Here’s How to Prepare a Restaurant Worthy Brunch at Home

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hdv-gallery/

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hdv-gallery/

The quintessential component of a lazy spring or summer weekend has to be brunch. After a refreshing snooze, you wake up for a meal that isn’t quite breakfast and doesn’t want to be lunch either. Restaurants can do a rollicking business at brunch time but going out isn’t your only option. Staying in, and inviting people over for brunch in some ways is an even lazier way to socialize, you don’t even have to leave the house! Complete with recipe ideas and decorating tips, here is what you need to know to throw a restaurant worthy brunch on any weekend — and still get that coveted shut-eye yourself.

To lounge around as much as possible, get some work done the night before. This applies to kitchen prep, cleaning, and cooking. Tables can be laid out the night before, and if you do most of your kitchen prep in advance — which is easier than you think! — you can give your kitchen the cleaning it needs afterwards. Then on brunch day, you’ll just need to give a quick wipe to the countertops before people begin to arrive.

Quick breads will keep well overnight and won’t require too much kitchen effort. Two or three varieties can easily be made, helping you to round out your menu while keeping picky eaters satisfied. You can even create the allusion you’ve gone to more trouble than you have by making the breads in different forms, such as a batch of lemon poppyseed muffins and a loaf of banana bread. Right before people are due on your doorstep, arrange the muffins or breads in a basket or on a serving dish.

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/neilconway/

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/neilconway/

They require a little more effort, but scones can also be made a day or so in advance, and prettily presented the day of. If you really have your act together and are planning in advance, make these biscuits from Food.com, which makes 10 biscuits. By freezing the dough, you can have fresh biscuits at your fingertips for up to one month.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the board
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt or 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, very cold
  • 1 cup buttermilk (approximately)

Directions: To make the dough, combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, or in the bowl of a food processor. Cut the butter into chunks and cut into the flour until it resembles course meal. If using a food processor, just pulse a few times until this consistency is achieved.

The key to real biscuits is not in the ingredients, but in the handling of the dough. The dough must be handled as little as possible or you will have tough biscuits. A food processor can help in this department, because the ingredients stay colder and there’s less chance of overmixing.

Add the buttermilk and mix just until combined. If it appears on the dry side, add a bit more buttermilk. It should be very wet.  Turn the dough out onto a floured board. Gently pat the dough out by hand until it’s about half an inch thick. Fold the dough about 5 times, gently press the dough down so it’s 1 inch thick.

Use a round cutter to cut into rounds. You can gently knead the scraps together and make a few more, but they will not be anywhere near as good as the first ones. Place the biscuits on a cookie sheet — if you like soft sides, put them touching each other.

If you like”crusty” sides, put them about 1 inch apart; these will not rise as high as the biscuits put close together. To make the day of, bake in an oven preheated to 450 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10 to 12 minutes; the biscuits will be a beautiful light golden brown on top and bottom. Do not overbake.

If freezing the biscuits, cut them, put them on cookie sheets and freeze them for up to a month. When you want fresh biscuits, simply place them frozen on the cookie sheet and bake at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes.

When made the day before, pancakes and waffles will not be an appetizing entree the next day. However, you can put the batter for either together the night before, and store it covered in your refrigerator. Then you’ll be ready to start flipping flapjacks or wafting the smell of freshly pressed waffles through the air before your fellow brunch eaters arrive. Just keep them warmed in a low-temperature oven on a cookie sheet.

Continue saving time the morning of by taking other cooking shortcuts. For example, bacon does not have to be fried, and can be baked to crispy perfection in your oven. To get mess-free bacon, follow these instructions from Martha Stewart. Bacon isn’t the only meat that can be oven baked for brunch. Cooking sausage with a similar method is just as easy, and Williams-Sonoma’s method uses the same oven temperature the bacon does.

There are other baked brunch dishes to consider, that are even easier to put together that morning. One classic brunch fare that can be stored in your fridge is overnight stuffed french toast. Any layering and preparing is done the night before, so all you have to do in the morning is throw it in the oven. This is by far the easiest way to serve french toast during a brunch, because you won’t be tied to a skillet or griddle. French toast isn’t alone when it comes to overnight dishes. You can put a ham and cheese — like this one from AllRecipes.com — together the night before too and have a heartier brunch dish.

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/grongar/

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/grongar/

But even more so than the previous dishes, serving cinnamon rolls will have your guests thinking you were up at the crack of dawn getting everything together. AllRecipes.com explains how to make overnight cinnamon rolls.

Ingredients:

Rolls

  • 1 cup milk
  • ⅓ cup butter
  • 1 (0.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 4½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs

Filling

  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup raisins

Glaze

  • 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1¼ cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons half-and-half cream

Directions: Heat the milk in a small saucepan until it bubbles, then remove from heat. Add the butter and stir until melted; let cool until lukewarm.

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the milk mixture. Add the sugar, 3 cups of flour, salt and eggs; stir well to combine. Add the remaining flour, ½ cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and supple, about 8 minutes.

Lightly oil a large mixing bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a 10 x 14 inch rectangle. Lightly brush the far edge with water. In a small bowl combine the cinnamon and 3/4 cup brown sugar and sprinkle over the rectangles. Then sprinkle the raisins and chopped nuts over the dough. Roll up the dough into a log and seal the seam.

Cut the dough into 12 equal pieces; place the pieces in a greased 9 x 13 inch baking pan, or 12-inch deep dish pizza pan. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to rise overnight.

The next morning, preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Take the rolls out of the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Bake the rolls for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden. Meanwhile, combine the corn syrup with the vanilla in a small bowl. Whisk in the powdered sugar and enough cream to make a thick glaze; set aside. Drizzle the glaze over the rolls and serve warm.

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/larrison/

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/larrison/

While you’re freed from constantly turning french toast or checking on sizzling bacon, use that time to cut up fresh fruit. A fruit salad or tray is a nice, light addition to your brunch table. It introduces a bit of color to the meal, too. Brunch food tends to be a little one note when it comes to presentation, but that is easily solved with rich red strawberries, bright melons, and deep blue blueberries.

The food doesn’t have to be the only table decor. An centerpiece of fresh flowers is never amiss. You can find arrangements at the grocery store or florist that are ready to go, or you can put your own together sourcing flowers from your garden. As always with centerpieces, ensure that they do not block the view across the table. A large bouquet of flowers is beautiful, but if it prevents your guests from seeing each other at the table, conversation will suffer.

Other options for vibrant introductions of color are your placemats and tablecloth. If you cannot find a cheap set of placemats and already have a white or plain table cloth, pick up card stock or another sturdy paper in the color or pattern of your choosing from a local craft store. Set one on a diagonal at each place around your table. The plates and silverware will go on top of paper, just as if it was a placemat. Don’t be overly concerned with matching serving dishes, tableware, etc. Brunch is meant to be casual, so mix and match! Use whatever you have on hand or borrow from a friend if you need a few extra trays.

With your table set, food ready, all you have to do is wait for the guests … and maybe change out of your pajamas … maybe.

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