From sunrise services to egg hunts, Easter is a day of celebration which often includes brunch, a time-honored tradition with many families. If like me, you’re hosting brunch this Easter and aspire to keep things simple yet stylish, it’s time to do your happy dance (er, bunny hop). Here’s how to create an elegant Easter brunch in 4 easy steps.
Step 1–Think Practical.
Opt for a centerpiece that can be made a few days in advance. In this sleek footed bowl, decorated eggs are elevated to art in mere minutes.
Step 2–Pick the right table.
For a small gathering, a round pedestal table like Tyncastle is ideal. Its shape allows guests to face one another and draws conversation inward. Tynecastle dining chairs are Georgian style beauties made comfy with supple leather-cushioned seats.
For a large gathering, create a sophisticated European feel with the spacious True Vintage rectangle dining table. This pecky pecan veneer table has an elegantly aged, soft driftwood-tone finish and sits atop a carved base with lots of architectural interest. True Vintage dining chairs have upholstered seats and backs that’ll wrap guests in comfort from appetizer to dessert.
Swanky uptown soirees more your style? Crafted in a unique combination of highly-figured cherry, African rosewood borders and champagne-hued metal accents, the Skyline dining group adds a touch of Art Decor drama. A chic double pedestal table easily seats eight. Fretback carved chairs add architectural interest. And lighted display cabinets are fitted with luxe gold leaf back panels that absolutely gleam.
Step 3–Help guests feel comfortable.
Invite the Avery banquette to the table and watch diners linger long past dessert in such a comfortable settee.
Dressing the table with chairs in contrasting colors continues to grow in popularity as a way to add personality. What makes the Walden dining chair a particularly good pick is that it’s available in hundreds of fabrics. So you can color and pattern mix to create a look uniquely yours.
Step 4–Serve a wow entree and easy to make.
I’m always on the hunt for entrees that taste great and are easy to make. This leek and cheese tart recipe by Ruby Tandoh, the youngest-ever finalist in the runaway hit, “The Great British Baking Show,” is brunch perfect. Part of it can be made in advance, then assembled and baked right before guests arrive. Or the entire tart can be made the evening before, then warmed prior to serving. I’ve made it both ways and both work well. What’s rather remarkable about this tart is its brioche-type crust which Ruby describes below. This is a showstopper recipe that will make even cooking newbies look like master chefs.
Leek & Cheese Tart
This French tart, properly called flamiche, combines soft leeks and hard cheese in an enriched dough. Bread provides a far more substantial tart shell than the short crust pastry we’re used to. It’s an exceptional foil to the richness of the filling, too — when one is confronted, blissfully, with a forkful of quivering crème fraîche, cheese, and leek, a traditional, butter-heavy pastry crust can feel like overkill. Serve this with nothing more than a handful of peppery salad leaves.
You’d usually chill a brioche-type dough such as this prior to its second proof to set the butter and make shaping easier, but I’m not convinced it’s necessary here; I’ve used less butter than in a standard brioche, yielding a dough that, though rich, acts in much the same way as a normal bread dough might.
The filling puffs up quite magnificently in the oven, so take care not to overfill the crust. The amounts here are just right for my deep pie pan at home, but should it be too much for your pan, just use less accordingly. Any leftover filling makes a fine sauce when tossed with linguine.
250 grams (2c) white bread flour
1 teaspoon instant yeast
½ teaspoon salt
7 ½ tablespoons lukewarm water
1 large egg
3 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter
400 to 500 grams (14 to 18 oz.) leeks, trimmed and sliced
1 egg, beaten, for glazing (optional)
1 ¼ cups crème fraîche
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Pinch of nutmeg
150 grams (5.25 oz.) Cheddar, Comté, or Gruyère cheese, coarsely grated (about 1 1/3 c)
Salt and black pepper
1 egg, beaten, for glazing (optional)
Large, deep pie or tart pan, 10 to 12 inches in diameter at the rim
1. Mix the flour and yeast in a bowl, then stir in the salt, followed by the water and egg. Mix with your hands to roughly combine, then knead for 5 to 10 minutes, until the dough is stronger and elastic. Once it has gained a little strength, knead in the butter until fully incorporated. Set aside to rise in a large, covered bowl at room temperature for 1 to 1 ½ hours, until doubled in size.
2. Meanwhile, start preparing the filling. Melt the butter in a large pan, add the leeks, and stir. Cover and cook over low heat for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are meltingly tender. Set the leeks aside to cool.
3. When the dough has doubled in size, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface and roll it out to form a large circle – big enough to line the bottom and sides of the pan. Let the dough relax for a minute or two after rolling; it’ll shrink back slightly thanks to the gluten developed during kneading. Roll it out until it’s the required size again, then transfer it to the pan, pressing the dough into the corners and pushing it up a little around the sides to create a slight overhang. Fold a little dough over the rim of the pan and tack it down against the outside by pressing firmly. This prevents the dough from sliding down inside the pan during proofing. Set aside to rise for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
4. While the dough rises, finish making the filling. Stir the crème fraîche, eggs, nutmeg, and cheese into the leeks and season with salt and pepper. A generous hand with the pepper is crucial here to cut through the creamy richness of the filling. Once the dough has risen, spoon in the filling.
5. Brush the rim of the dough, which by now should be puffy, with the beaten egg. Bake for 40 minutes. The cooked tart should be mottled golden and brown on top and well risen. For an even more enticing tart, sprinkle on an extra 30 grams (1 oz.) of grated cheese (about (1/4 c) 10 minutes before the end of baking time.
Reprinted with permission from “Crumb” by Ruby Tandoh; published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photographs by Nato Welton.