Breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day. So, instead of grabbing a fast-food breakfast sandwich, why not have a lightly sweet scone to enjoy with your tea or coffee instead.
These recipes come together fairly quickly and you can make the dough ahead of time and refrigerate it for up to two days. These recipes have been adapted for vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, and low sugar diets. The substitutions are in the parenthesis next to each ingredient.
A Taste of Ireland recipe for Irish scones adapted by Chamein Canton
Makes 7 large scones and 10 small scones
(225gr / 2 cups) plain all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1 to 1 gluten-free baking blend, sorghum, white rice, or brown rice flour)
2 heaped teaspoons (2 ¾ US tsp) baking powder
Large pinch salt
1 US level tablespoon) castor sugar (Swerve sweetener, Splenda granulated, monk fruit sweetener granulated, coconut, turbinado, or raw cane sugar, pulsed fine)
2oz (50gr / ½ a stick of butter) chilled unsalted butter (vegan butter)
(280ml / 2 fl. oz / ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons US cups) milk approximately” (dairy: whole, 2$) (non-dairy almond, rice, soy, or light coconut milk)
Beaten egg & sugar to glaze (2 tablespoons Aquafaba or 1 tablespoon soy lecithin)
Preheat the oven to Gas 8 / 450F / 230C
Sift all the dry ingredients together. Rub in the chilled butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Make a well in the center and add most of the milk. Mix to a soft dough adding all of the milk if required.
Turn out onto a floured surface and knead lightly. Roll out to about 1 inch (2 ½ cm) thickness. Dip the cutter into flour and cut the dough into rounds of 1 ½ inch (4cm).
Place scones on a floured baking tray, glaze with the beaten egg, and put immediately into the hot oven. In 15 minutes approximately, the scones should have risen and had a golden top. Enjoy with Irish butter and homemade jam!
The amount of milk added is determined by where you live and your house. If you’re in a drier area, you may need to add more milk so the dough begins to come together. Be sure not to overwork the dough. If you live in a humid climate, it may take less milk. Use your judgment.
Mini Chocolate Chip scones by Sugar Spun Run adapted by Chamein
2 cups all-purpose flour (465g) gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1 to 1 gluten-free baking blend, sorghum, white rice, or brown rice flour)
1/4 cup granulated sugar (100g) (Swerve sweetener, Splenda granulated, monk fruit granulated sweetener, golden sugar, coconut, turbinado, or raw cane sugar pulsed finely)
2 teaspoon baking powder (18g)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup very cold unsalted butter frozen is better (226g) (vegan unsalted butter)
1/2 cup heavy cream (237ml) (full-fat coconut milk or 3 tablespoons almond milk with 2 tablespoons melted unsalted vegan butter, cooled. With a stand or hand mixer, mix the butter into the almond milk, then add )
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375 F (190C) and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
Thoroughly cut in butter (I prefer to freeze the butter, grate it using a box grater, and then cut it in that way. This method yields the flakiest scones, but is not mandatory — you can use cold butter cut in with a pastry cutter).
Measure out the heavy cream in a measuring cup and add vanilla extract. Stir gently.
Carefully stir heavy cream/vanilla mixture into flour mixture. You do not want to over-mix, but due to the number of dry ingredients, it may be tricky to well incorporate the liquid and the dry mixes. You may briefly use a KitchenAid or electric mixer on a low setting to help coax the dough to cling together.
Once the dough is beginning to cling together, add chocolate chips, stir briefly, and then transfer to a very lightly floured surface
lightly knead the dough and chocolate chips together until you are able to form a ball.
Break the dough into 4 even pieces and round each one out into a disk about 5″ wide.
Cut each into 8 wedges and transfer to cookie sheet.
Bake at 375F (190C) for 14-16 minutes.
While the scones cool, prepare your glaze by whisking together milk, vanilla extract, and powdered sugar. Start with 1 cup powdered sugar, and if it still seems too runny you may increase the sugar amount.
Once scones are cooled, dip, drizzle, or spoon the glaze lightly over the top of each scone. Allow it to sit and harden before serving.
To learn more about Irish Cooking check out A Taste of Ireland on Recipe TV
Most publishing professionals have been asked a slew of questions about the process, one of the most common questions we get is about whether or not you need a literary agent to get published. So, as an agent, I thought I would address the definition of a literary agent and what we can and cannot do for writers.
What is a literary agent?
A literary agent is a person who represents the business interests of writers and their written works. We work with both new and established writers. Agents work with the Big Four Publishers, (Penguin/Random House, Hachette Book Group, Harper Collins, and Macmillan) Simon and Schuster were a part of the Big Five. It’s been acquired by Bertelsmann, which also owns Random House and Penguin. In addition to staying abreast of all the changes within the industry, we’ve cultivated relationships with independent publishers, boutique presses, and small presses. Agents negotiate with publishers for the rights to publish their written works. This also includes subsidiary rights such as options from film producers, and theatrical or film producers for the rights to bring a writer’s written works to the big or small screen, as well as the stage. The fee agents charge generally ranges between 15 to 20%.
What a literary agent can do for writers
In addition to negotiating publishing contracts on a writer’s behalf, we also keep track of any monies and payments coming to the writer whether it’s on a quarterly, semi-annual, or annual basis.
Agents are avid readers, and they both read and review manuscripts for both fiction and nonfiction works. A good literary agent will give you feedback and insights from their side of the desk. They’ll do their best to make sure your work shines.
Agents spend their time pitching their client’s projects. They work to tailor each pitch to bring out the maximum interest of the acquisitions editor, editorial director, and editorial staff that reviews them. Agents rely on their authors to help them create the pitch, no one knows their work better. Additionally, literary agents will provide an assist for marketing plans, which are very important to secure an offer of publication for both fiction and nonfiction works.
Agents also keep track of all submissions and they make sure to follow each publisher’s guidelines to the letter.
What an agent doesn’t do
Agents aren’t copy and line editors. While they are happy to provide feedback, the work of getting the manuscript into fighting shape is up to the writer. We suggest hiring a reputable editor to do the work.
A good agent doesn’t charge a reading fee. Reading is a part of the job description. A lot of agents know good copy and line editors and proofreaders. They may have a few names for you, but there are no finders fees paid to the agent for every writer a freelance editor works with.
Literary agents can’t make or guarantee that a publisher will offer you a contract. Agents will do their best to get you published. Remember, an agent doesn’t make a dime until the writer does.
Agents have a lot of connections, but they aren’t publicists, editors, or advertising and marketing professionals. Think of it this way, you might have a great cardiologist, but if you need heart surgery, you need a cardiothoracic surgeon. Even though your cardiologist specializes in heart health, you need an experienced surgeon. If a writer hires a publicist, the agent can work with them in terms of logistics and be a liaison between the publishing company and the PR firm.
Agents cannot advise writers about tax or legal issues. See number 4.
What’s the benefit of having a literary agent represent you
A literary agent allows writers to concentrate on writing. The agent will focus on procuring the best and most lucrative offers they can on behalf of their clients. There are great benefits to having an agent land a deal with a traditional publisher, be it the Big Four or an independent press. First and foremost, nearly all the high-profile publishing companies don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts, whether it’s the next Harry Potter or War and Peace. Agents are the gatekeepers of sorts. They have vetted the authors they represent and editors know they can trust the agent’s client list. This is the difference between getting a read or sitting in an enormous slush pile.
How can you find a literary agent
You can use a guidebook to help you find a literary agent. One of the top resources you can use is The Writer’s Market Guide to Literary Agents 2020: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published (2020). The Writer’s Market has been around for a long time and is pretty accurate. The listings are exhaustive and contain each agent’s specific specialties. Moreover, it lets you know if they are taking on new clients and what their submissions requirements are to be considered. It’s important to pay attention to those details and follow them to the letter.
You may also be able to get more information online through Reedsy, a website for writers and writing professionals. There is also literaryagencies.com which has a list of agents from around the country.
Hurry up and wait. What happens after you decide to seek a literary agent out for representation
Once you’ve completed your research, make sure your manuscript is in the best shape it can be when you query and submit it to an agent. With the exception of large firms, most agencies aren’t that large and it may take some time for them to get back to anyone who queries them. Try to query during their submissions period. Even then, it may take time before you hear back. Most agencies’ email servers will send an email to let you know your query was received. However, if you haven’t heard anything back in two weeks, send a follow-up email to see if your query was received. Most agents are happy to check their queue.
On average it may take anywhere from six to ten weeks for most agents to get back to you. Don’t take it personally. Agents have clients they are already actively representing, which is a good thing.
It’s important to remember that getting a book published is an exercise in patience, and with an agent, it will take more time. From your submission for representation to signing with an agent, to the agent actively pitching your book to publishers. It’s a lot to consider. Writers must weigh the pros and cons of working with an agent and make the best decision for yourself and your writing career.
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4 1/2 cup cake flour (sifted) (for gluten-free cake flour, substitute 1 cup of gluten-free all-purpose or 1 to 1 baking blend, remove three tablespoons, then add three tablespoons of gluten-free cornstarch, for every cup. For a half-cup of gluten-free cake flour, remove 1 1/2 tablespoons, and sub in 1 1/2 tablespoons of cornstarch)2 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
3 cups of granulated sugar (Swerve sweetener, Splenda granulated, coconut, turbinado, or raw cane sugar pulsed fine)
6 large eggs (room temperature) 3/4 cup Aqafaba, 1 1/2 cup silken tofu pureed with 3/4 teaspoon baking soda, egg replacer, or vegan egg replacer)
3 teaspoon vanilla extract2 1/4 cup buttermilk (room temperature) (2 1/4 cups rice, soy, almond, or light coconut milk with 2 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. Mix and let stand for five minutes)
3/4 cup rainbow sprinkles
For the Chocolate Ganache:
9 ounces dark chocolate (finely chopped) (Vegan chocolate) (semisweet works too)
9 ounces heavy cream (full-fat coconut milk)For the Assembly:3 cup rainbow sprinkles
Make the Funfetti Cake:
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour three 6″ cake rounds and line with parchment.
In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt until well combined.
Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat butter until smooth.
Add sugar and beat on med-high until pale and fluffy (2-3 minutes).Reduce speed and add eggs one at a time, fully incorporating after each addition. Add vanilla extract.
Alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning, and ending with flour (3 additions of flour and 2 of milk). Fully incorporating after each addition. Do not overmix. Fold in sprinkles.
Spread batter evenly into prepared pans. Smooth the top with a spatula.
Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean
.Place cakes on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
This white chocolate buttercream has a nice white chocolate flavor, is smooth, creamy, and, pipes beautifully!
White Chocolate Buttercream
3 sticks (339g) unsalted butter, softened (do not soften in the microwave) (vegan unsalted butter)
8 ounces (227g) white baking chocolate (I used 2 Ghirardelli Premium Baking Bars) (vegan white chocolate)
1 teaspoon (4g) vanilla extract4 tablespoons (42 g) milk or cream (whole, half and half, light cream) (full-fat coconut milk)
1/2 teaspoon (3g) salt – optional to cut the sweetness
Cut/chop the white chocolate into very small pieces, put into a microwave-safe bowl, and add 4 Tablespoons of milk or cream. Microwave for 15 seconds let sit for a minute or two, stir and microwave again 15 seconds letting it sit a minute to soften further, stir. Be careful not to overheat the chocolate. The chocolate will continue to melt as it is stirred. Let the chocolate cool down before using.Beat the butter until softened and smooth, add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time. Add the white chocolate and milk mixture. Add vanilla. Add another Tablespoon of milk if needed. Beat on medium speed for 3 to 4 minutes and it will become smooth and creamy.
Makes 5 cups of frosting. Makes enough to frost a 2 or 3 layer eight-inch cake. If you will be doing a lot of decorative piping, you will need additional frosting.
Make the Chocolate Ganache:Place chopped chocolate and cream into a microwave-safe bowl. Stir to combine. Microwave for 20 seconds, stir. Microwave in 10-second intervals, stirring in between until ganache is smooth and silky.Set aside to cool completely before using on the cake.
Assemble the Cake
Place one layer of cake onto a cake stand or serving plate. Top with approximately 2/3 cup of buttercream. Repeat with remaining layers and crumb coat the cake.
Place cake in freezer and frosting in the fridge for 30 minutes.Frost the cake and smooth the sides and top. Place back in the fridge for 1-2 hours for frosting to set.
Place a bowl upside down on a baking sheet to catch excess sprinkles. Place the cake onto an inverted bowl. Gently, but firmly, press sprinkles into the sides and top of the cake. Letting excess fall onto the baking sheet.
Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Using a teaspoon, apply ganache near edges like so to create the drips. Pour some ganache on the top of the cake and spread with an offset spatula.
I used 6-inch round pansI doweled the cakes
I also melted the chocolate in a double-boiler.
Microwaves vary in power, so I prefer to do it this way, particularly if it’s a microwave I’m not familiar with.
Original recipe by the Cake Blog, adapted by Chamein Canton
Welcome to the premier posting for Monday Meal Makeover. Here we will try to up your Monday meal game for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, or snacks. All the recipes that can be adapted will include:
Gluten-Free, Celiac Disease
Low Sugar/ Low Carb
Lactose Intolerance/Egg Allergies
For what I hope will be the first of many, welcome to the first Monday Meal Makeover.
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Blueberry Muffins by Tastes Better From Scratch adapted by Chamein Canton
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1 to 1 gluten-free baking blend, sorghum, millet, sweet or brown rice flour)
3/4 cup granulated sugar (Swerve sweetener, Splenda granulated, coconut, raw cane, or turbinado sugar, pulsed fine)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons grated lemon or orange zest
1/3 cup oil (vegetable or canola oil)
1 large egg (2 tablespoons Aquafaba, ¼ cup silken tofu pureed with 1/8 teaspoon baking soda, 1 flaxseed or chia seed egg, or egg replacer)
1/3 cup buttermilk (dairy: full-fat, low-fat, or light) (non-dairy: almond, rice, soy, or light coconut milk with 1 teaspoon lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, mixed. Let stand for at least five minutes before using)
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon lemon or orange extract, optional
1 cup blueberries , fresh or frozen
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar (Swerve sweetener, Splenda granulated, coconut, raw cane, or turbinado sugar pulsed fine)
2 Tablespoons light brown sugar (Swerve brown sugar substitute, organic light brown sugar)
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1 to 1 gluten-free baking blend, sorghum, millet, sweet or brown rice flour)
2 Tablespoons cold unsalted or salted butter, chopped (vegan unsalted or salted butter)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a standard size muffin tin with liners, or grease well with non-stick cooking spray.
In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, sugar, salt, orange or lemon zest, and baking powder.
Add oil, egg, buttermilk, vanilla, and orange or lemon extract (if using), and mix just until combined. Don’t over mix (the batter doesn’t need to be “smooth”)
Toss the blueberries in a spoonful of flour. This will help them not to sink to the bottom of the muffin. Gently fold blueberries into the batter.
Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter.
If you are making the crumb topping:
Add all of the ingredients to a bowl. Use your fingers, pastry cutter, or a fork to work the butter into the mixture.
Sprinkle crumb mixture over the tops of muffins in the pan.
Bake for about 5 minutes at 400-degrees, then reduce the temperature to 375-degrees. Bake for about 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with just a few crumbs.
Remove muffins from oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
The bake time may vary by ovens. It may take a little longer or a shorter time depending on your oven. I tend to err on the side of a toothpick coming out clean or with a few crumbs when inserted in the center of the muffins.
I don’t recommend using shortening or butter-flavor shortening. It makes the batter heavier and the muffins oily.
Cast Iron Roasted Chicken- Recipe from America’s Test Kitchen adapted by me
1 whole chicken. Fryer or young chicken
Canola or vegetable oil
This is the seasoning rub I use, adapt it to your likes and measure it out to the size of the chicken.
Paprika sweet or smoked
Remove the chicken back. Set aside to make stock
Combine the seasoning in a bowl
Tie the legs together with kitchen twine.
Season the chicken skin side down
Place into a cast iron skillet
Make sure the skin of the chicken is dry. Rub the skin with oil. Season liberally and tuck the wings underneath. Roast In hot oven 450-475. Make sure there’s about seven inches from the rack to the top of the oven.
Roast for about 1 hour. It could be more or less depending upon your oven. So keep a watchful eye. The temp of the chicken should be about 160-165 degrees from the thickest part of the chicken.
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion finely chopped
3 cloves of chopped garlic
1 cup of ketchup
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup molasses * (sorghum syrup)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire
1 teaspoon mustard powder
pinch of cayenne
1 tablespoon chili powder
pinch of allspice
In a saucepan over medium heat, saute onions until tender, about four to five minutes. Add garlic, and stir for one minute. Add the tomato paste, and carmelize it stirring for two minutes. Add the ketchup, molasses, cider vinegar, and brown sugar. Stir for one minute. Add the chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, pinch of cayenne, and allspice. Stir. Add 1/4 cup water and cook stirring for four minutes until thickened. Take the sauce off the heat and let cool. Blend with an immersion blender until smooth. You can also use a blender or food processor, but be sure it’s cool. It will make for quite the science lesson and a mess.
Spruce Eats list of molasses substitutes
If you don’t have molasses, you can make one of several quick substitutes. Replace one cup of molasses with one of the following: 1 cup dark corn syrup, honey, or maple syrup. 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 1/4 cup water
These substitutions may alter the taste of your recipe a bit. If the molasses flavor is vital to the success of your recipe, try the brown sugar substitute. Since brown sugar is granulated sugar and molasses it’ll be the closest flavor match. Maple syrup or dark corn syrup would be the next best choice.
If you have to use granulated sugar or honey as the substitute, consider increasing the spices in the recipe a bit to make up for the flavors that the molasses would have contributed.
I’ve been in the publishing industry as a literary agent and an author for a long time. Publishing has gone through changes over time. Some changes have been permanent, while others were essentially transient. It’s still centered around fiction and nonfiction with a host of genres and sub-genres. Both fiction and nonfiction books are reflective of the times, trends, and movements. Nonfiction books that focused on race and gender, now include titles that cover the Black Lives Matter Movement, transgender issues, and gender identity to name just a few. The same applies to fiction sub-genres in a multitude of categories, I am going to focus on women’s fiction.
Wikipedia defines women’s fiction as an umbrella term for women centered books that focus on women’s life experience that are marketed to female readers, and includes many mainstream novels or women’s rights Books. It is distinct from Women’s writing, which refers to literature written by women. The Women’s Fiction Writers Association says women’s fiction may include romance, or it may not. It could be contemporary or historical and have magical, mystery, thriller, or other elements. What defines a novel as women’s fiction is that the driving force is the protagonist’s journey toward a more fulfilled self.
The wonderful thing about fiction is it allows you to create a world from your mind’s eye. The only limitations are the ones you put on yourself, at least that’s the case when it’s just you and your laptop or notebook. If you are a female author who happens to be north of forty or fifty-plus, then you are in for a fight from the outside.
There is so much talk about age and how it’s just a number. The fact is that your grandparents’ fifty looks nothing like it does today. With good nutrition, skin care, and surgical intervention, in some cases, people are not only living longer, they are looking better than ever. Moreover, the sit in a rocking chair mentality has gone out of the window. You are more likely to find a grandmother in a spin class, and if she does like to knit, today’s north of fifty grandmothers are doing it in between yoga and Pilates. Life north of forty is viewed as an opportunity to make our second acts more exciting and fulfilling.
It’s the reason I am often puzzled by fiction categories for women over forty. First off, a lot of people think romance when you say you’re an author. There’s nothing wrong with being a romance author at all. It’s the most popular category in fiction. Romance novels focus on relationships and romantic love with an emotional and happy ending. When it comes to stories of love, everyone wants a happy and satisfying end. However, that view or path changes as we get older, and many female authors who are north of forty, fifty, and even sixty-plus reflect that in their writing.
Currently, romances for people over forty are called seasoned romances. Some hold to the happily ever after formula, only with older characters. Why it’s categorized differently when it’s still all about love, is beyond me. Then there are the seasoned romances where the path to true love isn’t easy. It’s fraught with many of the issues people over forty face when looking for love, or when they are trying to keep romance alive in a relationship. In Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream we’re watching the Athenians pursue love and all its follies, and find The Bard was quite correct to state that the course of true love never did run smooth. Romances with older characters develop the romance in a nuanced way that reflects their experience and the time in their lives. Situations when one was quick to get angry about and summarily dismiss at thirty-years-old, aren’t looked at in the same way at forty or fifty. In the end, north of forty and fifty characters are looking for love and find it, but the path to get there is different.
Then there is the relatively new genre of chick-lit. Viewed by some as a derogatory term, it’s loosely defined as literature that appeals mainly to women. (obviously, a man’s idea) The other definition for chick-lit is a genre fiction which “consists of heroine-centered narratives that focus on the trials and tribulations of their individual protagonists. What’s not said in this definition is what is usually found when you pitch it to editors. Chick-lit is about women in their twenties and thirties. Anything written with characters over forty is defined as either matron-lit or hen-lit, neither of which particularly flattering. Matron is a term associated with female prison guards or a verb that’s the kiss of death in fashion. Hen conjures up images of women sitting in a room laughing or talking while men refer to their chatter at clucking. Why can’t women over forty and fifty still be chicks? Writing about mature men isn’t called Prostate-lit or Dick-lit for men who use Viagra. No one would dare do such a thing even though publishing is overwhelmingly female, but it’s still mostly a boys club the further up the chain of command you go.
I started referring to my writing as Still A Chick Lit as I went through my forties to being in my fifties. Life and love are essentially the same, but there’s much change as you age. If you’re single/divorced, the dating pool is considerably smaller and you don’t have the time to take long applications. Everything has to be put on the table rather quickly so you can make the decision if you want to pursue a relationship or not. It comes down to the devil you know or the devil you don’t know. The number of people who get back together after divorce or long-term dating/cohabitating is quite large. I used to wonder about that when I was in my thirties. I couldn’t fathom doing such a thing. If you got rid of a man, you did it for a good reason. He should stay gone, right? Well no. I’m not sure if it’s a matter of being mature, scared, or just tired of the gerbil wheel of dating. Things change and there’s a level of acceptance and communication that you are a little more willing to do to make love work.
The bottom line is grey hair in a book doesn’t mean the story is old. As a matter of fact, you can find a plethora of characters that are made more charming and interesting with age. One of the biggest announcements at the end of 2020 was a Sex and the City re-boot with three of our favorite ladies in New York navigating their lives as women in their fifties with husbands, children, careers, and friendships. What made the series and subsequent movies successful was going on the journey with Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte. Age didn’t make them any less interesting. In fact, they became more inspiring as women over forty and fifty began to think about their lives in different ways. Why that won’t happen with books is beyond me, but it’s something that I hope to change.
I hope that you will come with on this journey as an author of Still A Chick-lit and nonfiction passion projects to go on this journey with me
Classic Chocolate Cake recipe from Add A Pinch and adapted by me
2 cups all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1 to 1 gluten-free baking blend, sweet rice, or sorghum flour)
2 cups sugar (Swerve sweetener, Splenda granulated, golden sugar, coconut or turbinado sugar, pulsed finely)
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch-process cocoa or regular unsweetened cocoa)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1 cup buttermilk (non-dairy: 1 cup almond, soy, rice, or light coconut milk plus 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or lemon juice)
1/2 cup vegetable oil canola oil, or melted coconut oil
2 large eggs (1/2 cup Aquafaba, ½ cup silken tofu plus ¼ teaspoon baking soda, 2 flaxseed or chia seed eggs, or egg replacer)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup boiling water
Preheat oven to 350º F. Prepare two 9-inch cake pans by spraying with baking spray or buttering and lightly flouring.
For the chocolate cake:
Add flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and espresso powder to a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk through to combine or, using your paddle attachment, stir through flour mixture until combined well.
Add buttermilk, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla to flour mixture and mix together on medium speed until well combined. Reduce speed and carefully add boiling water to the cake batter until well combined.
Distribute cake batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center of the chocolate cake comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes, remove from the pan and cool completely.
The cake batter will be very thin after adding the boiling water.
Let the baked cake layers cool completely. Wrap them well with plastic wrap and then with foil. Put each layer into a freezer bag and freeze up to 2 months. To serve, thaw in the refrigerator overnight with wrapping intact. The next day, the layers are ready to fill and frost
Chocolate Buttercream Frosting by Add a Pinch adapted by me
½ cup milk (dairy: whole milk, 2%) (non-dairy: almond, soy, rice, or light coconut milk)
2 teaspoons vanilla
½ teaspoon espresso powder or 1 tablespoon brewed coffee
Add cocoa to a large bowl or bowl of stand mixer. Whisk through to remove any lumps.
Cream together butter and cocoa powder until well-combined.
Add sugar and milk to cocoa mixture by adding 1 cup of sugar followed by about a tablespoon of milk. After each addition has been combined, turn mixer onto a high speed for about a minute. Repeat until all sugar and milk have been added.
Add vanilla extract and espresso powder and combine well.
If frosting appears too dry, add more milk, a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the right consistency. If it appears to wet and does not hold its form, add more confectioner’s sugar, a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the right consistency.
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
1 ½ cups almond milk (soy, rice, or light coconut milk) (dairy: whole milk, 2 %, non-fat milk)
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup white sugar (Swerve sweetener, Splenda granulated, golden sugar, coconut, or raw cane sugar, finely pulsed)
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch-process or regular unsweetened cocoa powder
In small bowl, combine cornstarch and water to form a paste.
In large saucepan over medium heat, stir together soy milk, vanilla, sugar, cocoa and cornstarch mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture boils. Continue to cook and stir until mixture thickens. Remove from heat. Pudding will continue to thicken as it cools. Allow to cool five minutes, then chill in refrigerator until completely cool.
In a clean glass or metal bowl, add the heavy cream and cream of tartar.
On medium-high speed whip the cream and slowly sprinkle the sugar in. Continue whipping until soft peaks begin to form. When you run a spoon through the bowl, it should leave a path.
To make the chocolate mousse filling, fold in ½ the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate pudding. Fold until you don’t see any white streaks. Then fold in the remaining whipped cream. You can put it in the fridge for up to 1 day in advance, otherwise, fill the cake right away. Let the filled cake set in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.
Vegan Whipped cream recipe from Minimalist Baker
1 14-ounce can coconut cream or full-fat coconut milk (do not use cream of coconut, it’s too sweet and won’t work, It’s great for a pina colada) (I like Whole Foods 365 brand of coconut milk)
Chill your coconut cream or coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight (see notes for top brands!), being sure not to shake or tip the can to encourage separation of the cream and liquid. See notes for more insight / troubleshooting.
The next day, chill a large mixing bowl 10 minutes before whipping.
Remove the coconut cream or milk from the fridge without tipping or shaking and remove the lid. Scrape out the top, thickened cream and leave the liquid behind (reserve for use in smoothies).
Note: if your coconut milk didn’t harden, you probably just got a dud can without the right fat content. In that case, you can try to salvage it with a bit of tapioca flour – 1 to 4 Tbsp (amount as original recipe is written // adjust if altering batch size)- during the whipping process. That has worked for me several times.
Place hardened cream in your chilled mixing bowl. Beat for 30 seconds with a mixer until creamy. Then add vanilla (optional) and powdered sugar (or stevia) and mix until creamy and smooth – about 1 minute. Taste and adjust sweetness as needed.
Use immediately or refrigerate – it will harden and set in the fridge the longer it’s chilled. Will keep for up to 1 – 2 weeks!
For as long as I can remember I loved to write. My paternal grandmother, was an avid and voracious reader. She went through about three books a week. She was a big Sidney Sheldon fan. The cover for the Other Side Of Midnight still sticks out in my mind. Grandma Salley, my maternal grandmother loved to read, but she was also an epic letter writer. She corresponded with friends and family weekly, and never seemed to run out of things to write about.
Thankfully, as a professional writer and author, I have never been at a loss when it comes to things to write about. Writer’s block is real thing and feel paralyzing. Conversely, the overabundance of ideas can easily result in choice overload, making it difficult for writers to narrow the choices and make a decision. I tend to fall into the latter situation, and heading into the kitchen helps me get over the hump.
I make the most of the tactile nature of cooking and baking to take my mind off the choices and focus it on another task. Nine times out of ten, I figure out my next steps through baking. However, when I’m not sure what I should do next, I take out the big guns and delve into more complicated recipes for pastries, like croissants.
Cooking something that is a bit more complex like paella or a Bolognese sauce, can work, but it’s the order found in baking that’s more effective for me. In cooking, as long as you stick to the basics of techniques, you can adjust seasoning, add more or less of an ingredient, or even omit something. That’s not the case in baking, it’s a science. You cannot add more leaveners like baking powder, baking soda, or yeast. Eggs are important for structure. Milk and butter add to tenderness and texture. Even in gluten-free and vegan baking, the substitutions must do the same thing, which is a challenge, but can be accomplished. The order in baking works for my writing process and channels stress.
Laminating dough creates thin layers of dough and butter through the process of rolling and folding. It’s tedious, but something about it works for me. With each turn, my mind clears and I find the clarity needed to decide what’s next in my manuscript, whether it’s adding another character, or fleshing another character further to add dimension for the reader. Is the dialogue snappy or too smart or overly witty for witty’s sake. Naturally, this is my process, and every writer is different. Some go running or take a walk. Others go to their favorite diner or park to watch people. A long drive is a good option too. The fact is anything that brings you peace will inspire and break your writer’s block or illuminate the path to making the right choice to move your story forward. Admittedly, if you work it out in the kitchen, both you and the people around you receive a very tasty benefit. In my case today, they get croissants. There’s nothing wrong with that.
King Arthur Baker’s Croissant recipe adaptation by me
2 large eggs + enough warm water to make 2 cups (454g) of liquid (6 tablespoons Aquafaba or ½ cup silken tofu pureed with ¼ teaspoon baking soda) **
1/4 cup (50g) sugar, divided
5 1/2 to 6 cups (659g to 723g) (gluten-free all-purpose flour or 1 to 1 gluten-free baking blend flour)**
1/2 cup (56g) Baker’s Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk, optional
1 scant tablespoon (16g) table salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional; for sweet pastry)
30 tablespoons (425g) unsalted butter, cool to the touch (vegan butter)**
3/4 teaspoon table salt or ½ teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (60g) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour or 1 to 1 gluten-free baking blend flour)**
For the dough: Put the eggs and water in a large mixing bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of the sugar, 3 cups (362g) of the flour, and the yeast. Mix until well blended; set aside to let the sponge work.
For the butter: Cut the butter into 1˝ chunks and combine with the salt and flour at low speed in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment just until smooth, with no lumps. Be careful not to beat too much; you don’t want to incorporate any air. My tip, while the stand mixer with the paddle attachment works well, you do run the risk of add air to the butter. I used my pastry cutter and worked the flour and butter into pea-size clumps, then turned it out onto parchment paper, put another sheet of parchment over and rolled the butter until I had the shape I wanted. Then in the fridge it went.
Spread the butter on a piece of plastic wrap and shape into an 8˝ square. Wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Finish the dough: Add the melted butter to the sponge. Whisk together the remaining sugar, 2 1/2 cups (298g) of the flour, the dry milk, and salt and add to the sponge. Mix until the dough forms. Knead for 5 minutes; touch the dough lightly with your finger. If it’s still sticky, add the remaining flour 2 tablespoons at a time until the dough is the desired consistency. Once the dough is smooth and elastic, pat it into a 9˝ square, then wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
To laminate the dough: Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and gently roll it to a 12″ square.
Unwrap the butter square and place it in the center of the dough at a 45° angle, so it looks like a diamond in a square. Pull the corners of the dough into the center of the butter diamond. Moisten the edges with a little water and pinch the seams together well to enclose the butter. Dust the top with flour and turn the packet over.
Tap the dough all over with a rolling pin, encouraging it into a rectangular shape. Once it’s pliable, roll it to a 20˝ x 10˝ rectangle, picking it up and dusting lightly with flour as needed.
When you’ve reached the proper size, use a dry brush to sweep off any excess flour and fold the dough in thirds, like a business letter. Take care to keep the edges straight and line them up directly over each other. If the dough slides around, use a little water at the corners to tack them in place. This is your first turn.
Rotate the dough out so it looks like a book about to be opened. Roll the dough out once more to 20˝ x 10˝ and fold it as before. This is the second turn. Wrap the dough and refrigerate it for 30 minutes to allow the gluten in the dough to relax.
Give the dough two more turns after its rest, then wrap the dough well and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight before using. You can also freeze the dough at this point.
To shape the croissants: Cut the packet of dough in half. Wrap and refrigerate or freeze one half.
Roll the other half to a 13˝ x 18˝ rectangle. Trim the edges about 1/4˝ all the way around with a ruler and pizza cutter. This removes the folded edges that would inhibit the dough’s rise.
Cut the dough in thirds lengthwise and in half down the center. This will give you six 4˝ x 9˝ pieces. Cut these pieces in half diagonally and arrange them so the points are facing away from you. Stretch them gently to make them a little longer, then cut a 1˝ notch in the center of the base of each triangle.
Take the two inside corners of the notch and roll them up toward you, building a curved shape as you roll the base of the dough toward the tip. Make sure the tip ends up under the bottom of the croissant. Place the shaped pastry on a parchment-lined baking sheet, curving the ends toward each other. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Take the croissants out of the refrigerator, and let them warm and rise for 60 to 90 minutes at room temperature. They should expand noticeably, and when you gently press one with your finger, the indentation should remain.
Towards the end of the rise time, preheat the oven to 425°F. Brush each croissant with an egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven’s temperature to 350°F and bake for 10 to 15 minutes more, until deep golden brown and no raw dough is visible where the layers overlap. Remove from the oven and let cool on the pan on a rack for 20 minutes before serving.
Tips from King Arthur Bakers
Bubbles and leaks: It’s not unusual to have air trapped inside your laminated dough. If this happens, simply pop the bubble with a toothpick and press the dough down to lie flat. If there’s a bare spot where butter is coming through, dust the leak with flour, pressing down lightly so it sticks, and continue on with the fold. Refrigerate the dough as soon as the fold is done, to firm it up.
As you work, keep the dough, work surface, and your rolling pin well dusted with flour. Turn over the dough from time to time. As you roll, you tend to expand the top layers more than the bottom. By flipping the dough over, you’ll even that out. Before folding the dough over on itself, use your pastry brush to sweep off excess flour. This will help the dough stick to itself after folding, so the layers don’t slide around.
When rolling the dough, especially for the first time, be sure the dough and butter are at the same consistency; this will make rolling much smoother and the layers will be more even.
Vegan/non-dairy adaptation tips
** For most vegan bakes that have less than three eggs, I usually list flaxseed or chia seed eggs and egg replacer. We tried that in the test kitchen and both substitutions don’t work as well, it’s too dry even with additional liquid added. To keep the recipe as close to the original as possible the Aquafaba and silken tofu eggs worked beautifully.
**I also normally list more gluten-free flour alternatives, but we found that gluten-free all purpose and the baking blend worked exceedingly well
** Vegan butter is the best alternative. Margarine is too oily and you won’t get the same flaking as you get with butter