Q&A with Patty Pinner, author of Sweet Mornings

Acclaimed cookbook author Patty Pinner’s newest release, Sweet Mornings, compiles 125 of Pinner’s favorite sweet and savory breakfast and brunch recipes. These authentic, generations-old recipes hark back to the wholesome basics, helping new bakers build their repertoire and reminding more experienced of the heritage dishes they’ve made with loved ones. Years of wisdom and kitchen experience are amassed in Sweet Mornings, making it a perfect addition for any home cook in need of reliable morning recipes.

Add a little sugar to your mornings with your own copy of Sweet Mornings. A Q&A with Pinner is below.

Your family has southern roots, but you grew up in Michigan. How do these recipes combine southern comfort with your midwestern lifestyle?

My family does have southern roots—Mississippi, Tennessee, and New Orleans, to be exact. On the weekends, when time was less structured, the women in my family prepared breakfast and brunch meals that were reminiscent of the morning meals that they grew up eating in the South. 

As I recall, the first “southern” breakfast that I ate was my aunt Frances’s. It was large and resembled a full-course dinner more than it did a breakfast. I had never had a breakfast like Aunt Frances’s—it included eggs, bacon strips, smothered potatoes with onions, fried chicken, smoked ham, buttermilk biscuits, gravy, fried apples, a berry cobbler, and various home-canned fruit preserves. Before that, I had only heard about the magnitude and diversity of a country breakfast—how they were prepared big and hearty to sustain farmers and their workers while they plowed through their daily farm chores. Now, I was actually living, eating, and enjoying the wonders of one. When I’m cooking breakfast or brunch for company, I often use that meal as my guide. 

My cooking and entertaining rituals are also influenced by my mother and her southern roots. I like to cook savory dishes that are seasoned with chopped onions, garlic, and bell peppers; my mother used to call it the “Trinity” of southern cooking. No good cook prepared a meat dish without her vegetable Trinity. I like to add lots of sugar and butter to my desserts. It was what I was used to, what I have always seen the women in my family do. My mother would call me into the kitchen to see her adding secret seasonings and performing her secret methods to her cooking. This is how I learned to cook, watching the techniques of other cooking women.

When I bake, I like foods that are quick and easy to prepare, recipes that require ingredients that I already have. I actually find comfort in foods that take me back to the security of my childhood. Savoring comfort in everyday life, and in food, is the hallmark of midwestern living.

Patty Pinner, author of Sweet Mornings
Patty Pinner, author of Sweet Mornings

Why do you particularly love sweet treats for morning meals?

I grew up in a family that considered breakfast the most important meal of the day. My father was famous in our family for saying things like, “A waking body benefits greatly from the nourishment that a morning meal provides.” My mother expressed similar thoughts and so did my extended family. I was surrounded by people who preached the value of good morning nourishment. The pleasure and necessity of a good breakfast are rooted in me.

Growing up, our meals included the usual savory fare—smoked bacon or homemade sausage, eggs, pan-fried potatoes—and a slice of something sweet was almost always included. Those meals were plush, warm, cozy, and welcoming. The coffee cake, bread pudding, sweet loaf, or drizzle of pancake syrup really put a Sunday hat on breakfast or brunch.

A sweet treat displayed on a morning table gives everything a bright, special air. I love the way a sweet addition jazzes up a breakfast. We’re all used to the typical breakfast of bacon and eggs, but the addition of sweet pie or cake redefines it.

Cherry Granola
Cherry Granola

Have the women in your family impacted your baking?

Even though Sweet Mornings includes a huge selection of recipes and culinary techniques that I’ve picked up here and there, I am always drawn to the classic recipes and old-fashioned cooking tactics of the women in my family. My mother created moods with food. My grandmother said that good cooking was a woman’s glory, and my mother’s eldest sister, Marjell, told wonderful food stories. 

I love to make mornings special, just like the women in my family have. I cherish the recipes that were passed down to me. Most of my maternal relatives are wonderful cooks, and when we’re together, we talk about food and recipes. We talk about flaky pie crusts, moist cakes, heirloom cookies, and how food was gathered and prepared back in the day. Sometimes that’s all we do—on the phone and in person—exchange recipes and talk about food. I don’t think anyone would admit it, but we all have a competitive cooking spirit.

Aunt Bulah's Brown Sugar-Hazelnut Biscuits
Aunt Bulah’s Brown Sugar-Hazelnut Biscuits

Many home cooks are intimidated by making breakfast and brunch. How do you keep it quick and easy in the morning?

I know that many people are rushed in the mornings; there’s work, school, and other vital appointments. There are four things that I do when time is of the essence. First, I try to maintain a supply of baggies and storage containers. I use these to store prepped foods for easy access. Second, anything that I can prepare the night before—cutting up fruits or vegetables, for example—I do. Third, when I know that I’ll be short on time in the morning, I set out the utensils that I’ll need the night before. Last, there are some morning treats that require effort and time no matter what you do. These recipes are better left for mornings when you aren’t so rushed. When I want to give my family a quick and easy breakfast with some spark, I serve cereals—hot or cold—in nice dishes, topped with chopped nuts, fresh fruit, or a dollop of whipped cream. It’s nothing short of magic, how nice china can add a lilt to a mundane meal.

What’s next for you as an author?

I am working on a book featuring chocolate desserts: cakes, candies, cookies, pies, and puddings. I’ve seen many chocolate cookbooks but never one from a black chocoholic’s perspective. The proposed manuscript features some of the same people as my previous cookbooks. It is similarly nostalgic, but it highlights stories of chocolate cravings.

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