It’s spring, so let’s build a bountiful brunch


Brunch, like macaroni and cheese or peanut butter and jelly, is one of the best combinations around. Where else do you have a choice of a scoopful of scrambled eggs along with a chicken wing paired with a waffle. 

Sources say you can thank the British for inventing brunch, a meal that includes both breakfast and lunch items. Brunches can be casual gatherings or events for special occasions. 

Spring, a popular time for brunch, is a season of rebirth and renewal when we look forward to and welcome seasonal favorites. Combining breakfast and lunch items with spring ingredients like asparagus and fresh greens gives you more flavor varieties. 

We love brunch, and we have you covered with a selection of appealing and crowd-pleasing recipes. When we were thinking of a new take on bacon, along came Bacon and Cheddar Twists. Bacon is wrapped in puff pastry that’s embedded with white cheddar cheese. It’s amazing. Love eggs Benedict but don’t have the knack for poaching eggs? Individual eggs Benedict casseroles made in a muffin tin are the answer. 

When hosting a brunch, or any event, having a plan and menu is crucial. Take stock of your china, linens and silverware and consider which beverages you will be serving. 

Brunch should be beautiful, and it shouldn’t break the bank or stress you out. Our recipes have plenty of make-ahead options so you can spend some time hunting Easter eggs or enjoying guests instead of working in the kitchen. 

From casserole dishes to savory tarts to a stunning coconut cake, today’s recipes are meant to inspire. And don’t forget a cocktail. Every good brunch needs a cocktail be it a fruity mimosa or spicy Bloody Mary. 

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ASPARAGUS WITH MUSTARDY VINAIGRETTE 

Serves: 8 / Preparation time: 30 minutes / Total time: 30 minutes 

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper 

4 pounds asparagus (thick spears if possible), trimmed and bottoms peeled 

1 carrot, peeled, cut into thin strips 

1/4 cup champagne or white wine vinegar 

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 

2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard 

3/4 cup olive oil 

Prepare an ice-water bath. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add asparagus; blanch until tender, 3-4 minutes. Transfer to ice bath. Let cool, then drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Add the carrot strips to the water and blanch 1-2 minutes to soften. Drain and place in ice water. 

Whisk together vinegar and mustards; season with salt and pepper. Whisking continuously, add oil in a slow, steady stream. 

Transfer asparagus to platter. Garnish with carrot strips. Serve with vinaigrette on the side. 

Adapted from www.marthastewart.com 

Tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen. 

BACON AND CHEDDAR TWISTS 

Makes: 12 / Preparation time: 30 minutes / Total time: 45 minutes 

Serve these as whole sticks when serving with soft-cooked eggs. You can also cut them in half to feed more people. 

Nonstick cooking spray 

2 large eggs 

1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard 

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed but chilled 

All-purpose flour 

1/2 cup grated sharp white cheddar 

12 strips bacon 

Sesame seeds or poppy seeds, optional 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray lightly with nonstick spray. 

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, mustard and a splash of water until smooth; season with salt and pepper. Set aside. 

Dust a work surface with flour and roll out the puff pastry to a 10-by-14-inch rectangle with the shorter side facing you. Spread the cheese over the top half of the dough, then fold the bottom half over the cheese half and roll lightly to seal. Cut the dough vertically into 12 even strips; each strip will be slightly thinner than 1 inch. 

Place a bacon strip (folding it in half if need be) on each pastry strip and twist the pastry and bacon together. Place the twists on the prepared baking sheet, pressing down the ends. Brush the tops generously with the egg wash and sprinkle with salt and sesame seeds or poppy seeds, or both. 

Bake until the pastry is golden brown and the bacon is crisp, about 15 minutes. Remove the baking sheet to a rack and let cool for 5 minutes before removing. Place on a serving tray or serve with soft-cooked eggs. 

Adapted from the Food Network’s Brunch at Bobby’s. 

Tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen. 

SPECKLED MALTED COCONUT CAKE 

Serves: 12 / Preparation time: 30 minutes / Total time: 2 hours 

This cake will wow your guests. You can make it in stages or all at once. Look for malted milk powder near the dry milk powders in the baking aisle of most stores. Cream of coconut (not coconut cream) is sometimes located near the cocktail mixture section. A common brand is Coco Lopez. 

Baking spray 

3 cups cake flour 

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 

1/4 cup malted milk powder 

1 teaspoon kosher salt 

1 cup canola oil 

1 cup half-and-half, at room temperature 

1 cup sugar 

1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

1 teaspoon coconut extract 

1 large egg plus 2 large egg whites, at room temperature 

Coconut Buttercream (recipe below) 

1/8 teaspoon brown gel food coloring 

Phyllo nests (recipe below), optional 

Robin egg candy, optional 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Lightly grease three 8-inch cake pans and line bottoms with parchment paper rounds. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, malt powder and salt in a bowl. 

In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, half-and-half, sugar, vanilla and coconut extract and whole egg until smooth. Fold in flour mixture just until incorporated. 

In a small bowl, beat egg whites with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form, 1-2 minutes. Fold egg whites into batter just until combined. 

Divide batter among prepared pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 18-22 minutes. Cool in pans on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then invert onto racks to cool completely. 

Place one layer on a cake plate and frost top with 1 cup of Coconut Buttercream. Repeat two more times. Frost sides with remaining Coconut Buttercream. 

Stir together brown gel food coloring and 2 drops of water in a bowl. Dip the tip of a wide, stiff paintbrush into the mixture. Holding the brush 6-8 inches from the cake, gently fling the mixture onto iced cake. Repeat for desired effect. Spread phyllo nests around the base of the cake and nestle candies in nests. 

To make the Coconut Buttercream: In a mixing bowl, beat 2 sticks of unsalted butter and 1/2 cup cream of coconut on medium speed of an electric mixture until smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Gradually beat in 6 cups of confectioners’ sugar. Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and a pinch of kosher salt; mix until combined. Beat in blue gel food coloring, one drop at a time, until desired color is reached. 

To make the phyllo nests: Tightly roll 6 sheets of phyllo dough lengthwise and thinly slice. Place on a baking sheet, separating the layers. Spray with cooking spray and bake at 350 degrees until golden brown, about 10-12 minutes. Cool completely. 

Adapted from www.countryliving.com 

Tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen. 

TOMATO AND CAMEMBERT TART 

Serves: 12 / Preparation time: 45 minutes / Total time: 1 hour 20 minutes 

You can use any tart dough for this recipe, or refrigerated pie crust. Camembert cheese is similar to Brie, and either one can be used in this recipe. 

TART DOUGH: 

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 

6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces 

1/2 teaspoon salt 

1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper 

21/2 tablespoons olive oil 

2-4 tablespoons water 

TART: 

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 

1/2 cup grated Gruyère cheese 

4 plum tomatoes, cut into thirds lengthwise 

6-8 ounces Camembert cheese 

1/2 cup olive oil 

1/4 cup fresh minced parsley 

1/4 cup fresh chopped basil 

1 teaspoon fresh minced rosemary 

1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme leaves 

1 clove garlic, peeled, minced 

To make the tart dough: In a food processor, pulse the flour, butter, salt and pepper until mixture resembles coarse meal. Alternatively, mix with a pastry blender or fork. 

Mix in the oil and 2 tablespoons of water just until the bottom of the mixture begins to cling together. If necessary, add more water. The mixture should easily gather into a ball. Flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes. 

To make the tart: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out the chilled dough into a 14-inch circle and place it into a tart pan; set aside. 

Spread the mustard over the bottom of the tart shell. Sprinkle the Gruyère evenly over the mustard and alternately arrange the the tomato and Camembert in a circle over the Gruyère. 

In a small bowl, mix the 1/2 cup of olive oil, all of the herbs and the garlic together. Brush about two-thirds of the mixture over the tart. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 35 minutes. 

Remove the tart and brush it with the remaining oil. Cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature. 

Adapted from www.countryliving.com 

Tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen. 

MUFFIN TIN EGGS BENEDICT CASSEROLES 

Serves: 8 / Preparation time: 25 minutes / Total time: 1 hour 25 minutes 

1 tablespoon olive oil plus more for greasing pan 

6 English muffins, split and cut into cubes 

1 large leek, white and pale green parts only, washed well, diced 

12 ounces thick Canadian bacon, diced 

6 large eggs 

2 1/2 cups whole milk 

1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard 

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives 

2 cups heavy whipping cream, divided 

3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, divided 

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste 

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter 

8 large egg yolks 

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice 

1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard 

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Lightly brush two 12-cup muffin tins or a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with oil. 

Place the English muffin pieces on a large rimmed baking sheet and bake until lightly golden brown, 12-15 minutes. Remove from oven and reduce temperature to 350 degrees. 

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the leek and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes until it’s softened. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally until the pieces are just beginning to brown, 4-5 minutes more. 

Evenly divide the baked English muffin cubes into the muffin cups (you may not fill all of them) or scatter in the baking of the baking dish. Spoon the bacon mixture over the English muffin pieces. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, milk, dry mustard, chives, 1 1/2cups heavy whipping cream and 1/2teaspoon each of cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Pour the egg mixture over the leek-bacon mixture in the muffin cups. Bake until casseroles are puffed, golden brown and just set, about 35 minutes if using the muffin tins or 45-50 minutes for a baking dish. 

Meanwhile, make a hollandaise sauce. Melt the butter in the microwave. In a heatproof bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, remaining 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, 1/4teaspoon cayenne and 1/2teaspoon salt. Place the bowl over (but not in) a saucepan of simmering water and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 2-3 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Still whisking constantly, gradually add the melted butter. The mixture should emulsify. Keep warm over very low heat. If the sauce looks separated, whisking in an ice cube will bring it back together. Sprinkle the casserole with additional chives, if desired, and serve with the hollandaise sauce. 

Adapted from several recipes. 

Tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.


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