Local bakery shares its popular recipes
Photos by Andrew Thomas Lee
Brian Noyes, owner of the locally — and nationally — famous Red Truck Bakery has released his first cookbook in time for the holiday season. This collection of southern-influenced recipes, stunningly photographed, is sure to please lovers of beautiful books and foodies alike. With his trademark insistence on seasonal, local ingredients, Noyes breaks down favorite recipes from his bakery (plus a few others) into uncomplicated procedures for the home cook. Lifestyle sat down with him to gain some insight into this new endeavor and find out what else he’s got cooking.
Why did you write the book?
Well, people ask me all the time for recipes. And I like getting the word out about the Red Truck; we’ve got a story to tell. It’s not just a cookbook, it’s our backstory, my previous life in publishing, and about following my passion to open a bakery in the Piedmont. President Obama’s compliments on our sweet potato pecan pie with bourbon (recipe included in the book) led to us getting some interest from top publishers, and they kind of came after us to write the cookbook. I think it’s good publicity for the bakery. In a bookstore I once saw a cookbook from a cafe in Napa Valley, which led me to visit the restaurant. It became one of my favorite places, and I never would have known about it if I hadn’t picked up their cookbook. And we ship thousands of items nationwide each year, and this will get the word out for that, too. I also like to help put Marshall and Fauquier County on the map; I think it’s good publicity for the area.
How many recipes are there in the book?
We included eighty-five recipes of Red Truck favorites and new introductions. I’ve got things broken down by season within categories. They range from breakfasts, sweet/savory pies, cookies, cakes, breads, and condiments. I didn’t hold back; most of the favorites are in there. I also have some things in there that people won’t find in the bakery—recipes that would be good for tailgating—such as Mexican crab cakes with jalapeño mayonnaise, green tomato pie with bacon, and a casserole inspired by shrimp and grits.
You don’t mind releasing your recipes?
I think it just gets more people excited about what we do and brings people into the bakeries and to our website for online ordering. Some people close to me were concerned about releasing all these recipes, and revealing all our secrets, but I read a recipe book once, from a cafe in Nashville, which promised to divulge the secret behind their famous biscuits which I was just crazy about. But instead it gave a different biscuit recipe since theirs was a “secret,” sort of along the lines of “you might like this one instead.” It was so disappointing and I felt ripped off. I don’t hold back: it’s all in there, including my secret for biscuits.
Left: Sweet Potato and Pecan Pie with Bourbon (the Presidential Pie), Right: Jubilee Coconut Cake
Are the recipes complicated?
No, they’re not. In fact, our publisher, Clarkson Potter, which is the food/design division of Random House, weeded out anything that was too complicated or had too many ingredients. For instance, the recipe for our Havana fruit cake isn’t in there, which I think will disappoint some people. But they thought it had so many ingredients, and was too involved. It takes a long time to make; we don’t rush through anything at the bakery and this cake has to sit for two to three months soaking in rum. They felt it was too much for a home cook. There’s a handful of bread recipes in there, and we start out with our focaccia recipe, which has five ingredients: flour, salt, yeast, olive oil and rosemary.People have a thing about bread, like they do about pie crust; they think it’s too hard. But this book explains it all. I did bring in a writer to help as a “recipe wrangler,” though. I needed a second set of eyes on the recipes as I scaled them back from restaurant size yields to a size that would be appropriate for the home cook. It’s not as easy as it sounds; you can’t just divide the amounts of the ingredients. He worked with home recipe testers—some were food writers and some were foodies and home cooks—and kept track of their feedback, identifying techniques that needed more explanation or clarification. They tested the recipes over and over; the testing took a year.
What about ingredients?
I always use seasonal, fresh ingredients from local farms and suppliers whenever possible. I wanted to emphasize that in the book, especially with the pies. People are getting used to the fact that our menu revolves around the seasons…they might like our cherry pie, but they can’t get it in January, they have to wait for cherry season.
As a former art director and graphic designer, did you design the book yourself?
No, I didn’t. The writing and the voice in the book are all mine, and I offered to design the layout, but then I realized that there was no way in the world I’d have time for that—they made sure I was happy with the design and I think they nailed our look. They hired a really great food photographer; Andrew Thomas Lee isone of the best in the country, and he shot a good part of the book in our Marshall and Warrenton stores. And the result is gorgeous. The cover is our red truck parked in the apple grove at Stribling Orchard up in Markham. I didn’t want it to be just another bakery cookbook with a cake on the cover. I wanted to feature our red truck and our work with local farmers.
I’m so proud of the book: it captures our homegrown Fauquier County bakery completely. I launched it in my Orlean farmhouse, opened it up in an Old Town Warrenton filling station that dates back to 1921, and settled into a second larger main location in two historic mercantile buildings in Marshall. It’s a hefty book that will make a great gift with a local focus addressing a now-national audience. There are a lot of thanks in the book to the loyal locals who supported us since the beginning. We’ve received a lot of awards and national publicity over our ten years, but we sure haven’t lost sight of our roots.
Signed copies of the Red Truck Bakery Cookbook are available at both bakery locations in Warrenton and Marshall, and at Carter & Spence; a calendar of book signing events is available at RedTruckBakery.com. The book is also available at Politics and Prose Bookstore, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon. $25