I love the idea of hosting a leisurely Sunday brunch with friends and family. Flowers on the table, sun streaming in through the windows, delicious eggy things and sweet baked treats on our plates. This is so my kind of thing.
In reality, I’m far too lazy (and unwilling to get out of my cozy robe) to pull off a brunch party with anything close to even semi-regularity. However, there are times when out-of-town guests come to stay with us and morning hosting duties call. There’s no way I’m going to plop a box of cereal down and call it good. But neither will I stand at the stove for an hour flipping pancakes for a crowd.
Luckily, I have a few go-to’s that are easy to execute and still feel special.
First up: sheet-pan bacon. Everyone loves bacon, and if you’ve got a house full of people you’re going to need a lot of bacon. So forget the skillet and get out your cookie sheets.
I’ve been cooking bacon this way for many years and I’ve tried it with a cooling rack on the pan, and without, and at different temperatures. I’ve learned the rack is useless, so just lay the strips right on the sheet. I don’t line it with foil because it seems wasteful and the bacon doesn’t stick much anyway.
More often than not, I bake it at 425 for about 15 to 20 minutes, flipping over halfway through. But there are a few times when I wanted to get the bacon going but didn’t want it done right away (maybe someone was still in the shower, or I needed to run to the store), in which case it’s been fine to lower the heat to 350 and cook it for about 30 to 40 minutes. Another trick: Add a glaze. Mix a little mustard and maple syrup together and brush it on the bacon before cooking. You can even baste it with more while it cooks. The glaze adds even more flavor and a satisfying crackly texture when it cools.
Either way, with sheet-pan bacon you get a bunch done at one time, they cook evenly so you don’t have to keep vigil over the pan, and there’s far less splattery mess. Truly there is no better way to cook bacon than this.
Next up: Scones. Do not underestimate the allure of a tender, buttery, freshly baked scone. They’re more decadent than muffins, but not as fussy as pastries. And with a little glaze on top they kick donuts to the curb.
One of the best things about scones is you can make the dough ahead and freeze it. But even if you don’t, mixing up a batch of scones takes 10 minutes tops. That’s it. 10 minutes to mix, 12 to 15 to bake. In other words, you can go from zero to bliss in 22 minutes.
If you’ve crossed paths with too many hockey-puck or oddly cakey scones and have written the whole category off as gross, you have to give this recipe a try. With nubby toasted oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and a luscious glaze of brown butter and maple syrup, they’ll steal the scene at any brunch. I love using bourbon-barrel-aged maple syrup to add even more complexity to the glaze (Crown Maple is my favorite — expensive but so worth it). But any real-deal maple syrup will be delicious.
I’m extremely picky about scones, so I’ve taken great pains to develop a few recipes that make me happy (including this coconutty one). So trust me, if they make me happy, they’ll probably make you happy too.
Brown Sugar and Toasted Oat Scones with Brown Butter and Bourbon-Maple Glaze
Makes 8 scones
These tender, buttery scones have a rustic flavor, thanks to the addition of good old-fashioned rolled oats. Toasting the oats first enhances their flavor, and also helps them retain their oaty texture during baking. Although you can mix scones by hand with a pastry cutter, this recipe is best made in a food processor, because the blades chop up the oats a bit.
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
3/4 cup heavy cream, plus more if needed
Brown Butter and Bourbon Maple Glaze:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup powdered sugar
4 tablespoons Bourbon-barrel-aged maple syrup (such as Crown Maple brand), or plain maple syrup
1 tablespoon heavy cream or milk, or as needed
To make the scones: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the oats on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes, until they look a shade darker and smell toasty.
Increase the oven’s heat to 425 degrees.
In the bowl of a food processor, add the oats, flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Pulse or mix until combined. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly and the butter pieces are no bigger than the size of a pea. Pulse while adding the cream through the feed tube, just until the mixture is combined. (Don’t mix too much or the scones won’t be tender.) Grab a handful of dough and squeeze; it should hold together. If it crumbles apart, add a little more cream.
Scrape the dough out onto a clean, dry surface. Gather and press the dough together to form a big ball. Pat the dough into a 6-inch square that’s about 1 inch thick. With a large sharp knife, cut it in half from top to bottom and then side to side, to make 4 smaller squares. Cut each square in half diagonally to make 8 triangles.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange the scones on the sheet, evenly spaced apart. If you’re not planning on topping them with glaze, sprinkle each with a little sugar. Place the baking sheet on the center rack of the oven and bake until the tops are golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.
To make the glaze: Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. When the butter is melted, continue cooking while whisking gently until the butter is fragrant and the milk solids have fallen to the bottom of the pot and turned a nutty brown. Remove from heat and whisk in the maple syrup, powdered sugar, cream and salt. Stir until smooth. If the mixture seems too thick, add a little more cream. Drizzle or spoon the glaze over the scones. Allow to sit for a few minutes until the glaze firms up.
Note: Unbaked scones freeze really well. Once you’ve made the dough and cut it into wedges, freeze them on cookie sheet until hard, then pack into ziptop freezer bags. To bake from frozen, reduce the oven temp to 375 and extend the cooking time by about 10 minutes, so they’ll cook through but not get too dark in the process.