Saturday, January 31, 2015

Buck’s Fizz Macarons


Buck's Fizz Macarons (Gluten Free, Dairy Free)

Buck’s Fizz was first served in 1921 at the London Buck’s Club, a gentlemen’s club that partially inspired P.G. Wodehouse’s fictional Drones Club. Credited to a bartender named McGarry, Buck’s Fizz has remained popular for nearly a century, and is typically made with two parts orange juice to one part champagne, although the true recipe remains known only to the club. 

This has to be the best cocktail to have with breakfast (or brunch, if you prefer), and I like it because the champagne nicely tempers the sweetness of the orange juice. I tried to recreate that taste in macaron form, and the result is subtle, very tasty, and not unlike an orange creamsicle. 

So pop open some champagne, put on some David Bowie, and let’s get baking! 

Ingredients

For the Shells:

⅔ cup almonds
1 cup powdered sugar
2 egg whites (aged)
1 1/2 tsp orange extract
a little orange gel food coloring

For the Champagne "Butter" Cream:

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons earth balance
1 tablespoon soy milk
4 tablespoons champagne

Equipment:

Blender or food processor
Hand mixer
Sifter or fine sieve
3 or more baking sheets
Non-stick baking paper or silicone baking mats
A medium stainless steel bowl
Rubber spatula
Pastry bag
Pastry bag tip (note: a tip with a ½ inch opening is recommended)

Method:

The day before: Separate the eggs and put the egg whites in an air-tight container. Leave the egg whites in the fridge overnight.

Three hours before: Take the egg whites out of the fridge and let them come to room temperature slowly. Put the stainless steel bowl into the fridge.

1. Put the almonds and powdered sugar into the blender and grind together for a few seconds. Sift the powder into a bowl and set aside.

2. Take the bowl out of the fridge and give it a good wipe with a kitchen towel to be sure it is completely dry before you start. Put the egg whites into the bowl and beat them on medium speed with the hand mixer. When they get foamy and start to really expand, add the granulated sugar a little bit at a time and continue to beat all of the sugar has dissolved. At this point, the eggs will start to look thick and foamy, a bit like shaving cream. Lower the speed of the mixer and continue to beat the eggs until stiff peaks are left when you pull the mixer out. When your eggs are ready, they will be thick enough that you can hold the bowl upside down without them falling out. If you tilt the bowl and they’re still sliding, beat them on low for another minute and try again. 

Note: If the bowl is very cold and the eggs have been aged long enough, this won’t take very long. If they haven’t, it’ll take forever. I’ve had this take anywhere from 4 - 20 minutes. Big difference!

3. Add the orange extract and a little bit of the orange gel food coloring at this point and mix it into the eggs with the mixer for another five seconds. 

4. Carefully fold in the dry ingredients a little bit at a time with a rubber spatula. Don’t mix them or stir vigorously, you don’t want to wreck the eggs! When it’s done, the mixture will be thick, still a little airy, and should fall off of the spatula in slow, wide ribbons. 

5. Pour the mixture into a pastry bag and pipe rounds onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper or a silicone baking mat. Try to make them all the same size as much as you can, leaving an inch between them. These will cover at two or three baking sheets, depending on the size and spacing.

6. Smack the baking sheets on your counter one at a time. Lift them a few inches above the counter and just drop them. (This makes a pretty loud noise, so if you live with other people, give them some warning!) Do this a few times for each tray.

7. Let them sit until the surface starts to dry. You’ll know they’re ready when you touch them and nothing sticks to your finger. When they feel like they’re there, preheat your oven to 285F.

8. Put the baking tray on top of another empty baking tray in the center of your oven. Bake the macarons for 12 minutes with the door closed before checking on them. If they’re still really sticking after twelve minutes, put them back into the oven for another 2-3 minutes. 

9. Take the baking paper or mat off of the baking trays and leave them to cool completely on the counter (or cooling racks, if using). This only takes a minute or so. The macarons should pop off of the paper pretty easily, but if they stick, you can slide a thin knife between the shell and the paper to help them along. 

Assemble!

Match shells of similar size and stick them together with a little bit of buttercream. Put the finished macarons in an air-tight container in the fridge and let them sit overnight before you eat them. The flavor and texture improves overnight, so they will be at their best tomorrow. 

Champagne “Butter” Cream (GF, Dairy Free, Vegan)

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons Earth Balance or other good quality butter substitute
1 tbs Unsweetened, unflavored Soy Milk (I used Silk Organic Unsweetened, but any will do. Almond Milk will also work if you prefer)
4 tablespoons champagne

1. Beat sugar and butter together in a bowl. With this kind of butter, it will tend to look crumbly -- this is totally fine. Add the soy milk and the champagne and it will all come together nicely. 

This icing is a little bit on the thin side, so you might need to refrigerate it before assembling the macarons if it’s out too long. Alternatively, you can add a bit more sugar to thicken it up. Feel free to tweak the quantities to suit your tastes. 

Buck's Fizz Cocktail

Pour two parts orange juice into a champagne glass and top with one part champagne. Stir, garnish with an orange twist, and serve. 





Monday, January 26, 2015

Romance Has a Heart


Hey everybody!

You are going to start seeing me talk about this Romance Has a Heart thing quite a lot throughout the month of February, so I thought I'd try to explain it in more detail here! Me and Tracey Gee from LOVExtra have started this to raise money for the Canadian Heart & Stroke Foundation and the American Heart Association. For #RHAH, I'm Captain America (!) and I'm looking for romance writers, bloggers, fans, and any other wonderful people who would like to get involved to join my team! 

So, what is it and what does it involve? To join my team, visit the team page on The American Heart Association and sign up as a member! It costs nothing to join, and we'll put you on the fundraiser's website as a supporter, all we ask is that you help us to spread the word to the best of your ability. Join today - your captain needs you! If you'd rather help out by donating prizes, we'd love to hear from you! Message me here or contact us on our facebook page.

As a special incentive to support these great causes, many authors are giving away prizes for donations. If you donate $5 or more to my page here (and if you feel like giving me your address!), I will send you a handmade, one-of-a-kind valentine. 

Expect glitter. Lots of it.

Please consider joining either team, please donate if you can, and please spread the word! We want to raise as much money as possible for heart health in Canada and the US by February 28th! 

Like us on Facebook or Tweet #RHAH to support Romance Has a Heart today! 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Life and Death of Claude Duval

Claude Du Val. William Powell Frith, 1860.
Claude Duval (1643 - January 21st, 1670)

Claude Duval (Du Vall, Duvall, Du Vail) was executed at Tyburn on this day in 1670. Although he is only in my novel, Tyburn, for a very short time, he has a huge effect on my heroine, Sally, a fictional childhood friend of his from Normandy.

Most of the details of his appearances in Tyburn are fictional with little bits of truth slipped in. The fact of the matter is, what we know about the historical Claude Duval is mostly limited to stories told after his death. Because so little is known for certain, we have to piece together stories to try to get a picture of the man behind legend. So where do we start? 

Claude Duval was born in Domfront, Normandy in 1643 to a miller and the daughter of a tailor. In his Lives of the Highwaymen (1734), Captain C. Johnson writes that Domfront “was a place by no means unlikely to have produced our adventurer. Indeed, it appears that common honesty was a most uncommon ingredient in the moral economy of the place.”

Duval began working as a stable boy in Rouen at the age of thirteen, and is believed to have become a footman in the court of Charles II in exile. Johnson writes: “He continued in this humble station until the restoration of Charles II, when multitudes from the Continent returned to England. In the character of a footman to a person of quality, Du Vail also repaired to this country. The universal joy which seized the nation upon that happy event contaminated the morals of all: riot, dissipation, and every species of profligacy abounded.” (1)

He came to England with them in 1660,  where he experienced the entertainments of the Restoration in full force: “The universal joy upon the return of the Royal family made the whole nation almost mad. Everyone ran into extravagances, and Du Vall, whose inclinations were as vicious as any man's, soon became an extraordinary proficient in gaming, whoring, drunkenness, and all manner of debauchery.” (2)

“What is any Court Favourite but a Picker of the Common People's Pockets?”

Duval turned to highway robbery at some point during the 1660s. The Newgate Calendar suggests he chose this profession to support his appetite for debauchery, but as this was written after the fact with a very biased point of view, we have to take this with a pretty serious pinch of salt. Whatever it was that made him begin robbing coaches, “in this profession he was within a little while so famous as to have the honour of being named first in a proclamation for apprehending several notorious highwaymen.” (2) 

Duval distinguished himself not only through skill as a highwayman, but with his considerable charm and excellent manners. One of the most famous stories of his exploits involves his apprehension of a coach containing a knight and his lady.

As the story goes, once the knight and lady realized they were about to be robbed, the lady, “A young, sprightly creature” pulled out a flageolet and began to play. Duval then pulled out a flageolet of his own (because you never know when you're going to need to rock out). Duval then asked the knight for permission to dance with the lady, which he graciously granted. Johnson writes: “It was surprising to see how gracefully he moved upon the grass; scarce a dancing-master in London but would have been proud to have shown such agility in a pair of pumps as Du Vall showed in a great pair of French riding-boots. As soon as the dance was over he waits on the lady back to the coach, without offering her the least affront.” (1,2)

The knight then gave Duval the exorbitant sum of one hundred pounds. Duval, “received it with a very good grace, and courteously answered: "Sir, you are liberal, and shall have no cause to repent your being so. This hundred given so generously is better than ten times the sum taken by force. Your noble behaviour has excused you the other three hundred which you have in the coach with you." After this he gave him the word, that he might pass undisturbed if he met any more of their crew, and then very civilly wished them a good journey.” (1)

His behavior might not have always been what we would consider to be polite today, especially given that he was still robbing people, but I think this story is particularly revealing of a good degree of honor and no little cheekiness: 

“Du Vail and some of his associates met a coach upon Blackheath, full of ladies, and a child with them. One of the gang rode up to the coach, and in a rude manner robbed the ladies of their watches and rings, and even seized a silver sucking-bottle of the child's. The infant cried bitterly for its bottle, and the ladies earnestly entreated he would only return that article to the child, which he barbarously refused. Du Vail went forward to discover what detained his accomplice, and, the ladies renewing their entreaties to him, he instantly threatened to shoot his companion, unless he returned that article, saying, "Sirrah, can't you behave like a gentleman, and raise a contribution without stripping people; but, perhaps, you had occasion for the sucking bottle yourself, for, by your actions, one would imagine you were hardly weaned." This smart reproof had the desired effect, and Du Vail, in a courteous manner, took his leave of the ladies.” (1)

Once the reward on his head became too much of a temptation, he returned to France for sometime and is believed to have resided primary in Paris, where he lived well until his money ran out. He eventually returned to England, where he took up his old profession.

Robbery was not the only way Duval was able to to earn money. He was a legendary gambler who owed his success to knowing how to take advantage of his adversaries, sometimes winning as much as a hundred pounds in a single sitting. He was also very good at laying wagers.

“He made it a great part of his study to learn all the intricate questions, deceitful propositions and paradoxical assertions that are made use of in conversation. Add to this the smattering he had attained in all the sciences, particularly the mathematics, by means of which he frequently won considerable sums on the situation of a place, the length of a stick, and a hundred such little things, which a man may practise without being liable to any suspicion, or casting any blemish upon his character as an honest man, or even a gentleman, which Du Vall affected to appear.” (1)

The Second Conquerer of the Norman Race

Regardless of whether or not these stories were true, one thing is certain: Duval was irresistible to women. Lucy Moore explains that Duval was “a royalist who had served Charles II; his dashing style was intimately bound up with his links to the glamorous court-in-exile.” (4) 

But it wasn’t just popularity by association.

“He was a handsome man, and had abundance of that sort of wit which is most apt to take with the fair sex. Every agreeable woman he saw he certainly died for, so that he was ten thousand times a martyr to love. "Those eyes of yours, madam, have undone me." "I am captivated with that pretty good-natured smile." "Oh, that I could by any means in the world recommend myself to your ladyship's notice!" "What a poor silly loving fool am I!" These, and a million of such expressions, full of flames, darts, racks, tortures, death, eyes, bubbies, waist, cheeks, etc., were much more familiar to him than his prayers, and he had the same fortune in the field of love as Marlborough had in that of war —- viz. never to lay siege but he took the place.” (1)

He was eventually caught at the Hole-in-the-Wall tavern on Chandos Street in Covent Garden and on January 17th, 1670 Sir William Morton found him guilty of six robberies and sentenced him to death at the age of twenty-seven. 

He was visited in prison by countless ladies in disguise, and they turned out in droves for him execution and the subsequent display of his body at the Tangier Tavern in Covent Garden. Convict or not, he had died a hero. “So much had his gallantries and handsome figure rendered him the favourite of the fair sex, than many a bright eye was dimmed at his funeral; his corpse was bedewed with the tears of beauty, and his actions and death were celebrated by the immortal author of the inimitable Hudibras.” (1)

When his friends prepared his body for burial, they supposedly found the following note in his pocket, a farewell to the ladies who loved him:

"I should be very ungrateful to you, fair English ladies, should I not acknowledge the obligations you have laid me under. I could not have hoped that a person of my birth, nation, education and condition could have had charms enough to captivate you all; though the contrary has appeared, by your firm attachment to my interest, which you have not abandoned even in my last distress. You have visited me in prison, and even accompanied me to an ignominious death. 

"From the experience of your former loves, I am confident that many among you would be glad to receive me to your arms, even from the gallows. 

"How mightily and how generously have you rewarded my former services! Shall I ever forget the universal consternation that appeared upon your faces when I was taken; your chargeable visits to me in Newgate; your shrieks and swoonings when I was condemned, and your zealous intercession and importunity for my pardon! You could not have erected fairer pillars of honour and respect to me had I been a Hercules, able to get fifty of you with child in one night. 

"It has been the misfortune of several English gentlemen to die at this place, in the time of the late usurpation, upon the most honourable occasion that ever presented itself; yet none of these, as I could ever learn, received so many marks of your esteem as myself. How much the greater, therefore, is my obligation. 

"It does not, however, grieve me that your intercession for me proved ineffectual; for now I shall die with a healthful body, and, I hope, a prepared mind. My confessor has shown me the evil of my ways, and wrought in me a true repentance. Whereas, had you prevailed for my life, I must in gratitude have devoted it to your service, which would certainly have made it very short; for had you been sound, I should have died of a consumption; if otherwise, of a pox." (2)

Duval was buried under the center aisle of the church of St. Paul’s in Covent Garden under the following plaque:

"Here lies Du Vall, reader, if male thou art,
Look to thy purse; if female, to thy heart.
Much havoc hath he made of both; for all
Men he made stand, and women he made fall. 
The second conqueror of the Norman race,
Knights to his arms did yield, and ladies to his face.
Old Tyburn's glory, England's bravest thief,
Du Vall the ladies' joy! Du Vall the ladies' grief." (1,2)

You can read the first chapter of Tyburn here, which takes place at Claude’s execution on January 21st, 1670. 

Sources
1. Captain C. Johnson, Lives of the Highwaymen. (1734) 
2. The Newgate Calendar
3. Alan Brooke & David Brandon, Tyburn: London’s Fatal Tree. Sutton Publishing Ltd., 2004.
4. Lucy Moore, The Thieves’ Opera. Harcourt, 1997.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Short Circuit Time by Diane Saxon

Today I am delighted to be hosting author Diane Saxon with an excerpt from her new release, Short Circuit Time. I think it sounds brilliant and I love the cover. Isn't it awesome? 



Short Circuit Time by Diane Saxon

     In the year 2086, Zaphira is alone, the last survivor of biological warfare on Earth. Before he died, her scientist father promised other survivors would come. Nobody has. So when a horribly mangled android shows up claiming to be her father’s assistant, Aiden, who has been sent through time to rescue her, she’s both frightened and astounded.
     The last time she’d seen Aiden, she’d been sixteen, head-over-heels in love with him and had literally thrown herself at him, leaving her devastated by his rejection and him running for the hills. The following day, she’d been told of his death.
     Eight years later he’s miraculously back, this time asking for her help. Without it, he won’t survive. But can she really put a dead man back together with tweezers?
     For Aiden, everything has changed. There are no other humans, no government, and time travel has left his new android body unexpectedly weak and suffering from inexplicable genetic changes in eye and hair color, brought about by his molecular shake-up. Unbelievably, the scientist who sent him is dead, and he must rely on the scientist’s daughter to help him. A woman who he’s not so sure has his best interests at heart.
     The last time he’d seen her, Zaphira had been a sixteen year old with a dangerous crush on him and he’d been rocked by the turmoil of his own feelings. Now she’s twenty four and literally holds his survival in her hands. Too bad everything he does and says seems to annoy her.
     Trusting her might be his undoing. But he is left with no choice.
     For Zaphira, getting used to the transformation of old Aiden to android Aiden requires a large mental leap. But when android Aiden starts to rebuild his human form to a new and improved standard, things start to get tricky.
     The Aiden she loved as a little girl was her father’s nerdy assistant. The new Aiden is hot. But are her feelings as strong eight years later or are they simply a cherished memory?

Excerpt: Prologue

     She narrowed her eyes and squinted at the skinny geek stumbling backward out of the passenger seat of her father’s car. She’d waited all day for the rumble of the engine of her daddy’s convertible. The old car had a distinct stutter and a sly rev she fantasized was because it had a mind of its own.
     She smiled awkwardly, her mouth pulled tight across her braces and she pressed her fingers over her top lip to stop it from catching on the edge, rolling and making her look like a feral cat. Her face ached. They’d tightened the braces again and it hurt so much more this time. The smile dropped from her lips only to ping back up again as the geek caught his shoe on some piece of equipment in the foot well of her daddy’s car. He flipped backward, his gangly arms pin wheeling until he landed on his ass on the floor, minus his shoe.
     He whipped his head up and she stepped back from the window hoping he hadn’t heard her girlish giggles. He wouldn’t be impressed. He was so much older and more mature.
     Not many would believe he was twelve years her senior. Not with his thick russet hair falling in a boyish flop over his forehead, his fine gold-rimmed glasses perched right on the end of his nose.
     Her heart fluttered in her chest as she chanced another peek.
     His arms full of equipment, flushed to his hairline, he staggered toward the front door of her home. Adrenaline pumped hot through her veins. She took a few skips toward the hallway, ran back to the window to see her father’s car pulling away from the curbside. Her mother was out. She was the only one there to open the door. She darted back, hesitated, her pulse thrumming in the base of her throat.
     A dull thud shuddered the door in its frame and she shot forward, wrenched it open before he did any further damage. His shoulder slid across the oak panel and he shot sideways through the entrance, his skinny limbs racing to keep up with the speed of his body, but to no avail. His foot skidded and down he went. The clatter of laboratory equipment skidding across the wooden floor filled her ears as did his quiet Irish curse.
     “Bollocks.”
     Stifling another snigger, she crouched to help, casting furtive little glances at him as he came to his knees, straightened his waistcoat and touched his fingers to his bow tie, ensuring it was still there.
     “Hi Aiden.”
     His deep frown almost made her stutter, but she knew he couldn’t sustain his annoyance. His small nervous cough made her smile.
     “Hey.” The sound of his soft, smooth voice made her light-headed and she stopped what she was doing to gaze deep into his eyes.
     He pushed his glasses further up his nose and glared at her. Unperturbed, she met his beautiful gaze with a lovesick one of her own.
     “Do you need a hand down to the lab?” He dropped his gaze to her mouth. Her speech lisped embarrassingly through her clenched together teeth. She hated her braces, couldn’t wait to have them removed.
     “No.”
     Not wanting him to go yet, she piled another few items on top of the ones already in his arms and resisted the urge to stroke her fingers along the sleeve of his tweed jacket.
     “Can I get you a coffee?”
     “Zaphira…” he sighed, “Thank you, but no. I have work your father wants me to complete. I don’t want to be disturbed.”
     Her chest ached. Just a little. The same as it always ached when he rejected her offers.
     She bent to pick up Paco, her new puppy, snuggled her face into his thick fur and took comfort from his squirming, plump body as she hugged him close and let him lick sweet kisses across her chin.
     Aiden paused at the lab door then glanced at her over his shoulder and her heart hitched again. There. It was there, the glint in his eye. The one that told her every time she was about to give up that there was a spark of interest. There was hope.

***

Buy Links for Short Circuit Time


About the Author

     Diane Saxon lives in the Shropshire countryside with her tall, dark, handsome husband, two gorgeous daughters, a Dalmatian, one-eyed kitten, ginger cat, four chickens and a new black Labrador puppy called Beau, whose name has been borrowed for her hero in For Heaven's Cakes.
     After working for years in a demanding job, on-call and travelling great distances, Diane gave it all up when her husband said “follow that dream”.
     Having been hidden all too long, her characters have burst forth demanding plot lines of their own and she’s found the more she lets them, the more they’re inclined to run wild.

Where to Find Diane Saxon


Previous Books:

Loving Lydia--Atlantic Divide Book 1
Bad Girl Bill--Atlantic Divide Book 2
Finding Zoe--Atlantic Divide Book 3
Flight of Her Life
Flynn’s Kiss--Disarmed & Dangerous Book 1
For Heaven’s Cakes--Paranormally Yours Anthology

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Of Cakes and Kings (With their Heads on or Otherwise...)

Guest post by Hannah Methwell
Bosse. The Pastry Shop, 1632
Now I am a somewhat bloody-minded historical novelist. I write about a rather ruffianly troop of Oliver Cromwell's cavalry, all very rough and manly, and they spend a deal of their fictional career engaged in violent mayhem. 

Which is all very well, but when not smiting the heathen hip and thigh, what would an Ironside officer, circa 1642, do with himself at home? 

In the case of Captain Holofernes Babbitt, the answer is - hang around the kitchen hoping for cake. Known for it. Every time his good lady appears in those books, she's either trying to feed him, or fatten up somebody else in his troop. Het Babbitt is a lady after my own heart. 

But what? Parliamentarians? Puritans? With cake

Cakes. Custard tarts. Fruit pies. Biscuits. Cheesecake. You betcha. 

Cake in the seventeenth century did not, on the whole, come as a snack, but rather, as part of a course at dinner in which multiple dishes would be set forth. A menu from a 1594 recipe book, "The Good Huswife's Handmaid for the Kitchen", gives the somewhat exotic guidance for a two-course dinner as: 

Brawne and Mustard. Capons stewed in white broth: a pestle of Uenison vpon brewes: A chine of Beefe, and a breast of Mutton boyled: Chewets or Pies of fine Mutton: three greene Geese in a dish, Sorrell sauce. For a stubble Goose, mustard and Uinigar: after Alhallowen day a Swanne, sauce Chaudron: A Pigge: A double ribbe of Beefe roasted. Sauce Pepper and Uinigar. A loyne of Ueale or breast, sauce Orenges: Halfe a Lambe or a Kid: Two Capons roasted, Sauce Wine and salt, Ale and salt, except it be vpon sops: Two pasties of fallow Deere in a dish: a Custard: A dish of Leash. 

The second course. 
Jellie, Peacockes, sauce Wine and Salte: Two Connies, or halfe a dozen Rabbets, sauce Mustard and Sugar: halfe a dozen of Pigions, Mallard, Toyle, sauce Mustard and Uergious: Gulles, Storke, Heronshew, Crab, sauce Galantine: Curlew, Bitture, Bustard, Feasant, sauce Water and Salt, with Onions sliced: Halfe a dozen Woodcockes, sauce Mustarde and Sugar: Halfe a dozen Teales, sauced as the Feasants: A dozen of Quailes: a dish of Larkes: Two Pasties of red Deare in a dish: Tarte, Ginger bread, Fritters
Pieter Claesz. Still Life With Turkey Pie, 1627

Fruit, both candied and fresh, would be a given at this type of formal dinner. As we can tell, the "sweet" dishes are a minority, but expected as part of both courses. (Leash - if you're curious - is leche lombard, another kind of spiced baked custard.) 

But back to the cake thing. Without baking powder, and thus without self-raising flour, the "sponge" cake didn't arrive until way after the 17th century. Het Babbitt's baked cakes would have been sweetened, enriched bread doughs - possibly, but not necessarily, baked in cake hoops, wooden or metal versions of our modern cake tins which stood on a plank in the oven. A 1617 recipe book, "A Daily Exercise for Ladies and Gentlemen", gives the following recipe for sugar cake: 

Bake a pound of finewheat flower in a pipkin close couered, put thereto halfe a pound of fine Sugar, foure yolkes and one white of egs, Pepper and Nutmegs, straine them with clouted creame, and with a little new Ale yeast, make it in past, as it were for a Manchet, bake it in a quicke ouen with a breath fire in the ouens mouth, but beware of burning them. 

(I feel your pain regarding the burning. Every time...) 

Rosewater, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves were popular flavourings in period cakes. What is interesting is that honey as a sweet ingredient in confectionery doesn’t seem to appear in any of the period recipe books I’ve consulted, apart from in one recipe for apple and orange tart where the orange peel is stewed in water sweetened with honey before it’s added to the apple puree. There’s a lot of talk of strewing with sugar, and a deal of sweetening with same, but I have as yet been unable to find an authenticated recipe using honey, apart from an uncooked gingerbread recipe from Gervase Markham’s “English Housewife” (1614): 
 A Seventeenth Century Cookbook

Take a quart of honey clarified, and seethe it till it be brown, and if it be thick put to it a dish of water; then take fine crumbs of white bread grated, and put to it, and stir it well, and when it is almost cold, put to it powder of ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and a little liquorice and aniseeds; then knead it, and put it into moulds and print it; some use to put to it also a little pepper, but that is according to taste and pleasure.

Hannah Methwell
Read more of Hannah's posts and find her books on her blog, An Uncivil War

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Wooden Spoon Challenge: A Weirdly Serious Whovian Short Story

I accepted the Wooden Spoon Challenge from my friend, Tracey Gee. Tracey challenged me to write a historical short story under 2,000 words that also involved a wooden spoon and a turtle.

Because I’m a brat, I also incorporated the two other elements from Tracey’s challenge into mine: daffodils and sci-fi.

What do you get when you ask Jess to write a sci-fi historical with daffodils in it? 

It’s not exactly a Doctor Who fanfic, but let’s just say it exists within the same universe. Or the Doctor is crossing over into mine. Or something. It’s weirdly serious. Enjoy. :)


Hope

Copyright 2015 by Jessica Cale

February, 1941

Seren waded through the wreckage of the city center, walking instinctively toward the hole in the ground that used to be Swansea Market. 

The streets had only just cooled enough that they could be walked on again. Her mother should be at work by now, but the market was gone, and her stall with it. When Seren had left, her mother had been in their narrow kitchen with three other ladies from Bernard Street, speaking in hushed tones over tepid cups of tea. The house next door had suffered a direct hit and lay empty, still smoking days later. Mrs. Turner had been so proud of the renovation of her sitting room; now anyone could see the remaining half of it just by walking past.

Seren had just left when the bomb had hit. She had hidden in the Turners' Anderson shelter for three days and nights while the Nazis pelted the city with hundreds upon hundreds of bombs. She clutched her pet turtle, Speedy, as she listened to the destruction of her hometown. The sky was bright as day and she could see everything inside the shelter; the look on Mrs. Turner’s face, her hands over Bobby’s ears. Her own tears running in shining stream over her Speedy’s shell. Funny, she hadn’t realized she’d been crying.

Time had passed differently in the Anderson Shelter. Days and nights melted together into one long, terrible afternoon, the smell of smoke everywhere, in everything. She had remembered herself sometime during the third day. It was her hunger that brought her out of her panic-induced detachment. Her mother had put a batch of Welsh cakes on the side just before it had started and she had sent Seren to the Turner’s house to take cover. They would likely be there now; stale, perhaps, but they would still be good with jam. 

Welsh cakes.

That was all she had been thinking about when she left. Without a word, she slipped out to return home for a bite to eat, reaching the front door just in time to see the bomb coming.

The Turners were gone. Seren would be, too, if not for a sudden craving for Welsh cakes.

Seren stopped by the entrance to the market, or where it had been the week before. Her family was alive and their house untouched, but four boys in her class were dead, along with her maths teacher, the Turners, and hundreds of others. The city center was unrecognizable and with the market gone, no one knew where to go for food. 

Swansea had been flattened

There wasn’t so much as a sound in the city center. A seagull pecked at something beside a postbox that had somehow avoided destruction. A strange thing to see, a fat red pillar in a sea of grey. Just beyond, something blue.

The blue became brighter as the police box materialized before her eyes. Funny he should pick such a time to visit. There was nothing left to see.

The door opened and the Doctor strolled out. This time he was an older man apparently dressed as a magician. Seren frowned, wondering if it was the same person who had saved their Christmas years before. Surely there couldn’t be more than one person who travelled in a disappearing police box.

Maybe he was a magician 

He called, “Alright, Pandora?”

“It’s Seren,” she corrected. 

He strolled through the cinders as though he couldn’t see them, his long, loose strides eating up the distance between them. “It’s been awhile, hasn’t it, Pandora? How old are you now, forty?”

Seren frowned. “I’m twelve. And my name is Seren.”

He gave a sharp nod. “And how old is Speedy here?”

Seren hugged her turtle to her chest protectively. She was still relieved beyond belief that she had taken him with her. “He’s eight.”

“How many is that in turtle years?”

Seren shrugged. “Eight.”

“Old enough! Come along now, we’re going to be late.” He turned and headed back to the box.

She hurried after him. “Late for what? Where are we going?”

“Welsh cakes!” He called over his shoulder. “I’ve got the worst craving for a Welsh cake with cockles on it!”

Seren wrinkled her nose in distaste. “But the market--”

She forgot what she’d been about to say as she stepped inside the police box to find an enormous room filled with buttons, levers, and flashing lights. 

“We’re going to the market,” he announced as he punched at a panel of buttons. “Hold tight!”

Seren clutched her turtle as the ground shifted beneath her. It settled again with a groan. The Doctor strode past her in a flurry of coattails and threw open the door. Seren followed him and cautiously peeked out.

Outside was a place she didn’t recognize. It was a market, but not like any market she’d ever seen. A row of covered stalls stretched out before her, loaded with watches, spices, cheese, and even candles. She smelled the tang of salt from a seafood counter, little white cups of fresh cockles behind the glass case. People bustled from vendor to vendor in strange clothes, some of them talking into little black boxes they held to their ears.

“Where are we?” She asked.

“Swansea Market,” he said. “It’s much bigger on the inside.” 

He plunged headlong into the crowd and she scrambled after him, nearly tripping over a boy in a strange hat and a short white coat. “Watch it, love!”

“Sorry!” She called, running after the black coattails disappearing into the crowd.

The Doctor stopped abruptly in front of a wooden stall of Welsh cakes and she crashed into him, falling backward against a stall. Something wooden hit her head and bounced harmlessly off of Speedy’s shell, clattering to the cement floor. 

Speedy was unfazed. She picked up the object to find that it was a wooden lovespoon, carved in an intricate design of knotwork twisted around a daffodil in full bloom. The word hope was carved across the heart-shaped bowl in a curving hand. 

“What are you doing down there, Pandora? I thought you wanted Welsh cakes.”

Seren climbed to her feet and joined him at the counter, stroking Speedy’s shell reassuringly. He’d been through a lot. She looked around herself as the Doctor ordered a packet of cakes, wondering if it they could really be in Swansea Market. It was bigger than the market her mother had worked in, and covered so that they appeared to be indoors. Had they rebuilt it? 

The Doctor waved a packet of Welsh cakes under her nose. She grabbed one and took a ravenous bite. It was still hot and the sugar melted on her tongue. She smiled for the first time in days. 

A girl looked at her curiously from behind the counter. 

Seren smiled at her.

“I like your turtle,” the girl said. “I have a turtle, too.”

“His name is Speedy,” Seren informed her, shoving the last of the Welsh cake into her mouth.

“Mine’s called Richard.”

“Yes, dear, but what are you called?” The Doctor prompted.

“I’m Seren,” the girl introduced herself.

“That’s my name, too!” 

“I was named after my grandmother,” the girl added.

A woman approached the counter from the other side. “Seren! Come along, darling. You don’t want to bother the old man.” 

The Doctor frowned. “She’s not an old man, she’s a little girl!”

The woman only smiled at him blankly and began flipping cakes on the griddle, the currants peeking out from the gooey centers. Her every movement was careful, methodical, and there was something about the way she moved her hands that made Seren think of her mother back home on Bernard Street. Her eyes settled on the woman’s name badge and again saw that word. Hope

The Doctor saw her notice. He smiled his secret smile, no more than a twitch in his cheek. “Come along, Pandora. Time to go back into the box.”

She followed him through the market, munching her Welsh cake. There was no rush this time, only a pleasant, meandering walk through the dozens of stalls. They passed olives, incense, flowers, and a corner full of tables piled high with vegetables. “Is this really Swansea Market?” She asked.

“Oh, yes,” he assured her. “It took you a little while to rebuild, but when you did, you did it up right! It was no time at all in the grand scheme of things. Perhaps twenty years.”

“Twenty years!” She cried. “I’ll be old then!”

“Old, yes,” he agreed. “Old enough to open your own stall, I imagine. You’d better start working on your business plan now!”

She followed him into the police box and held her turtle tight as the box began to shake once again, trying not to crush the last Welsh cake in the packet in her fist. The ground settled, the door opened, and again she stood in front of the pit where the market had been. 

This time it didn’t look half as desolate as it had before. She thought of the people shopping at the covered stalls, blissfully unaware that there had ever been a bomb, let alone hundreds of them. The market had recovered and maybe, given enough time, she could, too. 

“What’s in the box, Pandora?”

She turned suddenly. She had forgotten the Doctor was there. “I beg your pardon?”

He smiled. “Come now, you’re a clever girl. What’s in the last thing in the box?”

Seren looked into the pit and saw the same destruction, but this time, there was a glimmer of something else beneath the ashes. 

“Hope.” She remembered. “The last thing in Pandora’s box was hope.”


*** 
You can learn more about Wales's Blitz here.

Comment here and let me know if you want a challenge of your own! You get 24 hours to write it and I get to pick the guidelines...bwahahahahah!

Character Interview: Lady Jane Ramsey

It is late one Wednesday night in 1671 and I am sitting in the Rose & Crown in Southwark with Lady Jane Ramsey. 

She has just arrived from work and she looks tired. Only halfway through the week, and she’s already worked nearly thirty-six hours as a seamstress across the street. When we left her at the end of Tyburn, she was wielding a poker in a gorgeous blue dress, and now she’s wielding needles in homespun. The difference is significant. I try to hide my surprise at her appearance as she downs her first glass of wine. 

Thank you for taking the time to meet with me, Lady Jane.

(Whispers, distressed) Don’t call me that here! 

Oh, of course. Sorry! What do the people around here call you?

Jane, is all. People tend not to ask questions here. 

Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?

Of course not. May I ask you one?

Sure.

(leans in) Why are we here?

I have some news for you. I have written your story and it’s coming out in April.

Surely not...the whole story?

Definitely the whole story.

...the fight?

Yes.

...the pig pen?

Yep.

...the incident with the poker?

Oh yes. That part’s been out since December.

(covers her eyes) I’ve never been so embarrassed…

There’s no need to be embarrassed. I think your story is wonderful. You ran away from home--

I certainly did!

--and you made a life for yourself here in Southwark. I think that’s very brave. Was it difficult?

Difficult? It wasn’t precisely difficult, no. I did it because I had to. There was nothing else I could have done. 

Your father might disagree…

I’m certain he would, but it was never his decision to make. I value my freedom too highly to surrender it because someone tells me I ought to. I’d had quite enough of his making decisions for me, so I had to go. He chose everything for me, you understand. My dresses, my servants, my meals, my lessons. He even chose the furnishings in my old room right down to that ghastly footstool with the salmon ruffles. When he chose a man for me--if you can say that Lord Lewes is indeed a man--I knew it had to end.

Lord Lewes was not to your taste?

(makes a face) You are jesting?

I really am. I remember him drooling over Sally in Tyburn.

I wasn’t there. I’m given to understand that Nick hit him. 

I’m given to understand that you’ve been doing a little hitting of your own lately! Is it true that you’re learning to box?

(groans) You’ve been talking to Carys. We’ve been going to the fights down at Bear Gardens and she’s insisted I learn to throw a punch or two. She’s really very skilled. She assures me it can be most cathartic to hit something now and then, and I rather fear she’s right…

Anyone in particular you’d like to hit?

(Jane glances at the bar. There’s no one back there but Meg Henshawe, pouring a beer. She glares at us and Jane pretends not to notice.)

No one I can think of.

Has Meg been giving you a hard time? I know she has a thing for Mark…

A thing? A claim, certainly. She never lets me forget it.

Tell me about Mark. Did he give you the welcome you were expecting?

Not at all.

What were you hoping was going to happen?

It’s silly, really. 

Go on?

I suppose I had this idea that he’d be happy to see me, and we’d run away together and get married and have a dozen children. (laughs) Things aren’t always simple, are they?

No, they’re not. Can you describe your perfect man? 

(shrugs) Well, he’d be Mark. 

Still?

Of course. Always. I’ve never met anyone like him. He’s stubborn and ridiculous, but he has a good heart. The best of hearts.

And he’s not hard to look at, either.

(blushes) No, indeed. 

Would you still want to stay in Southwark even if nothing ever happens between you two? 

Of course. All of my friends are here. I have a job, and Carys can’t keep up on the orders on her own. If I went back I’d have to marry someone awful, no doubt. I can’t see someone like Lord Lewes allowing me to work, drink spirits, or attend fights with my friends. 

Do you miss anything about it at all? Being Lady Jane?

I do. It isn’t easy living in Southwark. I’d like a dry room with a good bed and enough money to afford kindling. I’d like to eat fresh bread every day and not have to ration my cheese until I get paid. I miss my maid, I miss drinking chocolate, and I miss all of my lovely thick stockings. I only have two pair now, you know, and the warmer ones are full of holes. I would love to sit in front of a roaring fire with tea and biscuits, but that’s not likely to happen here. Did you now that most people here have never even heard of tea?

Everyone drinks coffee, don’t they?

They do! And it’s the thickest, most vile concoction anyone ever dreamt of! But do you know, I’m growing accustomed to it? No matter how cold it gets, or how badly I’d like some tea, it’s not worth going back. This place has a charm of its own, and I like it here. There’s a fire just here, and I can have my coffee with a pork pie--they do marvellous pies here--and have a chat with my friends. That’s all I need, really. 

And Mark?

He’d be ideal, but for now it’s just me and Horatio.

Horatio?!

The rat that lives in my wall. Charming little fellow. He has darling ears! 

***

Read the rest of Jane’s story in Virtue’s Lady (The Southwark Saga, Book 2), coming out on April 13th from Liquid Silver Books. In the meantime, pop over to Tami Lund’s for a very cheeky interview with Mark Virtue...

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Girl About Town

Welcome back! 

January has turned out to be a rather busy month, with some fun guest posts and even more appearances coming up! In case you've missed anything, I have them here for you:

Hoydens & Firebrands: The Price of Beauty in the 17th Century
This is an especially fun post I wrote for the brilliant ladies over at Hoydens & Firebrands talking about the use of white lead in makeup in the seventeenth century. Ceruse appears in Tyburn, and this article tells you a little bit more about it (how it was made, what it was like to wear, how it could kill you, etc). There's also an interesting section on patches. If you, like me, are fascinated by the idea of getting lead poisoning through your face, pop on over to Hoydens & Firebrands!

Connie Bretes: Tyburn Excerpt
I got to stop by Connie Brete's awesome blog with another excerpt from Tyburn. Check it out! 

Coming This Month


LOVExtra: Wednesday, January 14th
I will be stopping by LOVExtra with an excerpt from Tyburn and my recipe for Raspberry & Rose macarons. Yum! 

The History Vault: Thursday, January 15th
I have an article appearing on History Vault this month called Taking Back Tyburn, which is about the place of execution itself rather than my book. In this article, I talk about the rituals surrounding the executions from both sides; the ones used by the authorities to instill fear into the public, and those perpetuated by the public to make the executions their own in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. If you were under the impression that people were generally more obedient in this period, I can fix that. 

Irene Preston: Friday, January 16th
This Friday I will be a guest on Irene Preston's fun foodie blog with my recipe for Chocolate & Bailey's macarons. These suckers turned out GREAT. You're going to want to see the pictures. If you haven't been there before, be sure to check out Irene's blog for some great recipes from some awesome authors. Books + Food = one delicious combination! I know I want to try Nancy C Weeks' recipe for Carne Asada. Yum! 

Alison Stuart: Saturday, January 17th
On Saturday I will be visiting Alison Stuart's blog with some fun historical facts I learned while researching Tyburn. Alison Stuart also writes romances set in the seventeenth century, and takes her research very seriously (which is one of the many reasons why I love her). If you like this period -- or just very well-written romance -- you'll want to check out Alison Stuart. 

Hosting Diane Saxon: Saturday, January 17th
I will also be hosting the wonderful Diane Saxon here on Saturday. Diane is another great Liquid Silver author and I am very excited to hear all about her latest release! 

Hummingbird Place on BlogTalk Radio: Monday, January 26th
That's right, I'm going to be on the radio! At 7:45 Eastern, I will be talking with host Donna Wright about Tyburn and the Southwark Saga. If you've ever wondered what I sound like, here's your chance to find out. I'm going to ruin it for you -- I talk a bit too fast in an American accent that doesn't fit any region in particular (I'm from MN, but we don't all talk like they do in Fargo - which, by the way, is in North Dakota) that tends toward a sing-songy cadence left over from Wales with lots of random British words thrown in. This is what happens when you live half your life in another country. It's a little weird. 

Unusual Historicals: February 5th and 8th
And finally, I will be on Unusual Historicals with an interview and a giveaway at the beginning of February. This website is an absolutely awesome place to find historical romance set in unusual periods or that are otherwise untraditional (but still wicked awesome). Check it out!

Whew! That's it for this month, but more great stuff is coming up all the time. My history posts have slowed down a little (I'm sorry!), but I am currently hard at work on the third book in the Southwark Saga, which is Alice's book. It takes place in 1677 when Alice is nineteen, and she has one hell of an adventure. I hope you'll enjoy it. I'm also hoping to have some news for you about Jane's book soon...watch this space!