by Shanna Hatfield
I love to bake, especially during the holiday season. There is nothing like the smell of gingerbread or some cinnamon-laden concoction creating mouth-watering aroma as it bakes in the oven on a cold wintery day.
It's like wrapping yourself in a warm blanket of sweet comfort.
Because of my interest in baking and recipes, it's always incredibly fun for me when one of my characters also likes to bake or cook.
The challenge comes in making sure the food I mention in the stories is appropriate to the time-period.
One resource that has been so helpful to me is FoodTimeline.org
Want to know when salt was first used (neolithic times), you can find all the details on the site.
Did you know ginger as a spice goes back to 5000 B.C.?
Or that vanilla came onto the scene in 1500 B.C., a New World flavoring used by the Aztecs to add a little oomph to their chocolate?
Egg nog, that creamy staple at so many holiday celebrations, was first introduced in 1760.
Ever received an orange in your stocking Christmas morning? Blood oranges first arrived in the US in 1878.
In addition, you'll find when certain recipes and dishes first debuted. The 1880s were a sweet success for bakers, ushering in such classics as angel food cake, chocolate pie and pumpkin pie.
Brownies and banana cream pie made 1906 a great year! Divinity, one of my dad's favorite holiday treats, debuted in 1907.
In my sweet holiday romance, The Christmas Bargain, the heroine, Filly Granger, is an amazing cook. It was her cooking that made it possible for her to marry her husband, Luke, the town's banker.
He went out to her father's farm to collect on a long overdue loan and, after eating dinner with them, accepted Filly in lieu of the payment. The pastor insists Luke marry the girl before he takes her home, and Luke reluctantly agrees. Although he plans for her to be his housekeeper and cook, it doesn't take long for him to realize he's gotten the best end of the bargain with a wife who turns out to be sweet, gentle, sassy, and an incredible cook.
Luke glanced at her. “I have observed, dear woman, that you put others before yourself, you are a dedicated and caring friend, and that you have a keen mind with a quick wit. You are clever, smart, and not afraid of hard work. Also, you’re very talented with domestic skills and inspiring as a cook. Your chocolate pudding could make grown men weep.”
Filly offered him a perturbed glare. “So, Mr. Granger, I have missed my calling as a schoolteacher or perhaps a cook at the restaurant. If my chocolate pudding makes grown men weep, what will my peach pie do to the male population? Bring them to their knees? Make them beg for mercy?”
It was interesting to me to research the types of foods, especially the holiday treats, Filly would have made in the early 1890s. She creates pralines, caramels and sweet breads, along with Boston cream pie (she had to dig through a recipe book for that one), and a variety of cookies, including sugar cookies.
Here's my favorite recipe for Sugar Cookies. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
dash of lemon juice
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups flour
Cream together butter and sugars. Add in eggs, vanilla, and lemon juice. Mix dry ingredients together and gradually add into creamed mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour (or overnight).
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Generously flour a flat surface and your rolling pin. Scoop out half the dough and roll until about 1/4 inch thick. You want to work quickly at this point because the warmer the dough gets, the stickier it becomes and you don’t want to add more flour. Cut into shapes and bake about 6-8 minutes or until cookies are just set. You do not want them to get brown (unless you like crispy cookies, then go ahead). Cool in pan for one minute. Remove to wire rack to cool completely. Frost and decorate then watch them disappear.
You can use a royal icing if you are of a mind to stir up a batch or, if you are a lazy slug like me, whip out a can of Betty Crocker vanilla frosting and frost away. I like to use decorator gels, especially the sparkly variety, along with sprinkles to finish the cookies - if I get to them before Captain Cavedweller starts eating them!
Makes about three dozen, depending on the size of your cookie cutters.
Now through Dec. 24, I'll donate 10 percent of the net proceeds from all book sales to the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund. The JCCF is a non-profit organization that assists rodeo athletes who’ve sustained catastrophic injuries and are unable to work for an extended period.
About Shanna Hatfield
A hopeless romantic with a bit of sarcasm thrown in for good measure, Shanna Hatfield is a bestselling author of sweet romantic fiction written with a healthy dose of humor. In addition to blogging and eating too much chocolate, she is completely smitten with her husband, lovingly known as Captain Cavedweller.
Shanna creates character-driven romances with realistic heroes and heroines. Her historical westerns have been described as “reminiscent of the era captured by Bonanza and The Virginian” while her contemporary works have been called “laugh-out-loud funny, and a little heart-pumping sexy without being explicit in any way.”
She is a member of Western Writers of America, Women Writing the West, and Romance Writers of America.
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