Feelin’ Brunch-y (& Lego Eggs, Bacon & Pancakes)

Happy Sunday! Here’s a food-inspired minimalist lego creation by Luca: “I thought it would be interesting to create items in the least amount of pieces. A whole breakfast in 8 pieces! Enjoy!”

Lego Bacon & Eggs by Luca_A Little Yumminess

……. and while you’re enjoying this brunch creation, browse these brunch-y links from the archive. [Geez — I’m getting hungry, I think I’m in dire need of some shakshuka! :)]


Cozy Pumpkin-Cinnamon Rolls for Lazy Weekend Breakfasts

Adieu for now to our beloved chocolate cinnamon babka…. as much as we have enjoyed justifying all that chocolate on our brunch table, the feeling of fall in the air has turned our cravings in another direction.  The sun’s autumnal slant and the rustle of dry leaves along our walk to school have got us dreaming about sweet pumpkin and big pinches of cinnamon and nutmeg. These pumpkin-ed up cinnamon rolls cozily knit our favorite fall flavors  together and add a decadent glug of icing for good measure.  I know these so totally do not qualify in the “healthy eats” category, but we think they’re just the thing real when gray skies call out for cozy weekend family breakfasts in your pajamas.

This recipe requires a running start ….so for anyone with visions of cinnamon rolls on Saturday morning, you’re going to need to get to work Friday. Luckily for you, it’s only Thursday… there’s still time!!!!

The two dough rises take some time — so no instant gratification here — but none of the steps are too hard and the “hands on” time is definitely not hardcore. And somehow in the end the fact that you have to wait while the yeast does it’s thing maybe, just maybe, makes these taste even better in the end. A little anticipation becomes it’s own kind of “secret ingredient”. We could all use an excuse to slow down and practice a little patience, right? Especially if there’s cinnamon and icing waiting around the corner.

This recipe is like the poster child of blogosphere recipes, coming to you via recipe I spied on the ever-popular Smitten Kitchen who tweaked it from a recipe from the “Baked Elements” cookbook.  Smitten Kitchen has an even more detailed write up which you should check out as well as some pictures so gorgeous they will make you get up from your computer right now and run to the store to grab the ingredients for this recipe.  In following Smitten Kitchen’s version of the recipe, I did come up with a few modifications that were more to my liking, like halving the recipe because there is such thing as too much of good thing. How could any family possibly eat two pans of cinnamon rolls especially when they are really only at their most awesome when they’re still warm from the oven.  A re-heated cinnamon roll doesn’t do any where near as good a job at convincing me it’s worth all those sugary calories. I also swapped in half the flour with whole wheat, increased the spices and and made a few other adjustments here and there. For a less guilty version, you might try using our favorite spiced apple-pear butter, instead of the icing.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

(by way of Smitten Kitchen, by way of the Baked Elements cookbook)


  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/8 cup for the dough, the rest for brushing when you assemble the rolls)
  • 1/4 cup milk, warmed to 120 degrees or about the same temperature as a baby’s bottle
  • 1  1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (half of a 0.25 ounce packet)
  • 1  cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/8 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/8 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/3 cup pureed pumpkin (canned works great)
  • 1 egg


  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch kosher salt


  • 2 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  1. Activate the yeast by adding it to the warm milk. Give it a quick stir and then let it sit about 5 minutes. It should smell “yeasty” and look clumpy and foamy, that’s how you’ll know it’s alive and kicking. The yeast will not be happy if the milk is too hot (you can kill it), or too cold (won’t activate).
  2. Melt the butter in a sauce pan. I recommend taking Smitten Kitchen’s advice to cook it for a minute or so past when it melts so that it turns a light brown. Be careful not to let it get too dark, so pour the browned butter into a cool bowl once it’s as brown as you like.
  3. In a bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, combine all the dough ingredients (flours, sugars, spices, salt, yeast/milk mixture, and 1/8 cup of the browned butter — save the rest for brushing on the dough later).  Knead for 5 minutes with a dough hook. [You can do this by hand if you don’t have a stand mixer]. NOTE: the dough will be pretty sticky.
  4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm part of your kitchen for 1 hour during which time it will puff up and double in size.
  5. Meanwhile prepare a baking pan (9″ round or 8″ square). Cut a circle of parchment to fit the bottom of the pan, then butter the sides and parchment lightly (or use cooking spray).
  6.  After the dough has risen for one hour and has puffed up, flour your rolling out area well. Use your hand to flatten the dough and sprinkle a little flour on top and roll it out  into a rectangle about  8 1/2″ x 11″ (or the size of a sheet of paper). Use enough flour to keep it from sticking.
  7. Mix the filling ingredients, then brush your dough rectangle first with the remaining browned butter, then the filling. Roll it jellyroll style along it’s longer edge, then cut it into 1″ rounds. Use a sharp knife and light pressure to avoid smushing the rounds. Place the rolls into the prepared pan.
  8. If making right away, let them rise in the pan for 30-45 minutes before baking at 350 F degrees for 25-30 minutes. If making the day ahead, cover with plastic after putting the rounds in the pan and refrigerate overnight. Give them 45 minutes to an hour to rise before baking them from a refrigerated state.


  • Beat together cream cheese, powdered sugar and milk until smooth. If you want to be fancy about it, sift the powdered sugar before adding it to the bowl to get rid of any lumps. While it has no impact on the flavor, the lumps aren’t so pretty and they’re nearly impossible to get rid of them later.
  • Add a little more powdered sugar or milk to thin or thicken the glaze as needed. Spoon the glaze over the warm cinnamon rolls and devour!

Chocolate-Cinnamon Babka

how do you make gifs
how do you make gifs

From what I can tell, Jewish delicatessens are the new “fancy ice cream”. Hipsters may not be throwing out their olive oil and sea salt sundaes just yet, but they are making room for pastrami, smoked trout and bialys. Simran and I have tried to eat at SF hot spot Wise Sons Delicatessen, on a couple of occasions only to have been foiled at every turn. Hipsters be damned!

Naturally as my mouth was watering and my mind was contemplating Wise Son’s house-cured pastrami on double baked rye bread it also meandered over to chocolate babka. Decadent, chocolatey, cinnamony babka…. And somehow it was easier to imagine baking up a loaf of that sweet, swirly bread than curing our own pastrami, so before your know it we had a dozen babka recipes tagged, and my favorite 4 year old chocoholic urging me on from the sidelines.

It was tough to chose among the contenders, but ultimately we settled in with this Peter Reinhart recipe via the Purple Foodie website. (I just could not bring myself dive with in the 3.5 sticks of butter called for in Martha Stewart’s version. OK it does make 3 loaves, but still….). The Reinhart recipe seems a little complicated at first with its 2 rises, but after making it, I assure you that none of it is hard to do and nearly all of it is suitable for little helpers. Dough projects might be messy, but they are fabulous tactile fun for youngsters and working with yeast offers a chance to do a little kitchen science. I wouldn’t be able to stop Luca from getting into the act even if I wanted to — you’ll find him pulling up a chair next to the counter anytime he sees me getting out tubs of flour or pulling out the stand mixer. Gooey gobs of chocolate don’t hurt either.

Sometimes you wonder if your final product will look as good as the beautifully styled, professional-looking photo that inspired it. This babka was one of the most impressive looking things to come out of our oven in quite sometime. And luckily for us it tasted as good as it looked.

I’ll let the Purple Foodie give you the full details on Peter Reinhart’s recipe and instead I’ll share this little pictorial to give you a sense of how this recipe comes together. I’ll also mention that we liked slightly more chocolate filling than called for in the recipe. We also painted the babka with a little egg wash and sprinkled it with cinnamon sugar before baking. The full recipe makes two large loaves and as much as we love Babka, it’s pretty decadent so I think a half recipe (1 loaf) is sufficient to satisfy the craving. If you’re feeling nice you may consider making the full recipe and sharing a loaf with a friend, or you could portion your dough and make mini babkas to share with lots of friends if you’re feeling really, really nice.

Black Pepper-Brown Sugar Bacon

There is not much in this world as good as bacon.  This recipe in particular, is a winner.  Unfortunately, since my husband doesn’t buy all that advertising about pork being the “other white meat”, we don’t make it often enough.  Fortunately, though, my daughter has jumped on the bacon bandwagon (she’s a good girl).  I made this for a potluck a while back and I seize every opportunity to have this be my contribution to a brunch.

You must line the pan with foil, if you want to save yourself the trouble of scrubbing afterwards.  Since the bacon cooks in the oven, there is hardly any splattering of bacon fat (which I don’t mind at all being splattered with).  This is one of those minimal, no fuss, delicious things that kind of cooks itself and makes you look like a rock-star chef.

I haven’t tried it yet but I have a feeling that super-crispy, crumbled black pepper-brown sugar bacon might work wonders with some creamy vanilla ice-cream…..for your next Sundae Party perhaps?

Black Pepper – Brown Sugar Bacon


  • 1 pound thick-cut bacon
  • 1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup light brown sugar


Preheat over to 350F.  Place bacon on a rack on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Sprinkle the black pepper and then the brown sugar on the bacon.  Bake for 35-40 minutes till crispy.  Yum!

Sunday Morning Lemony Buttermilk Cornmeal Pancakes

On Sundays if we don’t get up and out of the house right away, we lounge around and make a real breakfast. I like making pancakes or waffles and Tim likes to practice his Jacques Pepin omelet technique. While I like the idea of exotic pancakes, I find I always come back to the more straight-up variety. I guess I’m looking for that perfect in between pancake.

I was intrigued by the “Blueberry Orange Cornmeal Pancake” recipe I found on a blog called “Satisfied” and I’m giving it a thumbs up. The cornmeal adds just enough texture and the zest gives things a nice little zip. I made a few small alterations: lemon zest instead of orange zest and omitting the blueberries because I prefer fresh fruit on top vs. cooked fruit inside my pancakes. I also didn’t have buttermilk on hand, so I used the handy substitution of 1Tbl of lemon juice with enough milk added to make 1 cup (let it sit 5 minutes, don’t stir).

So if you like classic pancakes with just a little twist, give this one a try. You’ll like it. Luca did, but then again, I think he’s pretty much a fan of most pancakes he encounters. For those exotic pancake fans, check out Simran’s famous coconut-mango pancake recipe.

Guest Post: Mother’s Day Brunch at Out the Door

We are the hugest fans of the newest Out the Door on Bush Street and are there practically every Saturday bright and early for breakfast.  My husband always gets the Pho and Ria and I share the rice porridge with a side of beignets.  For those of you unfamiliar with Asian chicken rice porridge – you just need to know that it is the ultimate comfort food and is often the first food fed to little ones.  I am searching for a good porridge recipe, so if you have one please do share it.

Out the Door transports me back home and satisfies me like very little else can.  A wonderful start to the weekend and a somewhat unconventional breakfast/brunch with kids.  But I promise you it works.  Get there early (which with kids is not tough) and I assure you this will go from a food ‘venture to a regular haunt.  My friend Stephanie, an intrepid world traveler took her kids to Out the Door for Mother’s Day brunch and everyone loved it.  Here’s her little write-up of our favorite weekend breakfast place.

Mother’s Day Brunch at Out the Door by Stephanie O’Brien

With our big Mother’s Day adventure to Napa – riding bikes and brunching at Bardessano foiled by the rain, we were determined to have some sort of an adventure with the kids! We opted out of our usual spots and ended up at Out The Door on Bush Street.

When I told my son we were in for a treat with a Vietnamese French breakfast he looked at me like, “huh?”  Then he replied, “If they have pannie cakes then I guess that’s ok.” I wasn’t too sure about the “pannie cakes”.  I told him they did, just to keep us moving.  Sure enough, they have some delicious “traditional” brunch offerings including some lovely ricotta and preserve pancakes and my personal favorite, beignets with Vietnamese coffee (they don’t combine the two so the kids are safe eating the warm, fresh out of the pan beignets!).  The real coup here, though, is the amazing Pho.  In Vietnam, Pho is the breakfast of choice and a must at Out The Door.  The kids both enjoyed a little bit of the Pho before I added the requisite spicy sauce and dug in!  They also enjoyed sitting up at the counter watching the cooks making all the noodle dishes, and, of course, their pannie cakes.

Out the Door on Urbanspoon

Simran’s Mango Coconut Pancakes

I had to try the mango coconut pancake recipe that Simran posted a few weeks back. What better motivation to host an impromptu pancake party over the weekend? They were a great change from the usual ones we usually make around here. These are moist and the mango really comes through. Sweet but not overly so. One of our guest pancake eaters said the flavor reminded him of a “lassi turned into a pancake” which should give you a good idea of the flavor. I think I’ll be using the leftover mango pulp to make some mango margaritas…  or maybe, just maybe, Simran will share her super yummy lassi recipe with me.

This recipe also gave us a good excuse to stop by Jai Ho, San Francisco’s newest Indian market (in the same mall as the Safeway on Webster Street). It was fun to browse around and the owner  Rakesh and his son gladly offer tips and advice to novices of indian cooking like Luca and me. Best yet, they have a blog where they have been posting weekly recipes.  I see some Aloo Gobi in my future.