The holidays are a magical time of year, especially Christmas morning. The house is decorated, the presents wrapped and Santa’s surprises delivered and waiting under the Christmas tree. With the breathless excitement from kids waking extra early and assembling a brigade of new toys to dispersing stuffed stockings and opening gifts, a leisurely breakfast might not fit into the schedule, especially if a festive dinner is planned for later in the day. Still, it’s important to warm those hearts and tummies with delicious sustenance. Wrapped in festivities and fun, Christmas morning breakfast might be the best meal of the holiday!
Many families share cherished traditions on Christmas morning, such as showing up in whimsical, colorful Christmas PJs or enjoying favorite holiday dishes. Spirits are high and it is time to unwind and perhaps try something new. Christmas breakfast can be family-style around the table, a casual buffet in which people help themselves, or one or two courses served in the room where presents are opened. Whether the decor is country casual or city chic, the setting should be meaningful, warm and stress-free.
There are two important rules to observe when cooking against the clock. For the most part, Christmas breakfast foods should be simple to prepare and to serve. And it’s helpful if they can be made ahead of time, ready for last minute cooking or re-heating.
In this article, Columbia Metropolitan offers a variety of do-ahead recipes that are hearty or light and savory or sweet. Thermal carafes of Santa-Needs-Caffeine Holiday Coffee and White Hot Chocolate with Peppermint will ward off chills. Sweet, intensely flavored ruby red grapefruit halves, sectioned and heated with honey, make a festive starter. Gruyère & Bacon Quiche and Pumpkin Pancakes can be prepared ahead with no loss of flavor or texture. Bacon and sausage can also be cooked ahead then reheated briefly in a hot oven.
A memorable Christmas breakfast can be as simple as a glass of Pomegranate Sparkler and a fragrant slice of Sweet Potato Tea Loaf with Ginger. From candy canes to sugarplums, the ritual should include a few treats for the kids and surprises for the grown ups. No matter how this breakfast is unwrapped, it’s really all about giving. And the very best gifts always come tied with heartstrings. Merry Christmas!
Raspberry Cream Meringues
Delicate, crispy meringue sandwich cookies are filled with raspberry whipped cream and served with fresh berries in an edible peppermint candy bowl in the photo. Or you might prefer the peppermint cream variation. Meringues can be made a few days ahead but fill them shortly before serving since they soften within 30 minutes. Even so, they taste divine. To serve as unfilled cookies, sprinkle meringues with decorative sugar before baking. Serve on a large plate; flavored whipped cream can be offered on the side for dipping. Filled meringues are especially nice for a holiday brunch. Avoid making meringues on a humid, rainy day.
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cup finely granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or 1/2
teaspoon peppermint extract
Heat oven to 200 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Beat egg whites with a mixer on medium speed until foamy; add cream of tartar. Beat a minute or two until bubbly peaks form. Raise mixer speed to high; sprinkle in the sugar, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time. When egg whites are thick and glossy with stiff peaks, add salt and vanilla. Fill a large pastry bag with a large star tube; add meringue. Pipe into decorative rounds 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Meringue can also be piped into long attractive swirls. Or drop meringue with a spoon onto baking sheets. Bake 1 hour; rotating baking sheets after 45 minutes. Turn off heat and leave in the oven another hour. Meringues should be crisp and dry. Store in airtight tins; fill just before serving. To fill meringue cookies, use a pastry bag and an open star tube to pipe whipped cream on the flat side of a meringue; top with another meringue. Serve at once. Tip: To form pink and white meringues, spread a portion of pink-tinted meringue inside the bag before white meringue is added.
Raspberry Cream: Whip 1 cup heavy cream with 3 to 4 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar and 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract. Mash 1/3 cup fresh raspberries; press through a sieve to remove seeds. Fold puree into whipped cream. Can be whipped up to 2 hours in advance.
Peppermint Cream: Whip 1 cup heavy cream with 3 to 4 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar and 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract. Fold in 2 or 3 tablespoons very finely crushed peppermint candy. Can be whipped up to 2 hours in advance.
Sweet Potato Tea Loaf with Ginger
The recipe for this moist spicy tea loaf comes from Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart’s extraordinary new cookbook, Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking. It’s an old family recipe from Susan Fuller Slack, author of this article. For best results, bake the sweet potatoes wrapped in aluminum foil until very soft and the natural sugars begin to caramelize. On Christmas morning, serve this flavorful bread with a container of cream cheese spread.
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup cooked, well-mashed, fresh sweet potato
1 packed cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
1/3 cup oil (cook’s preference)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon each ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg and ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 rounded teaspoon grated fresh gingerroot, optional
2 tablespoons minced crystallized ginger, optional
about 21 large dark chocolate chips (more if desired)
3 tablespoons chopped pecans or walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 9- x 5-inch loaf pan. Line with a 15- x 5-inch parchment strip. Oil the paper. Whisk ﬂour, baking powder and baking soda a full 30 seconds. Set aside. Whisk together sweet potato, brown sugar, orange juice, oil, eggs and vanilla. Stir in salt, spices, grated gingerroot and crystallized ginger. Pour dry ingredients on top of the sweet potato mixture; stir together only until thoroughly combined. Pour batter into prepared pan, arrange chocolate chips evenly over the top and sprinkle with nuts. Bake 50 minutes. The bread is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If necessary, bake 5 to 10 minutes more, covering loosely with foil to prevent excess browning. Remove pan from oven and cool 10 minutes on a wire rack. Lift the bread out of the pan, remove the paper and let cool on rack. Properly wrapped, the bread can be stored at room temperature for 3 days or frozen for longer storage. For the best texture, bring to room temperature before serving.
Gruyère and Bacon Quiche
Quiche-Lorraine is a savory open-face pie from the Lorraine region of Northeast France. Onions are an Alsatian touch. Serve quiche for a holiday breakfast or brunch with green salad on the side and a glass of Alsatian Riesling or Sylvaner. The quiche can be made one day ahead and reheated in a 200 degree oven or on low in a microwave. Fluted false bottom quiche pans are available at local cookware stores.
1 homemade or purchased pie pastry, fitted into a 9- to 9
1/2-inch false-bottom quiche pan or 1 quality, frozen pie pastry
5 to 6 slices cooked bacon, chopped in small pieces (or 1/2 cup diced ham or Canadian bacon)
1/3 cup sliced shallots or thin-sliced green onions (mostly white parts), lightly sautéed
3 large eggs
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon sea salt and white pepper, to taste
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
3/4 cup grated Gruyère, Swiss or Jarlsburg cheese
1 tablespoon chilled butter, in small pieces
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Chill unbaked pastry in pan at least 30 minutes. Line with a piece of buttered aluminum foil, about 12-inches square; fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake blind 10 to 12 minutes until dry but not browned. Remove pie weights and foil. Lower oven heat to 325 degrees. Cook bacon and shallots; scatter over pastry shell. Whisk together eggs, cream, milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir in cheese. Carefully ladle filling into pastry shell. Sprinkle with paprika; dot with butter. Bake 25 to 30 minutes on a rimmed baking sheet until golden brown and still a bit wiggly. A knife inserted in the center should come out clean. Cool 10 minutes. If using a quiche pan, place on top of a small bowl, and remove outer rim. Slice and serve warm. Serves 6 to 8. Note: The quiche can be made in smaller sizes, similar to the one shown in the photo.
Flaky Tender Pastry
Homemade pie pastry tastes best with sweet or savory pies – like quiche. If prepared ahead of time, wrap well and refrigerate overnight, or double-wrap and freeze for longer storage. Partially blind-baking a pastry crust before adding a wet filling prevents it from becoming soggy after it is baked. Butter and lard offer flavor and flakiness; shortening contributes tenderness. Although all fats should be eaten in moderation, the new Crisco brand shortening has been reformulated to eliminate trans fats.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening or lard
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut in pieces
3 to 4 tablespoons iced water with 1 teaspoon lemon juice
Prepare dough by hand. Whisk flour and salt together. Using your fingertips or a pastry blender, cut in shortening until mealy like coarse cornmeal. Cut in butter, creating pea-size pieces. Sprinkle in water, 1 tablespoon at a time, while stirring mixture until it is no longer dry and comes together well. Form into a flattened disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour or longer. Roll out and use, as desired. Makes pastry for one large pie pan or two smaller ones.
Oven-Baked Cheese Omelet
To make ahead, combine ingredients and pour into a pan. Cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours before baking. Serve with grits, a fruit side dish and a holiday bread. Vary the dish by including ingredients like sautéed mushrooms, chopped ham and cooked crumbled sausage or bacon
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 dozen large eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt and black pepper, to taste
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
3/4 cup shredded Jarlsburg or Swiss cheese
1/4 cup grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese
1 roasted red bell pepper, peeled, seeded, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
4 very thin green onions, trimmed, thin sliced
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, minced
Heat oven to 325 degrees. Put butter in a 13- by 9-inch baking dish; melt in the oven. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, sour cream, salt and pepper. Stir in cheeses, red and green bell pepper, green onions and parsley. Pour mixture into pan; bake 25 to 30 minutes until set yet still moist. A knife inserted in the center should come out almost clean. Cut into squares. Serves 8.
Cranberry Yogurt Parfait
Use homemade cranberry sauce for this breakfast treat. You can substitute fresh whole raspberries for dried cranberries and fresh raspberry sauce or Cinnamon Applesauce for the cranberry sauce.
2 cups Greek yogurt or low fat yogurt
grated zest of 1 orange
1/4 cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped with a large knife
1 cup Cranberry-Orange Sauce (recipe below)
3/4 cup nutty granola
fresh mint leaves
In a large bowl, stir together yogurt, orange zest and chopped cranberries. In the bottom of each of four stemmed wine glasses, layer 2 tablespoons of the homemade cranberry sauce, 1/4 cup yogurt mixture and 3 tablespoons granola. Add another 1/4 cup layer of yogurt to each glass. Top each parfait with 2 tablespoons of remaining cranberry sauce; garnish with a mint sprig. Serve at once or cover lightly and chill up to 2 hours. Serves 4.
Tart red cranberries are a welcome addition to the holiday breakfast table. They contain anthocyanins, a sub-group of flavonoids – powerful antioxidants that may slow aging and reduce inflammation. The vibrant red color of the cranberry is due to the presence of anthocyanins. Serve this festive sauce on yogurt, warm cooked oatmeal, sliced oranges, pancakes or French toast.
1 cup orange juice
3/4 to 1 cup sugar, to taste
1 12-ounce package fresh
cranberries, rinsed in cool water
zest of 1 orange
pinch of ground cinnamon
(about 1/16 teaspoon)
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
In a saucepan, bring orange juice and sugar to a boil. Add cranberries; reduce heat. Simmer 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until fruit thickens. Remove from heat; stir in orange zest, cinnamon and vanilla. Makes about 2 cups.
Pumpkin Pancakes with Maple Pecan Syrup
These tender pancakes can be made ahead, cooled and refrigerated overnight in airtight, plastic zip-top bags or frozen for longer storage. Reheat in the microwave or on a baking sheet in a 250 degree oven 10 minutes or until hot. Make an additional tasty topping by simmering 1 cup fresh whole cranberries briefly in 2 cups of maple syrup.
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon each sea salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs
1/4 cup melted butter or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Maple Pecan Syrup (recipe below)
Heat griddle. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and spices. Whisk together pumpkin with remaining ingredients until blended. Pour pumpkin mixture into the dry ingredients; whisk gently just until combined. Do not over mix or pancakes will be tough. Do not stir batter again. For each pancake, pour 1/3 cup batter onto hot griddle. Cook about 3 minutes then flip to the other side; don’t turn again. Serve warm with Maple Pecan Syrup. Makes 16 4-inch pancakes.
Maple Pecan Syrup
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 cups pure maple syrup
Heat butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add pecans; stir and cook a few minutes until fragrant. Add syrup and heat until warm. Serve over pancakes. Syrup can be made ahead and refrigerated; gently rewarm before serving.
Applesauce can be prepared a couple of days before Christmas. The peels – even from one or two apples – provide color and flavor, but make sure they are organic. Use one type or combine two or three for an interesting blend of flavors and textures. McIntosh, Rome Beauty, Mutsu, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious and Fuji apples are good choices. Kids love the fruity sauce topped with melted marshmallows. It’s good for making tarts, yogurt parfaits, as a filling for pancakes, a spread for muffins or in crepes with ice cream or Greek yogurt.
12 apples (about 4 pounds), peeled as desired, cored, seeded, quartered
1/2 cup apple cider or apple juice
1/2 to 1 cup sugar, to taste (honey or maple syrup are good options too)
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, if desired
Place prepared apples into a slow cooker; cover with cider and remaining ingredients except vanilla and butter. Turn slow cooker to the low setting. Cover and cook 6 to 8 hours or until apples have softened into sauce; stir occasionally to break up. Stir in vanilla and butter. Applesauce can be served chunky or pureed with an immersion blender or in a food processor. Serves 6 to 8.
South Carolina Rice Waffles
This is a great use for leftover rice. For a lighter fluffier batter, separate eggs and beat the whites with the sugar to soft peaks; fold into prepared batter. Waffles can be held in a 200 degree oven until all the batter is cooked. For a hearty brunch, top the waffles with chicken, seafood or ham in a Madeira cream sauce.
1 cup cooked long-grain or medium-grain rice, room temperature
2 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup melted butter
vegetable oil for waffle iron
Preheat waffle iron following the manufacturer’s direction. Put rice, buttermilk and eggs into a medium bowl. Beat with a fork until combined; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon 30 seconds. Pour rice mixture and melted butter into dry ingredients; stir together but don’t over mix or waffles will be tough. Brush waffle iron lightly with oil; spoon in batter. Cook 3 to 5 minutes, or as directed by the manufacturer. When waffles are golden brown and crisp, remove and serve with butter and warm syrup or fresh fruit, as desired. Serves 3 to 4.
Apple-Almond Cheese Tarts
This quick, easy breakfast treat conveniently starts with refrigerated biscuits. For a variation, spoon a teaspoon of Cranberry-Orange Sauce into the center of each filled tart before baking.
1 16.3-ounce large-size refrigerated canned biscuits
1 Granny Smith apple or pear, peeled and cored, diced in 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon mixed with 2
1/4 cup sliced almonds or 3 tablespoons chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 360 degrees. Remove biscuits from can; separate and set aside. Microwave diced apple 1 1/2 minutes to soften. Cool then stir in 1 tablespoon cinnamon/sugar mixture. Mix almonds into remaining cinnamon/sugar. Coat 8 6-ounce custard cups (or a jumbo muffin tin) with vegetable spray. Combine ricotta, cream cheese, sugar, egg, lemon zest, flavoring extracts and salt; whisk until smooth. Working with one biscuit at a time, flatten and gently stretch the edges with your fingers to enlarge to 4-inch rounds. Fit each round into a custard cup, pressing the edges up the sides. Divide apple mixture among biscuit cups. Fill each with a generous 2 tablespoons ricotta mixture. Bake 5 minutes until barely set, then top each tart with a portion of the almond/sugar mixture. Bake 18 to 20 minutes more until biscuit edges are golden brown and a small knife inserted into the filling comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes then remove tarts from custard cups. Serve warm or at room temperature. Can be made ahead and reheated on low heat in the microwave. Serves 8.
White Hot Chocolate with Peppermint
Treat Santa and all his little elves to a cup of this luxurious white chocolate cocoa on Christmas morning. For a sophisticated, grown-up version, use vanilla extract instead of peppermint extract and stir 1/4 cup or more of Grand Mariner into the saucepan. Garnish mugs with thin curly strips of orange peel.
8 peppermint candy canes, divided
3 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
6 to 8 ounces top-quality white chocolate (like Lindt), chopped
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract or pure vanilla extract, if desired
1 cup whipped cream, sweetened to taste
Crush 4 of the 8 candy canes. In a saucepan over medium heat, warm milk and cream until hot but do not allow to boil. Remove from heat and add chopped white chocolate; whisk until smooth. Add salt and extract. Reheat if necessary, on low heat. Divide among 4 or 5 mugs. Top each portion with whipped cream; sprinkle with crushed peppermint candy canes. Insert a whole candy cane into each mug and serve at once. Serves 4 to 5. Recipe can be doubled.
Santa-Needs-Caffeine Holiday Coffee
For the best flavor, use fresh-ground coffee beans. Full-bodied, lower-acidity medium roasts (“city” or “full city” roasts) are good breakfast coffees. For each 6 ounces water, use 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons ground coffee, to taste. New Orleans style café au lait (coffee with milk) calls for scalded milk, heated just below the boiling point. Look for the little bubbles around the edge of the pan. Flavored coffee is suited to the holiday season. Add a cinnamon stick or slit vanilla bean to the milk before it is scalded; steep hot milk five minutes. Or instead, pass sugar mixed with a little ground cinnamon, nutmeg or cloves at the table. For mocha almond café au lait, melt 6 ounces quality, chopped semi-sweet chocolate in the milk; add one teaspoon almond extract. For eggnog lattes, serve the coffee with 3 cups of warm eggnog.
4 cups hot fresh-brewed, double-strength coffee
4 cups warm milk or eggnog
plain or flavored sugar
Prepare coffee and milk. Have each person add milk to a cup of coffee, as desired. For café au lait, use equal portions of coffee and milk (traditionally poured at the same time). Attractive French café au lait ceramic bowls are a charming touch. They are favored in France for petit dejeuner (breakfast). Sweeten coffee, as desired. Increase amounts, as desired. Serves 4 to 6.
Mix equal parts of pomegranate juice or cranberry juice with champagne, Prosecco, ginger ale or apple cider. If desired, sweeten with a little honey, herbal simple syrup or sugar. If desired, add a few pomegranate seeds to each glass or ice cubes made from pomegranate or cranberry juice.
Quick Tip–Spicy Holiday Glazed Ham
Heat a fully-cooked boneless ham with a tangy glaze made by heating together 1/2 cup red jalapeño jelly, 2 tablespoons thawed concentrated orange juice, 1/3 cup tablespoons grainy Dijon mustard and a dash of grated cinnamon (about 1/8 teaspoon).