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Friday, February 18, 2011

A Day in the Life of a Cookbook Author

A few weeks ago the folks at Chronicle Books, the publisher of my Sunday Soup and Sunday Roasts (coming this fall) asked if I would continue the series with Sunday Brunch. The manuscript was due in only a few months’ time, but I agreed knowing that there would be long days spent creating, testing, and fine-tuning recipes for brunches. The calendar of an average day gives you an idea of what’s entailed in writing a cookbook under pressure:

8 AM—Grab quick breakfast of toasted French bread and butter.

8:30 AM—Follow my husband to take his car to repair shop. He knocked off the right side mirror backing out of the garage, and blamed it on the bad weather. This is the 4th time he’s demolished that same mirror; the other three times, it wasn’t snowing.

9:00 AM- Return home. Set up mise en place trays for testing, foolishly optimistic that I would get through four dishes for the new book.

10 AM- Assistants, Mary and Ron, arrive.

10:30 AM Start on Eggs Benedict prepared with wedges of cornbread studded with andouille sausage and a spicy Hollandaise. Made cornbread in 8-inch skillet, but the result was too high and not enough sausage. Redo in 9-inch skillet. Make hollandaise in food processor; spill half of melted butter, and start over. Increase cayenne pepper for spicy accent for the sauce three times until right. Poach eggs. Assemble dish. Unfortunate color combo—hollandaise with cayenne is same hue as yellow cornbread.  Addition of sliced tomatoes corrects monotone situation. Dish looks great, but cornbread still too high. Ron agrees to retest in his kitchen using a 10-inch skillet.

12 PM Tart Cherry and Almond Muffins recipe calls for almond paste, which comes in a tube sealed with metal brackets. Have to find pliers to get the brackets off.  Almond paste and butter fail to combine well in mixer, because I forget to crumble the paste. Finally get mixture smooth and assemble batter.
My muffin tins are bigger than what is called for so have to adjust for size difference. Muffins are gorgeous, but stick to nonstick pan and hard to unmold. Decide to spray “nonstick” pans on next try.

1PM- My weekly house cleaners (and fabulous tasters) arrive. They sample and critique muffins as well as Espresso Coffee Cake made another day. Both dishes get a thumbs up.

1:30 PM Assemble Souffléed Eggs with Ricotta and Spinach. Recipe calls for sautéed
bacon, but want to try with pancetta.  Make half of dish with bacon and half with Italian counterpart. Dish cooks 10 minutes quicker than my notes indicate. Pancetta wins over bacon.

2:00 PM Move to my office to fine-tune the three recipes tested. Will save fourth recipe, Potato and Onion Galettes
, for another day.

3:00 PM Assistants leave with muffins for their partners. I return to office to answer emails with review sheets from volunteers testing recipes for book.

4:00 PM Pick up my husband at his college, return to car garage. Learn that the wrong mirror had been ordered!

5:00 PM Go over testers’ reviews sheets to correct for any problems they had.

7:00 PM My spouse, in the kitchen, grading papers, emails me on the second floor, saying “I’m hungry! When is supper?”

7:05 PM Reheat spaghetti and tomato sauce; make garlic bread. Eat quickly and return to testers’ reviews in office.

8:00 PM Call it a day.  Write out schedule for tomorrow.

* Photo of Souffléed Eggs with Ricotta and Pancetta from forthcoming Sunday Brunch.


  1. I feel much better about my missteps in the kitchen. I did utter Julia's famous words last week as I scooped up something that had fallen off the serving platter
    .." you are alone in the kitchen"

  2. I use that famous phrase from her on a regular basis!!