Brunch is easily the most luxuriant meal of the day. Quite possibly, it is the most luxuriant meal ever invented. No other meal allows for a menu that encompasses everything from savory main dishes to rich, treat-like fare. If you find yourself sitting down to brunch, chances are the rest of your day is going to be quite leisurely and fine.
When presented with this Chopped/Vegan Challenge, I wanted to create a brunch dish that would fill a person up, but not so much that they couldn’t still lift off the earth and click their heels at the pure joy of a brunchy day. Decadent but not entirely unhealthy, the brunch chef needs to create a menu that somehow successfully straddles the desire for savory and sweet. Never forcing a choice between “good” and “bad,” the chef must create a meal that allows people to feast upon a brunch that relatively healthy but still tastes like dessert.
Butternut Squash Crepes with Apricot Glaze is exactly that. It tastes like an expensive, fine restaurant dessert, but it qualifies as a meal with healthy ingredients as well. The perfect brunch solution, it is a sweet and savory crepe with a vegetable filling and a fruity glaze that’s sure to please everyone at your table.
When making brunch at home for the family or guests, another key is to find a recipe that allows for some advance preparation. This enables the chef to not only enjoy the meal more with their family or guests, but also to minimize the amount of clean up. Brunch is a time for friendship and sharing. A do-ahead option allows for more time with your lovely friends and family!
Begin by making the batter for the crepes. This can be done the night before or earlier in the morning.
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- Approximately 5 cups popped popcorn
- 1 cup vanilla OR chocolate almond milk
- ½ cup water
- ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 tablespoons mascobado sugar (brown sugar can be substituted)
- 1 tablespoon agave
- 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- Vegan margarine as needed
Sift together 1 cup ground popped popcorn, 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon baking soda. This will be a challenge for your sifter, as there will come a point where some of the popcorn is too large to be sifted properly. Empty that part into the bowl with the sifted ingredients and mix together very gently.
Place the almond milk, water, vanilla, sugar, agave, and ground flaxseed in a blender. Add the dry ingredients and blend until well mixed, stopping and scraping the sides of the blender with a rubber spatula if necessary. Place the mixture into the refrigerator to chill for a couple of hours or overnight.
To complete the crepes, heat a very small amount of margarine in a crepe pan or low, curved wall non-stick skillet. The amount is only to help prevent sticking. Using too much will prevent the crepes from cooking properly, so be certain to use as little as possible.
With the pan heated to medium heat, quickly pour in enough batter to thinly coat the pan. It is easiest to pour a circle of batter and lift the pan and tip it to spread the batter. The crepe will cook from the outside edges in. If the crepe is the proper thinness, it will be easy to see the progress of the cooking. When the crepe appears to have cooked through to the center, use a spatula and quickly and carefully loosen the edges from the pan. Slide a spatula under the crepe and cook it a short time longer, perhaps 15-30 seconds on the other side. It should slide easily in the pan when done.
Rosemary Butternut Squash Filling
- 4-lb butternut squash
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- ½ cup orange juice (I’d advise you to check the label and be certain it is vegan)
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon allspice
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 vanilla pod
- 1 tablespoon flour
Cut the butternut squash into one-inch chunks, removing the peel either before or as you go and discarding the seeds.
Strip the leaves off the rosemary and finely chop.
In a bowl, toss the butternut squash, rosemary, orange juice, brown sugar, nutmeg, allspice, and cinnamon.
Split the vanilla pod and scrape out the beans. Add them to the bowl with the squash. Toss together.
Put the butternut squash mixture in a 13 X 9 glass baking dish and cover with foil. Bake at 350 Fahrenheit for 1 hour, turning the squash with a spatula after 30 minutes. Let cool slightly.
If making ahead, stop here and refrigerate squash until needed or overnight. Reheat before continuing.
Using a hand mixer, mash the squash until it is a consistent texture. Add the tablespoon of flour and beat until blended.
- ¾ cup apricot preserves
- ½ cup orange juice
- 2 teaspoons agar-agar flakes
- Vegan chocolate chips, if desired
Heat the apricot preserves to boiling and strain through a fine strainer to remove fruit. Set fruit aside.
Return the apricot liquid to the pot and add orange juice and agar-agar flakes. Heat to boiling, whisking constantly. Add up to one more teaspoon agar-agar if desired. The goal is to thicken the glaze slightly, not to cause it to gel completely. Return the fruit to the mixture and remove the glaze from the heat. Set aside.
To complete the crepes, place about ¼ cup of the butternut squash mixture across the center of one crepe in a single line. Fold the crepe in half, pressing gently. Fold the crepe in half again. Spoon a small amount of the apricot glaze over the crepes. Sprinkle with vegan chocolate chips. Serve with additional glaze available, if desired.
I tend to be playful with my cooking. I enjoy figuring out new angles for old favorites or creating new favorites from ingredients that sound to me like they would be delicious together. I adored this challenge and found it completely inspiring. The popcorn flour was a surprise from start to finish and I’m so glad I thought of it. Watching it grind in the blender was remarkable, the finished texture surprised and delighted me, and the taste and texture it added to the crepes, while subtle, was intriguing and unique. I ground more popcorn flour before the day was done and plan to use it to see how it affects flavor and texture in a variety of recipes.
In this recipe, the mild flavor of the crepes allows the butternut squash to truly be the star of the show. The spices and sugars lend richness, but never too much. Even with the whimsical sprinkling of chocolate chips, the dish remains clearly a breakfast and not a dessert. The rosemary is mild and compliments the sweetness of the apricots and chocolate perfectly. Served with fresh berries, a gracefully displayed beverage of your choice, and hot cup of coffee, Butternut Squash Crepes with Apricot Filling is the reason you waited for brunch to eat. It’s a meal that will satisfy and impress, just like a brunch masterpiece should!