ideas and inspiration: brunch is the new black!

{ how to plan a brunch party }

Looking for a refreshing party theme? One that is unconventional without being too over-the-top? Fit for all sorts of parties, guests and venues? Easy to pull off, though exceeding expectations? One that requires low-key hosting and yet sets an upbeat mood? Throw a brunch!
You will find precisely null reasons brunches should be saved for baby showers or limited to sleepy hungover chatting with the girls. I like brunches so badly that I'll sleep in on the weekends just to merge breakfast and lunch together. So badly, that I decided to throw one for my birthday. Booze included - of course!

It all started while I was trying to decide what to do for my birthday. I could not decide what to cook. My birthday was on a Sunday. There was already another party the day before. I was fed up with doing dinner. It is November, days are short and it's cold outside. I wanted to chat with friends I don't get to see very often, and not to get into a crowded bar or club with them. All in all, everything came down to the same point and instead of ditching what sounded like a crazy idea at first I just thought "why the heck not!?" and proceeded to start planning it with excitement!

Why throwing a brunch party?
There are a couple of things that I find great about brunch, in particular its versatility, the permission for a low key I-just-got-out-of-bed attitude and the possibility to impress with little effort - starting with the fact that, after all, a birthday brunch is already a pretty uncommon event to be invited to.
Being versatile means that you can really serve whatever you fancy: from savoury to salty, finger foods to heavy dishes, the world is yours! You can sit people at a table, but I find the dynamic of a buffet much more interesting. Being low key means less pressure on the host, and I will show you how to impress with little effort!

Did you get curious and inspired by the idea? Let's go through some essentials of party brunching!

Step 1: when, where and how?
All parties require the same basic planning, which can be done a couple of weeks ahead of time:
Set a date and a time. Brunches are better scheduled around midday. Check the weather and decide whether the party will take place inside or outside - and have a backup plan! Define a budget. Make sure you have enough space, seats and everything you will need to serve the guests, plus borrow, buy or rent what you don't have. Make a guestlist, send invitations and attach a date for rsvp.

I always start with a guestlist and by checking if I have enough seats. I live in a studio, which is not so big, so I knew beforehand that I had to keep it under a certain number of guests. I also like to find a concept for my parties, something that I won't share with other people but that I will use as a reference to help me decide what should be on the menu or how I should organize the space.  This time, the idea of a french boulangerie helped me bringing together mini-sized cakes and freshly baked breads.

Step 2: what to serve?
For a brunch party, I strongly reccomend having a buffet table with a laid back seat setting and serving plenty and varied bite-size foods. Cutting down on the need to use cutlery not only avoids the mess of eating on a couch, or with paper dishes, but also allows people to eat while standing, which is great if you have a small space and/or reduced number of seats. You should keep an adequate number of seats notwithstanding! Making different bite size or easy to eat foods leaves plenty of room for your imagination, makes it easier to please every palate and allows your guests to try a bit of everything. It is important to check if any of your guests has dietary restrictions and prepare accordingly.
Choose your drinks. If you are having a big group over and you don't own a coffee machine that you can set up for self-service, ditch the coffee and serve cool sparkling drinks instead. Hot water for tea can also be a good idea for smaller groups but you must make sure you'll have the mugs to pour it in. If you can and like, always go for some light booze: champanhada (sparkling wine sangria) is a definitive winner here! Read further for the recipe!

I started planning the food keeping two main groups in mind: a) different sorts of bread with sweet and savoury toppings and spreads, b) small cakes with different ingredients and shapes, plus a bigger "birthday cake" to share, which ended up being a pavlova. I'll leave you some great recipe ideas in this post, including those I had on the table for my birthday!

Step 3: the make ahead!
Since brunch is mostly served at the end of the morning, it is important that you get everything ready the day before - that way you can also take all the time you need for your beauty sleep and your getting ready routine! Prepare all the cakes first. If making bread, start it last thing in the evening and then do the second leavening time early in the morning so that you'll have time to bake it and serve it warm. Leave all the slicing and anything that involves serving fresh foods like fruits or vegetables for right before the party. Program your time so that you have different foods that require different times for their preparation and try doing the most ahead of time.

For example, I started with a salmon and quark roll that has to stay in the fridge to harden and can be done one day ahead of time, then proceeded to make all the mini cakes and pies first, leaving the frosting for later while they cooled down. Next thing I prepared the dough for the breads, frosted all the cakes and prepared the space and the table. The day of the party I woke up early to knead the breads, made the guacamole, sliced everything else up, baked the breads and had a lot of time to get ready while they were baking anyway!

Step 4: decoration tips
Whichever your budget and will to splurge on decoration may be, here are some tips to make the whole thing look a little more put together in a blink of an eye! Choose a hue or a set of hues that complements your space and get some napkins, tableware and/or candles in those colours. If you don't have enough glasses/dishes/cutlery, choose nice disposable ones, like paper dishes over plastic ones. Display all the cutlery in tall transparent jars so that it is easy to reach and looks organized. Separate savoury and sweet at the table, even if serving at the same time. Decorate the table with some pretty fresh flowers. Serve colorful drinks in tall transparent jugs. Light up some candles and/or soft lights if the day is not very bright.

I bought mint green and dark turquoise napkins with funny doodles and sayings, picked some colorful tulips and served my deep red berry champanhada in a tall jug. You don't have to do too much to achieve something pretty and put together.

And the best part... the recipes!
I'll leave you with my best brunch recipes and ideas, starting from what I had on my birthday table. Hope I get to inspire you!

Step 5: portion sizes
It may be hard to calculate portion sizes when we are talking about a buffet, particularly if it might be mainly consisted of bread and mini-sized treats. Always assume each guest will at least try a portion of each dish or treat and that mini-sized cupcakes, cakes and pies should account for 1/2 to 1/4th of a portion. To give you an example, the pictures of my birthday table show a brunch prepared for around fifteen guests - notice some sliced bread is missing in a basket at the corner, and the big bowl was later loaded with tortila chips. And if you're dreaming of a table filled with mini-sized beauties, be well aware it is no job for the faint of heart! I baked, carved and frosted around 150 mini cupcakes, made around 30 mini pies with leaf decoration (meaning over 100 mini sized leafs that I had to cut!) and baked and glazed some 50 to 75 mini gugels. Don't be put off by the whooping numbers: I had A BALL in the kitchen whipping it all up!!

Bonus: The recipes!!

- bread, toppings and spreads! -
1. Pick a savoury filled bread like my Pan de Jamón, a delicious and super easy to make bread roll, loaded with prosciutto, ham, olives and raisins.
2. Go the extra mile of breads with a beautiful Plain Brioche, a slightly sweet buttery pick that can be eaten with cheese or, as I did, with jam and Homemade Lemon Curd (recipe soon!). If you prefer a savoury brioche, pick my Garlic and Herb Butter Pull Apart Brioche, because everybody is going to love it!
3. Play it safer by bring in some handy extra foods that you don't have to prepare yourself, like fresh bakery bread and some tortilla chips (not showing in the pictures) served with different sorts of cheese, chorizo and spreads, like Homemade Guacamole (recipe soon!). Pick good quality bread and packaged chips.

- salads and heartier savoury treats -
1. Put together a basic salad, like a Caprese Salad: just plate nicely cut slices of mozzarella cheese and fresh tomato and top it with basil, a pinch of salt and a drizzle of olive oil.
2. Go a bit more fancy with some less common combo, like a Brie-Pear-Mushroom Salad: Sautée some mushrooms in olive with garlic, salt and pepper, adding any seasonings of your choice; plate the mushrooms, one thinly sliced pear and small slices of brie. Season with salt, pepper and a drizzle of balsamico and olive oil. Top with fresh cilantro.
3. Bring extra colours to your table with a fresh Quark-Salmon Spinach Roulade (recipe soon!). If you are not really into salmon, you can make it with black olives instead!

- sweet mini-treats -
1. Start with some crispy sweetness by making easy Apple Hand Pies (recipe soon!), a mini version of the american-style apple pie, topped with a leaf design. You can also make Apple-Caramel Hand Pies! Store bought crust may not be as good as homemade, and though I always reccomend the latter, buying it can spare you some essential prep time. If you prefer something with a hint of citrus, go for my Lemon-Meringue Pie. It's one of my favourites and it always gets rave reviews of people that had no idea they liked the taste of lemon!
2. Make preppy mini-cupcakes! I made Gluten-free Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting (skip the pumpkin and add its weight in carrots) and Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting (recipe soon!).
3. Pick a crowd pleaser sponge/pound cake to be the girl-next-door-who-was-actually-not-so-bland-at-all! I can not put down in words how badly I think you should go for my Mini Lemon-Poppy Seed Gugels, inspired in THIS awesome cake which IMO are always The Hammer! (recipe for the mini cakes soon!)

- a big cake to share -
1. If you are looking for a jewel to top a nice ensamble, go for a Cream Filled Berry Pavlova. If you're looking for a statement cake and you love a good chocolate cake just as much as I do, especially when they are darker than ebony, don't think twice! Take THIS RECIPE and never look back! You won't need to worry about storing leftovers, because there won't be any!!

- drinks! -
1. My staple Berry Champanhada is always a huge hit! I have also shared a special Cherry version that is absolutely delicious, shall you have cherries around! If you prefer something non-alcoholic, try this alcohol-free sangria or a tangerine mash.

You can always head back to my Recipe list to check out some other ideas, down at the brunch section, or even at the appetizer list! There are some great savoury cookie recipes, like these spinach gressini, or savoury pastries, like these easy heart-shaped ham and cheese hearts. I supply plenty of ideas to get you started!

Good luck with your party planning and, most important of all, HAVE FUN!
Hope you liked my post and have found it useful! Please let me know your opinion down in the comment section! Thank you :)


special note: today's entry features birthdays, thus I couldn't help but dedicate it to my friend Beatriz, who has hers today! Happy Birthday!

wish you a delightful week!

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