Monday, December 21, 2009

Lakeshore Christmas And Cookies





My guest today, is Romance Author, Susan Wiggs. I've been reading Susan's books since 1990. Susan has written such a variety of books over her long career, historicals, women's fiction, and contemporary romance. Susan makes no bones about the fact she is a militant romance writer and I have to say, I'm glad of that. :-)

Susan's topic today is Christmas and a subject dear to my heart, cookies. I love collecting cookie recipes and experimenting with different ones. Of course, it must be done with appropriate music...




I made a lot of key discoveries while writing Lakeshore Christmas. One is that everybody–and I mean everybody–associates the holidays with a particular flavor, be it cinnamon, anise seed, ginger, chocolate, marzipan...you name it. The flavors of the season reach back deep into our roots, triggering sentiments and emotions we like to savor like a rich butter cookie with a cup of tea.

This caused a bit of a dilemma when it came to creating the very special holiday cookie recipes that appear in Lakeshore Christmas. I ended up testing dozens of options, offered to me by friends, family, librarians and booksellers–and sometimes the choices were as excruciating as my resistance to sweets. How can the Silver Palate cookies edge out Aunt Martha’s Molasses Stars?

This led to another little epiphany about the holidays. I finally figured out exactly why the Cookie Exchange came into being. It’s a way of sharing your special flavors with friends. My way of sharing is through my books, and for this novel in particular, I had an embarrassment of riches. Tons of glorious recipes, dripping with butter and sprinkled with sugar. So many that I couldn’t include them all–which is why I’m glad for this opportunity to share a few more. Here are some wonderful, amazing cookie recipes that didn’t quite make the cut, but they’re still worth baking up a batch.

I’m also eager to share something else with you. From my own childhood come rich memories of baking with my family in very specific ways. We had to use the wavy-tree cookie cutter, and the rainbow-colored nonpareils...and we absolutely, positively had to have music playing in the background. We played records on my parents’ totally mod stereo, everything from the Nutcracker Suite and Handel’s Messiah to Brown Sugar by the Rolling Stones and Peaches en Regalia by the Mothers of Invention. So in addition to providing you with cookie recipes, I’ve included song suggestions for your listening pleasure while you bake.

Of course, since this is a Susan Wiggs book, there’s a world of difference between the main characters, so I had to create two different playlists. Maureen is the town librarian and a complete traditionalist when it comes to Christmas. Her nemesis–and the one man she can’t resist–is Eddie Haven, who lives up to his bad-boy reputation right down to the music he chooses.


Yet this novel is more than a love story featuring food, friends and family. Lakeshore Christmas is also a passionate drama involving something near and dear to my heart–the public library. I don’t have to tell you that this most precious of institutions is facing serious economic troubles. In the novel, the cookie exchange is held to benefit Avalon’s own public library, keeping it open for generations to come.


So I’ll end with a big idea: Bake some cookies. Save a library. Save the world.

  • What flavors and scents do you associate with the holidays?

~*~*~*~*~*~*~



Classic Christmas Cookies

"If there is no joyous way to give a festive gift, give cookies." –Maureen Davenport, in Lakeshore Christmas


3 cups flour
3 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 cup sugar
6 T butter, softened
6 T shortening
3 eggs separated
1 1/2 t. almond extract
1/4 c orange juice

  • Preheat oven to 350° F. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Cut in butter and shortening until dough resembles coarse meal. Mix in egg yolks.

  • In a clean bowl, beat egg whites and almond extract with mixer until soft peaks form. Fold whites into dough. Mix in orange juice.

  • Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly. Roll out dough to about 1/2 inch thick. Cut into shapes.

  • Create "cookie paint" with egg yolks mixed with food coloring, and paint to decorate. Sprinkle with sugar and nonpareils.

  • Bake until edges are lightly browned–7 to 10 minutes. Store in an airtight container.




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Susan Wiggs's life is all about family, friends...and fiction. She lives at the water's edge on an island in Puget Sound, and she commutes to her writers' group in a 17-foot motorboat. She serves as author liaison for Field's End, a literary community on Bainbridge Island, Washington, bringing inspiration and instruction from the world's top authors to her seaside community. (See http://www.fieldsend.org/) She's been featured in the national media, including NPR's "Talk of the Nation," and is a popular speaker locally and nationally.


According to Publishers Weekly, Wiggs writes with "refreshingly honest emotion," and the Salem Statesman Journal adds that she is "one of our best observers of stories of the heart [who] knows how to capture emotion on virtually every page of every book." Booklist characterizes her books as "real and true and unforgettable." She is the recipient of three RITA (sm) awards and four starred reviews from Publishers Weekly for her books. The Winter Lodge and Passing Through Paradise have appeared on PW’s annual "Best Of" lists. Several of her books have been listed as top Booksense picks and optioned as feature films. Her novels have been translated into more than two dozen languages and have made national bestseller lists, including the USA Today, Washington Post and New York Times lists.

The author is a former teacher, a Harvard graduate, an avid hiker, an amateur photographer, a good skier and terrible golfer, yet her favorite form of exercise is curling up with a good book. Readers can learn more on the web at www.susanwiggs.com and on her lively blog at www.susanwiggs.wordpress.com.


10 comments:

~Sia McKye~ said...

Susan, welcome to Over Coffee. Help yourself to the variety of coffee and teas on the coffee bar. Lots of comfy chairs for you to sit in. Yes, I do have cookies up besides the scones and bagel assortment.

I have to say, one of my favorite cookies during the season is big molasses cookie and milk. My mom always made cinnamon buns and my grandmother always made homemade yeast donuts and I can still see her in the kitchen laughing with my mom, letting me eat the *holes*, windows slightly foggy and snow piled high.

Tonya Kappes said...

I love Susan's books too!!! Her writing throws me into her characters and towns. I love the holiday smells as well. My scent it Gingerbread. I melt it all over the house and use the plug ins. The only problem-I use it all year long. Everyone comments on the smell of my house. Thanks for the recipe and TUNES!!!

Kenna Coltman said...

I can't wait to make the cookies with the kids, they will love decorating them.

A friend of mine gave me a recipe for khoularia, a traditional honey-dipped cookie that I have come to love. This year, we are giving scratch ginger bread a try, and making a ginger bread house. Should be interesting. The kids will have fun, anyway!

Our family tradition involves pastry rather than cookies - every year we have nissua. Consequently, cardomom is the taste and smell I associate with Christmas

Thanks so much for sharing!

Mason Canyon said...

Enjoyed the post very much. Can't wait to try the cookies and listen to the music. Thanks for sharing.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Okay, Kenna, define for me *scratch* gingerbread? Making gingerbread houses are fun. Jake and his cousins made one and I still have pictures of it.

As a kid, I loved the story of the gingerbread man. "Run, Run, as fast as you can. You can't catch me, I'm the Gingerbread man..."

Kat Sheridan said...

OK, first excuse me while I have a fangirl squee moment. SQQUUUEEEEE!!! SUSAN WIGGAS!!!

OK, better now. LOL! LOVE your work! LOVE cookies! I'm a happy girl today!

Sia knows me and knows molasses cookies are the big family tradition, with all that cinnamon and cloves and nutmeg. That's my scent. Spicy. But my faves are probably the sugar cookies (I have a wavy tree cookie cutter just like Susan! Squee again!) I made sugar cookies this year for thr first time in ages. I used the big yellow bowl handed down from a grandmother, cookie cutters from my mother, aquired sometime in the 1940s, a family favorite recipe from a 1958 cookbook, and neon food coloring, my own personal addition to the family traditions.

For me, that's what Christmas cookies most symboize: the passing of traditions down through the generations. While we stir and mix and roll and bake, we are remembering and honoring our pasts, connecting with our female ancestors in ways that men can't quite understand. Although, like Sia, I've always including my son in these traditions (having no female offspring), so the traditions won't be lost. It's important to remember WHY we use the wavy tree cookie cutter, and not some modern version.

Sheila Deeth said...

Mince pies. Please!! Individual, sweet short pastry, spicy mince. I love mince pies and they're just so hard to find now we're in the US.

Sheila Deeth said...

(Actually, now I'm gluten intolerant, even if we find them I can only buy them for the guys.)

Elle J Rossi said...

Hi Sia! Hi Susan!

What a fantastic way to get family and friends together. Who doesn't enjoy cookies? This year, I've actually attempted to try my hand at baking cookies. Hard to believe I'm this old and this is my first year at baking them from scratch. Oh well. Better late than never.

The chocolate chip cookies tasted amazing but looked like crumbling flat pancakes! Too funny.

The sugar cookies tasted great but the limbs kept falling off of the gingerbread men. Apparently the went to war.

The snickerdoodles looked and tasted amazing. Finally....Success! Okay, I had a lot of help with those from a friend but I did contribute. I swear.

My favorite holiday scents are apple spice and cinnamon. Candles are always blazing with those scents. Oh, and I can't forget coffee. That is my favorite all year round.

Happy Holidays to all!

Elle

susanwiggs said...

WOW you guys. Thank you so much for reading the article. It's so entertaining to read about everyone's sensory overload around holiday time. What is it about Christmas? I am a baking maniac! Best, Susan Wiggs