This week is one that’s anticipated by many in our fair state, as the State Fair opens on Thursday. Not only is there unparallelled people watching, but the State Fair also brings forth some truly innovative food concepts for the masses to taste and either love or hate.
But that’s not what Cheese Week is about. Rather, Cheese Week encourages you cheese lovers out there to look beyond the State Fair to another event taking place within the State Fairgrounds a couple of weeks after the last carnival ride pulls out: the Minnesota Cheese Festival.
For two days (Saturday, September 14 and Sunday, September 15), area food artisans from Minnesota, Wisconsin and beyond will share their wares and knowledge with ticket holders. There are two 3-hour tasting sessions each day, and tickets are limited to 1,000 per session – so you’ll be able to get up close and personal with your fromage of choice without feeling pressured to move on to another section.
When the Cheese Festival folks asked me if I would like to talk about the upcoming event here, that was pretty much like asking me if I felt like breathing. It was a no-brainer. Then they offered to give away a pair of tickets to the upcoming event to a lucky reader, and I couldn’t wait to get started!
So, to quote Maria von Trapp, let’s start at the very beginning. A breakfast recipe featuring cheese from one of the vendors you can meet at the upcoming Minnesota Cheese Festival. And look for the chance to enter and win a pair of your own tickets to the upcoming Minnesota Cheese Festival! (Details at the end of this post.)
French toast is one of those “don’t have anything else planned” lazy morning breakfasts. And we love the original recipe from Cook’s Illustrated – how the flour in the batter helps build up the crust, and the way it sings as the slice of bread hits the pool of melted butter. Stuffed French toast – featuring a lightly spiced sweet cheese filling – is definitely gilding the lily. So of course we took it a step further here, and made up a sauce featuring fresh blueberries to put on top of this batch. You could swap out the berries for maple syrup, a fistful of candied pecans, sliced bananas, ripe peaches…you get the idea.
Stuffed French Toast
(from the America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Cookbook)
- 6 ounces cream cheese, softened — I found an 8-ounce brick from Organic Valley, one of the fine cheesemakers you can meet at the upcoming Minnesota Cheese Festival. Or if you can’t make it to the festival, just buy it at your local grocery store like I did.
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 pinch nutmeg
- 8 slices high-quality white bread (like Pepperidge Farm)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 large egg
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup flour
In a small bowl, mix cream cheese, 2 tablespoons of the sugar and all of the cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir till smooth. Wrap tightly and chill for about 20 minutes.
Spread the cream cheese evenly over 4 pieces of bread. Leave a 1/2-inch at the edges. Lightly press the rest of the slices over the top to make 4 sturdy sandwiches.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter. Whisk it with the milk, egg, vanilla, salt and the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Slowly whisk in the flour until smooth. Pour the batter into a large shallow dish.
Slide 2 sandwiches into the batter and soak both sides, about 1 minute per side. Meanwhile, melt a tablespoon of the butter in a 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat until it begins to brown, swirling to coat the pan.
Remove the bread from the batter. Let excess batter drip back in the dish. Lay two sandwiches in the hot skillet. Cook until golden brown on both sides, about 2.5 minutes per side.
- Leave a comment below, answering the following question: what’s your favorite way to enjoy cheese?
- For an extra entry, head on over to the Minnesota Cheese Festival’s Facebook page and give them a “like” (loop back and let me know if you did that).
- For another extra credit entry, follow those cheese lovers over on the Twitter (and let me know here that you did).