Monday, April 30, 2012

cinnamon toast french toast + book preview

cinnamon toast french toast, a smitten kitchen cookbook preview

Guys, I wrote a cookbook.

When I was 32 weeks pregnant in the summer of 2009 (in fact, this was overflowing on my kitchen counter during my first meeting across town) and should have been doing normal third trimester things like eating jars of Peanutella by the spoonful and repainting the baseboard trim (which still looks awful, not that this will surprise you), I instead decided that I really wanted to write a cookbook. Because new mothers are swimming in free time (“new babies are always sleeping!”), I thought I would finish the book in six months; nine, tops. Stop laughing. Quit it.

Two and three-quarter years later, the “baby” is 2 1/2, I am the proud owner of 2 1/2 gray hairs and, oh, right: The book is done. Even though these have been the busiest and most overwhelming years of my entire life, they’ve also been the most exciting and inspiring. I am so proud of this book. I can’t wait to show it to you. I wish it were out tomorrow. But today, I have a few things to hold us over.

the cover of the smitten kitchen cookbook

First, this above? That’s the cover. What’s that, you ask? It for a tiny recipe called tomato shortcakes. They’re savory. Those are biscuits with green onions. It’s a salad. There’s whipped goat cheese. My editor was visiting that day, and I was just fiddling around, trying to make us a little lunch. My favorite dishes happen this way.

buttered popcorn cookie from the smitten kitchen cookbook

The book has a back cover too. Those are called buttered popcorn cookies. They’re sweet and a touch salty, there’s vanilla and dark brown sugar and when they bake together, terrible things happen, such as the fact that they disappear quickly, and you have to make more.

There’s so much more. The book has 105-plus recipes, with chapters devoted to Breakfasts, Salads, Sandwiches, Tarts and Pizzas, Meatless Main Courses, Main Courses with Meat or Fish, and oh yes, a whole lot of Sweets, from Cookies to Pies to Tarts to Cakes and Candies and Puddings. And then, at the end, there are a couple drinks and a handful of party snacks. I encourage all cookbook authors, present and future, to include a cocktail recipe so that you’ll always have something that urgently needs “retesting” after an exhausting day.

you get to make lots of cinnamon toast

The recipes are overwhelmingly completely and totally new — I was a little obsessed with making sure this book had value to everyone, even if you’ve never missed a site update, so only about 15 favorites were plucked from this url, essentially things that no book bearing the name The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook would be complete without. There are a ton of photos (at least one for each recipe), stories, and every single recipe includes ingredients in both cups-and-spoons and metric weights. When you open the book on your kitchen counter, it should stay open (it’s called lay-flat binding, and I specifically requested, nay, begged for it). And I really hope you love it.

And as of today, the book is officially available for preorder from just about every online seller:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Indiebound | Powell’s
Other U.S. Retailers | Amazon Canada | Indigo Canada

(I know some of you smarties already found it and I love you for it. I just wanted to wait until the cover was ready to make a great big noisy fuss about it.) And I know what you’re thinking: why would I buy a book today that won’t be out until the fall? You could do it to secure any low price running right now, you could do it so you’ll get yours first (it will ship the second it’s released), or to buy gifts for any friends/mamas/brides who you think would be into this kind of thing. Oh, and if you do, we’ve created some downloadable certificates that you can slip in a card or envelope to let them know they’ve, obviously, got the awesomest friend/family member one could have. [Here’s one with the front cover on it; here’s one with the back, both are PDFs.]

getting ready to assemble

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook will ship on October 30th, its release date, which I know seems like an eternity from now but it will hopefully give us a moment to take a big family nap (and of course, spend a lot of time right here) before we begin the Smitten Out Of The Kitchen Book Tour. The Canadian edition will be published by Appetite, Random House Canada’s awesome new food imprint, on the same date. A UK/Australian edition that will be sold throughout Europe will be published February 7, 2013 by Square Peg, an imprint of Random House UK. I will be touring the U.S. (and possibly Canada) this fall and I cannot wait to finally meet all of you. We’re still confirming dates and cities, so stay tuned to the Book page for any and all updates.

adding the custard

Finally, the book includes one of my favorite breakfast recipes, the kind of dish you can assemble the night before a big brunch, or just a lazy Saturday with your family, the kind of dish that it’s been killing me not to tell you about since I came up with it early in the writing process. I actually discovered baked French toast a long time ago, after a catastrophic brunch that involved me standing over a skillet, dipping and flipping slices of bread for an hour while my friends had fun without me. (Given, I was 24 at the time and my definition of “catastrophic” has changed, thank goodness. Now it involves the DVR not recording Mad Men.) Since then, I have baked French toast in a casserole dish and never looked back. This version, specifically, however, is my favorite. Piles of buttery, cinnamon and caramelized sugar-crusted toast fan out in a pan before absorbing a simple vanilla custard and baking into puffed, layered breakfast perfection.

custard-soaked, then baked

For something that sounds so utterly decadent, it’s surprisingly humble when you slice it — the only sweetness clings to the cinnamon-sugar crusts and the custard is just milk and eggs — you know, until you douse it with a raft of maple syrup. Not that we know any people who would do a thing like that.

cinnamon toast french toast

Cinnamon Toast French Toast
From The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (Knopf, October 2012)

1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
16 slices (from a 1-pound or 450 gram loaf) white sandwich bread
1 stick (4 ounces or 113 grams) unsalted butter, softened
3 cups (710 ml) whole milk
6 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Whisk the cinnamon and sugar together in a small dish. Line two large baking sheets with foil. Place the bread slices on the baking sheets in one layer. Spread each slice of bread with 1 teaspoon of butter, then sprinkle each slice with one teaspoon of the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Toast the trays of bread in the oven until the bread is golden, and until the cinnamon-sugar makes a caramelized crunch on top, for about 7 to10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees and let the toast cool slightly.

Generously butter a 9×13-inch baking dish. (You might have a little butter leftover but I wanted to build in some leeway in case, understandably, you weren’t buttering your bread with precise teaspoon measurements!) Cut two slices of the cinnamon toast in half horizontally. Arrange the cinnamon toast down in two rows along the width of the pan. Begin with the bottom half of one slice of toast, then fan 7 more slices in a row, finishing with the top half of the slice. This ensures that those served the end pieces of the baked French toast are not stiffed with thin slices! Repeat with another 7 full slices and 1 halved slice of cinnamon toast in the second row. Whisk the milk, eggs, salt and vanilla in a medium bowl and pour evenly over cinnamon toast in baking dish. Let sit for 15 minutes (or overnight, if you’re preparing this ahead of time) so that the custard absorbs a bit.

Before baking, if you’ve got any extra cinnamon-sugar (you’ll likely have a tablespoon or two), sprinkle it over the French toast. Bake for 30 minutes, until puffed and golden and until no liquid seeps out of the toasts when they are nudged about in the pan. Cut into squares and serve plain, or with a dollop of plain yogurt and fresh berries, or maple syrup.


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