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I think I've only ever briefly touched upon the topic of brunch before, but I'll tell you how I feel about it right now: I hate it. The kind of "with the fire of a thousand suns" hate that can only come from working in restaurants. I don't get the brunch obsession.
Brunch, to me, is a great idea in theory. I like brunch at home. Then again, on my schedule, every breakfast is technically brunch.
I discovered my intense hatred for this odd meal after I'd been in the city for a year. The restaurant I was working for had not yet begun to serve brunch, so I didn't know what to expect when a friend invited me along to her birthday brunch one Sunday. I was not prepared to stand in line for half an hour just for the privilege of a late breakfast, nor was I prepared for the dead eyes of our overworked, hungover waitress.
After cringing at bad-quality mimosas and outlandishly expensive eggs (who in their right mind pays $15 for two eggs?) I took the official position of "never again" when it came to brunch.
And then I had to work brunch.
The chef at the restaurant had decided long ago that we would offer a "simple" pastry basket to accompany brunch. In a restaurant where the only oven was on the line (meaning that I had to get my baking done well before opening time), and my work station was downstairs, this meant I had to get in early, throw together pre-measured muffin and biscuit mixes, and run feverishly up and down stairs every two to three minutes. And once all of the muffins and whatnot were tumbled onto cooling racks, I'd have to try and cram my actual regular baking prep in before the oven was filled with racks of bacon and potatoes.
The icing on the pastry basket cake is that very few were actually sold, a handful were given away to tables for whatever reason struck the fancy of the owners, and the rest became staff snack during the brief lull between brunch and dinner. For all the effort I'd put in, it felt pointless.
The restaurant where I work now has not yet officially started brunch, but I already put my foot down on the subject of pastry baskets for normal service. We did a prix fixe brunch party recently, though, and I agreed to include "bottomless" baskets containing chunks of banana bread, baby biscuits, and mini muffins, served alongside jam and flavored cream cheese.
The baskets were a huge hit, particularly the mini muffins. I used to make a full size version of apple cider doughnut muffins in my exhausting pastry basket days, but the miniature version is so much better for several reasons, among them a speedy bake time and the ease of adding the coating to several at a time.
People will think these are traditional cider doughnut holes, but they never actually see a fryer, instead getting a quick bath in melted butter and a toss in cinnamon sugar while still warm from the oven. They're super cute, super delicious, and even better, super easy and super fast.
About the Author: Anna Markow is a pastry chef obsessed with doing things that no one else does and giving unusual ingredients their time to shine. You can follow her sometimes-pastry-related thoughts on Twitter @VerySmallAnna.
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