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12:46 PM Tue, Nov. 20th

Brunch: entertainment options and fabulous food

Many of you may not have considered entertaining family or friends for brunch. It is a great way to celebrate anniversaries, birthdays or other family celebrations. Other options are wedding or baby showers. Brunches are a cook's dream, with many make-ahead foods. Most of you have at least a few ideas (and I hope recipes you have collected) for the many baked egg dishes available, as well as nut breads, coffeecakes, etc. Add some fresh fruit and/or punch, and you are ready.

Brunch is also easy to serve buffet style, making it casual but enjoyable for everyone. Most cookbooks have brunch ideas to get you started. Quiche is easy and popular with most people (and a future column!) These recipes should get you started.

• APPLE CINNAMON FRENCH TOAST

This is one of my favorites ­ almost always served for company. (Repeat company even request it). It is so easy and tasty, and you make it the night before and cook the next morning.

5 tbsp. butter or margarine

2 large baking apples; peeled, cored and sliced

1 cup brown sugar

2 tbsp. dark corn syrup

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

8 (1-inch thick) slices large French bread (about 4 inches wide)

3 large eggs

1 cup milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract.

The day before serving, prepare apples and French toast. In large heavy skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add apple slices and cook, stirring until tender. Add brown sugar, corn syrup and cinnamon to apples. Cook until brown sugar dissolves. Pour apple mixture into 13 x 9 x 2 inch pan and spread to even layer. Put bread slices on top of apples in one layer. In medium bowl, with fork, beat eggs, milk and vanilla until well mixed. Pour over bread slices. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Next morning, heat oven to 375 degrees. Remove plastic wrap and bake French toast for 30 - 35 minutes until mixture is firm and bread is golden. Cool in pan five minutes. Serve by placing spatula under bread/apple mixture and inverting so apples are on top. May top with a bit of whip cream, though very tasty as is. Leftovers (unlikely) can be frozen and reheated. NOTE: You could also use Texas toast or any bread you prefer to substitute. I like the French, as it serves up nicely.

BAKED POTATO-EGGS

You could bake the potatoes ahead until firm and then reheat to full doneness if that works better. Or bake one hour the day of the brunch. This is for four servings, so you could adjust for more.

2 large baking potatoes

2 tbsp. Butter

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

2 precooked turkey sausages, diced

4 large eggs.

Bake the potatoes ahead or day of the party. Carefully cut each potato in half. Scoop out the insides and stir in the butter and cheese. Fold in the sausages. Spoon mixture back into potato halves, creating a hollow in each center. Break 1 egg into each hollow. Arrange on baking sheet and cook 10 - 15 minutes or until eggs are set.

An alternative dish to this is: Use purchased hash browns (or make your own), and when heated and lightly browned in skillet, transfer to a buttered baking dish (size according to servings). Then gently break as many eggs as you wish to serve over the potatoes, top with some grated cheese and bake until eggs are set. Break apart with spatula to serve and top with green chopped onions, salsa, or whatever you like, even a dollop of sour cream.

SCONES

2 cups flour

2 tbsp. Sugar

3 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. Salt

1/3 cup butter

1 egg

1/2 - 3/4 cup milk

1 egg lightly beaten (for tops)

1 cup raisins or currants.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter with pastry blender until dough resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in milk, egg and raisins. Mix until well blended. On floured pastry cloth, knead dough 30 seconds. Roll to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut with biscuit cutter or triangle shape with knife. Brush tops with beaten egg for shiny tops. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet 10 - 12 minutes. Makes 12 - 15 scones.

NOTE: This is a traditional recipe, but you can also add 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, or substitute craisins (dried but not fresh cranberries), blueberries, or a little grated orange rind to suit your taste.

LEMON CURD

This is an easy recipe and so nice on toast, biscuits, scones or even for tarts (individual pies).

6 egg yolk

1 cup sugar

1/2 freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tbsp. grated lemon rind

1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces.

Strain beaten egg yolks into a medium saucepan. This step is important for a clear finished lemon curd. Add sugar, lemon juice; stir to combine; cook over low heat, stirring constantly, 10 - 12 minutes until mixture thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from heat and stir until mixture cools just slightly. Stir in butter, a piece at a time, until fully incorporated. Add rind. Let cool completely. Store in refrigerator about a week or two (but it probably won't last that long!).

FRUIT BUTTERS

There are many variations on this recipe, and they can be made according to your taste. The main thing is to start with unsalted butter and mix with your electric mixer or vigorously by hand and then add to it.

STRAWBERRY BUTTER

1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup butter (no substitutes)

1 cup confectioner's sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup pureed, fresh strawberries.

In mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Gradually add sugar and vanilla, mixing well. Stir in strawberries. Cover tightly and refrigerate several hours or overnight. May keep in refrigerator up to one week. 2 cups.

CRAN-ORANGE BUTTER

1 cup butter

1/3 cup whole berry cranberry sauce

2 tbsp. orange marmalade.

Beat butter until fluffy. Beat in cranberry sauce and orange marmalade. Refrigerate up to three weeks. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

BROWN SUGAR/CINNAMON BUTTER

1 stick butter, softened

1/4 tsp. Cinnamon

4 tsp. brown sugar

1/8 tsp. nutmeg.

In small bowl, beat butter, sugar and spices until fluffy. A very nice spread for muffins, waffles, toast, etc.

WHIPPED JAM SPREAD

1/2 lb. whipped butter (purchased whipped

1 jar (12 oz.) any flavor of your favorite jam or preserves such as apricot, peach, pineapple, strawberry, etc.

Let butter stand in bowl at room temperature until very soft. Add jam or preserves; beat until smooth and fluffy. Serve immediately or store in covered container in refrigerator. Makes about 2 cups.

These should get you started for some taste treats with all kinds of breakfast foods. You can also serve granola with milk or yogurt, seasonal fruit, bacon or sausage to suit your tastes. Enjoy brunch as a leisurely, delicious way to enjoy a new twist on entertaining!