Macarons and sweet dreams? Yes, the two go together quite well. Macarons are sweet and somewhat crispy little cookies that can be filled with butter cream or chocolate ganache or various types of jams. They’re usually made with almond flour and are gluten-free. Macarons are often quite colorful, as you know if you’ve seen them. My opinion is that they’re the best kind of dessert—small and delicate. Fancy but not outrageously so. Yes, I’m so fond of macarons that I’m including mention of them in my sweet romance/cozy mystery,Macarons of Love: The Yolanda’s Yummery Series, Book 4.
But what started it all was a romance novella I wrote called Sweet Dreams. Brenda Nevins, the main character, is a romance author/baker. Although the macarons part isn’t at the beginning of the story, these tempting little cookies do have a costarring role. During the writing of the ebook, I got obsessed with macarons. I read several cookbooks on how to make them, visited numerous websites, and sampled quite a few tasty macarons. I bought some online and even tried the Trader Joe’s version[s] which were easy to store as they went from frozen to just right in about 30 minutes.
It was a tough job, but I gutted [pun intended!] my way through it.
And now, I’ll be revisiting macaron-land for the next few months while I write my book. But that’s fine with me. I even have a Pinterest board dedicated to these fine sweet treats. This board has 5000+ pictures and recipes. Check it out!http://www.pinterest.com/lisamaliga/sweet-macarons
I wish I could write a book as fast as I read one, but that’s just not possible. Today, I’m launching the third book in the Yolanda’s Yummery series. Be prepared for sweet romance, pies, and a cold case dating back to the 1960s. Here’s the official blurb:
Yolanda Carter is gearing up for a hectic holiday season at her bakery, Yolanda’s Yummery.
The adjoining Beverage Bar is thriving due to owner Nigel Garvey’s expertise along with that of shift manager Quinn Hendrickson, a barista and a baker.
Visiting her grandmother’s gravesite, Yolanda is surprised to see a woman putting pies into an old-fashioned station wagon. Her parents mention an unsolved murder of her grandmother’s best friend who was an amazing pie baker. The story of the 1960s crime touches Yolanda, along with her new friend, Detective Winston Churchill. Her growing sleuthing skills lead her to search for the killer.
In between investigating and baking batches of pies in time for her latest product launch, Yolanda discovers more about the sweetness of love. And who is heating up the kitchen with Yolanda?
Includes the recipe for Yolanda’sChewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies!
CHAPTER 5 Excerpt
That morning Nick was helping one of the older appreciated guests who was taken with both him and the Fancy Vanilla cupcakes. “Sonny, can I have that a cinnamon coffee Bundt cake with vanilla icing?” The woman with the white hair worn in a pageboy paused, then sneezed loudly. “No wait, how about butterscotch icing?”
Nick’s grimace almost passed for a grin. Jeannie noticed it and shook her head slightly, not wanting the young man to insult the older woman. “I’m afraid we don’t have butterscotch but we have caramel.”
“Oh goodie, I’ll have that.” The woman smiled broadly, focusing all her attention on Nick.
After she shuffled out of the yummery, Nick shook his head and stared at the almost empty tips jar. “The least she could’ve done was leave me a tip.”
Jeannie smiled. “Show her more attentiveness next time. Tell her how pretty her blouse is or something.”
“Jeannie, I don’t want to encourage her. Geez, she’s old enough to be my grandmother.”
“I’ll have you know that she’s the widow of one of the wealthiest real estate moguls in the city.”
“So? That means she could afford to leave a big tip.”
“Not necessarily. She’s frugal. She told me she frequents every 99 Cents Only store she drives by and hangs out at Big Lots in Culver City. She’ll drive out of her way to save money…” Jeannie helped herself to a fudge sample. “Just the way some folks are, I guess. Oh, and you didn’t offer her a sample. Next time make sure you offer every appreciated guest a sample – even the older ones who have a crush on you.”
“I forgot to change the tips jar sign today,” he said.
“That could be another reason, though I doubt it. Old widows are lonely, so just make her feel a little less lonely and you’ll get more tips.”
It all began when I was working on the second book of the Yolanda’s Yummery series, Magical Cakes of Love. Initially, I’d planned to give out some recipes for cakes in the form of either personal sized magical cakes of love, cupcakes or at least a cookie recipe. But it was the middle of summer and I just didn’t feel like baking. I was also immersed in writing and creating original recipes for another soap crafting book and needed to concentrate on that. So I was still in the kitchen, just in front of the stove—not the oven.
Around July 4, I took an afternoon off from soaping to try making a batch of energy bars. My main character introduces some healthy energy bars to her yummery, so I found a recipe online. It was an odd recipe because it contained butter but not real eggs – it called for either a flax or chia egg. Well, I used a regular egg. Unfortunately, that recipe didn’t turn out anything like the original as I was able to pour it rather than use a spatula or my hands to pat the mixture into the pan like the recipe described.
So the squirrels benefited from the leftovers of that mess.
In September, I had a little time to bake and thought I’d try a variation of the energy bar recipe that uses Kamut Khorosan flour, a special non-GMO wheat product that is higher in protein and minerals than ordinary whole wheat flour. It’s a lovely pale yellow color, is stone ground, and has a more buttery flavor than most other flours. According to Bob’s Red Mill, which is the brand I used: “Bob’s Red Mill Organic Kamut® Flour is made from Kamut® Khorasan Wheat, an ancient relative of modern day wheat that has a buttery flavor. On average this flour has 40% more protein than does regular wheat flour, and most people find it more satisfying and filling in baked goods than those made with wheat because of its higher lipid to carbohydrate ratio. It’s healthier in many other ways, and its taste is sweeter.” Being able to concentrate fully on the recipe, I made this version easily enough.
Lemon Coconut Oats Energy Bar Recipe
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup whole-grain Kamut Khorosan flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons almond milk
1 cup lemon curd
4 Tablespoons shredded coconut [unsweetened]
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Line a square pan (8×8) with parchment paper and oil sides and base with butter.
In a large bowl, mix the oat base dry ingredients: oats, flour, brown sugar, baking soda, salt.
In a small bowl, mix the melted butter, maple syrup, almond milk, and egg. Stir well.
Add the wet mixture to the dry and mix well.
Set aside about a cup of the oat base for the topping.
Scoop the oat mixture onto the pan and press down with a spatula [I prefer the silicone kind] or use your hands. Pour on lemon curd and smooth out. Now sprinkle on the reserved 1 cup oat mixture. Top with coconut.
Bake at 350 Fahrenheit for approximately 30 minutes. Allow to cool for at least 45 minutes before slicing into squares or bars and removing from pan. Store in a container in the fridge to keep firm.
I used the entire 10 ounce jar of Dickenson’s lemon curd because the flavor is such a wonderful blend of tart and sweet and it goes so well with coconut. This brand can often be found in most supermarkets and discount stores. Of course, there are other brands and you can also make it yourself if so inclined.
Butter melting methods:
Cut the butter into little chunks rather than melt a whole stick. I recommend melting the butter in a double boiler or in a heavy pan on the stove top using a LOW setting. With the pan method, you don’t get a messy microwave and you can even walk away from it as it’s melting while you’re mixing your dry ingredients.
I baked this recipe for exactly 30 minutes because I prefer a softer, chewier type of bar. However, it could’ve been baked another 2 or 3 minutes without compromising the texture.
Filling tips: Consider using about 8 ounces of the lemon curd unless you want a lot of oozing filling!
The Kamut Khorosan and oats batter after being scooped into the pan
After adding the lemon curd and shredded coconut topping
Right out of the oven. Bottom right shows a small missing area because I had to sample it right away!
In Magical Cakes of Love, there is romance and mystery as one of Yolanda’s regular customers has gone missing. For those of you who’ve read The Great Brownie Taste-off[which is now FREE], you’ll know that Yolanda Carter always refers to her customers as appreciated guests. In the second book, appreciated guest Captain Angus, a homeless man who enjoys her brownies and cupcakes twice a day, mysteriously vanishes. As the story unfolds, the lead investigator thinks that either Yolanda or her best friend, Teagan Mishkin, might know more about the missing man’s whereabouts. Way more as they’re his suspects.
Here’s the official description:
With the successful launch of Yolanda’s Yummery in the trendy Los Angeles suburb of Brentwood, Yolanda Carter is on a roll. Her fame is starting to grow as news spreads about all her delicious desserts. An accompanying Beverage Bar will open in three weeks. She’s involved in a budding romance with sophisticated British tea baron, Nigel Garvey. Life is sweet.
Complications arise when Captain Angus, a regular homeless customer, disappears…and Yolanda becomes a suspect.
Someone is framing Yolanda for the crime. Lead investigator Detective Churchill is certain that she murdered the captain. Best friend Teagan Mishkin is also a suspect and wants to clear both their names. Will Yolanda’s relationships be derailed by the daily disasters she’s encountering? Can those Magical Cakes of Love save her and the yummery?
This is a clean romance/cozy mystery, and not only was it fun to write, the cover was a joy to photograph. Yes, I had to go to the yummery to pick up one of those Decadent Chocolate Magical Cakes of Love and take almost 100 pictures of it. The day was warm and sunny with a high of 85 and even though I’m cold blooded I had to lower the temperature of the air conditioning unit from a comfortable 78 down to 70 degrees.
It was difficult to avoid sampling the cake, and I thought about cutting a slice and putting it on some fine china but I did that after I finished taking and previewing the pictures.
I’d like to stress that Yolanda doesn’t ordinarily make wedding cakes but in this book she makes an exception, as a favor to a good friend’s sister who’ll soon be tying the knot. Here is part of that scene:
Excerpt from Chapter 2
Suddenly a shorter woman with dyed black hair pulled into a stubby ponytail walked in, looking around. She wore a shapeless mauve sundress paired with black sneakers. “So this is the yummery,” Rosemary said. “Kinda on the small side…” She walked over to the display case and saw only three Magical Cakes of Love and barely a dozen brownies. “Did we come at a bad time?” Rosemary asked, her forehead wrinkling.
“Rosemary! So nice to see the bride-to-be,” Yolanda said to the disgruntled woman. “Well, no, you came at the end of the day. I was just going to put everything in the fridge, but I made sure to save you a Decadent Chocolate and a Fancy Vanilla Buttercream Magical Cake of Love to test.” She gestured, moving towards the back of the store. “Let’s go back to my office and we’ll sample them.”
Thirty minutes later and they were still in Yolanda’s office with the two cakes cut into several slices, and the chocolate cake had fewer of them.
“Now I tried on 128 wedding dresses before I found the perfect one…” Rosemary commented, taking another bite of the chocolate cake slice on a paper plate. “It was a nightmare trying to get one in my petite size and style because I wanted the Sweetheart Serenade model. It’s ecru lace with puffed sleeves edged with rhinestones and pearls and a silk crinoline skirt with a detachable eighteen-foot lace train edged with pearls…oh you’d think I was looking for something unusual!” She sighed and rolled her big watery blue-gray eyes. Rosemary pulled out her iPhone and punched the screen a few times. “Here’s the winning dress…” She turned the phone’s screen so it faced Yolanda and a blurry shot of some off white creampuff meringue of a wedding dress was seen.
“That looks nice,” Yolanda stated diplomatically, glad when the phone was removed from her line of vision.
“Well it should. And let me tell you about the sixty-one punch recipes before the right one … and I think the florist is going to be changing again soon…” She enjoyed another bite of her cake, paused, and took another. She sighed loudly. “You’d think people could handle brides changing their minds occasionally.”
Magical Cakes of Love is available at Amazon and other online bookstores.
There are books on the subject of baking the best brownies, along with dessert cookbooks that dedicate whole sections to brownies. There are websites that offer loads of brownie recipes—some of them quite scrumptious. And in any supermarket or bakery, and you can always buy fresh brownies.
Of course, people will debate whether to make them from scratch or from a mix.
Mixes are easier and definitely faster. They can also be enhanced with added goodies like marshmallows, shredded coconut, caramel, chocolate chips, and nuts. Once you take those brownies out of the oven and they cool off you can frost them and add some sugar sprinkles. Better yet, serve them with a scoop of ice cream–especially in the summertime.
I needed to bake brownies so I could photograph them for blog.Shopping for the mix, I bypassed the usual suspects of Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines for a more expensive alternative, Ghirardelli Chocolate Supreme Brownie Mix. Like the others, the additives were few—water, vegetable oil and one egg. It also contained a chocolate syrup pouch for added flavor. I’ll admit that the brownies were quite good after they emerged from the oven. They almost tasted like homemade brownies. Almost. The brownies in my book are baked from scratch and require a little more work than a mix brownie. Admittedly, they are more flavorful!
When you bake from scratch, you have total control over all the ingredients from the flour to the sugar to the type of chocolate and/or powdered cocoa you use. That was the fun part of making the brownies as I could use farm fresh eggs and my preferred Valrhona chocolate. While I’m not a pastry chef or even a baker, I really got to understand my main character a lot better after making “from scratch” brownies. I even tweaked the ingredients and baked a few other batches to make sure I got the recipe right!
If you like to read about bakers, or romantic fiction, check out The Great Brownie Taste-off. It’s the first book in the Yolanda’s Yummery series. Yolanda Carter is a self-taught baker who dreams of owning her own bakery, a/k/a yummery. Employed at a small cat shelter, she stumbles across a scheme that threatens all the employees and cats. Will her magical brownies save them?
I’ve discovered something funny about writing romance books – I like ’em sweet. Literally. In my first, Sweet Dreams, the cover art shows an original photograph of brightly colored [and incredibly sweet and fruity] French macarons. These sandwich-type cookies are small and delicate but oh so worth it! Subtle hint: try one…or a few!
But how do I go from macarons to the classic and better known dessert of brownies? Well, I didn’t plan it. In fact, I thought I was writing the first book of the romance series, which is about cakes, not brownies. Even though I was following a detailed outline, the brownie angle took over and so I went with it. The first book of the Yolanda’s Yummery series establishes how this yummery [bakery] came into existence.Here’s what The Great Brownie Taste-off is about…
Yolanda Carter comes from a family of artisans and lives in her deceased grandparent’s cottage in Sherman Oaks, California. She works at a small cat shelter but dreams of owning a bakery. Her friend from high school, Teagan Mishkin, knows that Yolanda needs money and suggests better paying work as a cocktail waitress. The interview takes an unexpected turn and she stumbles across a scheme to close down the cat shelter.The plan Yolanda concocts may be the only way to save the shelter. Helped by her parents, coworkers and friends, a rising young blogger also takes an interest in her plight. Will she bake the best brownies of her life?