Recipes: Make these breakfast treats for overnight guests

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The holidays can bring overnight houseguests. Bless their little hearts, they appreciate treats to enhance breakfast, baked goods that can make them feel like they are getting special treatment. These luscious add-ons aren’t necessarily intended as a replacement for protein-based breakfast entrees. They are a delicious way to make the first meal of the day more festive.

I often rely on fruit-augmented cakes that can be prepared a day or two before guests arrive. A lemon-blackberry Bundt cake or an apple-cider enriched loaf cake are two favorite standbys. I put them on a pretty plate or footed cake plate where guests can see them when they arrive. That way they can look forward to a delicious mealtime the following day.

Sometimes I break with the make-ahead strategy and prepare last-minute Cheese Puffers, setting out the ingredients for these cross between muffins and popovers the night before. They only take a few minutes to put together, just about the time it takes for the oven to heat. Cheese Puffers are best eaten piping out, soon after they are taken out of the oven.

The key to making Cheese Puffers is to heat butter in the muffin tin before adding the batter. (Photo by Cathy Thomas)
The key to making Cheese Puffers is to heat butter in the muffin tin before adding the batter. (Photo by Cathy Thomas)

Cheese Puffers

These delectable treats take on a popover personality because butter is heated in the muffin tin prior to adding the batter, so the puffers get a quick boost as soon as they go into the oven. They are stretchy with a subtle crispness on the outside and should be served piping hot.

Yield: 12 puffers


3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces

1 1/4 cup (170 grams) all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

A few grinds of black pepper

Pinch of cayenne pepper

3 large eggs

1 cup (240 ml) milk, room temperature

4 ounces (113 grams) cheddar cheese, see cook’s notes

3 green onions, trimmed, finely sliced, or chopped

Cook’s notes: Use any grated cheese that melts easily, such as Monterey Jack or Swiss.


1. Center a rack in the oven and position another rack just below it. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Have a baking sheet lined with foil or a baking mat and a muffin tin at hand. Put the baking sheet on the lower rack — it will be your drip catcher.

2. Drop one piece of butter into each muffin cup; set aside.

3. Working in a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, black pepper, and cayenne.

4. In another bowl or large measuring cup, whisk the eggs and milk together. Using a flexible spatula, stir the liquid ingredients into the dry, then blend in the cheese and green onions. Be thorough but don’t be overzealous.

5. Put muffin tin into the oven and as soon as the butter has completely melted, remove it and brush butter around the sides of each cup with a silicone or other pastry brush. Using a big cookie scoop or spoon, divide batter among the cups and immediately return tin to the oven.

6. Bake for 20 to 23 minutes or until the puffers are tall and golden. The butter will be bubbling around them, and a tester inserted into the center of one will come out clean. Transfer the tin to a rack, run a table knife around the edges of each cup and pop the puffers out. Serve immediately.

Source: “Baking with Dorie” by Dorie Greenspan (Houghton Mifflin, $35)

Apple Cider Donut Loaf Cake captures the flavor profile of apples by using reduced apple cider. (Photo by Cathy Thomas)
Apple Cider Donut Loaf Cake captures the flavor profile of apples by using reduced apple cider. (Photo by Cathy Thomas)

Apple Cider Donut Loaf Cake

This Apple Cider Donut Loaf Cake captures apples’ bright flavor profiles. The apple note comes from reducing apple cider to intensify the sweet-tart beauty; it’s used in the batter, atop the cake just out of the oven (poured into puncture holes made with a toothpick), and again combined with melted butter and brushed on the cake’s exterior. That final flourish helps the sugar and cinnamon mixture adhere to the surface. The cake can be made 4 days ahead. Store cool cake airtight at room temperature.

Yield: 8 servings


8 tablespoons plus 1 tablespoon butter, divided use, plus more for pan

1 1/2 cups apple cider

1/2 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal salt or 1/2 teaspoon Morton kosher salt, plus a pinch more

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided use

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, divided use

2 large eggs, room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar, divided use


1. Place rack in middle of oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Lightly butter an 8 1/2-by-4 1/2 inch or 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on both long sides (this will act as a sling to remove the cake easily from the pan). Bring cider to a boil on high heat in a saucepan; reduce heat and simmer until reduced to 3/4 cup, about 8 to 10 minutes.

2. Pour 1/4 cup reduced cider into a small measuring glass or bowl and set aside. Transfer remaining reduced cider to a small bowl and let cool 5 minutes. Stir in sour cream and vanilla (don’t worry if there are small clumps of sour cream that don’t blend in — it will all work out in the mixer). Set aside.

3. Melt 8 tablespoons butter on low heat in same saucepan (no need to clean it). Let cool slightly. In separate bowl, whisk flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal or 1/2 teaspoon Morton kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg in a medium bowl to combine.

4. In a stand mixer bowl, add eggs and 3/4 cup sugar; beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping down sides if needed. On medium speed add butter in a thin steam, beating until thoroughly combined. Reserve saucepan. On low-medium speed, add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with reserved sour cream mixture in 2 additions; beat until combined, scraping down sides as needed. Batter will be thin. Scrape into pan with a silicone spatula. Place on rimmed baking sheet.

5. Bake, rotating halfway through, until deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 65 to 75 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack and poke top of cake all over with a toothpick. Spoon 3 tablespoons reserved reduced cider over (I found that it helped spread the cider around with a pastry brush); let cool 10 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, mix a pinch of salt (tiny-if using salted butter, large if using unsalted butter), remaining 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg in a small bowl. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in the reserved saucepan and mix into reduced cider.

7. Using parchment paper, lift cake onto rack and set rack inside rimmed baking sheet. Peel away parchment from sides. Brush warm butter mixture over top and sides of cake. Sprinkle generously with sugar mixture to coat every surface (use parchment to help rotate the cake and collect any excess sugar). Remove parchment and let cool completely before slicing.

Source: Adapted from Bon Appetit magazine

Breakfast-in-Rome Lemon Blackberry Cake can be made in a tube pan or a Bundt can without many curves. (Photo by Cathy Thomas)
Breakfast-in-Rome Lemon Blackberry Cake can be made in a tube pan or a Bundt can without many curves. (Photo by Cathy Thomas)

Breakfast-in-Rome Lemon Blackberry Cake

Yield: 12 servings


Flour and soft butter for prepping pan

1 1/2 cups (204 grams) all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 large eggs, separated, room temperature

1 1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated sugar

Finely grated zest of 2 lemons

1/2 cup (120 ml) flavorless oil, such as canola

Juice of one lemon

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Optional: 1/4 teaspoon pure lemon extract or lemon oil

About 1 1/2 cups fresh blackberries, or fresh blueberries

Optional for dusting: powdered sugar


1. Center oven rack and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 10-inch tube pan or use a Bundt pan with as few curves as possible. Dust with flour. Be diligent as this cake is a sticker. Alternately use baker’s spray.

2. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together; set aside.

3. In large bowl of stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat egg whites on medium-high speed until they form firm, glossy peaks. If you’re using a stand mixer, scrape the whites into another bowl — there’s no need to rinse the bowl. Switch to the flat paddle.

4. Put sugar and lemon zest in mixer bowl or in another large bowl if using a hand mixer and rub them together until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Attach the bowl to the mixer stand, if using. Add yolks and beat on medium speed for about 3 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed, until batter is thick, pale, and shiny. With the mixer on medium speed, drizzle in oil, pouring it down the side of the bowl, and continue to beat for another 3 minutes. Working on low speed, mix in lemon juice, vanilla, and lemon oil if using. Scrape bowl well. Turn off mixer, add all the dry ingredients and pulse a few times to start incorporating them. Then mix on low until flour is blended into the batter and it is smooth and thick. Remove bowl from the mixer.

5. Give the whites a couple of brisk turns with a whisk to re-stiffen them and incorporate any liquid that may have seeped to the bottom of the bowl, then scrape a few spoonfuls of them over the batter. Use a flexible spatula to stir them in and lighten batter. Turn the rest of the whites into bowl and fold them gingerly. Fold in berries before whites are fully incorporated. Scrape into prepared pan and level off the top.

6. Bake 45 to 50 minutes, until top is lightly browned and perhaps cracked. A tester inserted deep into the cake should come out clean. Transfer to rack and wait 5 minutes. If you have used a tub pan, run a table knife around the edges of pan to loosen cake (this won’t be as easy with a Bundt pan). Invert onto cooling rack. If you used a tube pan decide whether you want the top or bottom of cake to be on top (invert it if desired). If desired, dust cooled cake with powdered sugar.

Source: “Baking with Dorie” by Dorie Greenspan (Houghton Mifflin, $35)

Cooking question? Contact Cathy Thomas at cathythomascooks@

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