Break for Brunch

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This time of year is always hectic — from Chanukah shopping to holiday parties, it feels like we spend the entire month of December running from place to place. So why not take a break this weekend, spend the morning in your pajamas and enjoy a delicious brunch with your family?

This brunch begins, as any good one should, with a spicy pitcher of Bloody Marys. Don't drink? Don't worry! Prepare a pitcher, and then decide if you'd like to add vodka or just ice.

Once you're feeling warm, dig into a delicious, Spanish-style tortilla. Essentially a potato omelet, this one features oil-poached potatoes paired with tangy goat cheese and earthy marjoram.

To sate your sweet tooth (and possibly use up leftover challah), there's ricotta-stuffed French toast, topped with a spiced pear compote. Decadently rich, this will appeal both to the adults and the kids at the table.

For dessert, take the stress (and time) out of cinnamon rolls with this easy version. Instead of using yeasted dough, which can take hours to mix and rise, this batch uses a quick biscuit dough as the base. The dough comes together in minutes, and the rich cinnamon-and-sugar filling — paired with a thick schmear of buttermilk icing — makes these as delicious as the originals.

At the end of the meal, when you push yourself away from the table, too stuffed to move, you'll be happy you only have to walk to the couch, where you can digest it all in comfort. After a short nap, you'll be ready for whatever else this holiday season has in store for you.

Bloody Mary Mix

(Pareve)

2 quarts tomato juice
11/2 tsps. Tabasco
1/2 tsp. salt
pinch black pepper
1 Tbsp. horseradish
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire
1/4 tsp. cumin

Combine all ingredients in a pitcher and mix thoroughly.

Serve alone or with vodka.

Garnish with a celery stick or lime wedges.

Makes 2 quarts.

Easy Cinnamon Rolls

(Dairy)

If there are any rolls left over, store at room temperature in an airtight container. The rolls are best warm, so microwave leftovers for a few seconds before serving.

Filling Ingredients:

1/2 cup dark-brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsps. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

Dough Ingredients:

2 cups flour
2 tsps. baking powder
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup whole milk

Icing Ingredients:

1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 Tbsps. whole milk

Set the oven to 375°.

Grease a 9-inch cake pan.

In a small bowl, combine the filling ingredients and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the dough ingredients and mix for 1 to 2 minutes, or until a smooth dough forms. Turn out onto a floured surface and roll into a large rectangle, about 9×16 inches.

Spread the filling over the surface of the dough, leaving about a 1/2-inch border around the perimeter. Gently roll the dough, starting from the bottom, pressing the seam to seal.

With a serrated knife, cut the log into 12 equal pieces. Arrange the pieces evenly in the cake pan.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden-brown.

While rolls are baking, combine the icing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine.

When the rolls come out of the oven, cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a cake plate. Drizzle icing evenly over the rolls. Serve immediately.

Makes 1 dozen rolls.

Spanish Tortilla

(Dairy)

11/2 lbs. gold potatoes, peeled, halved and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 medium onion, diced
3/4 cup olive oil
8 eggs
salt and pepper
2 oz. soft goat cheese
1 Tbsp. fresh chopped marjoram

In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, cook the potatoes and onions in the oil until soft but not brown, about 15 minutes.

While the potatoes are cooking, beat the eggs lightly in a large bowl, and season with salt and pepper.

Drain the potatoes, reserving the oil, and add them to the eggs.

Add goat cheese and marjoram, and mix to combine.

Wipe out the skillet and place over a high heat. Add 1 tablespoon reserved oil.

When the oil is hot, pour the egg mixture into the pan, pressing mixture into an even layer with a spatula and shaking gently to loosen bottom from pan.

Reduce heat to medium and cook eggs until golden-brown on bottom, about 10 minutes.

Gently loosen eggs from pan and slide tortilla onto a large plate, then invert tortilla.

Add 1 tablespoon reserved oil to pan and slide tortilla back into the pan.

Continue to cook until the bottom is browned, about 3 to 5 minutes longer.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 6.

Ricotta-Stuffed French Toast

(Dairy)

1 cup ricotta cheese (part skim is fine)
1/4 cup, plus 2 Tbsps., heavy cream
2 Tbsps. sugar
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1 small loaf light, eggy bread like challah or brioche, preferably unsliced
6 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 firm pears (like red Anjou)
3 Tbsps., plus 11/2 tsps., unsalted butter
1/2 cup spiced rum
1 cup pear or apple cider
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 cup maple syrup

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine the ricotta, 2 tablespoons of the heavy cream, sugar and lemon juice. Pulse until blended and smooth. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes and up to 24 hours.

If the bread is sliced, set out 8 slices. Spread about 1/4 of the ricotta mixture on one slice, then top with a second, forming a sandwich. Do not press down too hard! If the bread is unsliced, use a serrated knife to slice it: Cut the first slice 3/4-inch thick, but do not cut all the way through the bread.

Cut the next slice the same thickness as the first, this time cutting all the way through. Repeat until you have 4 thick pieces, with openings at one end going 3/4 of the way through the bread. Fill each piece with about 1/4 of the cheese mixture — again not pressing the pieces together too hard.

In a shallow container, lay the bread in a single layer.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs, vanilla and remaining 1/4 cup heavy cream. Whisk until well-blended.

Set the oven to 400°.

In a large heavy-bottomed skillet, cook the pears in 1 tablespoon of the butter for 4 to 6 minutes, or until browned at edges.

Add the rum, bring to a boil, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until reduced by half.

Add the cider, bring to a boil and cook 5 minutes, or until reduced by half again.

Add the cinnamon and maple syrup, and bring back to a quick boil.

Take off the heat, and stir in 11/2 teaspoons of the butter.

While the cider is reducing, pour the egg mixture over the bread.

Turn the bread several times to ensure even coating. Soak the bread for 1 minute in the egg mixture.

In a large, flat skillet over medium-high heat, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and add the bread (draining any excess egg back into the container first).

You may have to cook the French toast in two batches.

Cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until browned. Transfer to a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining bread, if necessary.

Transfer to the oven and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, or until baked through and slightly puffy.

Slice the French toast in half diagonally and arrange overlapping on a plate. Top with pear syrup. Serve immediately.

Serves 8.

Keri Fisher is a food writer and the co-author of One Cake, One Hundred Desserts. E-mail her at: [email protected]