If there’s one thing Americans learned the value of over the course of the pandemic, it’s time. At New York’s Eleven Madison Park, chef and owner Daniel Humm told Bloomberg that time is the way he now defines luxury. A dish such as an intricately roasted eggplant that takes 48 hours to prepare is more special, by Humm’s logic, than an expertly grilled Kobe steak.
Joshua Weissman is in full agreement. The young TK-based chef has cooked in such notable kitchens as Uchiko and garnered almost 5 million followers on YouTube for his good-natured, detail-oriented But Better series, wherein he makes improved versions of fast-food faves, including Taco Bell’s Doritos Locos Tacos and Ikea’s Swedish meatballs. “Can we please stop with the barrage of 2.3 second meals?” he has said in press materials for his new book. “I get it … we’re busy. But let’s focus on the fact that beautifully crafted burgers don’t grow on trees.”
Weissman’s just released An Unapologetic Cookbook (Penguin Random House; $30) puts that worldview to use with recipes that can take days to prepare. His sourdough includes a proposed schedule for the six part stretch-and-fold process, and a “better than Popeyes chicken sandwich” requires overnight marinating, not to mention that he suggests the buns, mayo, hot sauce, and pickles be homemade.
Not every recipe in the book requires taking the day off to prepare, however. One of the most delightful offerings is cinnamon toast, a blast from the past for most of us. “It is almost ironic that cinnamon toast is in the book when there’s so many intensive recipes,” says Weissman in a phone interview. “But it’s a prime eating experience with little or no effort.” If you have ingredients and measuring cups ready, “It can take 2 minutes, depending on how fast your toaster is,” he says. Thanks to today’s abundance of artisanal bread and butter and well-sourced cinnamon that hasn’t been sitting on a pantry shelf for years, it’s a sweet treat with high payoff that opens up the luxury of time for other endeavors.
The recipe calls for salted butter, two kinds of sugar (granulated white and light brown), and the option of freshly grated nutmeg—and stops there. “The key is to add only a few ingredients,” says Weissman. “You could add different spices, but then it’s no longer cinnamon toast.”
For more adventurous eaters, though, he nods to options such as smoked sugar and browned butter. And for more adventurous cooks, he characteristically encourages readers to make their own bread and butter, for which he offers recipes. (“You should know what makes arguably one of the greatest foods on the planet,” he says of churning butter from whipping cream.)
The result is a dish that’s almost emotional in its ability to create a warm hug of nostalgia while being absolutely delicious. The two kinds of sugar add depth to the sweetness, while the nutmeg amplifies the topping’s warm spiciness. Generously buttering the thick toast slices while they’re still hot ensures that everything will melt together and seep into the bread. This is a two-minute masterpiece.
Weissman, who plans to open his first restaurant by early 2023, wrote the recipe to leave some additional cinnamon sugar. You can sprinkle it on your yogurt or add it to your coffee if you’re the type who reaches for the cinnamon shaker at your local café. Still, this chef suggests thinking bigger: “If you’re making cinnamon toast, cinnamon rolls aren’t that hard; they just require patience.”
He believes his superpower is to help people tackle their fear of failing at cooking. “That’s what I’m trying to do with the book. It’s tough love. People complain about making their food, but they should suck it up and realize that cooking takes time.” Unless, of course, you’re making cinnamon toast. The following recipe is adapted from An Unapologetic Cookbook by Joshua Weissman.
Three-fourth cup granulated sugar
Half cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 and a half tbsp ground cinnamon
One-fourth tsp freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
4 thick slices sandwich bread, sourdough bread, or brioche
4 to 6 tbsp salted butter, softened
Make the cinnamon sugar: In a small container or jar, thoroughly mix the granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg (if using it). This will keep for a very long time in the pantry. Toast the bread in a toaster to the desired color. Immediately butter with 1 to 1 ½ tbsp butter per slice. Before the butter completely melts, sprinkle generously with cinnamon-sugar. Slice diagonally if you want. Savor every delicious, nostalgic bite while hot.
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