FEW THINGS are more self-indulgent than rising late on a weekend morning and enjoying a relaxed but elegant get-together with a few friends.
With the right menu, brunch can be a relaxing self-indulgence even for the cook. Stick to dishes that can be prepared the day before, and you'll feel almost like a guest at your own table.
The following brunch is planned to take advantage of ingredients that are available at this time of year. Just about all of the dishes can be assembled the day ahead. Also, to make your preparation easier, an efficient schedule follows the menu. MENU (6 servings) Winter fruit salad with custard sauce Layered egg and mushroom casserole Crunchy artichoke salad Whole wheat sticky buns with cinnamon-raisin and honey-almond fillings Cafe brulot
SCHEDULE: The morning before the brunch: Mix up dough for sticky buns.
While dough is rising for the first time, make layered egg and mushroom casserole and refrigerate. Punch down risen stick-bun dough and set aside to rise again. Make crunchy artichoke salad and refrigerate. Finish sticky buns. Remove to serving trays. Cover with plastic wrap and store at room temperature.
The evening before: Assemble winter fruit salad. Make custart topping for winter fruit salad up to the point before whipped cream is added. Set table. Set up coffee pot.
The morning of the brunch: Stir crunchy artichoke salad well. Arrange shredded greens on an attractive serving plate and top with artichoke mixture. About an hour before guest are expected, put layered mushroom and egg casserole into oven and bake as directed. Whip cream for winter fruit salad topping and fold in. Make fresh coffee (for cafe brulot) and keep warm. When guests arrive, make cafe brulot as they watch, and serve remaining dishes.
The sticky bun recipe obviously makes more than you'll need for a small bunch. However, the time involved in making a large number is almost the same as for a few. And the extras freeze beautifully.
Included are two filling/toppings, each enough for half the dough recipe. If you want to make just one kind of topping, double the recipe or freeze half of the remaining dough. WHOLE-WHEAT STICKY BUNS (Makes about 42) Dough: 1/2 cup milk 1/2 cup butter or margarine 1/4 cup sugar 1 teaspoon salt 1 package active dry yeast (approximately 1 tablespoon) 1/2 cup warm water 2 large eggs, beaten 2 1/4 cups whole-wheat bread flour 3 cups unbleached white flour (at least)
Put milk into a saucepan over medium heat and scald (cook to 150 degrees). Remove from heat. Add butter or margarine, sugar and salt. Stir well and set milk mixture aside to cool. Sprinkle yeast on warm, almost hot water. (If checking with a thermometer, it should register 110 to 115 degrees). Stir until particles disolve.
Combine milk mixture and beaten eggs in a large bowl. When the mixture has cooled to warm (95 to 105 degrees), add the yeast and stir well. Begin gradually adding whole-wheat flour, beating with a heavy spoon. Then gradually add white flour. Continue adding small amounts of flour until the dough becomes cohesive and manageable, but stil soft and slightly moist. If necessary, add extra white flour to accomplish this. Form into a smooth ball. Cover dough with a clean, dampened cloth and set aside for 10 minutes. Put dough on a very lightly floured board and begin kneeding, with well-greased hands. Kneed for 10 minutes.
Place dough back in a large, greased bowl, turn so all surfaces are greased, and cover with a clean, dampened cloth. Set bowl in a warm place (about 85 degrees) and let rise until double in bulk, about 2 hours. Punch down, kneed once or twice and let rise again until double in bulk, about 40 minutes. Dough is now ready to make into buns. CINNAMON-RAISIN STICKY BUNS (Enough for 1/2 dough recipe) Filling: 3 tablespoons softened butter or margarine 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed 1 tablespoon cinnamon 3/4 cups raisins Topping: 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed 1 tablespoon butter or margarine 1 tablespoon dark corn syrup 1 tablespoon water HONEY-ALMOND STICKY BUNS (Enough for 1/2 of dough recipe) Filling: 3 tablespoons softened butter or margarine 1/4 cup honey 1/2 cup thinly sliced almonds Topping: 1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar 4 tablespoons soft butter or margarine 1/4 cup honey 1 teaspoon water 1/2 cup thinly sliced almonds
Punch down dough and divide in half. Return half to the bowl and cover. Roll the other half out on a lightly floured board to form a 10-by-18-inch rectangle. Roll out firmly and slowly, to form a layer of uniform thickness. Mix ingredients for either filling (except raisins or almonds) and spread evenly over dough. Sprinkle with raisins or almonds.
Carefully roll up the rectangle to form a log 18 inches long. If the center of the log is thicker than the ends, stretch out away from the middle portion with hands. Cut the log into slices about 3/4-inch thick. Space on a greased, rectangular or round baking sheet or pans, allowing room for rising. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise until double in bulk, about 30 minutes. Bake at 325 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes or until just barely browned. While rolls bake, make topping.
For cinnamon-raisin buns combine all ingredients in a saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring, until sugar is completely dissolved and topping is smooth. Set aside. When buns are brown, remove from oven and spoon over the topping.
For honey-almond buns, combine confectioners' sugar, butter or margarine, honey and water. Stir until topping is smooth and creamy. Set aside. When buns are brown, remove from oven and spread with topping. Sprinkle on nuts.
Allow topping to set before removing sticky buns to serving trays. LAYERED EGG AND MUSHROOM CASSEROLE (6 servings) Mushroom Sauce: 3 tablespoons butter 1 medium onion, finely chopped 2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms (about 8 ounces) 3 tablespoons flour 1 cup hot milk (or 2/3 cup instant nonfat dry milk plus 1 cup hot water) 1 chicken bouillon cube 1/4 cup sour cream 2 tablespoons dry sherry or white wine Salt and freshly ground pepper Egg Layers: 8 large eggs 2 tablespoons water 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped (or 2 tablespoons dried) 1 teaspoon chervil 1/2 teaspoon thyme 1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce 1/2 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons butter 3/4 cup (about 3 ounces) each grated swiss and cheddar cheese, mixed together
Grease an 8-inch round ceramic quiche dish (or similar baking dish) aside.
To prepare mushroom sauce, melt butter in a medium saucepan. Saute onion until tender, then add mushrooms and saute until they begin to exude some juices. Stir in flour and cook 1 minute. While stirring, add the hot milk (or dry milk and hot water) and bouillon cube. Continue to stir and cook until mixture thickens and boils. Remove from heat and stir in sour cream and sherry. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Have mushroom sauce (and grated cheese) handy so casserole can be assembled as each egg layer is made.
To make egg layers, put all ingredients except butter (and cheese) in a bowl and beat until slightly foamy. Heat in a 10-inch skillet (with sloping sides) over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 tablespoon butter. As soon as it melts, give egg mixture a quick stir to distribute herbs; then pour a scant 1/2 cup into skillet. Cook, without stirring, until bottom of egg "pancake" is lightly browned and top is almost dry. Pick up skillet and tilt it over quiche dish to slide in "pancake," cooked side down. Immediately cover "pancake" with 1/3 of muchroom sauce and 1/4 of cheese. Make 2 more layers in the same manner. Top with a fourth egg "pancake" and the remaining cheese.
Cover casserole with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to bake. Then bake, uncovered, in a 325-degree oven for 45 minutes (or until completely heated through). Remove from oven and rest 10 minutes. Cut into wedges to serve.
(Note: Casserole can be baked immediately after assembly if desired -- for 30 minutes instead of 45.) CRUNCHY ARTICHOKE SALAD (6 servings) 14-ounce can water-packed artichoke hearts 1 cup chopped celery 2 green onion tops, finely sliced 2-ounce jar canned pimiento strips 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard 1/4 teaspoon black pepper 1 teaspoon sugar 2 tablespoons vinegar 5 tablespoons vegetable oil Lettuce or other greens, shredded
Drain artichoke hearts and cut into quarters. In a bowl, combine artichoke hearts, celery, green onion, pimiento and parsley. In a separate bowl, mix mustard, pepper, sugar, vinegar and oil. Stir well. Pour over artichoke mixture and toss gently. Marinate in refrigerator overnight. To serve, arrange greens on a serving plate and top with artichoke mixture. WINTER FRUIT SALAD WITH CUSTARD SAUCE (6 servings) Fruit Mixture: 1/4 cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed 2 to 3 teaspoons cream sherry or fruit liqueur 1 tablespoon lemon juice 1 package frozen berries in juice, thawed, including juice 8-ounce can juice-packed pineapple, including juice 2 banannas, peeled and sliced 2 apples (with peal) cored and cubed 2 pears (with peel) cored and cubed 2 tangerines, peeled and sectioned Sauce: 1/2 cup sugar 1 teaspoon flour 2 large eggs 1/2 cup pineapple juice 1/2 pint whipping cream
To prepare the fruit mixture, combine orange juice concentrate, sherry and lemon juice in serving bowl. Stir to mix. Add thawed berries with their juice and pineapple with juice. Add remaining fruit, stirring carefully to coat with juices. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
To prepare the custard sauce, mix sugar and flour together in a small saucepan. Beat in eggs. Mix in pineapple juice. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Before serving, whip cream and fold into egg mixture. Place sauce on top or mix into fruit.
Note: Variety of fruit, of course, can vary with what is in season. CAFE BRULOT (4 to 6 servings)
This impressive flamed coffee drink was made famous by Brennan's restaurant in New Orleans. Assemble and flambe it in front of your guests just before serving. 4-inch cinnamon stick 12 whole cloves Peel of 1 lemon (yellow part only), slivered Peel of 1 orange (orange part only), slivered 3 or 4 sugar cubes, haved (or 6 to 8 small "dot" cubes) 1/4 cup orange-flavored liqueur 1 cup brandy 3 cups fresh, hot, strong coffee
Put cinnamon, cloves, lemon and orange peel, sugar and orange-flavored liqueur into a heat-proof bowl. Stir to blend. Heat brandy in a small saucepan until hot to the touch. Add all but about 2 tablespoons to the mixture in the bowl. Put the remaining brandy in a ladle and carefully ignite with a match. Lower the ladle into the bowl and keep ladling the flaming mixture in the bowl until the sugar is dissolved.
Gradually add coffee, ladling until flames die out. Ladle into cups and serve.