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As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that having people over for brunch is my favorite way to entertain. It has none of the frenzy of the weeknight, post-work dinner party and neither does it carry the gravitas (or booze demands) of a Saturday night event. Brunch is low-key, works just as well for families as it does for party-loving single friends, and can be made to taste great no matter what your budget.
What makes brunch so particularly good for entertaining is that the menu options are wide open. Sweet or savory, just about anything under the sun can fit comfortably under its umbrella. It can be as easy as bagels, cream cheese and toppings from the corner bagel shop (no true kitchen effort required on your part at all) to a full-on, home-cooked meal of eggs, bacon, coffee cake and more.
My favorite way to serve brunch consists of a giant skillet of cheesy scrambled eggs, oven-baked turkey breakfast sausage, an easy salad and one baked item that requires a bit more energy and work. That baked good is what makes it particularly perfect for The Weekender.
In the past, I’ve worked my way through all manner of homemade scones, muffins, breakfast cakes and more. Recently, my favorite thing to serve at these brunches is Ina Garten’s Easy Cheese Danish. It is eye-rolling tasty, hugely impressive and dead-easy. Best of all, it’s a recipe that can be prepped the night before and popped into the refrigerator until morning, when you bake them off to fluffy, golden completion.
Before you dig into these Cheese Danish, there are a few things you should know.
1. The recipe makes a lot of cheese filling. I used two generous tablespoons per Danish and still had enough to make at least four more pastries. I popped my extra filling into the freezer so that I’m ready for future Danish emergencies.
2. Don’t try to unfold your frozen puff pastry directly out of the freezer. Let it rest on the counter for at least 5-10 minutes before opening, otherwise it will crack and crumble.
3. Make sure to flour your countertop well before rolling out the pastry. If you don’t, you risk major sticking and sad-looking Danish.
4. If you’re feeling extra frisky, try adding a dab of strawberry or raspberry jam to each Danish for a fruit and cheese treat.
Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher who lives in Center City Philadelphia. She grew up attending weekly potlucks and even had a potluck wedding. Find more of her food (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first cookbook will be published by Running Press in Spring 2012.