Tuesday, May 18, 2010

cinnamon toasts

cinnamon toasts

Lest you think of me as a cool and hip individual, I should probably set the record straight. For a certain length of time in my childhood, H. G. Wells’ novel “Time Machine” was my favorite book in the world. I was obsessed to the point of a tantrum, refusing to admit that time travel was a thing of the fantasy world. I wanted time travel to be real. But if you asked me why, I couldn’t really tell you. I wasn’t trying to change the past or alter the future. I was just fascinated with time travel. Now, of course, I’d be glad to have a time machine on hand, if only to go back in time and tell my fifth grade self that New Kids On the Block were totally going to make a comeback. It would have quieted my weary mind.

But, I am pretty sure, I’ve discovered a time portal and its name is cinnamon toast. Cinnamon toast (I swoon as I type these words) – is magical. Really. It’s as if I’ve come full circle with it. Back to my childhood years. And all it took was one bite.

mmm... butter..

I know that I’m losing all of you now that you’re going, what, cinnamon toast? You’re writing about cinnamon toast? But I beg of you to hold on a minute and let me explain. The inspiration, the time-travel, was possible because Molly wrote about the cinnamon toast her grandmother used to make and told her readers – this is not just some toast you put sugar and cinnamon on. This is a cookie. This is special. This – is not to be missed.

Molly also warned these would be heavenly, downright addictive. Jennie tweeted they are to be dubbed “cinnamon crack”. And I was intrigued. Anything that’s covered in cinnamon and sugar is a welcome addition to my life.

cinnamon toasts

It’s funny how you read about a recipe and are instantly ignited to run to your kitchen and make it. Except you never stock any white bread and it’s eleven o’clock at night and while you’ve been known to make goulash at one o’clock in the morning, you’re not exactly running to your nearest bodega at such late an hour on a school night. So you’re forced to wait and wonder if, indeed, these are as good as the claims are, meanwhile you are reading tweets about how these little guys should be renamed as “cinnamon crack”.

And so I finally went out and bought some white bread, cut them into diagonal quarters. Melted my butter and brushed it onto the bread and dipped each side in cinnamon sugar. Which, by the way, let me tell you – it takes a strong person not to lick his fingers in between the dipping. That cinnamon sugar scent – oh my! Strangely though, even as I was going through the motions, I didn’t make the connection that this kind of cinnamon toast was a favorite snack of mine when I was growing up in Russia.

cinnamon toasts

And yet, it was not until I bit into a cooled-off toast, with a cup of tea at my side, that these toasts, like tiny little time-machines, instantly transported me to the time when I was five and lived in snowy St. Petersburg, where my mother tried just about everything to get me to eat. A finicky eater, (who isn’t one at five years old?), few things excited me food-wise. But anything covered in cinnamon and sugar was definitely something I could get behind.

And so, my mother, in a stroke of brilliance or desperation, devised to make me these cinnamon toasts. White bread in Russia came as these big loaves that look very much like Italian bread here does. She cut the loaf thinly into slices and lightly dipped each of the pieces in milk on both sides, careful not to soak the bread, and then dredged the sides in cinnamon and sugar. She then baked these shimmering toasts until they were crispy and the house smelled like sweet cinnamon heaven. I could have licked the air, it was so good.

These were promised to me as dessert, provided, of course, that I ate my dinner. Which I did. In a heartbeat. And then, I was left to my own devices with a plateful of cinnamon toasts and cups of hot tea with milk. I think those were some of my happiest moment: alone in the kitchen with my cinnamon toast and tea. I can tell you that to this day I could be made infinitely happy by a cup of tea and a simple cookie. Such as this toast.

cinnamon toasts

Now, were you to ask me, which do I prefer, the cinnamon toast of my childhood and the brainchild of my mother, or Molly’s buttery and rich cinnamon toast, I’ll tell you honestly – Molly’s. And I know that my mother, reading this, would agree. Because anything tastes better when it’s dipped in butter. It’s just that simple. But my mother’s toasts are pretty darn good too, especially if butter is the sort of thing you’re supposed to stay away from. I’m keeping both recipes within my reach because they connect my present and my past, bringing me full circle.

I might not have a real time machine on hand, but I have have this cinnamon toast. And that’s way, way better.

Cinnamon Toasts
Adapted in part from Orangette

Ingredients:
1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter, cubed, or 1 cup (8 oz) whole milk
6 slices white sandwich bread, or more if needed
½ cup sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper – it makes clean up a cinch.

Melt the butter in the oven and keep an eye on it – you don’t want to darken, you just wanted it melted. If using milk, pour the milk into a dish.

Stack the slices of bread and cut them diagonally into quarters. You will now have 24 triangles.

In another small bowl, whisk together the sugar and cinnamon, and then turn the cinnamon-sugar mixture out onto a flat plate.

If using butter, when it’s melted, remove it from the oven. Take your bread and brush butter onto both sides of a triangle of bread, applying the butter generously, leaving no spot uncoated. If using milk, dip your pastry brush into milk and brush the bread with it. You want both sides of the bread to be wet and slightly soggy, but you don’t want the bread to be soaked through. The bread should feel a little heavy in your hand, but it should feel laden. Dip both sides of the bread into the cinnamon-sugar and lay it on the baking sheet. Repeat with remaining pieces of bread.

Bake the toasts for about 25 minutes, until lightly browned. Transfer to a rack to cool for half an hour. The toasts will crisp as they cool. When cooled, store in an airtight container at room temperature. They taste pretty good on day one, but on subsequent days, they’re even better as the flavors develop.

Yield: 24 pieces

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18 Comments

  • 1
    Amanda said:

    Just the mere mention of cinnamon toast brings me back to my days as a wee little thing. I loved the combination of cinnamon and butter. Plus, that extra sprinkle of sugar perked me up!

    May 18, 2010 7:59 pm
  • 2
    Claire said:

    I love cinnamon toast. Actually I’m currently knee deep in snickerdoodles which is the biscuit equivalent, but very very little comes above hot cinnamon toast in my mind! I confess I make it slightly differently – toast one side of bread, then turn over, butter soft side and cover in cinnamon sugar, then toast under a hot grill til bubbling and crisp. Perfect perfect afternoon tea snack as it gets cooler here!

    May 18, 2010 8:55 pm
  • 3
    courtney said:

    certainly you MUST have read proust!! and possibly pioneer woman’s cinnamon toast post?? i’ve tried hers sooooo now it looks like i have some contrasting and comparing to do :)

    May 18, 2010 9:39 pm
  • 4
    Shaheen said:

    I saw this on molly’s website and i cannot wait to try it! i need to some ground cinnamon and that’s what’s prolonging the wait :(

    May 18, 2010 11:49 pm
  • 5
    Julia said:

    Ah, one of my favorite childhood treats as well, prepared lovingly (or hurriedly, who knows?) by my grandmother with Wonder bread (ack!) and cut into “butterflies”–triangles plated to look like wings.

    Looks like I’m going to need some bread.

    May 19, 2010 6:36 am
  • 6
    Kathleen said:

    This was a constant afternoon snack afterschool. And so many different ways to make it. Thanks for the memory. Will try yours soon.

    May 19, 2010 7:38 am
  • 7
    Jennie said:

    True confession—I opened the cookie canister and found two stray cookies from a week ago. Yes, I ate them. Yes, they still ranked as cinnamon crack.

    Then I I realized it was time to make more. Now I’m curious to try them dipped in milk—ooh, maybe heavy cream. Oh wait, that it now way helps the butter issue. Oh well, I’ll eat a few more while I think this through.

    Lovely photos there too my dear.

    May 19, 2010 8:59 am
  • 8
    Radish said:

    Jennie – Love the heavy cream idea, but yeah, um the butter issue. Ha.

    Courtney – yes, of course, I have re: Proust :) though it didn’t even OCCUR to me, but it’s so obvious, now that I think about it. I missed PW’s post about it, but just read it – lovely!!

    May 19, 2010 9:27 am
  • 9

    I’ve been making several varities of these for years. Try using Pepperidge Farm Very Thin sliced white, crusts removed. After you dip them in butter, either sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar, or, sprinkle them with curry powder or crushed dried rosemary for great little toasts to serve at cocktail time! They never last long! The rosemany toasts are excellent as a base for homemade ricotta drizzled with honey

    May 19, 2010 11:56 am
  • 10
    Jessi said:

    Cinnamon, Sugar, Butter! The whole Universe agrees this combination is always a treat! Thanks for lovely post… I mean Toast… I mean! Well, both! ~Jessi from Florida

    May 19, 2010 12:24 pm
  • 11
    Molly said:

    So glad you liked the toasts! Now I’m eager to try them your mother’s way. I would have never thought to use milk! Either way, I agree: cinnamon toasts are the best kind of time machine.

    May 19, 2010 4:24 pm
  • 12
    Radish said:

    Molly – thank you for jump-starting my memory! These were truly amazing. I can’t imagine not making them at least once a month now!! Such lovely treats!

    May 19, 2010 6:08 pm
  • 13

    I may well have a go at this, as my boyfriend saw the entry and exclaimed “OH! Cinnamon toast!” Haha, thanks.

    May 20, 2010 12:25 pm
  • 14
    Anne said:

    Have you read M.F.K. Fisher’s musings about eating “cocoa toast” — hot buttered toast and hot chocolate — as a child, alone in a dark kitchn? Magical.

    May 21, 2010 10:42 am
  • 15
    Radish said:

    Anne – I have not, but I have her complete works and will check out tonight! Thank you for the tip!! :)

    May 21, 2010 11:59 am
  • 17
    Michele said:

    The smell of cinnamon and sugar is enough to make even the grumpiest person smile. I dare them not to! It’s fantastic. I loved cinnamon toast when I was a kid but have never made them this way. We used to mix brown sugar and lots of cinnamon into butter, spread it on toast and put it under a grill until it was bubbling. It wasn’t crispy, but it was good! I will try your recipe on my kids. I’m sure they’ll become addicted.

    May 23, 2010 1:16 pm
  • 18
    Leann said:

    I love it when you talk about your childhood in Russia. I left Russia also as a child and your wonderful posts remind me of my old house and my mother making me tasty snacks when we could afford them. They were the most special thing in the world! But tume goes by and I’ve forgotten all about them. I think that my step children should get to know these wonderful memories of mine…

    July 7, 2010 1:56 am

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