5 absurdly easy & 4 (slightly more) ambitious brunch recipes
By far my favorite meal to have friends over for is brunch. Sure, hosting at our apartment means skipping the long lines & overpriced toast that are endemic to San Francisco, but that’s not the main draw. There’s something deeply soothing about rolling out of bed far later than I ordinarily do, turning on the oven, and leisurely starting to cook before people show up at eleven or noon.
Brunch also serves as a time for experimentation in a way that a weeknight dinner never can – faced with an entire morning (or Friday evening) to prepare, you can get a little more creative than a quick lentil curry or pan pizza. Over the past couple of years, I’ve built up a repertoire of options that make standing in line for an hour even less appealing, and I’m excited to share them with you!
I’ve split these into two categories: easy, and ambitious – but in this context, “ambitious” really means “requires a little planning” or “is a lot easier with a stand mixer.” Nothing on this list is particularly difficult, especially if you’ve already invested in a baking scale and a good digital thermometer!
First, the easy:
Dutch Baby Pancake
If you wake up later than anticipated, don’t feel like doing much more than stirring, and have a well-seasoned cast iron (or other oven-safe nonstick) pan, this is your go-to. It just takes eggs, milk, butter and flour to make a pancake that puffs up beautifully in a hot oven. Plus, it’s way less effort than flipping individual pancakes!
I started off making a chocolate version from Smitten Kitchen as an easy dessert, but have since switched to a less sweet version from Chrissy Teigen. I never bother using a blender – a whisk and some elbow grease are all that’s required. If your skillet is a little smaller than called for or your roommates especially paranoid about setting off your smoke alarm (ahem) stick a sheet pan on the lower rack to catch any drips before they hit the bottom of your oven. Serve with a dusting of powdered sugar, a drizzle of maple syrup, or some fruit compote!
Of course, sometimes nostalgia calls for the stacks of pancakes you used to eat growing up. It took a little trial and error to find a recipe I liked – I started off whipping egg whites for maximum fluffiness and somewhere along the way decided it just wasn’t worth it, especially before I’d had a cup of coffee. I’ve settled on this recipe from Smitten Kitchen, which involves very little effort and better yet, has you finish the pancakes in a warm oven, meaning that you can make the whole batch and then sit down and eat them together with your friends. Note: it is absolutely worth getting real buttermilk instead of doing the acid plus milk trick. It’s available at Trader Joe’s and lasts basically forever in the back of your fridge.
If your brunch efforts thus far have been limited to bacon and eggs, biscuits are an excellent addition to round out your meal. They are incredibly easy to make, and there’s very little more satisfying than splitting open a hot biscuit and watching the butter you’ve slathered on melt away. Pick up some “everything but the bagel” seasoning and a carton of buttermilk from Trader Joe’s, and you’ll always be ready to make Julia Turshen’s Everything Biscuits from Small Victories.
It takes literally fifteen minutes to pull the dough together and punch out the biscuits (I use a wine glass!) Then you can let the oven preheat and the biscuits chill in the fridge for maximum flakiness while you set the table and frantically clean your apartment before your guests arrive. (Or is that just me?) Bonus: to easily make bacon and eggs for a crowd, make your bacon in the oven, and a big batch of softboiled eggs in the instant pot.)
If you’ve got just a few people over, omelettes are a no-planning-required, impressive yet deceptively easy option. They might seem complicated, but a good nonstick pan and a quick glance at a video tutorial will get you most of the way there. According to the Food Lab, the secret to perfect American-style omelettes is to salt your eggs and let them sit for 10-15 minutes before cooking, which stops them from unattractively weeping all over your plate. I like to make mine with brie and caramelized onions for maximum fanciness!
Chocolate Chunk Scones
This is not the first time I’ve raved about Bravetart’s bakery style cream scones, but a year later, they’re still near the top of my brunch pyramid. They take literally ten minutes to pull together, and the most labor-intensive part is rubbing a couple of tablespoons of butter into flour. They bake up golden brown at the edges and as beautiful as the scones in any American bakery case, which may lead to you refusing to order scones at cafés because they don’t look as delicious as the ones you make yourself.
If you’re feeling a little more ambitious or having a particularly lazy evening before your brunch party, give one of these a shot:
I first fell in love with quiche when I discovered Dan Gritzer’s recipe for a mixed-cheese version, which is designed to use up all the random leftover pieces of cheese hanging out in your refrigerator. I made it as the centrepiece to a vegetarian Easter brunch and then again and again in the subsequent weeks, sometimes with homemade pie crust, but more often than not the pre-made stuff from Trader Joe’s. Both versions worked out great, and if you’re not making your own pie crust, this really is as easy as pressing some dough into a pie plate and whisking up some eggs. I love using a mix of brie, goat’s cheese and cheddar, sometimes adding caramelized onions or broccoli & bacon.
Ever since we moved out to San Francisco, Sam has been on the hunt for the perfect muffin – preferably lemon poppyseed and identical to the kind he used to get from Olives in Princeton growing up. I can’t compete with nostalgia, but Bravetart’s recipe made with fresh blueberries and sprinkled with coarse sugar for a crunchy lid gets pretty close. Plus, if you sub the butter for coconut oil, the dry mix stays good in the cupboard until the date stamped on the tub of oil, and completing the batter later takes five minutes.
Back when I was an RA in college, I re-discovered canned cinnamon rolls as a great way of stretching my snack budget – a way better return on investment for satisfying hungry freshmen than sushi platters or pizza. Bravetart’s recipe for one-bowl, overnight cinnamon rolls is a little more involved (you need a stand mixer!) but the results are stunning – pillowy, sweet rolls that taste like pure comfort. This makes two 8×3″ cake pans worth of rolls, and you’d better have a crowd coming if you’re going to bake them both off at once. The better option is to stick one pan and half the icing in the freezer for up to three months, to whip out for emergency visitors. (Any of my freshmen who ended up in the Bay Area – you have a standing invitation to brunch.)
You read that right- I’m out here telling you that it’s possible to make pretty darned good bagels at home, and outside New York City, no less! You do need a good food processor; instead of trying to go without, borrow one from a friend and pay them back in bagels. The magic recipe is, of course, from Bravetart, who uses a Japanese technique to ensure they stay fresh for 48 hours. All you need to decide is what kind to make (the correct answer is Everything, obviously – put that bottle of Trader Joe’s seasoning to good use!)
So there you have it – 9 ideas for your next brunch bonanza. Next weekend, invite some friends over, avoid the crowds, and bask in your newfound domestic glory!