foodie credit.

Cunningham is so charming in her prose. So clever in her selections of quoted lines scattered throughout the book, and so, so good at writing brilliant recipes. I can’t remember a time this book let me down and I’ve had it for ages now. I’ve cooked dozens of things from it. It is perfection.

There are sections for every breakfast food under the sun. You could have toasts, breakfast sandwiches, sausages or even breakfast pies. Pie for breakfast is certainly something you should try if you haven’t already. Go to the “Griddling” chapter for some killer pancakes. Some of the best recipes are the simplest. In the introduction to the “Fruit Fixing” chapter she reminds us that sometimes fruit needs no adornment at all. Or take the dish “milk toast.” It is pretty much toast soaked and cooked in milk with some butter and sugar. You may not think that requires a recipe but you have to get the balance right. There are two ways to make it in this book and they are both sublime.

I know I said that if you are gluten-free this book might be limiting. But the dish I am sharing, a breakfast custard of sorts, is gluten-free provided your oats are! Come to think of it, the chapter on egg cookery alone might make this still make this book a worthwhile purchase. This dish, found in the Custards  and Puddings chapter, is so simple it would be easy to look past but I would implore you not to. It is healthy too. Full of protein and fiber. There is cheese in it but not an overwhelming amount. I will pass on the sliced banana and prunes that Cunningham recommends to go with it however. Maybe a nice cup of coffee, taken black and iced, is more my speed. Like, literally my speed. I like a highly caffeinated beverage. Keeps my spirits up while this excellence bakes.

Cheese Oatmeal Custard adapted from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (I used almond milk)
  • 2/3 cup quick oatmeal (I used the old-fashioned variety)
  • 2/3 cup grated Jack cheese (I used Cheddar and needed about 2 ounces to make 2/3 cup)
  • salt
  • 3/4 cup shredded wheat, preferably bite-sized (I had bran cereal this time around but have made it with the wheat too-both are excellent options)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish. Whisk together the eggs and milk. Stir in the oatmeal, cheese and salt to taste. Pour into the casserole dish and strew the cereal over the top. Bake. The cookbook says 35-40 minutes but my oven took a bit longer before it set up properly. My best advice is to keep an eye on it. When it doesn’t look liquid-y it is done. Serve this hot. With happiness.

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