"Country Breakfasts," Ken Haedrich

Pros: YUM! Easy stuff; wide variety of foods
Cons: Some mediocre recipes
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

First published 10/7/2004

Most of the time I don’t pay that much attention to cookbook authors’ names. I don’t usually follow authors–I get a cookbook because it looks interesting or fills a niche not already taken up in our cookbook library. I do have a handful of exceptions, however. Like Nina Simonds, who wrote those amazing cookbooks Asian Noodles and A Spoonful of Ginger. Or Alton Brown, whose TV show “Good Eats” has revolutionized many of the ways in which we cook.

Another such author is Ken Haedrich. One of his latest books, Apple Pie Perfect, we bought simply because we saw his name on the cover. We hadn’t even realized until recently that the “Maple Syrup Cookbook” we enjoy was his work. But the first book we got that he wrote is “Country Breakfasts: Four Seasons of Cozy Morning Meals.” It bears the sure sign of being a favored cookbook: it’s splattered all over the place with the faint signs of breakfasts past. While the quality of Haedrich’s recipes isn’t consistently amazing, it doesn’t really matter to us–he keeps coming up with fantastic, sometimes unusual ideas, many of which do turn out to be stunning, and that’s enough to forgive a few flops.

I love it when cookbooks list out the recipes in their table of contents. This one does so, and it makes it so easy to browse the recipes looking for something you might like to make. In addition it has a very handy index. Chapters include:

Sunday Morning Specials: Pancakes, Waffles, French Toast, and Crepes. Here you’ll find everything from Leftover Oatmeal Pancakes to Gingerbread Corn Cakes with Warm Applesauce; Phyllo Apple Cakes with Vanilla Custard Sauce to Oatmeal Apple Fritters; Sugar-Dusted Strawberry Crepes to Lemon Feather Cakes. Darnit, now I’m getting hungry! I have to give you both a recommendation and a warning. This chapter contains a recipe for Banana-Stuffed French Toast with Banana Cream. I have a pretty high tolerance for rich breakfasts, although not as high as when I was a child and my grandmother would let me have ice cream for breakfast, or a Bavarian cream-filled donut (I think that would kill me now). But this one… wow. It slayed us. It was so good that we couldn’t stop eating it until we were well past the point where common sense told us to stop, and we spent the rest of the morning holding our stomachs and saying, “ow… that was so good… ow… do we have any more? ow…” We keep intending to make it again but we haven’t quite had the guts. We need to wait for a weekend when we don’t have anything we want to get done after breakfast–we’ll need time to recover!

Good Grains: Breakfast Cereals and Dumplings. Maple Cinnamon Granola certainly appeals, as does Spiced Pumpkin Cornmeal Mush or Creamy Couscous with Dates and Walnuts. However, there’s one recipe in this chapter that we’ve come back to again and again: Oatmeal Breakfast Dumplings. These fantastic concoctions involve dumplings made of flour, oats, spices, walnuts, and raisins (among other things), simmered in a fantastic medley of milk, cream, brown sugar, and vanilla. We adjust some of the amounts a little (we like it with a little more of the decadent cream mixture per dumpling), but it is so good. If you aren’t all that fond of the healthy grains such as whole wheat, there are some recipes in this book you won’t like quite as much. However, there are so many recipes in this book that this isn’t particularly a drawback, and the people who do like those grains will appreciate their presence.

Eggs Just So. Omelets, scrambled eggs, poached or baked eggs, Eggs Creole, Tunisian Eggs, frittata… you’ll find something for everyone here. Make mine the Guacamole Omelet on a Bed of Lettuce! Don’t forget the Baked Eggs with Parmesan and Sun-Dried Tomatoes, though, or you’ll definitely be missing out on something good.

Hearty Companions: Breakfast Meats, Fish, and Hash (One Meatless). Cider-Syrup-Glazed Canadian Bacon. Need I say more? Although I suppose you might also want to try the Roast Beef Hash, Barbecued Chicken Hash, or Smoked Trout Cakes with Remoulade Sauce.

The Savory Side: Vegetables, Chili, and Hearty Breakfast Fare. There are all sorts of potato recipes in here, including Three-Alarm Potatoes, a variety of stovetop potato approaches, and–oh my–Bacon, Egg, and Potato Pie. There are also things like Maple-Pecan Baked Squash, if you want something a little unusual for breakfast. Or Cheddar Cheese Spoon Bread. Not to mention Karen’s Spiced Scrambled Tofu, for a real departure from the norm.

Sandwiches to Start the Day. If all of those recipes aren’t enough (and there are a lot I’ve left out, believe me!), there’s still more. Paprikash Mushrooms on Toast… hey, we should make that this weekend. Mushroom Scrambled Eggs and Brie Croissant Sandwich (uh-oh… decisions decisions…). Bagel with the Works.

All Things Warm and Sweet: Quick Breads, Coffee Cakes, and More Breakfast Baking. This is ridiculous. Normally by now I’ve started talking about recipe layout and things like that. But there are just SO MANY recipes in this book that deserve to be mentioned. I’ll shorten things up in this case by just saying: Tessa’s Strawberry Celebration Cake. Cake for breakfast! Oh, but–wait a second–the Blueberry Cream Cake is to-die-for. We’ve made it again and again. It goes particularly well, if you really want to be decadent, with a caramel or maple sauce (we love it with the sauce from the recipe for Cold Pineapple Slices with Warm Maple Caramel Sauce).

Trifles, Tarts, and More Elegant Breakfast Fare. Okay, we’ve seen the homey (pancakes and waffles). We’ve had the hearty and healthy (vegetables and grains). We’ve even experienced the down-to-earth (potatoes, eggs, and biscuits) and the sugary (cakes, crumbles, and cobblers). Now it’s time for the recipes you can show off with. Serve your friends or relatives a Banana Coffee Trifle for breakfast, or a Vanilla Bean Custard. (Heck, you could serve these for dessert.)

Fruits Simple and Sublime. And who could forget the fruit? Cantaloupe, berries, citrus (Rose-Macerated Oranges!), kiwi, pears, apricots, pineapple, mango, rhubarb, quince, figs, bananas, apples, peaches… From the everyday to the exotic, they’re all in here.

The Jelly Cupboard: Easy Fruit Spreads, Sauces, and Some Pantry Items for the Breakfast Table. Of course you can’t forget the accompaniment. How about cider jelly (swoon…), chunky vanilla pears, or chipotle sauce? Yes, chipotle sauce. Haedrich says, “This is good with omelets and scrambled eggs–most any eggs for that matter.”

Drinks Hot and Cold. What breakfast cookbook would be complete without a few recipes for smoothies, coffees and cocoa?

There are also plenty of pages of information, tips and hints. The recipes are fairly simple; even the elegant stuff doesn’t take up much space and won’t take you too much time and effort. The layout is clear and easy to read. The recipes do come one right after another without starting on new pages, resulting in things trailing here and there, which sometimes gets slightly confusing–not a big issue, however. There are no photos. Most of the ingredients are ordinary, everyday items available at any grocery store, with a few exceptions.

We haven’t adored everything in this cookbook. Some of the whole grain recipes are a little much for us, and some things are just kind of there as far as quality goes. But the stuff that’s good–and that’s the majority of it–is very good. And there are so many recipes here that I predict this book will become a real treasure for anyone who enjoys breakfast foods, even if you don’t love every recipe.

All in all, this book is definitely a worthwhile purchase for any breakfast-lover.

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