Posts made in July, 2017

Sunday Quote is not ready for August

Posted by on Jul 30, 2017 in Blog, Quote | 0 comments

“Sometimes you read a book so special that you want to carry it around with you for months after you’ve finished just to stay near it.”
~ Markus Zusak

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Bready or Not: Easy Buttermilk Biscuits

Posted by on Jul 26, 2017 in Blog, Bready or Not, breakfast | 0 comments

I first posted this recipe over three years ago. I’m sharing it again because 1) biscuits are timeless and awesome, and 2) I have much better photographs this time around.

Buttermilk Biscuits

I failed at buttermilk biscuits for years. This grieved me. This recipe, finally, is the one that has repeatedly produced lofty, flaky, perfect biscuits.

Buttermilk Biscuits

The trick is to keep small chunks of butter throughout the dough. That’s what makes flaky layers. Most of the pieces should be pea-sized, and somewhat flat. For that reason, I will start mixing everything together with a big spoon or pastry cutter, but by the end I use my fingers.

Buttermilk Biscuits

Biscuits are important within my family. My dad’s from Alabama. My husband’s family has Arkansas roots. Most meals come with a side of bread, and you can’t get more southern than baking soda-leavened biscuits.

Buttermilk Biscuits

I never keep buttermilk around, but instead rely on sour milk. I have also made these using buttermilk powder and water. The biscuits taste the same with every method–DELICIOUS.

Bready or Not: Easy Buttermilk Biscuits

Buttermilk Biscuits

These easy biscuits are perfect for morning or night! For the buttermilk, you can substitute sour milk (add a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to milk or half & half, let sit about 10 minutes until it curdles) or buttermilk powder (follow package directions). This will produce a large baking sheet of biscuits. Baked biscuits can also be frozen.

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 cubes) cold unsalted butter, cut up
  • 1 1/2 cups cold buttermilk [or sour milk]
  • 1/4 cup extra milk, to brush on tops BEFORE baking
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, melted, to brush on tops AFTER baking

Preheat oven to 450-degrees. Prepare baking sheet by lightly greasing or using parchment or baking mats.

Combine the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Gradually cut the butter into the flour mix, using a pastry blender or forks until it's down to pea size.

Add the buttermilk and combine until it just comes together. Don't overwork it! The butter needs to stay in small lumps; that creates the flaky layers. It's often best to use fingers to mix at the end.

Lightly flour about a square foot of counter. Press the dough out to be about an even 3/4-inch thick. Use a 3-inch round biscuit cutter to punch out shapes and place on baking sheets. Brush a little bit of milk on the biscuits.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until they turn golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately brush melted butter on the tops.

OM NOM NOM!

 

Buttermilk Biscuits

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5 Big Reasons Literary Agents are Important Beyond the Book Deal

Posted by on Jul 25, 2017 in Blog, writerly advice | 0 comments

If you’re working on a book and aiming at the traditional publication route, acquiring a literary agent feels like the key to make all your dreams come true. An agent can submit the Big 5 Publishers, after all, and from there your book can be made available anywhere and everywhere around the world.

The thing is, real life isn’t like a book. After you sign the book deal and work to make your novel all shiny, your life is not emblazoned with a bold THE END. (At least, I sure hope not!) Life goes on. As you write more books and develop more of a relationship with your publisher–or publishers–it means a lot to have a staunch advocate working to better your career. Here’s what an agent might do beyond reading the fine print on your contract.

Call of Fire– Know the trends.
The publishing world is small. As readers and authors, we hear some news about deals and see the new releases, but agents follow the pulse of the industry and know about the books that will be out in a year, two, three years. That’s why an agent might love a manuscript that lands in their slush pile, but they might not pick it up–there might be a glut of similar books that are already signed and in the publication process.

– Edit.
Not all agents edit. Not all authors want an agent who edits. My agent edits and I love her for it, even though her feedback is brutal at times. Not only is she great at critiquing, but–to return to the first point–she knows the industry and what makes a book strong or weak in this particular market. That’s insight beyond what I can get from my fellow authors.

– Act as mediator.
When you establish a relationship with a publisher, agents become this wonderful buffer between author and editor. They get to nag on your behalf. They get to email/phone and pester about late manuscript edits or financial statements or book cover progress. That doesn’t mean agents handle ALL interactions with your editor. A lot of day-to-day interactions are directly between editor and author, but agents are there to call on when things get awkward.

– Career guidance.

Some agents work with authors on a book by book basis. Others make a pact for the full career of the author, and that’s the kind of relationship I have. Here’s the thing: the book industry is weird. Your book might not sell. Editors come and go. Imprints fail. Publishers are bought-out. A supportive agent looks beyond the book you’re working on now, and on to the next series, or a new series. Again, they see the trends. They see what is selling–or not. I rely on my agent’s business savvy to guide me along.

– Cheerleader/superhero.
Writing is my happiness, my joy. Sometimes, it is also a particular kind of hell. My agent is there to talk me off the ledge. She’s not just a cheerleader, she’s a superhero, cape and all. Agents are there for the good times (book deal, whoo hoo!) and also the bad times: when rough drafts stay particularly rough, when deadlines are zooming by, when the publisher is supporting about as well as a ten-year-old bra.

So sure, an agent will help you get a book deal and make sure the contract is fair, but they do so much more. They are there to help you along, book after book, and during those lulls in between books, too. A supportive agent is there to do whatever they possibly can to ensure that your writing career consists of more “TO BE CONTINUEDS” than “THE ENDS.”

Originally posted at Novelocity. #SFWAPro

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Sunday Quote soon has a kid in 7th grade

Posted by on Jul 23, 2017 in Blog, Quote | 0 comments

“The very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man.”
~T.S. Eliot

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Bready or Not: Maple Walnut White Chocolate Biscotti

Posted by on Jul 19, 2017 in Blog, Bready or Not, breakfast, chocolate, cookies, maple | 0 comments

Back in May, I posted my Snickerdoodle Biscotti recipe. This is the next installment: Maple-Walnut White Chocolate Biscotti, modified from a King Arthur Flour recipe.

Bready or Not: Maple Walnut White Chocolate Biscotti

I first made this following the original version pretty closely. I received feedback that it was good, but it was also way too nutty.

Bready or Not: Maple-Walnut White Chocolate Biscotti

Clearly, I needed to rewrite the recipe and make it work. I decided to halve the walnuts, and replace that half with white chocolate chips. This time, I received feedback that they were the most awesome biscotti ever.

Bready or Not: Maple-Walnut White Chocolate Biscotti

In a single bite, it’s easy to see why. The maple flavor is great, the walnuts add a wonderful crunch within the already-crunchy dough, and the white chocolate adds sublime sweetness to bring everything together.

Bready or Not: Maple-Walnut White Chocolate Biscotti

Since these are biscotti, they will keep well, sealed, for weeks. That makes these great for mailing (though perhaps not in the middle of summer, as there is some chocolate in these) or presenting as gifts.

Bready or Not: Maple-Walnut White Chocolate Biscotti

As I noted before, homemade biscotti cannot be compared to the store versions, which could be used as billy clubs to defend households against burglars. Homemade biscotti are crunchy but still chewy… and, of course, taste best if dipped into coffee or tea.

Bready or Not: Maple Walnut White Chocolate Biscotti

Bready or Not: Maple Walnut White Chocolate Biscotti

These twice-baked cookies bring together maple, walnuts, and white chocolate in glorious cookie-stick form. Eat these dipped into your hot beverage of choice. Biscotti will keep well for weeks. Adapted from a King Arthur Flour recipe.

  • 1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 3/4 teaspoon maple flavor
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 Tablespoon maple sugar or turbinado sugar for topping, optional

Preheat oven at 350-degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Toast the walnuts for about 8 minutes, until they're light golden brown and smell toasty. Set them aside in a bowl to cool, but keep the parchment on the pan.

In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, sugars, maple syrup, and maple flavor. Add the melted butter, and beat until smooth.

Mix in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the walnuts next, followed by the white chocolate chips.

Divide the dough in half on the prepared baking sheet. Form each into a log about 4 inches wide and 10 inches long; make sure there is space between the two logs, as they'll grow in the oven.

Sprinkle maple sugar or turbinado sugar over the tops of both logs.

Bake about 30 minutes, until the biscotti is lightly browned with small cracks forming across the top. Remove the baking sheet, but be sure to leave the oven on.

Let the biscotti cool for 10 minutes. Use a large knife, such as a bread knife, to diagonally slice the logs 1/2-inch apart. Use a straight-down motion to cut; don't saw.

Arrange the biscotti spaced out on the baking sheet. Stand them up if possible, or lay them on their sides. Bake for another 20 to 25 minutes, flipping them over halfway if necessary, to equally crisp both sides.

Cool completely on the baking sheet. Store in an airtight container as long as a few weeks.

OM NOM NOM!

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