Easter is always a tricky holiday in our house. While it might not fall on the same Sunday each year, you can pretty much count on it landing near the end of tax season. It’s a stressful time for both my husband Kenny (a CPA who works ungodly hours around April 15) and me, who takes on the brunt of household duties. This year, Easter Sunday happens to be two weekends before Tax Day, so I’m planning on a quiet brunch (for dinner!), just the two of us.
Typically, as with most other households, Easter is a family affair. And I put together this menu a few years back when we celebrated the holiday with relatives in our Orlando home. I went all out that year with a spring-inspired tablescape – I even learned how to fold napkins in a really elegant way (you can too by going here).
I have found that the key to brunch is offering a little bit of everything. You need a bread/pastry component (I made banana bread and buttermilk biscuits); something light and refreshing (yogurt parfait served in pretty wine glasses or a bowl of fruit, which also adds a pop of color to your buffet); then a meaty/protein-based dish (smoked salmon crostini and breakfast casserole with bacon). Oh, and you can’t forget the coffee, tea and morning cocktails (mimosas, anyone?). This easy menu can be dressed up by using your finest China, like I did, or opt to go casual and enjoy this beautiful spring weather while dining alfresco.
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold butter, cut into small bits
1 cup buttermilk
Place rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees. Grease a baking sheet with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, baking soda and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender, your hands, or two knives until the mixture resembles coarse meal.* Using a rubber spatula, fold the buttermilk into the flour mixture until all the flour is moistened.
Sprinkle a small handful of flour over a work surface. Turn the dough out onto the surface and knead lightly two or three times with the palms of your hands until the mixture comes together. Pat the dough out until it’s a 6-inch square. Cut the dough twice lengthwise and twice widthwise to make 9 squares.
Place the biscuits on the prepared baking sheet and bake until light golden brown and firm to the touch, about 12 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with spreadable butter or fruit jam.
*Note: Make sure the butter is very cold, straight from the fridge and work quickly so that it doesn’t melt on you, especially if you’re using your hands. If using your hands, rub your fingertips together when cutting the butter into the dry ingredients – and be careful not to overwork. If using two knives, crisscross them across the butter and flour until the texture is like coarse meal. Next time I intend to use a pastry cutter in hopes that’ll produce flakier biscuits.
Recipe courtesy of Kenny’s Gamma Eleanor Vitek. My mother-in-law, Marylin Bloom, made this famous (in our family) bread as part of the welcome gifts presented to our wedding guests. It’s the best I’ve ever had – no joke!
Makes 2 loaves
1 cup butter, softened
1 ½ cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
3 ripe bananas, mashed
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Put the first six ingredients into a mixing bowl together and mix until well blended. Add in mashed bananas and mix until it’s very creamy like cake batter.
Grease (with cooking spray) and flour two loaf pans. Pour batter evenly into pans and bake for 50 minutes, or until top of bread is golden brown. Serve with butter and jam.
Smoked Salmon Crostini
I tossed together this recipe, which is inspired by the original smoked salmon-topped bagel – one of my favorite brunch dishes!
Makes 30 crostini
8 ounces regular cream cheese
1 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh dill
½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 ½ tablespoons olive oil
30 thin slices French bread baguette (Publix also sells them pre-sliced, to save time)
12 ounces thinly sliced smoked salmon
¼ cup red onion, diced
capers (for garnish)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix first three ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
Brush oil over both sides of bread. Arrange bread in a single layer on a large baking sheet and bake until just crisp, about 5 minutes per side.
Spread cream cheese mixture onto toasts. Top with salmon (cut into small pieces so that it fits on the toast). Garnish evenly with red onions and capers.
Recipe courtesy of my mom, Gay Ann Tangen. She’s made this savory dish for many of our family holidays and it’s always a huge hit with everyone!
1 (8-ounce) packaged seasoned croutons
1 (2-3-ounce) package real bacon bits
1 (8-ounce) package shredded cheese (I use the Mexican blend)
8 eggs, whipped
1 1/3 cup half and half
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a 9×13 oven-safe dish, layer croutons, bacon bits and cheese – in that order. Whip eggs with half and half. Pour eggs over the top of the other layers evenly, cover and refrigerate overnight.
Bake uncovered for 30-35 minutes, and then serve warm.