It's been another big year for brunch.
Led by Instagram-happy millennials, Americans of all ages are now craving a mimosa and eggs Benedict on weekend mornings. Only in the past few years have we started drinking more cocktails during the brunch hour, but even without the booze, a casual breakfast is a treat at the end of a long week.
Now that we're at the end of the year, it's time to break out the biscuits and sausage gravy served with a salty dog on the side or fried chicken, honey cornbread and a bloody mary. Fried eggs and roasted vegetables. Bacon and Gruyere quiche. Cheesy pull-apart bread.
No matter if you're making waffles, crispy hash browns, cinnamon-spiced fried chicken or shakshuka, the baked egg dish that is in just about every new cookbook these days, brunch at home is a treat that's worth the effort.
As cookbook author Joy Wilson reminds us in her book, "Joy the Baker: Over Easy," the only difference between breakfast and brunch is your vibe. “Your willingness to linger around the table and drink a cocktail before noon is what makes it brunch, otherwise it’s just a fried egg or a salad," she says.
These recipes offer a few ideas to get you started this holiday break: a bread pudding, a couple of cocktails that aren't based on orange juice, a braided raspberry loaf, a hash brown-crusted breakfast pizza and an asparagus and egg dish.
Store-bought doughnuts, sparkling wine or fried chicken are all good host gifts if you are attending someone else's brunch, and if you are hosting, do as much prep work ahead of time as you can, but don't have high expectations. Let people come and go as they can, including your own family members. Remember that laid-back is the goal. Mimosas are optional. A nap is recommended.
Turkey Sausage Kale Savory Bread Pudding
This bread pudding is earthy, comforting and perfect for a relaxed brunch at home. To make sure this casserole came out rich and satisfying but not overbearing, we chose leaner (but still flavorful) turkey sausage instead of pork and banned soggy bread by toasting torn baguette slices, enriching their flavor and ensuring they would stand up to the custard. To add even more depth to the pudding while further preventing a wet texture, we microwaved kale with some aromatics and oil to jump-start its cooking and eliminate excess water in our finished dish. We stirred the toasted bread into a simple custard, prepared with 3 parts cream to 2 parts milk for measured richness. To prevent curdling, we stabilized the custard by using just yolks rather than the traditional whole eggs. Once the bread had absorbed some of the custard and the kale was mixed in, we layered the custard-bread mixture with sausage and topped it all off with Parmesan. From there, all we had to do was bake it, covered at first to set the filling and then uncovered for the last 20 minutes to generate some appealing browning.
— America's Test Kitchen editors
1 (18- to 20-inch) baguette, torn into 1-inch pieces (about 10 cups)
1 pound kale, stemmed and chopped
4 shallots, sliced thin
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
8 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 pound turkey sausage, casings removed
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Arrange bread in even layer in 13-inch-by-9-inch baking dish. Bake, stirring occasionally, until bread is crisp and browned, about 12 minutes; let cool for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees.
Meanwhile, combine kale, shallots, garlic and oil in bowl and microwave, stirring occasionally, until kale is wilted, about 5 minutes. Wrap kale mixture in clean dish towel and wring tightly to squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
Whisk cream, milk, egg yolks and mustard together in large bowl. Stir in toasted bread and drained kale mixture until well combined.
Spray now-empty baking dish with vegetable oil spray. Pour half of bread mixture into prepared dish. Crumble half of sausage into 1/2 inch pieces over top. Top with remaining bread mixture and remaining sausage. Sprinkle with Parmesan.
Cover tightly with greased aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake until custard is just set and top is browned, about 20 minutes.
Remove dish from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with chives before serving. Serves 4 to 6.
— From "Cook's Illustrated All-Time Best Brunch" by America's Test Kitchen (America's Test Kitchen, $22.99)
10-Minute Asparagus Brunch for Fancypants People
I am not someone with addictive tendencies — in fact, I’m an exceedingly, sometimes overly moderate person. I like lots of different things all the time, and not too much of any one thing ever. The exception to this is when asparagus swings into season at the farmers market. I just about ran home from the market with the first asparagus of the season, steamed it in a pan, and then consulted my very odds-and-ends-filled refrigerator. Knowing how much asparagus loves cheesy, salty, funky richness (think asparagus in quiches or eggs Benedict), I emerged with a tub of miso and the butter dish. Mashed together and tossed with the hot asparagus, the miso butter makes a salty, savory sauce, and it really is just the thing for the very green, very demure asparagus. Another reason I love asparagus: It is totally kosher to eat it with your fingers. This is even true when it is dripping with butter. If you add eggs to the equation, you have to add the fork back in, but you get a really lovely brunch, one that feels a little fancy. It is very easily batchable, making it an ideal choice if you’re having a crowd over.
— Caroline Lange
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature, plus extra for greasing the pan
1 1/2 teaspoons white or yellow miso, plus more to taste
1/2 pound asparagus, ends trimmed (I do this by simply bending the stalk gently about an inch above the base and waiting for it to snap off)
As many eggs as you like
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Mash the butter together with the miso in a small bowl. Set aside.
Set the asparagus in a frying pan that has a tight-fitting lid. Add a splash of water, set on the lid, and turn the heat to medium-high. Let the asparagus steam until bright green and tender; the exact time will depend on how thick your asparagus stalks are, about 3 1/2 to 4 minutes. Shake the pan occasionally and keep checking — you’ll know when they’re done.
Drain off all but about a tablespoon of water (or, if the water’s gone, add a tablespoon) and turn the heat to low. Drop in the miso butter and swirl, gently tossing the asparagus in the butter to coat. It should look slightly saucy. Set the asparagus on the serving plate and cover so it stays warm.
Add the butter you set aside before to the pan and cook the eggs as desired: fried, scrambled, poached or soft-boiled. Set the cooked eggs over the asparagus. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
— From "Breakfast: The Most Important Book About the Best Meal of the Day" by the editors of Extra Crispy (Oxmoor House, $25)
This bloody mary recipe makes 5 to 7 drinks, and the mixer tastes even better if you can let it rest for a few hours in the fridge after mixing together.
— Ryan Angulo and Doug Crowell
For the bloody mary mix:
24 ounces tomato juice
1/2 cup lemon juice (about 2 to 3 lemons)
5 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/4 teaspoons Tabasco sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/4 teaspoons celery salt
Celery sticks, olives, cooked bacon strips, pickles and pickled vegetables for garnish
Combine all the ingredients for the mix and refrigerate in an airtight container for at least 6 hours or up to 4 days.
When ready to serve: If using a salt rim, first wet the rim of an 11- to 13-ounce glass with a wedge of lemon or lime, then dredge the rim in one of the salt plates.
Add ice cubes up to the top of the glass, being careful not to disturb your rim. Using a jigger, measure 2 ounces of your selected liquor. Pour in bloody mary mix to about 1/2 inch below the top of the glass (1 inch below, if you’re planning on a float). Stir the drink with a stirrer or swizzle stick.
Pick up a cocktail skewer and select your garnishes. All the garnishes in our list play nicely together, so you can’t go wrong. Larger garnishes like celery sticks and pickle spears may be sunk right into the drinks without a skewer.
If desired, top with a float of beer or liquor, an extra dash of hot sauce or a grind of pepper. Enjoy and repeat (responsibly).
— From "Kindness & Salt: Recipes for the Care and Feeding of Your Friends and Neighbors" by Ryan Angulo and Doug Crowell (Grand Central Life & Style, $35)
This is an ideal party cocktail, especially in the winter, since it’s the same festive color as the plant it takes its name from. Why? Because you don’t need to shake anything (if you did, the fizz would explode all over the house), you don’t need to stir anything (you’ll lose all the bubbles), you don’t even need to worry about ice. Just make sure everything is cold from the fridge.
— Kay Plunkett-Hogge
1 ounce chilled cranberry juice
1/2 ounce chilled Cointreau
Chilled English sparkling wine or Prosecco, to top up
A twist of orange or a fresh cranberry, to garnish
Pour the cranberry juice and Cointreau into a Champagne flute. Top up with sparkling wine and garnish with a twist of orange or a cranberry. Serves 1.
To make about 10:
1 (750-mililiter) bottle chilled English sparkling wine or Prosecco
13 ounces chilled cranberry juice
3 1/2 ounces chilled Cointreau
10 twists of orange or fresh cranberries, to garnish
Pour all the ingredients into a big jug, then pour into Champagne flutes and garnish each with a twist of orange or a cranberry. Serves about 10.
— From "The Art of the Party: Drinks & Nibbles for Easy Entertaining" by Kay Plunkett-Hogge (Mitchell Beazley, $14.99)
We kept seeing breakfast pizzas on brunch menus, but they all used a regular dough as the crust. That wasn’t gonna cut it — we turned to our favorite breakfast ingredient: shredded hash browns. Each bite of crispy potatoes, savory bacon and runny yolks will make you so happy you didn’t just make another scramble.
— Joanna Saltz
Cooking spray, for baking sheet
1 pound frozen shredded hash browns, thawed
6 large eggs, divided
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
Freshly chopped chives, for garnish
Heat oven to 400 degrees and grease a baking sheet with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, stir together hash browns, 2 eggs and 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese and season with salt and pepper.
Transfer hash brown mixture to prepared baking sheet and, using your hands, pat into a circular crust. Bake until golden, 20 minutes.
Top baked crust with remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese and crack remaining 4 eggs on top. Scatter bacon over everything and season with salt and pepper.
Bake until egg whites are set but yolks are still slightly runny, 15 minutes. (If you prefer a less runny yolk, bake 18 to 20 minutes.) Garnish with chives, and slice.
— From "Delish: Eat Like Every Day’s the Weekend" by editors of Delish and Joanna Saltz (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30)
This braid is a showstopper and looks like you spent all day preparing it. The truth is, it’s really easy and fast to make and is the perfect sweet to bring to a brunch or book club. The brightness of the raspberries combined with the layer of cream cheese is a wonderful pairing, but you should play with the flavor combinations; another favorite is pastry cream with a cherry jam, or you could make it savory with ham and cheese.
1 pound (grapefruit-size portion) Amish-Style Milk Bread dough or any other enriched dough (see recipe)
All-purpose flour, for dusting
For the cream cheese filling:
4 ounces cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 cup raspberry jam, homemade or store-bought
Egg yolk wash (1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water), for brushing the braid
For the raspberry icing:
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream (or more as needed to reach the proper consistency)
6 ounces raspberries, for garnish and icing
Make the cream cheese filling: Mix the cream cheese, lemon zest and sugar in a bowl until smooth. Set aside.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit–size) piece. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a rough ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.
Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to a 1/4-inch-thick rectangle, about 9 inches by 12 inches. As you roll out the dough, add flour as needed to prevent sticking.
Lift the dough onto the lined baking sheet. Place the cream cheese filling down the length of the dough in a 1-inch strip in the center, and add the raspberry jam on top.
Using a pizza cutter, cut about 1/2-inch-wide strips down each side. Twist and then fold the strips, left over right, crisscrossing over the filling. Lightly press the strips together as you move down the pastry, creating a braid. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rest at room temperature for 60 minutes.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees, with a rack placed in the center of the oven. Brush the braid lightly with egg wash. Bake the braid for 35 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to cool.
Make the raspberry glaze: While the braid is cooling, mix together the powdered sugar, cream and raspberries. Add enough cream so you can drizzle the glaze from a spoon.
Drizzle the braid with half the glaze, cover in raspberries and drizzle with the remaining glaze.
Amish-Style Milk Bread
Adding an extra starch like potato flour gives bread a lift and lightness that you’d not expect from a lowly spud. This dough is one of our favorites for its rising power and flavor. Divided into small pieces and layered with lots of butter, it is the base for our springy but rich Parker House Rolls, or it makes a gorgeous raspberry braid. After you make this dough, cruise through the book and find a world of possibilities. Makes two 2-pound loaves. The recipe is easily doubled or halved.
— Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François
2 1/2 cups whole milk
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon granulated yeast
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/3 cup sugar
6 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup potato flour
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water), for brushing the loaf
Mixing and storing the dough: Mix the milk, eggs, yeast, salt and sugar in a 6-quart bowl or a lidded (not airtight) food container.
Mix the flours and butter with the milk mixture without kneading, using a heavy-duty stand mixer (with paddle), a Danish dough whisk or a spoon.
Cover (not airtight), allow to rest at room temperature for 2 hours and then refrigerate.
The dough can be used as soon as it’s thoroughly chilled, at least 3 hours. Refrigerate the container and use over the next 5 days.
On baking day, grease an 8 1/2-inch-by-4 1/2-inch nonstick loaf pan. Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 2-pound (large cantaloupe-size) piece. Dust with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. Elongate the ball into an oval and place it in the loaf pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rest at room temperature for 90 minutes.
— From "Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes a Day: Sweet and Decadent Baking for Every Occasion" by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François (St. Martin's Press, $35)