Stuffed Brioche French Toast

True Story: For years, I thought stuffed French toast was made by cutting a slit into a super thick piece of bread and shoving the cream cheese mixture inside.

When I learned that it’s the equivalent of a French Toast Sandwich, I found the concept of making it far more approachable.

I never said I was smart. 🫠

My dad has been making this recipe for stuffed French toast for a while, cut from either a local newspaper or Parade magazine. Its true origin is now unknown; as far as I am concerned, this is Dad’s recipe now and I will treat it as such. Normally, he uses challah bread, but I brought home a loaf of brioche from Dutch Baby Bakery that was just begging to be made into stuffed French toast! At the end of brunch, I suppose it is a matter of preference: using challah for this recipe yields a softer result that can easily be cut with just a fork, while using brioche yields a sturdier result that begs for a knife & fork to cut it. For me, as long as I get bread, sweet cream cheese, and maple syrup inside of me, I will be satisfied!

This admittedly one of my less wordy posts, because I can’t think of much else to say. *gasp* I’ll let this recipe speak for itself.

Stuffed Brioche French Toast

Ingredients

  • 6 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 12 slices brioche (or challah) bread, sliced 1/2″ thick
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided

Directions

  1. Place cream cheese in a large bowl and allow to soften for 30 minutes. Add powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Beat with mixer on medium-high speed for one minute or until spreadable.
  2. Place out sliced bread on an even surface. Divide cream cheese mixture between 6 slices of bread and spread evenly. Place remaining 6 slices of bread to create “sandwiches” and press down gently.
  3. In a wide flat bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, cinnamon, remaining vanilla extract, and remaining salt.
  4. Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium-low heat. Add 1 tablespoon butter and allow to slowly melt, swirling around the bottom of the skillet or brushing with a silicone brush to cover surface.
  5. Dip each sandwich into egg mixture, allowing excess to drip off into bowl. Place on skillet or griddle. Cook for 3 – 4 minutes on each side until golden brown. Add additional butter to skillet or griddle for subsequent batches.
  6. Serve with butter & maple syrup immediately!

How To Relieve “Paxlovid Mouth” + Simple Tea Recipes

In the face of a pandemic that has not yet ended, ideas for evergreen content as a blogger continue to come in interesting forms. Ha!

After roughly three years of dipping and dodging, COVID finally caught me in early January 2023. Can I be frank? I was wicked pissed, and I’m not sorry about “New Englanding” my expression. Being immunocompromised with 12+ years experience working it the field of Infection Prevention & Control, I knew I didn’t want to find out what COVID would be like for an asplenic such as myself. Despite my limited contact with folks in the week prior to my infection – I took a couple brief trips to the grocery store and a handful of visits to my local coffee shops to get matcha lattes to go, all while wearing quality KN95 masks – one particular contagion slipped through and made my life miserable.

I hate to say “mild” because of all of the evidence building up regarding potential lasting effects of COVID, so let’s just say that my symptoms were relatively tame. Being immunocompromised, I had my Paxlovid within hours of my RAT testing positive. My initial symptoms were a runny nose, sneezing, myalgia, fatigue fever, and chills. Both the myalgia and headache disappeared within 12 hours of my first dose of Paxlovid, with my fever breaking within 48 hours. The runny nose and sneezing dissipated within about 72 hours. I am thankful for good science! However, almost three weeks past my initial onset of symptoms, I continued to suffer from unparalleled fatigue.

But…have you heard of Paxlovid Mouth? A common side effect of Paxlovid is to experience, to paraphrase multiple sources, a temporary alternation of taste while taking the medication. While I have read various numbers, the most common number I have come across is 16: the percentage of people reporting this side effect in clinical trials. The technical name is dysgeusia, though Paxlovid Mouth is a lovely colloquialism. I have a much better description:

Imagine walking past a pile of garbage on an NYC sidewalk on a 95 degree day. Take that pungent odor and mix it with a handful of 50 year old pennies that have lost their luster. Take that mix, concentrate it, and smear it on the back of your tongue in a spot that’s just too far back to scrub with a toothbrush or gargle away. Imagine that sensation lasting over the course of five days, virtually 24/7.

Paxlovid Mouth, folks, in a nutshell.

The taste was so bad that I literally could not sleep at night, counterproductive in terms of resting while ill. I would wake up multiple times a night to brush my teeth or gargle mouthwash in vein. If I had to suck on a mentholated lozenge at 6 a.m., I’d just wake up and hope for a quick nap later in the day.

With this all being said, I would absolutely take Paxlovid again should I become reinfected, though I am aiming to dodge COVID again for another three years, preferably longer.

Since I was stuck at home, I had ample time to experiment with the best ways to get rid of this rancid flavor permeating my mouth. The best way? Wait about 8 hours until your final dose of Paxlovid and it’ll resolve on its own. Ha! Short of that, I spent plenty of time trying my own remedies and Googling others. What I have below are a few methods that I hope will help the next Paxlovid Mouth sufferer.

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PLEASE NOTE: I am not a clinical health care professional, and this post is based on my own experiences. Please take Paxlovid as directed by your health care professional, and please do not try any of these if you have an allergy or contraindication.

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Remedies for Paxlovid Mouth

Chrysanthemum Tea

While on a crazy bender of not cooking for five straight days and ordering take-out – honestly, it was glorious! – I bought a noodle dish from one of my favorite noodle shops, The Handpulled Noodle in West Harlem. I’ve long been a fan of their chrysanthemum iced tea, it’s light and refreshing and counters the savory noodle dishes well. However, about two days until my Paxlovid course, I noticed a notable reduction in the bad taste in my mouth after I drank it with my dinner that evening. It didn’t erase it, but it was muted to the point where I didn’t think about it for a few hours. I had plenty of time to experiment, so I ordered again from them the next day…and I ordered three chrysanthemum iced teas! While not perfect, they provided the best relief out of any remedy I tried. I also went down the rabbit hole of peer-reviewed studies regarding chrysanthemum, Chinese herbs, and halitosis. (Halitosis is not equal to dysgeusia, but! It was interesting reading, none the less.)

Look for chrysanthemum tea online, Google is your friend for many varieties.

Cinnamon Tea + Cinnamon Tea Recipe

Cinnamon was my first discovery when trying to cure my bad taste ills. I happened to have a box of Tazo Sweet Cinnamon Spice tea in my pantry, which I had bought by accident a few months earlier, thinking I had grabbed a box of their chai tea bags. This was a lucky mistake on my part! This tea was on repeat for many days! Luckily, in the absence of having cinnamon tea, a few cinnamon sticks can be your friend:

Simple Cinnamon Tea Recipe:
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 – 2 cinnamon sticks (depending on the strength of flavor you’d like!)

Add water and cinnamon sticks to a saucepan and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Remove cinnamon sticks, use a fine sieve to remove any bits of cinnamon stick that have broken off while simmering. Sip while warm; top with additional water if the cinnamon taste is too strong.

Photo by Anna Pou on Pexels.com

Flavorful Meals

Through my research of anecdotes, many people experienced the unpleasant taste, but not an absolute alternation of flavor. Speaking for myself, I had the bad taste, but everything I ate tasted fine and was not affected. Eating provided a reprieve! I ate many meals with spices, herbs, and flavorful sauces to get me over the hump for a few hours. I certainly did not lose my appetite while sick, thank goodness!

Ginger Tea + Ginger Tea Recipe

You can’t go wrong with ginger, either. Its hot bite has always worked as a palate cleanser for me, as well as another effective remedy for Paxlovid Mouth!

Simple Ginger Tea Recipe:
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 2″ inch knob of ginger, peeled and grated or chopped roughly
  • 1 tablespoon honey (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (optional)

Add water and ginger to a saucepan and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Remove ginger. Add honey and/or lemon juice, if desired. Sip while warm.

Photo by Maria Tyutina on Pexels.com

Orbit Spearmint Gum

Orbit Spearmint Gum isn’t just for link lickers and cootie queens! (Oh, god, did I just age myself with that reference?) For better or worse, I can chew a piece of gum for a long time, longer than my jaw often likes. In this case, I felt the mint from this gum provided the longest lasting relief: As long as I had a piece in my mouth, I had a reprieve from Paxlovid Mouth. This gum was surprisingly long lasting; I had some Extra mint gum, but it did not do the job I wanted it to. Not a spearmint fan? I’m sure peppermint will work just as well!

Glossy Cookie Icing

I’ve written two blog posts in a week and one of them is a recipe. What is this, 2015? 🫠

I am currently embracing Christmas Cookie Season, and I will be frying up latkes and sufganiyot at some point next week for Hanukkah. By Manhattan standards, I’ve hit the jackpot with apartment kitchens: it’s eat-in with a 6′ tall south-facing window & a full-sized gas range. Ahhh, my own little culinary oasis! I’ve got my cookie sheets, parchment paper, and cooling racks ready to go, as well as an ample bags of powdered sugar and overpriced Red Dye 40-free Christmas sprinkles from Whole Foods that will soon go dormant for another 11 months.

I starting cooking and baking on my own when I was in, say, 3rd or 4th grade. Many of my kitchen habits from back then carried on with me for way too long; even at 38, I have occasional, “Oh, wow, DUH! Hindsight is 20/20 there, Clayton!” moments. Example: I can cook grilled cheese and quesadillas on a low heat to prevent them from burning before the cheese melts. Logical Allison knew this in her youth, but Set – In – Her – Ways Allison took way too long to acknowledge and put it into practice, highly-heated and burned sandwiches be damned!

For years, I’ve been on the hunt for that perfect sugar cookie icing, but could never quite get it right. While I mixed my confectioner’s sugar, scant teaspoons of milk, and vanilla extract, the results I got never met the expectations I had. Why couldn’t I have those glossy cookies I saw on online and in magazines? Why did my glazes half-absorb into my cookies? After ample research, I had a peak “DUH!” moment when I realized my past glazes were missing a key ingredient that I rarely use, much less remember having: light corn syrup. Much like molasses – hey, tucked within Christmas Cookie Season is also Pfeffernüsse Season! – corn syrup is an ingredient I use seasonally. It sits in its container, neglected, taking up too much space in my cupboard that would be better filled with yet another packet of Momofuku Soy & Scallion Noodle packs. After coming across many recipes that incorporated light corn syrup in their icings, I toyed with my own icing development until I came up with something I liked. Most icing recipes contain the same basic ingredients and proportions – I am not reinventing the wheel here – but I played around to find what made me happy. A little trial and error gave me the consistency I wanted for both the wet icing and when it dried on the cookies. I…was floored, and Logical Allison was rather embarrassed that this didn’t click years earlier. Oh well. Now, with confidence, I can make all the glossy cookies I want. To borrow a simple (and safe for work) “Letterkenny” phrase: Onward!

(Oh, and this is me not caring about the warmer light in one photo & cooler light in the other. Come at me. Ha!)

Glossy Cookie Icing

(Makes enough for 8 sugar cookies)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons light corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk, divided into 1 tablespoon servings

Before We Get Started…

  • Much of my research noted to use clear vanilla extract or flavoring in their recipes. I’ve long used “regular” pure vanilla extract in my white glazes and icings, and I have personally noticed no browning or darkening. Use whichever!
  • As for corn syrup, I would encourage using light corn syrup over dark corn syrup. Dark corn syrup – such as Karo’s – does have molasses as an ingredient, which may impact the color & flavor of your icing.
  • This recipe has been tested with whole milk only; I cannot note how different non-dairy milks or low/no-fat dairy milks may work for this recipe.

Directions

  1. Sift powdered sugar into a large bowl to ensure there are no lumps; sift for a second time if you want to ensure a smooth texture.
  2. Add corn syrup into sugar and whisk; the powdered sugar should start to take on a melted appearance once incorporated with the corn syrup. Add vanilla extract to icing and mix to incorporate.
  3. Add one tablespoon of milk to icing and whisk until incorporated; this icing should be thick yet spreadable and able to drip slowly from a whisk or utensil. If desired, slowly add an additional tablespoon of milk and whisk to thin icing.
  4. Optional: Add in food coloring once all ingredients are incorporated and icing is desired thickness.

Ramen By Rā – Rise + Dine at SOMMWHERE

Rāsheeda Purdie continues to innovate in the world of ramen. From launching her at-home ramen kits at the beginning of the pandemic – including the incredible Bodega Ramen series in late 2021, which I raved about here – to moving into teaching and in-person ramen experiences, Rā knocked another one out of the park with her Rise + Dine series, her chef residency at SOMMWHERE in LES.

In this world where all things super sweet and / or carb-filled seem to be associated with brunch, Rise + Dine takes so many of our favorites morning cravings – bacon, egg, cheese, lox, fingerling potatoes, pork sausage – and utilizes them to put yet another unique spin on what ramen can be. Billed as “A revitalized ramen experience indulged in the form of brunch”, you may crave eating ramen in the a.m. rather than the p.m. going forward.

Rā’s efficient team of three created an experience that was unique, relaxed, and delicious. We started off with hot hojicha tea, a roasted green tea that I love but do not indulge in nearly enough! As we sipped our tea and listened to soothing jazz in the background, our bowls of ramen soon appeared on our table. With five varieties to choose from, we opted for the Bacon, Egg, & Cheese – shoyu, seasoned yolk, crispy Parmesan, smoked bacon, lard oil, & scallions – and the Steak & Soy Egg – beef shoyu, crispy shallots, chimichurri, rosemary fingerlings, herb oil, sesame, & scallions. The former was delicious and – in the best way possible – a very simple bowl. The seasoned yolk was delicate while the bacon was perfectly smoked, and the crispy Parmesan added both tang and texture. The latter was unique, and I appreciated both the herbaceous chimichurri to enhance the steak plus the use of fingerling potatoes for additional crunch; honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever come across a tinier potato chip! Both bowls were elevated by the use of Sun Noodle ramen noodles, which have become my favorite ramen noodles over the years; I recall going to a pop-up of theirs near Bowery many moons ago, and their ramen bowl with fresh wontons in shoyu still ranks as one of the best bowls of ramen I’ve ever had.

What is a brunch without a cocktail and dessert? The hot toddies – made with Japanese whiskey and complemented with an aromatic cinnamon stick – were as comforting as they were energizing, the added citrus making them bright. Dessert was fantastic, a silky vanilla pudding with a black sugar glaze. I’d eat that again over having a brown sugar milk tea! (Or…perhaps I’d have both, I’m not made of stone.)

In this pandemic world, it is a true rarity for me to dine indoors. More than 12 years of working in Infection Control + being immunocompromised + having good logic – 😆 – has kept me away from dining out, and…I miss it. Let me be frank. I miss it. I miss the experience of trying new foods, interacting with a chef and their team, and sharing a meal with a friend. I’m 38 years old with no hang-ups about coming off as cheesy or mushy, because let’s give folks their flowers: Rā was kind enough to provide me with a singular dining experience without any other guests at the time of my reservation so I could dine indoors as safely as possible, and I will be forever grateful for her compassion and kindness. I would not have been able to experience this otherwise!

Rise + Dine continues on December 11th and December 18th, and you can visit her website and Instagram for more details. Keep your eyes peeled for future events by Ramen By Rā, because you will undoubtedly be both amazing and satiated.