I love this delectable Christina Tosi recipe for “French Toast Muffins” for so many reasons:
It lets you make a load of “French toast” in one fell swoop.
It is a genius use of all those odds and ends of various bread loaves on the verge of freezer-burn at home.
It’s easy enough for kiddos to do, making it an ideal way to spoil mom with breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day. In fact, it’s featured in the “Milk Bar: Kids Only” cookbook (Clarkson Potter, 2020), of which I received a review copy.
You probably know Pastry Chef Tosi as the founder and owner of the phenomenon known as Milk Bar bakery, as well as for her judging prowess on TV’s “MasterChef.”
Her creations at Milk Bar are beloved for their nostalgic effervescence and joyous kid-like appeal. So, a cookbook like this is a natural. It’s sure to entice kids into the kitchen with recipes such as “Coco Cabana Cereal Squares,” “Compost Pancakes,” “Donut Shakes,” and “Corn Dog Waffles.”
She even instructs how to judge if baked goods are done, by employing cocktail umbrella toothpicks to demonstrate, as well as trouble-shoots problems such as cupcakes or muffins sinking in the middle (You’re opening and closing the oven too much.).
For “French Toast Muffins,” you rip up bread slices into small pieces “as if you were feeding ducks in the park.” (One of the best recipe directions I’ve ever read, by the way.)
The owner of the lovable, guava-sized Tin Roof Hawaiian eatery. A devoted husband and dad. A “Top Chef” finalist and two-time “Fan Favorite.” And what I like to call, the MacGyver of chefs.
There was the time when I dined at one of his previous restaurants, when he talked about how he and a line cook came up with a way to cook perfect pork belly — in Hot Pockets sleeves, of all things.
Then, there was the time when a table of chefs fell silent and began madly typing notes into their phone, when Simeon let slip that he makes his own chow fun noodles and generously began sharing the recipe just like that.
So when I spied that chow fun recipe in his debut cookbook, “Cook Real Hawai’i” (Clarkson Potter), I knew I had to make it. The book was written with Garret Snyder, a former Los Angeles Times food writer.
Through 100 recipes, Simeon gives you a taste of today’s Hawaii, mixing tradition with fun spins that amplify the unique cross-cultural blend of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Filipino and native Hawaiian flavors that makes this cuisine so mouthwatering. Along the way, you get to know him, too, from how his grandpa left the Philippines at age 18 to work on a sugar plantation in Hawaii to how Simeon slyly fed the tired and hungry camera crew of “Top Chef” with his Spam musubi.
If you were to spy a recipe that offered merely a list of ingredients — without any precise measurements for the most part — along with no specified number of servings, and only one paragraph of instructions, would you:
A. Be petrified.
B. Rejoice in its invitation to let loose and improvise.
As a cookbook writer, myself, who’s always had it drilled into her to be as specific as possible when writing or editing recipes, this cookbook initially gave me pause. With its tack that less is actually more when it comes to recipe verbiage, I wondered: Would novice cooks would find this style off-putting and too intimidating? And would experienced cooks give the book a pass, assuming the recipes must be far too easy or mundane to accommodate such a truncated style?
It pays to approach this book with an open mind. Whether you’re just learning to cook or already a decent home-cook, you’re sure to find new, inspired ways — as streamlined as they might be — to get dinner on the table. What this book does is encourage you to trust your instincts more, to be less rigid in the way you cook, and to be more imaginative in scouring your pantry for substitute ingredients when need be. And in a pandemic year, which has seen grocery shelves decimated at times, that’s an invaluable skill to possess.
It’s by Nadiya Hussain, the 2015 winner of “The Great British Baking Show” and star of Netflix’s “Nadiya Bakes.” The collection of recipes is ideal for busy families like her own. The breezy recipes include everything from “Peanut Butter and Jelly Sheetpan Pancake” and “Crustless Spinach Quiche” to “Honey Mustard Chow Mein” and “Pizza Parathas.”
Let me state at the get-go that this cake might not be everyone’s cup of tea. You have to be willing to take your taste buds on a bit of an adventurous ride.