Yolanda Carter is preparing for Valentine’s Day as romance and macarons are baking in Yolanda’s Yummery. But things take a dark turn when the body of someone she knows is found dead in a nearby dumpster.
Teaming up with Detective Winston Churchill to find the killer, some employees are suspects, including Yolanda’s boyfriend, Nigel Garvey.
A February 14 appearance on the TV show, America’s Best Bakeries, and the yummery’s upcoming first anniversary are overshadowed as she strives to run her business and help the detective.
Macarons of Love also contains recipes for French macarons and cupcakes.
As the sun had finally shown its rays and brightened the day, she was about to return to the kitchen when the front door opened. There stood a handsome young man in his mid-twenties wearing an elegant hunter green jacket and tan corduroys. He beamed upon seeing her and she noticed that he was the one to initiate the first move by rushing across the store and behind the counter, where he greeted her with a big hug and kissed her gently on the lips. She felt the strong attraction and stared into his penetrating dark eyes. Beneath the light of the shelving units filled with bagged and boxed sweets, she saw that his natural golden brown wavy hair had more gold than brown. He had been in Miami for three days, which explained the difference.
“I missed you, Nigel,” she said as a way of greeting her boyfriend.
“Darlin’, you know I missed you. But I can’t wait to spend tomorrow night with you. There’s something very important I want to discuss with you—after we see ourselves on America’s Best Bakeries, of course!”
Making a pound cake from scratch is the most advanced baking I’ve ever done. This dessert contains the most basic ingredients found in your pantry and fridge: eggs, butter, flour, sugar, vanilla extract and baking powder. As long as you have a hand or stand mixer and measure your ingredients correctly, it’s not difficult to mix and bake.
Macarons also require few ingredients: two types of sugar, egg whites, almond flour, and color. That’s it as far as the cookies, a/k/a shells go. The fillings can be diverse: readymade jams or jellies, caramel, Nutella, butterscotch, lemon or lime curd, etc. You can make your own whether it’s buttercream, chocolate ganache, or a jam/fruit spread.
I’d tasted macarons a few times and loved them. They were decadently sweet and rich. From an Etsy store, I ordered an array of pastel colored macarons that were photographed for the cover of my novella, Sweet Dreams.
I needed a picture for the cover of my forthcoming sweet romance/cozy mystery, Macarons of Love, #4 in the Yolanda’s Yummery series. So I bought macarons in various colors and flavors. Average price: $2.25 each. I took 300+ pictures and they were good, not great. I cherished each macaron and decided that having these delicacies handy whenever I wanted them was a very appealing idea. Even if they didn’t turn out looking great, I’d get a better education about the art of baking macarons and would understand my characters even more. I had most of the ingredients and equipment, I reasoned. Well, not almond flour, but sugar was in the cupboard and fresh eggs in the fridge. I’d watched more than a dozen how-to videos on YouTube. I read numerous blogs, many of them showing step-by-step directions. Some bakers claimed they were easy to make; other bloggers despaired of ever being able to create them. One confessed that several batches never even made it to the oven.
I spent $12 for one pound of almond flour! This is one of the reasons why macarons aren’t cheap. I also learned that almond meal, almond powder, and almond flour are the same thing. Only when making macarons, you needed to sift or sieve it. The more you sift, the finer it gets, the better lookin’ those macarons.
Macarons weren’t spooned onto a baking sheet—they were piped on. Piped with one of those piping or pastry bags? I thought that was for decorating cakes or cupcakes. My experience with a piping bag? Zip. I couldn’t just neatly spoon them on? Nope.
Separating eggs and whipping the whites into a meringue didn’t seem too difficult to someone who’s whipped thousands of gallons of shea butter. But there’s a difference between the two ingredients: shea butter can’t be overwhipped, egg whites can. I also had a major oopsie that first day after picking up the egg and instead of separating it the entire egg splatted into the bowl. Great, I’d have to wait another 24 hours so the egg would be aged enough for high quality macarons. At least that’s what many of the bakers suggested.
Since I knew my piping skills were nonexistent, I had some foresight: I made a template the size of the baking sheet and had 1.5” circles neatly spaced on the back of the paper that was adhered to the baking sheets.
I put the required amount of almond flour [Bob’s Red Mill] through a small sieve. Correction: I attempted to sieve the flour. Thirty minutes later, I’d managed to get about 1/8 of a cup from sieve to mixing bowl. I grumbled about how time consuming it was, recalling people on videos doing it in seconds. I tried smacking the sieve and just spilled more flour. The spatula didn’t work. My fist, wanting to punch it through… nope, that sieve was too small.
I interrupted my macaron making “festivities” and drove to the store to buy a larger sieve. Finally, the almond flour was able to make it through the larger size mesh, as did the powdered sugar.
Meanwhile, I had no difficulty whipping the egg whites, granulated sugar, and adding the magenta gel color.
Folding the flour and sugar meant the dry ingredients had to be sifted again. Good thing I didn’t have to use that mini sieve. The egg whites would’ve deflated or whatever happens to old egg whites. Macaronnage is the term for gently folding the dry ingredients into the egg whites which results in a batter that’s not too stiff and not too runny. There are ways of determining when it’s done such as counting the number of strokes to testing the batter to see how it falls from the spatula—the term molten lava is frequently used. Well, I guessed it was like molten lava because my arm was starting to feel like it with all that mixing, um, folding.
Before I encountered my first run-in with the pastry bag with the plastic nozzle that I’d hopefully inserted correctly, I had to get the pink batter from bowl to bag. Those baking experts showed how easy it was—the same people who could probably pipe blindfolded—insert piping bag in a glass, fold the top over like a cuff, and make sure the nozzle was pointing up rather than down. Also, twist the bottom of the bag a few times so the batter won’t escape. Okay…
Theoretically, easy. I plopped the pastry bag into the glass and added the first scoop of batter with my spatula…but I’d forgotten to make the cuff so the batter got stuck on top and some of it fell on the counter. Way to go, wasting batter and making a mess. Eventually, I got most of it into the bag and the batter started escaping from the bottom, too. I’d be lucky if I managed to make one macaron shell!
I won’t describe the horror of piping except that part of my face was pink from batter oozing out the top as I tensely gripped it. Some dropped onto my hand. Good thing it wasn’t red! Each of the discs was a different size with only a few of them being round. Getting the batter onto the parchment paper was a messy feat but in the end I managed to get 24 various sized discs onto each tray.
I baked each tray separately and used the bottom oven rack after reading and watching the tales of staying away from the middle rack.
The result can be seen to your left.
Itsy bitsy feet on some, a single mega cracked shell, but the taste of the shell was sweet. I added jam rather than attempt to do a buttercream filling which would need to be piped—I really didn’t fancy that word!
I’ll admit I’m partial to boxed sets, a/k/a box sets. This is beneficial for the reader, as they can have access to a series or serial. Boxed sets are usually more cost efficient and space efficient, as you don’t have to flip from one eBook to another since they’re conveniently bundled into one file.
Before publishing my boxed set, I learned that I needed two different covers due to some online bookstores not wanting the standard three-dimensional type of cover. A non 3-D cover was the norm for some stores so that customers wouldn’t get confused into thinking they were buying actual paperback books housed in a box. Once I learned that the reason behind iTunes and Smashwords preferring a standard “flat” type of cover, I found another cover artist to design the second type of cover. Here it is:
I was pleased with this flat type of cover design and like it as much as the 3-D version.
I’ve noticed more boxed sets being published and I think that’s a wonderful idea. So, each Friday I’d like to highlight a boxed set whether by one author or a group of authors. Your boxed set can be on sale, free or whatever price you choose.
Want to have a special blog post dedicated to your boxed set? Send me an email and include the buy links. Once the blog has been posted on Friday, you’ll have your own boxed set page and can promote it anywhere you’d like. Your name and the title of your boxed set will be in the subject heading, making it keyword-friendly.
Just send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.orgPlease use “Boxed Set Friday” in the subject heading.
Below is an example of how your page will look. If you have two different covers, I can include both of them. You can send me a longer book description. Also, if you have any fun facts about the boxed set that you’d like to share, please include them in your introductory paragraph.
Title: Boxed Set: The Yolanda’s Yummery Series, Books 1 -3
Author: Lisa Maliga
Brief Description: This collection of sweet romance/cozy mystery eBooks contains 3 full-length novels plus a chapter to the novella that started it all: Sweet Dreams. Best of all, it’s value priced!
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?