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Sunday, July 17, 2016

Baked Honey Cinnamon French Toast inspired by In Twenty Years

Baked Honey Cinnamon French Toast
Today I'm happy to be hosting a book tour stop for In Twenty Years, a the latest novel by New York Times Bestselling Author, Allison Winn Scotch. The prologue takes us back to May of 1998, the final day on campus for a group of Penn graduating seniors who formed a bond freshman year and have since become so tight that they consider themselves a six-pointed star.

The main thing that drew me to this book in the first place was that I am the same age as the characters, so I figured I could identify with the premise—great friendships and hopeful dreams formed in college...and the reality of what's happened over the next 20(-ish) years. I knew the moment I started reading that I was right. Both of my favorite bands from that time period were referenced (Pearl Jam and Dave Matthews Band—still my fave, by the way), as well as some other pop culture and iconic references from the time.

The story is actually told from the viewpoints of all six characters, divided by chapters labeled with the name of the person telling that particular sequence. It begins and ends with Bea, the first and final chapters being the only two told from her point of view. She is their center, their conscience, their heart...the one who always made sure that their six-pointed star stayed intact. When Bea dies, grudges, secrets, and tensions divide the rest of this close-knit group for more than a decade.
Baked Honey Cinnamon French Toast
Bea's spirit (figuratively...okay, somewhat literally, as well) reaches out to her friends via arrangements that she put into motion before her death, bringing them back together, to the old house they used to share near campus, on the weekend of what would have been her 40th birthday.

Old sparks fly, hatches are wielded and then buried, and realizations are brought to the surface when the friends are forced to face not only each other, but also themselves in the spot that once represented hope and endless possibilities. I thought it was a great read and really identified with so many of the characters feelings and emotions, having turned 40 myself less than a year ago.

Though it wasn't necessarily a foodie novel, there was plenty of inspiration to be found on the pages. A few of the references being: green tea, mandarin orange, rice pilaf, cheesesteaks, hot wings, apples, jelly, hotdogs, lobster, melting butter on grilled corn, pizza, scrambled eggs, bacon, bloody mary, pumpkin muffin, beans, lemon tarts, peanut butter blondies, coffee cakes with brown sugar crumbles, Twinkies, Corn Nuts, yogurt pretzels, peanut butter ice cream, rainbow sherbet, pot roast, and blueberry muffins. And of course, there was all sorts of beer and booze (vodka, Scotch, tequila).

Obviously I had all sorts of ideas to choose from, but ultimately, I chose a food that was mentioned at least 5 times throughout the book—French Toast.

French toast. That's what Lindy remembers about Catherine. She'd make it for them every Sunday, tweaking the ingredients until finally, in April of their senior year, she declared it perfect. The rest of them thought it was close to heaven already: gooey and crunchy and honey and cinnamon tangled together. The house smelled like love the rest of the day. (ARC p.39)

I think Catherine's French toast really represents the love, devotion, and friendship that these six characters had for each other in this story.

Baked Honey Cinnamon French Toast
Gooey custard in the center with crunchy bits on the edges, this overnight baked french toast is tangled with the tastes of cinnamon and honey (blueberries and nuts are optional, but delicious).
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Baked Honey Cinnamon French Toast
by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 10 minutes + overnight unatten
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Keywords: bake breakfast vegetarian soy-free bread honey cinnamon

Ingredients (serves 6)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 12 ounce loaf of Italian bread
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk (or dairy)
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans or walnuts
to serve:
  • powdered sugar
  • maple syrup
  • fresh blueberries
Spread the soft butter over the bottom and sides of a 9" x 13" baking pan.

Cut the bread into 12 slices, slightly on the bias. Shingle them into the prepared pan in 2 rows, 6 slices in each.

Whisk the eggs. milk, honey, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt together in a medium bowl.

If using blueberries and/or nuts, scatter them in and around the pieces of bread now, lifting to let some of them fall in between. Pour the custard mixture evenly over all of the pieces of bread. Use your hands to gently press the bread down in the custard mixture, making sure that all of the slices are soaked well. Put a lid (or foil or plastic wrap) on the pan and refrigerate overnight.

Remove pan from the fridge and let sit on the counter while you preheat the oven to 375° F.

Remove lid and slide pan in to hot oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until some of the bread is golden around the edges and starting to look a bit dry on top.

Serve warm. Dust with powdered sugar and/or drizzle with syrup, if you wish. More fresh blueberries are also good on top.
Baked Honey Cinnamon French Toast

In Twenty Years by Allison Winn Scotch

In Twenty Years

author: Allison Winn Scotch
publisher: Lake Union Publishing (July 1, 2016)
genre: Literary Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
paperback:334 pages

"foodie" read: Not necessarily, but there's plenty of food mentioned. I craved cheesesteak hard at one point in the book.

random excerpt: "She'll have to be OK with this uneasiness, with the gratification of the reward along with the discovery that it wasn't what she hoped. Annie has never quite been OK with this—she's always too busy chasing the carrot to contemplate whether or not she likes carrots to begin with. So now she'll have to accept the uncertainty that comes with unexplored territory, of sincere vulnerability, of all the things she ran away from while chasing her carrot." (ARC p.356)

teaser: Twenty years ago, six Penn students shared a house, naively certain that their friendships would endure—until the death of their ringleader and dear friend Bea splintered the group for good. Now, mostly estranged from one another, the remaining five reluctantly gather at that same house on the eve of what would have been Bea’s fortieth birthday.

But along with the return of the friends come old grudges, unrequited feelings, and buried secrets. Catherine, the CEO of a domestic empire, and Owen, a stay-at-home dad, were picture-perfect college sweethearts—but now teeter on the brink of disaster. Lindy, a well-known musician, is pushing middle age in an industry that’s all about youth and slowly self-destructing as she grapples with her own identity. Behind his smile, handsome plastic surgeon Colin harbors the heartbreaking truth about his own history with Bea. And Annie carefully curates her life on Instagram and Facebook, keeping up appearances so she doesn’t have to face the truth about her own empty reality.

Reunited in the place where so many dreams began, and bolstered by the hope of healing, each of them is forced to confront the past.

about the author: Allison Winn Scotch is the bestselling author of five novels, including The Theory of Opposites, Time of My Life, and The Department of Lost and Found. In Twenty Years, released in June of 2016, is her sixth novel. In addition to fiction, she pens celebrity profiles for a variety of magazines, which justifies her pop culture obsession and occasionally lends to awesome Facebook status updates. She lives in Los Angeles with her family.
author Allison Winn Scotch
connect with the author: website | facebook | twitter

recipe inspired by the book: Baked Honey Cinnamon French Toast


I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.