Is there anything better than Sunday brunch? The name itself grants permission to sleep in and then stuff yourself while still wearing your pajamas. One of the more popular brunch items in my family is crescent rolls. We eat them at Thanksgiving dipped in gravy, with coffee on Christmas morning, and look forward to their buttery warmth as we poke our heads out from under the covers on any given weekend. The best part? There are so many ways to enjoy them! My nieces love the buttery texture by itself, while my brother-in-law makes his into mini-egg sandwiches, and my sister stuffs hers with raspberry preserves and goat cheese. This got me thinking: how can I jazz up the crescent roll to make Sunday brunch just a little bit more special using inexpensive, easy-to-find ingredients?
I’ve been to a few places in Boston for Sunday brunch that have some sort of ethnic or cultural twist to their menu. Beehive in Boston’s South End has a bit of Moroccan spice, while Zaftig’s in Coolidge Corner has a comforting Jewish Deli feel, and Devlin’s offers American favorites and host a live Jazz band! I drew upon some of my favorite cuisines to create these spreads, and while they’re delicious on crescents, they’d also be great for theme dinners as well. I try to make recipes that are inexpensive, easy, and good for a variety of taste preferences. Fancy recipes and exotic flavors are great, but the whole point of Sunday brunch is to relax, so all the recipes below have a few ideas for variation if you don’t have some ingredients, or if you simply don’t like one of them.
Inspired by global flavors (and the random items in my pantry), these spreads will transform your ordinary crescent rolls into unique treats for brunch, tea time, and beyond! Start with ready made crescent roll dough (8 pieces). Unroll and spread with your favorite mixture from below. Roll into crescent rolls and bake according to instructions.
1/2 Cup Apricot Jam
1/2 teaspoon Freshly ground Nutmeg
2 tablespoons finely sliced almonds
1/2 teaspoon Orange Zest
Pinch Sea Salt
*This bright and complex flavor is best served with a cup of black tea and smoked salmon. Start by scooping 1/2 cup apricot jam into a medium bowl (if you don’t have apricot jam, orange marmalade works nicely as well). Add orange zest, nutmeg saffron, and sea salt and mix until well incorporated. Note that saffron is very expensive, but also packs a lot of flavor: two reasons to only ever use a pinch of it. IF you don’t have saffron, don’t lose your day’s day just to buy some for this recipe. You can get a similar flavor by adding a few drops of orange liqueur, aromatic cocktail bitters, or maraschino cherry juice.
Unroll crescent dough and separate. Spread about 1-2 teaspoons of the mixture on the length of each crescent, not too close too close to the edge to prevent spilling. Sprinkle each with sliced almonds. Roll them up, checking for filling coming out the sides and bake according to package instructions (about 11 minutes). Keep in mind that the jam will be very sweet so be sure not to add too much. Adding a small amount will keep the flavor without having your brunch guests overpowered by the sticky sweetness.
Got extra filling? For breakfast, stir into your morning oatmeal or spread on toast. For a more savory, dinner-time experience, thin the mixture with olive oil and apple cider vinegar and use as a sauce with lamb or beef.
2 tablespoons Dates, finely chopped or pureed (could also use prunes or raisins)
1/2 Cup Apple butter
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
2 tablespoon ground pistachios
1 teaspoon fresh mint, chopped.
Pinch freshly ground black pepper (optional)
*Rich and zesty, this pairs well with strong black coffee and a cup of yogurt. Start by chopping the pistachios into small pieces or pulse them lightly in a food processor (do not grind into a powder). Next prepare the dates (finely chopped in just fine, but due to the sticky nature of dates this can be difficult, which is why some people prefer to puree them). Add the date mixture to the apple butter until well-incorporated. Mixture should be thick and there should be small lumps from the dates. For those of you who aren’t familiar with apple butter, it is NOTHING like butter. It’s basically a dark brown version of apple sauce infused with cinnamon, cloves, and lemon (aka, delicious). It’s fat free is incredible swirled into cottage cheese, yogurt, or just about anything else. My family eats it with samosas.
Add the pistachios, black pepper, and cardamom. If you don’t have cardamom, nutmeg and cinnamon also work nicely.Unroll your crescent roll dough and separate the pieces. Spread a thin layer (about 1/2 tablespoon) of filling along the length of the crescent roll. (Do not add too much! This mixture is on the thin side due to the apple butter, and might leak out the sides and burn in the oven. Wash and chop fresh mint leaves into thin strips and lay a few strands onto each crescent. Roll into shape, careful not to lose filling, and bake according to instructions (about 11 minutes).
Got extra filling? For breakfast stir into your oatmeal, swirl into yogurt, or spread spread on toast or a muffin. Or add more apple butter and some olive oil, and use as a sauce with chicken breast and serve with couscous.
1 tablespoon minced arugula
1 teaspoon tarragon
2 tablespoons finely chopped Walnuts
1/2 cup Brie or Camembert cheese, softened
5 Asparagus spears, chopped into 2” pieces
1/2 teaspoon Lemon zest
*A very elegant combination of flavors that complements eggs, white wine, chicken, and fresh bread. Make sure that the cheese has had time to soften and is spreadable. Remove the rind and scoop out the creamy inside. I apologize for my choice of cheese, only because it does take some time for it to soften. But trust me it’s well worth it. If you don’t have patience for this, or don’t have this cheese on hand, cream cheese, goat cheese, or chevre, would be delicious but slightly less exotic. Laughing Cow Swiss would be also be great, and would significantly reduce the calories.
Then finely chop the arugula and tarragon and lemon zest into the softened cheese. Mix until all herbs are evenly distributed. Next, finely chop 2 tablespoons of walnuts (not into a powder, but into small pieces) and mix into cheese and herbs. Separate the crescent roll dough and let them lie flat. The pieces will be triangle shaped. Spread about 1 tablespoon of the filling onto the WIDE edge of the dough. Wash and dry the asparagus spears, and chop into 1-2” long pieces. Place two pieces on top of the filling at the wide end of the dough triangle. Wrap the edge over the asparagus and filling and roll as a normal cresent roll. Bake according to packet instructions, about 11 minutes.
Got extra filling? For breakfast, add to your omelet or eggs Benedict. This would also be great in a panini with ham or chicken. These flavors also pair nicely with white wine, so you could even just serve with toasted baguette sliced and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Delicious and refreshing, and perfect for Spring!