North London's Cultural Guide

Patisserie Diaries: how to host your own brunch

Instead of popping out to your favourite cafe this weekend, why not invite your mates round, says local patissier Clare Zerny

Bloody mary. Photo: Clare Zerny
Perfect after the night before: a Bloody Mary. Photo: Clare Zerny

If you caught my earlier piece on the top local places to eat brunch you’ll know my dedication to the topic (and practice).

While breakfast inaugurates a workday, brunch celebrates the weekend in all its glory. It’s a social occasion, ideally shared with friends and loved ones but with January in full swing, even a serious addict such as myself is perturbed at the prospect of leaving a warm, cosy bed on a weekend morning, to face the nippy streets of north London on an egg hunt. So what to do?

It all looks so effortless: Clare poses with something she baked earlier. Photo: Flour of London
It all looks so effortless: Clare poses with something she baked earlier. Photo: Flour of London

Most of us are competent at some form of home-cooked breakfast, but have you considered taking it a few steps further and hosting your own brunch party? Rest assured, it doesn’t have to mean a hideously early, hungover, panicked start to the day – there are plenty of options that can be prepared the night before and finished off in the morning.

So forget book club, it’s time to embrace brunch club. Here are four prep-the-night-before recipes, kicking off with an invigorating classic boozy start and ending with a sweet, fragrant sticky bun.


Bloody Mary (pictured above)

It’s worth spending a little more on fresh tomato juice, you’ll really notice the difference and by adding the fresh horseradish to the vodka to infuse overnight you avoid the bitterness and bittiness adding it straight to the mix can bring.

Serves 6
300ml vodka
5cm piece fresh horseradish
1litre fresh tomato juice
2tsp Tabasco sauce
2tsp HP sauce
1tsp celery salt
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 limes
Freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch celery leaves (washed and picked from ½ a bunch of celery)

Measure the vodka into a glass, add the horseradish cut into chunks then cover and leave to chill overnight to infuse. In a large jug add the the tomato juice, Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, HP sauce, celery salt and squeeze each lime briefly before dropping the wedges into the mix. Season with black pepper, checking the spice level and adjusting to your taste. Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes or overnight. To serve, strain the vodka before adding to the mix then season again to taste. Pour over ice, garnish with a stick of celery then sit back, sunglasses on and make like you’re in an episode of Mad Men.

Pear & Pomegranate Winter Fruit Salad

Zingy: winter fruit salad. Photo: Clare Zerny

Serves 6
120g sugar
700g water
3 star anise
1 vanilla pod
1 lemon
3 firm pears
1 Braeburn apple
200g ready-to-eat dried apricots & figs
1 pomegranate
Greek yogurt
Runny honey

Add the sugar, star anise, vanilla pod and water to a pan. Using a vegetable peeler, shave three two-inch pieces of lemon zest and add to the pan. Bring to the boil until all the sugar has dissolved, then take off the heat.

Peel and core the pears and apple and slice each in thin, lengthwise pieces. Add to a bowl with the dried fruit then pour the hot sugar syrup on top, making sure all the fruit is covered.

Cover the bowl with cling-film, poking a few holes in the top before chilling overnight in the fridge. To serve, remove the vanilla pod and lemon peel, sprinkle the pomegranate seeds over the top then ladle the fruit and some liquid into serving bowls. Finish with a dollop of greek yogurt and squeeze of honey.

Chorizo, Chilli & Avocado Hash with Baked Eggs

Looks good. Smells even better. Photo: Clare Zerny

Vinegar in the potato water will prevent them from disintegrating and crisp up when fried. Adding the garnishes just before serving adds freshness to a hearty meal. You can cook the components the night before then add the eggs and bake in the morning.

Serves 6
1 kg potatoes
3 tbsp white distilled vinegar
170g chorizo
½ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground paprika
1 bunch of spring onions
1 green pepper
1 green chilli
6 eggs
1 bunch of flat leaf parsley
1 small avocado
Salt & Pepper
Vegetable Oil for frying
Optional salsa and flat breads to serve.

Peel and cut the potatoes into ¾ inch chunks, add to a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Add the vinegar, some salt and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes until just softening. Leave to drain in a colander.

Chop the chorizo into chunks and add to a cast iron skillet or non-stick ovenproof pan on medium heat, stirring for about 10 minutes until it’s crisp. Remove the chorizo, leaving the fat behind in the pan, and set aside in a large bowl.

Heat another 3 tablespoons oil in the pan and add the drained potatoes once hot, stirring occasionally until potatoes are deep brown and crispy. Add the cumin and paprika, season and and stir for another minute before adding to the bowl with the chorizo.

Chop the chilli, pepper into ½ inch chunks and spring onion into 1 inch slices (the dark green part, chop fine and keep some to garnish) Heat another tablespoon of oil in the pan before adding the prepared veg and cooking till just charred. Transfer to the bowl with potatoes and chorizo and mix all together seasoning to taste and adding back to the pan. Chill overnight if completing in the morning.

Preheat the oven to 190C. Make 6 wells in the mix then crack an egg into each prepared cavity before repeating with the rest. Drizzle the eggs with oil, season and transfer the pan to the oven. Cook until the whites are just set.
Garnish with the spring onion greens, a handful of chopped parsley and cubed avocado before serving straight from the pan to the table.

Cardamom & Pistachio Sticky Buns with Lemon glaze

Sweet. Cardamom buns. Photo: Clare Zerny

For a DIY proving chamber, put the tray with dough at the top of the oven, and a pan of just boiled water on the floor of the oven, then shut the door and turn the oven to 200C for one minute exactly before switching off then leave for 30 minutes. The steam and heat create the perfect moist environment for proving dough.

Makes 10
230g whole milk
1 tsp ground cardamom seeds (about 25 pods)
75g cold butter
500g plain flour
7g dried yeast / 25g fresh yeast
50g caster sugar
1 tsp salt
1 egg

100g butter, softened
60g dark brown sugar
1tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cardamom
½ tsp salt
100g shelled pistachios

2 lemons
Icing sugar

Add the milk and cardamom seeds to a small pan pan, gently heat, taking it off before it boils and leave to one side to cool.

In a large bowl add the flour, sugar and salt then sprinkle over the yeast. Tear in the cold butter, rubbing in until you have little finger nail size pieces. Make a well in the centre, add the egg and sieve in the now cool milk.

Mix all the ingredients together until a dough forms that cleanly comes away from the sides of the bowl.

Tip the dough out on to a lightly oiled work surface (you don’t want to add more flour) and knead for five minutes until it’s smooth, pliable and stretchy. (If you have a food mixer, use the dough hook on a medium speed for a few minutes but finish by hand to prevent over-working it).

Wipe out the bowl and lightly oil it before returning the kneaded dough. Cover and leave somewhere warm until the dough has doubled in size, about 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Meanwhile, grease a tall sided, large cake tin, or line a muffin tin with 10 squares of baking paper for individual buns. To make the filling, chop the pistachios roughly and beat the other ingredients until soft and easily spreadable.

Roll the proved dough out on a lightly floured surface to a rectangle roughly 44 x 25cm. Smear the filling out across the dough (with whatever implement you prefer – I find hands easiest) and sprinkle over 70g of the chopped pistachios, then, starting from one of the long edge, roll the dough up tightly like a Swiss roll. Position it seam down, and cut into seven slices. I find a bread knife easiest.

Arrange them in the prepared tin (not crammed together if in one tin for room to prove later) Cover, and leave overnight in the fridge.

Next morning, take the tray from the fridge and leave in a warm spot to prove again until the dough bounces back when pressed gently. Preheat the oven to 200C and bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Read Clare’s other columns about food, mental health and baking in her Patisserie Diaries here. Follow her on Twitter: @flouroflondon

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