“Brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting,” wrote Guy Beringer in Britain’s 1895 Hunter’s Weekly, in an article titled “Brunch: A Plea.” “It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.”
Of course, what’s not to love about a late-morning meal? Be it on a Sunday or holidays, brunch is a great way to share leisurely time with family or friends over a hearty spread. Not to mention it’s also a great way to recuperate after a late night. (I’m certainly not one to judge.)
When I know I’ll be hosting a brunch, I like to prepare as much in advance to keep things simple in the morning, fuzzy brain or not. Why make things harder than they have to be?
One of my go-to dishes is a big platter of maple bacon cinnamon rolls. They’re like traditional cinnamon rolls but a little bigger, with a sweet maple syrup mixture brushed on a soft, yeasted dough before rolling. Sprinkle on a generous amount of crumbled bacon, then roll the dough up and cut the individual portions.
What’s great about this dish is you can prepare it up to this point and refrigerate it until ready to bake. Make them the day before, if you’d like, then take them out first thing in the morning, when you’re nursing your first cup of coffee, to warm them up slightly before baking. Out of the oven, drizzle them with a rich cream cheese glaze and you’re ready to serve.
Another great option is a savory bread pudding, which also can be prepared the night before. Make a custard base, folding in sautéed mushrooms and onions, fresh thyme, large cubes of French bread and grated Gruyère cheese. Make the dish up to this point, then cover and refrigerate until ready for action; this will give the bread cubes time to soften and soak up some of that custard base. Then simply uncover and bake until golden brown. It’s rich and fragrant, so your guests might never guess it’s vegetarian. But if you’d like to gild the lily, serve the bread pudding with a bowl of thick sausage gravy.
For my pious friends, I keep a batch of homemade granola for parfaits. If you’ve never made granola, it’s incredibly simple. Though the combination can vary to suit your tastes, I typically combine a few cups of rolled oats with nuts, flaked coconut, a touch of spice, brown sugar and maple syrup to sweeten, and a little oil for richness and to help the granola roast up nicely. Then spread the granola out onto a rimmed baking sheet and place it in the oven until golden brown, tossing occasionally for even coloring.
Serve the granola with yogurt and colorful summer fruit, and you have a dish that’s both beautiful and virtuous. Everyone’s happy.