Guest Post: Time Travel Romance and Chocolate Chip Cookies with Cj Fosdick

Today I’m delighted to welcome Wild Rose sister Cj Fosdick to the blog.  Here she is to talk a bit about her heroine in her Accidental series, the first of which is  on sale now for 99 cents, and to share her favorite Victorian era recipe for chocolate chip cookies. Take it away, Cj!

Cookies as Poker Chips?

Authors often share a brain with their heroines.  My favorite heroine, Jessica Brewster, is taller and slimmer than me, but we both have the same red hair, brown eyes, penchant for drama and taste for cookies. When Jessica participates in a living history tea party at Old Ft. Laramie with her late grandmother’s mysterious teacup, she never imagined she would actually become living history—in the shoes of her look-alike great great grandmother.

Fending off her ancestor’s charismatic first husband and raising her nine year old great grandmother are only two of the challenges she faces in 1886 while learning to cook, launder, and survive the bias and dangers of homestead life in Wyoming.  Her charade in The Accidental Wife grows complicated when the transformative power of love takes hold, and her ancestor’s wayward brother shows up with dark secrets of his own. In a cabin poker game, Jessica offers her famous chocolate chip cookies as poker chips.  (Since chocolate chips were not invented until 1937, she finds a way to improvise.)

Baking anything in a cast iron woodstove is a challenge to a well-educated single woman of the 21st century who often relied on take-out or the convenience of popping frozen meals into a microwave. Woodstoves couldn’t regulate baking temperatures well enough to produce cookies, but creativity is also the mother of pre-invention in a time slip. Jessica’s version of our most famous cookie uses a pocket watch and broken bits of chocolate bars bought at the Ft. Laramie trading post. In the end, Jessica’s ingenuity wins love and legacy in the poker game of life.

 

Jessica’s 1886 Chocolate Chippers

Since chocolate chips were not invented until 1937, time-traveler Jessica Brewster in “The Accidental Wife”
improvises this recipe found in her ancestor’s 1886 cookbook!

1 c. butter                               
1 ½ c. sugar
3 eggs
½ t. baking soda dissolved in a little warm water
2 ½ c. flour                             
Few drops of vanilla
Pinch of salt, nutmeg
3 or more chocolate bars  (raisins optional )

Add ingredients in order,  creaming first two.
Break up chocolate bars into about half the size of a fingernail & fold in. Refrigerate  dough.   
Bake about 10 min. @350 on baking sheets lined with parchment paper until edges brown.

*******************************************************************************************************

 

The Accidental Wife began life as an award-winning short story. The Accidental Stranger is the sequel to Jessica’s timeless journey with “…a fanciful twist on its genre,” according to Kirkus Reviews. Until August 31, the eBook of The Accidental Wife will be on sale for the first time at $0.99 at most online bookstores.

Amazon
Wild Rose Press
Website   
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Connect with Cj in her monthly Newsletter  for other recipes & special offers!

 

 

 

Cooking Up a Book

I’ve been slacking on the blog lately, as all my words have been going into a prequel novella I’m writing, featuring the parents of the hero in Stirring Up the Viscount. I’ve also been trying not to be a total slacker in my critique group, which is a bit easier said than done. And since Top Chef and Chopped are now on Hulu, I’ve been binge watching (and cooking) like a madwoman.

This weekend my in-laws are in town and we had friends over for dinner last night. I made an insanely good cherry pie bar thingy that I will probably never be able to duplicate because I veered so far from the original recipe (although I’m working on writing down the recipe so I can come close). I’d show you a picture, but I didn’t think to take one, and since the entire 9″x 13″ pan was consumed last night, there’s nothing left to photograph.

As I sit here reflecting on what to make for breakfast (this cinnamon scone bread is a distinct possibility), it occurs to me that cooking is a bit like writing. Some cooks use recipes, others do not, just as some writers plot and others fly by the seat of their pants. Even if you start with a recipe, sometimes, as with my cherry pie thingy, your imagination (or a desire not to use a full pound of butter) takes you on another course and you end up with a different product. Sometimes it’s better than the original, and sometimes not.

 

Things can go anywhere from slightly wrong (my baked beans last night were slightly undercooked because there wasn’t enough liquid in the pot) to disastrous (I made gluten free English muffins once–my son refers to them as “those hockey pucks Mom made”), like stories that veer off course. There are times when you can fix them, but other times you need to admit defeat and chuck the entire steaming mess into the trash.

Cooking involves tweaks along the way–a little more salt here, a splash of liquid there–just as a book does–a few lines of description here, tightening up language there. And the finished product, even if it looks luscious and is the most amazing thing you’ve ever created, won’t be loved by everyone.

I used to get pissed when my family didn’t like something I slaved over in the kitchen–usually at myself, but occasionally at them when they were so obviously wrong. 🙂 A critique partner’s negative comment or a bad review can get under my skin. As I’ve gotten older, I’m learning to accept this. Not everyone will love what you do. Sometimes even you hate what you create. It doesn’t mean that it’s not good, or that it won’t provide nourishment for body or soul.

But enough philosophizing. Time to make breakfast!

 

 

Winter Blog Hop, Day 12 – Victorian Cookies

SecretPromise_w9701_750Today’s scheduled guest is unable to be here, so I’m filling in with a Victorian era recipe for Cinnamon Cakes, which are actually cookies. I found it in Eliza Acton’s Modern Cookery, and featured them in Secret Promise. Here’s an excerpt:

Zachary was curled up in a chair in the sitting room, reading.

“Zachary,” Anna said, “I have a surprise for you.”

Zachary’s head snapped up, and he sniffed the air. “Have you been baking, Mam?”

“I have not, but Mrs. Graham has.” The woman herself appeared at the top of stairs, smiling in welcome. She removed a cinnamon cake from the bag she carried and held it out to Zachary.

Zachary leapt out of his chair. “Is that for me?” He hesitated, looking from a smiling Mrs. Graham to Anna for verification.

Anna nodded. “Yes, it’s for you. Mrs. Graham spoiled me with treats when I was young, and I have no doubt she’d very much like to spoil you, too.”

Zachary took the cake, inhaling its sweet, spicy smell before devouring it in three bites. “Thank you, Mrs. Graham. It was delicious!”

Here’s the original recipe from the 1845 edition of Modern Cookery:

CINNAMON, OR LEMON CAKES

Rub six ounces of good butter into img_4520a pound of fine dry flour, and work it lightly into crumbs, then add three quarters of a pound of sifted sugar, a dessertspoonful of pounded cinnamon (or half as much when only a slight flavour is liked), and make these ingredients into a firm paste with three eggs, or four, if needed. Roll it, not very thin, and cut out the cakes with a tin shape. Bake them in a very gentle oven from fifteen to twenty minutes, or longer, should they not be done quite through. As soon as they are cold, put them into a clean and dry tin canister, a. precaution which should be observed with all small sugar cakes, which ought also to be loosened from the oven tins while they are still warm.

Flour, 1 lb.; butter, 6 ozs. ; sugar, 3/4 lb.; cinnamon, 1 dessertspoonful (more or less, to the taste) ; eggs, 3 to 4.

Obs. Lemon cakes can be made by this receipt by substituting for the cinnamon the rasped or grated rinds of two lemons, and the strained juice of one, when its acidity is not objected to. More butter, and more or less of sugar, can be used at will, both for these and for the cinnamon cakes.

And here’s my modern variation, which is a bit easier to follow:

CINNAMON CAKES
Makes about 4 dozen large or 6 dozen small cookies

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

6       oz. (approx 1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
1        lb      cake flour (approx. 3-1/4 cups)
1        tsp    baking powder
1/4    tsp   salt
3/4   lb      sugar (approx. 2-1/4 cups)
1        tsp    cinnamon
3        lg      eggs

img_4518Cut the butter into the flour with a pastry cutter or your fingers until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Mix together the baking powder, salt, sugar, and cinnamon and add to the flour. Add the eggs and beat just until mixed. If the dough is too dry, add up to 1-2 tablespoons of milk, just enough so that the dough holds together.

img_4519Roll out the dough on a floured board to about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into rounds with a your favorite cookie cutters. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Sprinkle with decorating sugar (or if you really like cinnamon, use cinnamon sugar).

Bake in a 375 oven for 10-12 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly brown on the edges.

Cool on a wire rack.img_4521

Just as an FYI, I omitted the salt in one half of the dough and compared the two versions. I liked the salt version a little bit better, but my kid noticed no difference in taste–so if you’re limiting your salt intake, go ahead and try them without.

Feel free to experiment and let me know what changes you made. 🙂

Victorian Food: Divided by a Common Language

One of the things I’ve encountered in British recipes–both old and new–is an entirely different vocabulary.  Spelling is also an issue: I just spent ten minutes looking for pudding molds in Mrs. Beeton before I remembered it’s spelled moulds in the UK. There are different terms for so many things in baking, and finding out what they mean takes a bit of effort.

Measurements and Oven Temperatures

In the US, modern baking recipes provide temperature in degrees Fahrenheit and measurements based on volume–a cup of flour, a tablespoon of butter.

British recipes provide temperature in either degrees Celsius or according to a gas mark. Older recipes use the terms gentle oven, moderate oven, or something similar. Ingredients are listed by weight–a pound of flour, 20 grams of butter.

I invested in a decent scale to help me with the weights, but a conversion chart for oven temperatures is essential in making these recipes. There’s a good one here, but basically, a slow oven is 275-300 degrees, a moderate oven 325-350, and a hot oven 425-450. I am still trying to figure out what a “gentle” oven is, but I’m going to assume it’s similar to “slow.” It remains to be seen whether I will burn the crap out of things with this theory–I’ll keep you posted.

This is a fantastic article, by the by, which talks about oven temperatures and how even though we have temperature  settings on ovens now, they don’t always mean what we think they do.

Mrs. Beeton notes the following about the mysterious spoonful measurements you can find in Victorian recipes:

A TABLE-SPOONFUL is frequently mentioned in a recipe, in the prescriptions of medical men, and also in medical, chemical, and gastronomical works. By it is generally meant and understood a measure or bulk equal to that which would be
produced by half an ounce of water.
A DESSERT-SPOONFUL is the half of a table-spoonful; that is to say, by it is meant a measure or bulk equal to a quarter of an ounce of water.
A TEA-SPOONFUL is equal in quantity to a drachm of water.
A DROP.—This is the name of a vague kind of measure, and is so called on account of the liquid being dropped from the mouth of a bottle. Its quantity, however, will vary, either from the consistency of the liquid or the size and shape of the mouth of the bottle. The College of Physicians determined the quantity of a drop to be one grain, 60 drops making one fluid drachm. Their drop, or sixtieth part of a fluid
drachm, is called a minim.

(A drachm is pronounced dram, and is about 1/8 of a fluid ounce.)

Ingredients

Another curiosity is the various names for standard ingredients. In the U.S. we have all-purpose flour, cake flour, whole wheat flour, and bread flour, among others. British recipes call for strong flour, hard flour, self-raising flour, soft flour, and plain flour. Essentially, plain flour is roughly the same as cake or soft flour (although there are some who say it’s equivalent to our all-purpose flour). Hard or strong flour is equivalent to bread flour. Self-raising flour is roughly the same as our self-rising flour, which is all-purpose flour to which baking powder and salt have been added. I have heard, however, that UK self-raising flour doesn’t have salt in it, so it might be better to make your own. Google “self-rising flour substitute” and you’ll find plenty of options. This is a great discussion of flour equivalents between the US and the UK.

Sugar is also different. In addition to granulated sugar, which is the same on both sides of the pond, UK baking recipes use caster sugar and icing sugar. Our US equivalents are superfine sugar and powdered sugar.

Below is a nice conversion chart for some of these items, which I found at http://www.sweet2eatbaking.com/. She has some other conversion charts and some fun recipes too.

New Blog Series! Victorian Food

So lately I have been watching the early seasons of The Great British Bake-Off.  Of the five seasons aired so far, only the last three made it to network TV in the US, but the first two are available on YouTube, and they are so worth the watch. Each episode contains historical snippets about particular foods. Several of the classic items featured on the show have Victorian roots, and it gave me an idea.

I am a reasonably competent cook, but my baking efforts have been hit or miss at best. Baking is far less forgiving of the “oh, just throw in some extra [insert food item here–usually garlic]” method I typically employ in my cooking. Nevertheless, the show has inspired me to learn to be a better baker, and since Victorian food plays a part in every one of my books, I thought I might share that journey with you. So once a month (give or take), I’ll feature a Victorian era recipe and my efforts to recreate it. My husband thinks I’m a lunatic for even trying this (probably because he’s been forced to sample a hockey puck biscuit or two), but what the hell.

So I am off to gather recipes from various sources–primarily websites and Victorian era cookbooks–and to wait for the summer heat to die down so I can fire up the oven.

In the meantime, I will leave you with this picture of the glorious Victoria Sandwich I made for the launch party for my first book.  IMG_2374The recipe appeared in Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management in 1861, and was reportedly named after Queen Victoria because it was one of her favorite cakes.

Queen Victoria, 1856

VICTORIA SANDWICHES.
INGREDIENTS.– 4 eggs; their weight in pounded sugar, butter, and flour; ¼ saltspoonful of salt, a layer of any kind of jam or marmalade.
Mode.– Beat the butter to a cream; dredge in the flour and pounded sugar; stir these ingredients well together, and add the eggs, which should be previously thoroughly whisked. When the mixture has been well beaten for about 10 minutes, butter a Yorkshire-pudding tin, pour in the batter, and bake it in a moderate oven for 20 minutes. Let it cool, spread one half of the cake with a layer of nice preserve, place over it the other half of the cake, press the pieces slightly together, and then cut it into long finger-pieces; pile them in crossbars on a glass dish, and serve.
Time.– 20 minutes.
Average cost, 1s. 3d.
Sufficient for 5 or 6 persons.
Seasonable at any time.

You can find a more modern recipe, which is the one I used, here.

I’ll delve more into other recipes, as well as terms that make an American baker scratch her head (what is a moderate oven anyway?) in later posts. If you have a recipe you’d like to share in a guest post, or you have a burning curiosity about a particular topic, email me at marin@marinmcginnis.com.

Sources:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/8753182/The-great-Victoria-sandwich.html
http://www.lavenderandlovage.com/2011/08/queen-victoria-womans-institute-famous.html
http://teainengland.com/2012/12/the-victoria-sponge-its-history-and-a-recipe/
http://www.picturebritain.com/2012/05/cake-fit-for-queen-victoria-sponge.html

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