Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Easter Brunch ideas

I would rather have an Easter brunch than a dinner, perhaps it's because of all the sweets, yeast breads and egg dishes. Plus ham goes well for breakfast, too. Here are some of the brunch dishes I've served in the past plus some new things I've tried recently that I think would be great on Easter morning.

This past Sunday morning, I tried this 1978 Pillsbury Bake-Off finalist recipe for Maple Cream Coffee Treat. If I made it again, I would up the powdered sugar and leave out the coconut. It's yummy though and the sticky sauce reminds me of January Thaw.


Image borrowed from Pillsbury

MAPLE CREAM COFFEE TREAT
from Pillsbury's "Crescents biscuits & more" booklet

1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup maple syrup or dark corn syrup
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup coconut
2 12-ounce cans Pillsbury Golden Layers refrigerated buttermilk biscuits


Heat oven to 350. In ungreased 13-by-9-inch pan, mix brown sugar, nuts, syrup and 1/4 cup butter; spread evenly in bottom of pan. In small bowl, beat cream cheese, powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons butter with spoon until smooth. Stir in coconut.

Separate dough into 20 biscuits; press or roll each into 4-inch round. Spoon 1 tablespoon cream cheese mixture down center of each biscuit round to within 1/4 inch of edge. Overlap sides of dough over filling, forming finger-shaped rolls, arrange seam side down in 2 rows of 10 rolls each over brown sugar mixture in pn.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until deep golden brown. Cool 5 minutes. Turn pan upside down onto sheet of foil or waxed paper, or onto serving platter; remove pan. Serve warm. Cover and refrigerate any remaining sweet rolls.



I made this bacon for just us on New Year's Eve and broke it into 1-inch pieces, as recommended in the cookbook, as a cocktail-party snack.

BROWN-SUGAR BACON
from "The Comfort Table" by West Virginian Katie Lee Joel

1 pound applewood-smoked bacon
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Place a wire cooling rack on top.

In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar and mustard. Add the bacon and toss to coat. Lay out the bacon slices flat on the rack. Brush with any remaining sugar. Roast the bacon for 25-30 minutes. Let drain on the rack for a few minutes before serving. Serve whole or cut into 1-inch pieces.


Cream cheese plays a supporting role at Easter and in my stuffed French toast that I concocted and reported on in 2007.

Equally special, easy and appropriate for Easter brunch, is the Almond Crumble Twist I featured in a post last fall.

This baked berry French toast was a big hit at a church I attended for Easter brunch several years ago. If you cover it for transport, be sure to vent the lid so the bread doesn't get soggy.


BAKED BERRY FRENCH TOAST
from Cooking Light magazine

1 cup fat-free milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large egg whites, lightly beathen, or 3/4 cup egg white substitute from a carton
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 8-ounce loaf French bread, cut into 1-inch slices
cooking spray
2 cups frozen blueberries
1 1/2 cups frozen blackberries
1 1/2 cups frozen raspberries
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
powdered sugar


Preheat oven to 350. In a 9-by-13-inch dish, combine milk, vanilla, egg whites and egg, stirring well with a whisk. Add bread until it covers the bottom of the pan in a single layer. Turn to coat. Let stand 5 minutes, turning bread occasionally.

While the bread soaks up the egg mixture, coat a second 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Combine berries, 3/4 cup sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon in the dish. Arrange bread in a single layer over berries. Sprinkle evenly with 1 tablespoon sugar.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Sprinkle evenly with powdered sugar. Six servings.

GREEN MONSTAH FRUIT SALAD
from Cook's Country magazine

1 honeydew melon
3 kiwi fruits, peeled and sliced
Handful fresh mint
2 cups green grapes, halved
1/2 cup simple syrup, less if you prefer


Make simple syrup by combining 1 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water and stirring constantly over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Don’t let it boil or scorch. Allow to cool.

Halve the melon and remove seeds. Scoop the flesh from both halves with a melon baller. Stack the mint leaves, roll them and thinly slice on a bias to make a chiffonade.

Combine the melon, grapes and kiwi. Dress with simple syrup and mint. Serve chilled.

My mom loves this salad from my good friend Katie McDowell. She requests it almost every holiday.

KATIE'S SALAD

1 bag baby spinach
1 container grape tomatoes
1/2 red onion, sliced thin
1 red pepper, sliced
1 yellow pepper, sliced
1 container white button mushrooms OR one large portabello mushroom, sliced
1/2 to 1 cup dried cherries or cranberries
1/2 to 1 cup blueberries (can use sliced strawberries, raspberries, Granny Smith apple or green grapes — whatever looks good and is in season)
1 small log chevre (goat cheese) — plain, ash or cranberry, whichever you prefer
1 cup candied pecans (see below)
Lots freshly ground black pepper


Combine ingredients in a large salad bowl. If you like, sautee the mushrooms with a tiny bit of extra virgin olive oil and/or butter before placing on top of salad. This brings out the mushrooms’ flavor and adds a nice warm/cool-and-crispy component to the salad. For another twist — works well if serving as a main dish — form silver-dollar-sized patties of the goat cheese and dredge in flour, egg wash and breadcrumbs and fry in a small amount of oil until golden brown outside and melty inside. Serve atop the salad.

CANDIED PECANS
1 cup pecan halves
light brown sugar
honey
pinch salt
freshly ground black pepper


In a bowl, combine pecans with enough brown sugar and honey to coat liberally. Add dash of salt and black pepper and spread coated pecans on a baking sheet (I line it with foil for easier clean up). Put pecans under the broiler until sugar has caramelized. Be sure to keep a close on them, they burn quickly. When nicely caramelized, remove from oven and allow to sit. The coating will harden. When cooled, scatter over salad (you may want to save a few as snacks).

For dessert, I have made cheesecakes before and sometimes cherry pies -- try topping canned cherry pie filling with crumbled almond paste instead of a top crust. YUM! This year, I'm trying to talk my mom into making her from-scratch butterscotch pie. Heaven!

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