At this point in my life, I thought I could safely say graphic novels aren’t for me. I’d read a handful of graphic novels and a couple of comic books – mostly all recommendations from friends but a few piqued my curiosity on their own – and just wasn’t a fan. I appreciated the talent that went into creating them, but for some reason, I haven’t been able to connect to these types of stories emotionally. I decided to give graphic novels one last chance with Lucy Knisley’s Relish: My Life in the Kitchen.
Happily, I enjoyed it immensely. I’m going to guess the main difference here is the way food was constantly incorporated into the story. Every chapter revolved around her memory of a food experience and nearly all of them featured a whimsically illustrated recipe at the end.
Yoav Blum’s latest novel The Coincidence Makers follows Guy, Emily and Eric, who all work for a secret organization as Coincidence Makers. They’re responsible for orchestrating what the rest of the world sees as random occurrences – a chance meeting, a missed train, or even a spilled drink. Such “coincidences” are intricately designed to spark a significant change in their targets’ lives, and in fact, the world.
As one of my most-anticipated books of the year, I’m happy to report, it lived up to my expectations. I devoured it in an afternoon, enthralled from the very beginning. The process of coincidence-making, the Makers themselves and world Blum creates is so well-thought out and fully-formed, it’s enough to leave you wondering if your real life coincidences are just that, or something more.
I think fall may be officially here (weather-wise), and I’m pretty excited about it. Fall is the best time of year for baking and soups and comfy sweaters and cozy books. Bring it on! Veronica Henry’s How to Find Love in a Bookshop is one such cozy book, and as chance would have it, an excellent conduit for baking as well.
From the description, Nightingale Books is an idyllic bookshop – one I definitely wouldn’t mind spending a few hours in! Set up in the Cotswolds by Julius Nightingale and now passed on to his daughter Emilia, it’s a charming little store, one that is everything to the townspeople. As the story unfolds, we discover more about Julius, Emilia, the employees of the bookstore, the local chef, the lady of the manor, and so many more.
It really is as if we’re welcomed into the town alongside them. In its entirety, it reminded me a bit of Stars Hollow crossed with Love Actually. The end wraps up quite neatly but that didn’t bother me at all. Quite the opposite, I may have been disappointed if this wonderful story didn’t leave me feeling as cozy at the end as it had throughout.
A heartwarming novel like this one definitely deserves something welcoming to accompany it, and though the story features a magnificent chef who makes mouthwatering food throughout, the recipe that stuck out to me most was the gingerbread (cookie) books she created near the end. It just felt so perfect to create cookie books to go along with a novel about a bookshop.
I’m not the best decorator, so the descriptions of the beautiful, intricately detailed cookies made me a bit nervous, but I decided to push along anyway. I found a recipe for soft gingerbread cookies from Bless This Mess, ordered a couple of adorable book-shaped cookie cutters – an open book and a stack of books – and got to work.
To start, I put my softened butter in a large bowl and creamed it, adding the sugar gradually. Then, I added an egg, the molasses and white vinegar, beating until well-blended.
I used a mesh colander to sift the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Because the one I have only holds about 1 cup, first I did 2 cups of flour, followed by all of the spices, salt and baking powder, and then the remainder of the flour.
Once the cookie dough was well-blended, I wrapped it in plastic wrap and allowed it to chill in the fridge for about 45 minutes. (Note: I ended up needing an additional cup of flour because my dough was too sticky to properly roll and cut out. I realized this after refrigeration and several attempts to roll it and cut it. I then added the additional cup of flour, allowed it to chill again.)
Since I prefer my gingerbread cookies soft, I followed the suggestion from the original recipe and kept the dough approximately ¼” thick when I rolled it out. Using my adorable book-shaped cookie cutters, I ended up making just under 30 cookies. The amount of cookies you get will depend on the size of your cutters. Mine were about 3-4 inches.
I baked each batch for about 11 minutes, allowed them to cool, and set to decorating. After a few practice cookies, which Scott was only too happy to help taste-test, I decorated some cookies worth photographing. I created a tribute to this week’s book, and of course, one for the blog. 🙂
Cream butter, adding sugar gradually. Beat until well combined and light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Beat in egg, molasses, and vinegar.
Sift all of the dry ingredients together and then blend sifted dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.
Divide the dough into two even pieces, wrap each piece of dough in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 to 90 minutes.
When the dough is done chilling, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Working in sections, roll the dough 1/2″ thick on a floured surface; cut into desired shapes. Place shapes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a baking mat.
Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the pan for 5 minutes and then move to a cooling rack.
Repeat with remaining dough. Decorate cooled cookies with royal or buttercream icing, or eat them as they are.
Notes: If you like your gingerbread on the crispy side, roll it 1/4″ thick and bake for 11-12 minutes. If you like it nice and soft (though still very sturdy), roll the dough 1/2″ thick and bake for 10 minutes. If you play around with the thickness of the dough and the baking time, you’ll discover a cookie that meets your liking.
This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosurehere.
Imagine my surprise when a few months ago, I came across another Hungry Bookworm blog since that’s my blog’s name! We bloggers introduced ourselves and I found out that she’s based in England, and where my blog was named to evoke a combination of food and books, hers was named after the beloved children’s book The Hungry Caterpillar. We decided to try our hand at a collaboration, reviewing the same book and posting our own thoughts. If you’d like to check out her post on this novel, go here. (If anyone’s visiting from Julie’s blog, welcome!)
I chose our first title, opting for a British book I had heard amazing things about: The Summer of Impossible Things by Rowan Coleman. It wasn’t easy to find over here in the states for free (fair warning, readers), but since it wasn’t in the library and I really wanted to give it a try, I bit the bullet and bought it from Amazon, which did have a few copies available. As you all know, I don’t usually buy books before knowing I like them, but I’m glad I took a chance on this one!
This book is along the lines of other “realistic time travel” love stories, as I call them – books like The Time Traveler’s Wife and movies like the lovely About Time – though it’s not exactly a traditional love story. If you’ve seen the movie Frequency, it’s more akin to that. Coleman’s novel is about a daughter’s seemingly impossible quest to save her mother – with a will and power she didn’t even realize she had.
I found this book to be very immersive, and though it’s a concept I’ve seen (and loved) in many other stories, I thought it was accomplished in its own unique way. I didn’t expect the love story that develops, but I quite enjoyed it. And not to give it away too much, but it was the inspiration behind the recipe I chose to make – at some point in 1977, our main character Luna stumbles into someone who works in (and I think eventually owns) an Italian bakery.
Though they’re not mentioned in the book, when I think of Italian pastries, I often think of the popular tri-color, or rainbow cookies, and their pop of color reminded me of the seventies. Instead of finding a recipe online, like I often do, I turned to a good friend (and fellow food lover), who graciously shared their family recipe with me. These cookies intimidated me, but I was assured they were very easy. My friend makes them every Christmas, and he’s right, I had no reason to be nervous about them.
First, I began with the almond paste and sugar, crumbling them together in the food processor. This recipe was the perfect opportunity to use some almond paste that I’d made myself, primarily because I couldn’t find it in the store when I looked for a previous recipe, but I’m told it’s not that hard to find. (Perhaps I was looking in the wrong spot, but if you have the same problem, it is quite easy to make; recipe link below.)
Then, I transferred my almond paste and sugar mixture to a bowl and beat in the softened butter (2 sticks). I also beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, making sure it was well-blended before I stirred in the flour. It was time to color the batter, so I split my batter into 3 different bowls and, using food coloring, colored one of the bowls pink and one of the bowls green. The third bowl remained uncolored.
I spread each batter evenly in its own pan before popping into a preheated 350 degree F oven for about 11 minutes.
While the layers baked, I made the chocolate glaze by heating semi-sweet chocolate and heavy cream in the microwave. I then set it aside to cool. I also heated the raspberry jam (my preferred flavor, but you can use apricot instead) in a small saucepan until it was smooth and spreadable.
I turned each layer out onto the cooling rack, and once it had cooled a bit and was no longer warm to the touch – about 10 to 15 minutes – I began assembling the final cookie. Green layer goes on the bottom.
I spread about half of the jam (I heated approximately a cup) on top of the green, added the white layer, pressed gently, and spread the rest of the jam on top of that.
Then, I added the final layer – the pink layer, pressed gently and topped with the chocolate glaze.
This does need to sit for about 30 more minutes, to make sure the glaze sets before slicing it into pieces, so I had to be patient. Once cooled, first order of business is to trim the edges and then they can be sliced, resulting in these little cookies as my final product.
Mine turned out a bit thicker than I remember them being when I had eaten them in the past. They’re still delicious, but more than a mouthful’s worth of cookie – mine are better eaten with a fork, like a tiny cake. (Please see my notes below on pan size.) These are a quite cakelike cookie, and more delicious than I recall as well, so they’re definitely worth a try. Thank you so much to my friend, for sharing their recipe with me and the blog! I hope our novel’s Italian bakery owner would be proud. 🙂
Lightly coat three 8×8** pans foil baking pans with vegetable cooking spray and dust with flour.
In a food processor, pulse the sugar and almond paste until the almond paste is crumbled and broken into small pieces. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
Beat in butter, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula, until smooth. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, blending well after each addition. Stir in flour.
Divide batter evenly into 3 bowls. Tint 1 bowl of batter pink (food color amounts above are a guide and can be adjusted as needed to achieve correct color) and tint 1 bowl of batter light green. The last bowl will remain uncolored.
Evenly spread each type of batter onto its own prepared pan. Bake for approximately 11 minutes, or until the top springs back when gently pressed with finger. Allow each pan to cool slightly before inverting onto a cooling rack.
Meanwhile, make the glaze. Microwave the heavy cream and chocolate in a small bowl on high for 1 minutes. Stir until smooth. Let cool until slightly thickened, about 30 minutes.
Heat the jam in a small saucepan on the stove, until it’s no longer gloopy.
Once the layers have cooled for about 10-15 minutes, place green layer on a plate or serving tray. Brush the top with half of the heated jam. Top with the white layer and gently press. Brush remaining jam over the white layer and top with the pink layer, press gently.
Spread cooled glaze over the top of the layered cookie. Let stand for at least 30 minutes so the glaze can set.
With a serrated knife, trim the edges. Cut crosswise into six 2-inch wide strips. Cut each strip into 12 slices.
From: A friend’s family recipe
*If you prefer to make your own almond paste, that’s what I did for a previous recipe. It’s really easy and leftovers can be frozen for up to 3 months. Use this recipe from Taste of Home.
**If you are doubling the recipe, use the larger foil pans, 11½ x 16½. However, if you still want to make only a single batch, I would recommend using 9×9 pans instead so the cookies are not quite as thick as mine ended up. 😛
This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosurehere.
I wasn’t tagged in this, but I came across a post from The Sassy Book Geek and loved the idea of this, so I wanted to get in on this book tag as kickstart to using them myself. Plus, it combines two of my favorite things – books and food!
In addition to linking back to the person who tagged you, it would be awesome if you link back to Nicole’s original post!
Pick a book that corresponds to the cookie’s ‘theme’.
Tag 1-3 people.
Chocolate Chip: A Classic Book That You Love or Really Enjoyed (interpret classic how you want, it can be a classic written 100 years ago or 20 years ago)
Thin Mints: A Fandom That You Really Want to ‘Join’ AND/OR a Hyped-Up Book You Want To Read (your source(s) of a book being hyped can be from anywhere)
Shortbread: An Author You Can’t Get Enough Of
Samoas/Caramel DeLites: An Emotional Rollercoaster (this cookie was hard …so any book that made you feel more than one emotion, strongly. The choice of emotions is up to you)
Oreos: A Book Whose Cover Was Better Than The Story OR Vice Versa, Where The Story Was Better Than Its Cover
Tagalongs/Peanut Butter Patties: A Book That Wasn’t What You Expected (good, bad, or just different, interpret how you wish)
Snickerdoodles: A Book You May Never Stop Rereading/ Loving
Bonus: Choose a cookie I didn’t list and make up a question!
Chocolate Chip:Jane Eyre is amazing, and when I first read it I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did.
Thin Mints:Pachinko by Min Jin Lee has been getting a lot of hype since it came out. I even got a free copy through a company book club, so I have no excuse not to dig in soon. Looking forward to it!
Shortbread: Fredrik Backman. I’ve only read 2 of his books, but I loved them both! Looking forward to reading more, especially Beartown (which was almost my Thin Mints choice.)
Samoas/Caramel DeLites:A Walk to Remember. This was before I realized how formulaic Mr. Sparks can be, but I literally laughed out loud reading this book and of course it made me cry too. Still one of my favorites.
Oreos: I thought Welcome to Braggsville had an awesome cover, and though we had a great book club discussion around it, the narrative style didn’t do it for me. I wasn’t a fan.
Tagalongs/Peanut Butter Patties: Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. Wasn’t sure what to expect when I started this one (another book club selection), but I ended up really enjoying it! Really immersive story-telling, interesting world creation.
Snickerdoodles: This is easy – I could read Harry Potter over and over again! In a world, where I rarely re-read books, I have re-read the HP series several times. (I don’t own this set below, but it’s my dream set!
My Bonus Cookie (courtesy of the Girl Scouts) – Lemonades: A book that’s refreshing, whether it be a new outlook, a fun idea/concept, or just a breezy read to cleanse the palate
For me, Where’d You Go Bernadette fits this bill. Semple writes in a unique style, and I found it to be a humorous, quick read.
Almost-eight-year-old Elsa’s best friend is her eccentric grandmother. Like her granny, Elsa is different. Different in a way that makes her good at running, because “that’s what happens when you get chased all the time.” Different in a way that allows to her to relate to adults with wisdom beyond her years.
As in Fredrick Backman’s first novel, the successful A Man Called Ove (which I also loved), My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry revolves around a cast of Swedish neighbors, whom we meet as Elsa embarks on a so-called treasure hunt to find and deliver apologetic letters from her grandmother.
When the story begins, Elsa seems to know some of the neighbors well enough. Maud and her husband Lennart, for example, are the nicest and second nicest persons in the world, respectively. Elsa likes them because they “always have dreams and hugs – dreams are a kind of cookie; hugs are just normal hugs.” On the other hand, there are The Monster and Our Friend. The idea of either of them emerging into the hallway terrifies Elsa.
The letter deliveries help Elsa to conquer her fears and bring the entire house of neighbors together. Sad yet uplifting, Backman’s charmingly written novel carries you to the Land of Almost-Awake and back again, as you uncover the unexpected truths behind Granny’s fairy tales with Elsa.
Since I recently made cinnamon buns (Granny’s favorite food), I was so happy when I found out that dreams are an actual cookie! Apparently a staple in Sweden, they are beloved by both Elsa and Our Friend.
I found the recipe searching around online and immediately set about to obtain some baker’s ammonia – the only ingredient not readily available in American grocery stores. After 48 hours I had it (thank you, Amazon Prime!), and cookie baking could begin.
After creaming the butter and sugar, adding the ammonium carbonate, almond extract and flour, I ended with a sort of crumbly mixture that looked like this:
It looked unlike any cookie dough I’d made in the past but I kept on and added the flaked coconut. I was convinced the chilling process would bring it all together, so I formed my disk and popped the dough into the refrigerator.
Even after a long chill, the dough remained crumbly as I tried forming it into 1-inch balls. I recommend doing this with your hands, as opposed to a scooper, which I tried first to encourage uniformity. It ended up being much easier. I think the heat of the hands helped them keep their shape a bit better.
I baked three batches of one cookie sheet each (16 cookies), closely following the recipe’s recommendation of using the top-third of the oven only. I was a bit disappointed that the recipe only made 52 cookies, well short of the 72 it was supposed to – even after carefully making sure they were as close to an inch as possible. Still, they turned out beautifully!
I’m usually not one for coconut, but to me, they were more like an amazing sugar cookie. These dreams may have required tracking down an obscure ingredient online, but they were worth it. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!
1teaspooncrushed ammonium carbonatealso called baker’s ammonium
1 1/2cupssweetened flaked coconut
Sift together flour and salt.
Beat together butter and sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Beat in ammonium carbonate and almond extract until combined well. Mix in flour mixture at low speed just until blended, then stir in coconut.
Form dough into a disk and chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, about 1 hour. [You could probably skip the chilling, if you’re short on time. A few comments said they didn’t chill it and it made no difference. I chilled mine, but the dough was essentially the same consistency after an hour as it was before.]
Preheat oven to 300°F.
Roll dough into 1-inch balls and arrange 1 inch apart on greased baking sheets.
Bake cookies in batches in upper third of oven until pale golden around edges, 18 to 22 minutes. [Mine baked for 21 minutes.] Transfer cookies to a rack to cool.