Sunday, June 29, 2014

Berry Strata

It's that wonderful time of year on the homestead, when, if you're lucky enough to have established berry bushes, the berries are coming in as fast as you can pick them (i.e., you are regularly achieving a Berry Modulus of much greater than 1).  If you're also lucky enough to have laying hens, there's a good chance that you are inundated by both berries and eggs.  What to do with such a bountiful harvest?  We humbly suggest this month's strata recipe.

This is a lot like a regular strata, except the meat has turned to fruit, and the shredded hard cheese has turned to chunks of cream cheese.  The bread is the same as usual, making up the bottom layer.  In this iteration, we used a pound of strawberries and about 0.75 pound raspberries, each split into two layers (or strata, if you prefer).  Almost any kind of berry would probably work, so if you've got cherries, apricots, peaches, or whatever else coming ripe, toss those in, too!

A regular 9" x 13" pan will probably fit two layers each of bread and cream cheese/berries.  This is going to be good!  We seriously considered calling this month's version PolaWyle Strata, after the authors of the famous Christmas song The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, but decided to be less creative at the last minute.

Once the layers have been formed, it's time to fill in the cracks.  Six eggs, three cups milk, a teaspoon or so of vanilla extract, and a few pinches each of salt, cinnamon, and cardamom (if you've got it).  Beat the liquidy part well and pour over the solids.

Then everything has to hang out in the fridge for a few hours and get to know each other.  Hi there, I'm cardamom.  One of the egg yolks was saying we should work together on this project since we bring complementary skill sets to the table. Nice to meet you!  I'm strawberry and I completely agree.

Once everything has mingled, it gets baked at 375 °F for 50-60 minutes.  Are those graham cracker chunks on top?  Yes, those are graham cracker chunks on the top.  They replace the cornflakes in the regular strata recipe.

This one came out a little messier than our other versions, but the layers are still apparent to the trained eye.  As a meal, it's kind of like a french toast casserole, and it would go well with sausage or bacon. (Ok, everything goes well with bacon, but this definitely would, too).  The berries add quire a bit of sweetness on their own, but if you're feeling really naughty, you can eat it with maple syrup.  We found this strata a little less filling than our other versions, so definitely consider serving with a proteinaceous side dish.

The recipe:
10 slices of bread (at least)
16 oz. cream cheese, cut into cubes
2 lbs berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cherries, peaches, etc. in any combination)
6 eggs
3 cups milk
0.25 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon each cinnamon and cardamom
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1.5 cups graham cracker chunks, lightly crushed

Layer the bread, berries and cream cheese in a 9" x 13" pan, starting with bread and ending with cheese.  Beat together eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom and salt.  Pour over mixture and set in fridge for at least 12 hours, preferably overnight.  Spread graham cracker chunks over top of the bread-berry-cream cheese layers.  Bake at 375 °F for 50-60 min, until cream cheese chunks look a little like toasted marshmallows and center begins to set up.

What do you do with your eggs and berries this time of year?  Have you made a similar strata recipe before?  Let us know in the comments section below!

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