Starting with Friday’s Poached Pear Prosecco and culminating with Sunday brunch, it has been a weekend entertaining whirl. But my honest answer if you asked me if I’d had a relaxing weekend is yes! It’s been a wonderful weekend, doing one of my favorite things, chatting with friends (eating and drinking too). Have I been stressed and hassled about all the trouble? Nope, not one bit. The reason why are my 3 secrets of vintage silver entertaining.
You all know about Friday’s Poached Pear Prosecco fest with Ivette, well on Sunday I had the fabulous good fortune to have brunch with Jackie Bernardi – she is another of the amazing Vintage Silver Connections I’ve been so lucky to make. I met Jackie Bernardi on Twitter and yes, I know what they say about “meeting” people on the internet :), but she happened to be flying through DC this weekend and I had to meet her in real life. So how did I have 2 occasions on one weekend AND still have a good time? Very simple…
I’m going to let you in on my 3 Secrets of Vintage Silver Entertaining
Both Ivette and Jackie were sweet enough to comment on how nicely laid out the food and drinks were. I replied in all honesty that it was nothing special and I hadn’t gone to lots of trouble. Here’s the (ugly?) secret. I hadn’t gone to lots of trouble.
Every single thing I used and that you can see in the photos are things that are used every day, or with such great frequency, that they are easily accessible. Because everything is close at hand, clean and ready to go, putting together a pretty table is a snap. In fact (although should I admit this) I don’t bring out anything for guests that our family doesn’t use on a regular basis. There is no distinction between everyday and best.
It’s not that my guests aren’t special, they are! But it’s the people, not the things or the food, that is the vital ingredient. This applies equally to a weekend dinner or a super special occasion.
The three secrets of every successful hostess and host of my personal acquaintance
1. Have your “special” pieces at hand and ready to go at a moment’s notice.
The though of dragging items out of storage (and heaven forbid then having to wash or polish anything) is enough to put anyone off using their “best”. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have a crazy schedule professionally and/or on the domestic front. Who has the time to spend doing that? I certainly don’t. Entertaining should be a pleasure not a chore.
2. No matter what you serve, it looks infinitely more delicious in a beautiful serving piece.
Whether it’s a simple snack or a stupendous seven course meal, this is a very handy tip. Put your potato chips in a pretty bowl next time you have a drink with a friend, you’ll see what a difference it makes.
3. The food doesn’t have to be fancy (or homemade).
It took me a really long time to understand this last point. I love to cook and enjoy wading through a new, complicated recipe, but an overambitious menu is simply too exhausting. Do everything you can to keep it simple for yourself.
On more than one occasion a guest has confessed to me that they don’t entertain because the cooking is too time consuming. My response is buy something and put it on a pretty plate. The ginger-carrot loaf I served Ivette on Friday came from the Farmer’s market. I’d have loved to make one myself, but didn’t have the time. I was not going to let that stop me from having a much needed afternoon with a friend.
Oh, the irony!
I completely forgot to run out and buy a tea bread or something for Sunday brunch. So late Saturday afternoon, I knew I was going to serve a quick frittata and some fruit, but I wanted a breakfasty-sweet item too.
Yet again, Pinterest saved the day. I remembered the Lemon Pull-Apart Bread recipe I pinned a few weeks ago. Once I took an in-depth look at the recipe I decided I’d tweak it a bit. Mainly I did not want either of us to have a heart attack while eating it, but also it was a bit too complicated. Keep it simple, right! I love yeast breads, because you can make them up and then stick them in the fridge to rise overnight, then into the oven in the morning. Simple!
So here is my adapted version of
Lemon Pull-Apart Bread
1 9×5 inch loaf pan – oiled
For the sweet yeast dough:
About 2 3/4 cups (12 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (2 1/2 fluid ounces) milk
2 ounces unsalted butter
1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces) water
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs , at room temperature
1. Stir together 2 cups (9 ounces) of the flour, the sugar, the yeast, and the salt in the bowl of a stand mixer; set aside. In a small saucepan, heat the milk and butter over low heat just until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat, add the water, and set aside until warm (120 to 130°F [49 to 54°C]), about 1 minute. Add the vanilla extract.
2. Pour the milk mixture over the flour-yeast mixture and, using a rubber spatula, mix until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. Attach the bowl to the mixer, and fit the mixer with the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition just until incorporated. Stop the mixer, add 1/2 cup (2 1/4 ounces) of the remaining flour, and resume mixing on low speed until the dough is smooth, 30 to 45 seconds. Add 2 more tablespoons flour and mix on medium speed until the dough is smooth, soft, and slightly sticky, about 45 seconds.
3. Sprinkle a work surface with 1 tablespoon flour and center the dough on the flour. Knead gently until smooth and no longer sticky, about 1 minute, adding an additional 1 to 2 tablespoons flour only if necessary to lessen the stickiness. Place the dough in a large bowl, cover the bowl securely with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise in a warm place (about 70°F [21°C]) until doubled in size, 45 to 60 minutes. Press the dough gently with a fingertip. If the indentation remains, the dough is ready for the next step. While the dough is rising, make the filling.
Here is where I went my own way…instead of the butter filling and cream cheese glaze (!) I made a simple mix.
1/2 cup sugar
a drop (yes, 1) of lemon oil (not essence/extract. If using extract you will need a few more drops)
Mix together in a small bowl until the sugar is dampened by the oil/extract.
Shaping the loaf
Again, the recipe called for a more time consuming process than I was willing to go through. So I simply cut the ball of dough into 15-18 pieces, flattened each piece with my hand, sprinkled on some of the sugar filling, then rolled it up. Each piece of dough got the same treatment and I popped them into the loaf pan randomly. I wasn’t worried about perfect symmetry (see photo, lol). Then I tossed the pan into the fridge, put a cutting board on it as a cover, and went to bed.
In the morning
I pulled the pan out of the fridge and preheated the oven to 350℉. Once the oven was at the right temperature I put the pan in the oven and went to read the paper. About 25 minutes later I came back, saw it would be done in a few more minutes, so I made a glaze.
1/2 icing (aka powdered) sugar
lemon juice or water
Mix icing sugar with liquid until smooth and thin enough to pour. Once bread is out of the oven, cool for a moment then turn out of pan. Put on serving plate, pour over glaze. Serve.
Here are a few highlights of our brunch
I promise I will get back to the Monogram Challenge, I just wanted to share this with you first 🙂 The holiday entertaining season is coming you know…it doesn’t have to be a big hassle.