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A Fall-Inspired Brunch

Maple syrup and other tempting fall flavors are on the menu at this brunch, where the table is set with fresh blue-and-white ceramics

Written and produced by Krissa Rossbund
  • Blaine Moats

    Autumn, how sweet you are! Cool, crisp weather piques the appetite and transforms maple leaves into dazzling red, orange, and gold. Celebrate this glorious season with a brunch that highlights another of the maple tree’s sweet gifts—maple syrup—and a host of fall favorites, including butternut squash, pears, and apple cider.

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    To complement the tempting menu and make the meal even more memorable, set the table with a collection of new ceramics from global arbiter of good taste Ralph Lauren. The color scheme—beloved blue and white—isn’t unusual, but the collection’s intriguing patterns and history are.

    In creating the ceramics, designers for Ralph Lauren Home—a brand that represents classic American style—looked across the pond to England’s Burleigh, maker of earthenware since 1851. The pieces marry timelessness and luxury as they offer takes on two motifs: graphic stars and flowing florals.

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    The florals—one with a loose vine design and another that layers faded peonies for a saturated presentation—take inspiration from East Asian hand-blocked batik prints. Finished by hand, the versatile dinnerware is enhanced by a mix of materials including clear crystal and silver—and showcased by textural indigo tablecloth fabric.

    Fiery colors on centerpiece florals complement the blue table setting as they evoke the colors of maple leaves and nod to the tree’s other tasteful contribution to the menu—the syrup that adds a dazzling finish to butternut squash gougères, layers a complex note into an arugula salad, and brings a delightful surprise to luscious waffle batter. Autumn, you are sweet indeed.

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    Shopping List

    We’ve organized a shopping list to make shopping for this gathering menu easier for you. Package sizes are included so you have enough for duplicated recipe ingredients.

    Check your pantry for these necessary items before shopping:

    Note: Unless specified, when we call for “butter,” we mean the unsalted variety. When we call for “olive oil,” we are suggesting good-quality extra virgin. When we call for “eggs,” we are suggesting large eggs. Unless specified, when we call for “milk,” we mean whole-fat milk.

    Amounts below allow for eight cocktails.

    •Olive oil (need 2 tablespoons)

    •Canola oil (need ½ cup)

    •Unsalted butter (need 4 sticks)

    •Nonstick cooking spray

    •Kosher salt (need 2¼ teaspoons + 1/8 teaspoon)

    •Ground black pepper (¼ teaspoon)

    •All-purpose flour (need 5½ cups)

    •Granulated sugar (need ¾ cup + 2/3 cup)

    •Brown sugar (need ½ cup packed)

    •Baking powder (need 4½ teaspoons)

    •Ground cinnamon (need 3 teaspoons)

    •Ground nutmeg (need ¼ teaspoon)

    •Milk (need 2¼ cups)

    •Eggs (need 27)

    •Red wine vinegar (need 2 tablespoons)

    Specialty grocery store

    •Tahitian vanilla extract (need 4½ teaspoons)

    •Fleur de sel (need ½ teaspoon)

    •Sherry vinegar (need 1 tablespoon)


    •7 oranges

    •1 lemon

    •3 Anjou pears

    •1 (6-ounce) container fresh raspberries

    •1 (12-ounce) bag fresh (or frozen) cranberries

    •1 small butternut squash

    •1 shallot

    •1 (5-ounce) bag baby arugula

    •1 bunch Italian parsley


    •Pear nectar (need 1 cup)

    •Dark pure maple syrup (need 2 tablespoons)

    •Pure maple syrup

    •Walnut pieces (need ½ cup)

    •Apple cider (need ½ cup)


    •8 ounces pancetta

    •8 thin slices prosciutto


    •1 (1-quart) container heavy cream

    •1 (8-ounce) container mascarpone cheese

    Cheese department

    •1 ounce Gruyère cheese

    •2 ounces Parmesan cheese


    •2 (750-milliliter) bottles brut champagne or sparkling grape juice

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    Fall Pear-Orange Mimosa

    Look in the juice section or with the international foods in your supermarket to find subtly sweet pear nectar.

    Start to Finish: 5 minutes

    •2 ounces fresh-squeezed orange juice

    •1 ounce pear nectar

    •4 ounces chilled brut champagne or sparkling grape juice

    •Thin slices fresh pear

    In chilled champagne flute combine orange juice and pear nectar. Top with champagne. Garnish with pear slices. Makes 1 cocktail.

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    Butternut Squash Gougères

    The fleur de sel not only gives these delicate puffs a pretty crystalline presentation, but also contributes to a big sweet-and-salty taste when combined with maple syrup.  

    Hands On: 20 minutes

    Total Time: 1 hour

    •Nonstick cooking spray

    •1 cup water

    •½ cup chopped butternut squash

    •¼ teaspoon kosher salt

    •½ cup butter

    •1 cup all-purpose flour

    •4 eggs

    •1 ounce Gruyère cheese, finely shredded (¼ cup)

    •Pure maple syrup

    •½ teaspoon Fleur de sel

    Preheat oven to 400°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or coat with cooking spray.

    In medium saucepan combine the water, squash, and salt. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer about 4 minutes or until squash is soft. Transfer to blender. Cover and blend until smooth. Return to saucepan.

    Add butter to saucepan. Bring to boiling. Add flour all at once, stirring vigorously. Cook and stir until mixture forms ball. Remove from heat; cool 10 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, stirring well after each addition. Stir in cheese.

    Drop 12 spoonfuls of dough evenly onto each prepared baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes until puffed and golden brown.

    Drizzle gougères with maple syrup. Generously sprinkle with fleur de sel. Makes 24 gougères.


    Arugula Salad with Pancetta, Pear, and Walnuts

    Arugula, also known as rocket, has an assertive peppery taste that balances nicely with the pancetta and pear. If you prefer milder greens, use fresh spinach in place of all or part of the arugula.

    Total Time: 30 minutes

    •8 ounces pancetta, chopped

    •1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

    •2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

    •1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

    •1 tablespoon minced shallot

    •1/8 to ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

    •¼ teaspoon black pepper

    •2 tablespoons olive oil

    •4 cups baby arugula

    •1 medium Anjou pear, cored and sliced

    •½ cup walnut pieces, toasted

    •2 ounces Parmesan cheese, shaved (optional)

    In large nonstick skillet cook pancetta over medium-high 7 to 8 minutes until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Drain and discard fat. Transfer pancetta to small bowl. Add maple syrup and stir to coat.

    In large bowl whisk together red wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, shallot, salt, and pepper. Whisk in oil until incorporated.

    Add arugula, pear, walnuts, Parmesan shavings (if using), and maple pancetta to bowl. Toss to combine. Makes 8 servings.


    Scrambled Egg, Prosciutto, and Mascarpone-Topped Waffles

    This decadent main dish gives a savory treatment to a favorite breakfast staple. It is hearty and satisfying without being too heavy.

    Start to Finish: 45 minutes



    Nonstick cooking spray

    •3 cups all-purpose flour

    •¼ cup sugar

    •1 tablespoon baking powder

    •½ teaspoon kosher salt

    •2 eggs

    •2 cups milk

    •½ cup canola oil

    •2 tablespoons pure maple syrup


    Soft-Scrambled Eggs:

    •16 eggs

    •3 cups heavy cream

    •1 teaspoon kosher salt

    •¼ cup butter


    Waffle Topping:

    •½ cup mascarpone cheese

    •8 thin slices prosciutto, halved lengthwise

    •¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh Italian parsley

    • Pure maple syrup


    For Waffles, coat grid of waffle baker with cooking spray. Preheat to medium.

    In large mixing bowl stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make well in center of mixture. In medium bowl combine eggs, milk, oil, and maple syrup. Add egg mixture to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened.

    Add a portion of batter to waffle baker according to manufacturer’s directions. Close lid quickly; do not open until done. Bake according to manufacturer’s directions. When done, use fork to lift waffle off grid. Repeat with remaining batter. Keep warm in 200°F oven on wire rack set inside shallow baking pan.


    For Soft-Scrambled Eggs, in large bowl whisk together eggs, cream, and salt. In extra-large nonstick skillet heat butter over medium. Add egg mixture to skillet. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook 12 to 15 minutes until cooked but still glossy and soft, occasionally lifting and folding partially cooked egg mixture so uncooked portion flows underneath.

    To assemble, divide waffles among eight plates or arrange on platter. Spread waffles with mascarpone. Top with Soft-Scrambled Eggs. Garnish with prosciutto and chopped parsley. Serve with additional maple syrup. Makes 8 servings.

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    Apple Cider Doughnuts on Créme Anglaise

    Finish brunch with a special sweet treat. Serve the doughnuts with a combo of creamy crème anglaise and tart cran-raspberry sauce.

    Hands On: 45 minutes

    Total Time: 3 hours (includes chilling)


    Apple Cider Doughnuts:

    •Nonstick cooking spray

    •1½ cups all-purpose flour

    •1½ teaspoons baking powder

    •1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

    •½ teaspoon kosher salt

    •¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

    •½ cup apple cider

    •¼ cup milk

    •1½ teaspoons Tahitian vanilla

    •¼ cup butter, softened

    •½ cup packed brown sugar

    •2 eggs

    •2/3 cup granulated sugar

    •2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

    •½ cup butter, melted


    Crème Anglaise:

    •1 cup heavy cream

    •¼ cup granulated sugar

    •1 tablespoon Tahitian vanilla

    •3 egg yolks


    Cran-Raspberry Sauce:

    •1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries

    •½ cup fresh raspberries

    •¼ cup water

    •¼ cup granulated sugar

    •½ teaspoon lemon zest


    For Apple Cider Doughnuts, preheat oven to 350°F. Coat twelve 3½-inch doughnut molds (or twenty-four 2½-inch doughnut molds) with cooking spray.

    In medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg. In measuring cup combine apple cider, milk, and vanilla (mixture will curdle slightly). In large bowl beat ¼ cup softened butter with mixer on medium 30 seconds. Add brown sugar; beat 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Alternately add flour mixture and cider mixture, beating on low after each addition just until combined.

    Pour batter into a large piping bag or resealable plastic bag; use tip or cut corner for ½-inch opening. Pipe batter into prepared doughnut pan, filling each mold about halfway.

    Bake 12 to 15 minutes for 3½-inch doughnuts (about 8 minutes for 2½-inch doughnuts) or until golden brown and tops spring back when lightly touched.

    In plastic or paper bag combine 2/3 cup granulated sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon. Brush a baked doughnut with melted butter then toss with cinnamon sugar to coat. Repeat with remaining doughnuts.

    Serve doughnuts with Crème Anglaise and Cran-Raspberry Sauce. Makes 12 (3½-inch) doughnuts or 24 (2½-inch) doughnuts.


    For Crème Anglaise, in small saucepan combine cream, ¼ cup granulated sugar, and 1 tablespoon vanilla. Heat over medium until bubbles form at edge. In small bowl whisk egg yolks. Gradually whisk ½ cup hot cream mixture into egg yolks. Return egg yolk mixture to saucepan. Cook and stir over medium-low 5 to 6 minutes or until thickened. Cover and chill 1 to 2 hours or until ready to serve. Makes 1 1/3 cups.


    For Cran-Raspberry Sauce, in small saucepan combine cranberries, raspberries, the water, ¼ cup granulated sugar, and lemon zest. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes until berries are broken down. Cool at least 5 minutes. Transfer to blender; cover and blend until smooth. Strain through fine-mesh sieve to remove seeds. Makes ¾ cup.