Food and Fiction: Mercy’s Trouble Chocolate

Alright, it’s chocolate-centric week, because I’m most likely in Belgium right now, gallivanting about and visiting chocolate shops. However, that is something I’ll probably be blogging about much later in the week when I get back from vacation, and instead, this is more along the lines of “Oh, hey, I finally finished Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs and I want to talk about chocolate chip cookies!”

Or chocolate in general.

So just a quick summary of the book and the Mercy Thompson universe: Silence Fallen is the tenth installation of the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs, and revolves around Mercedes Athena Thompson Hauptman, now the mate of the Columbia Basin’s Alpha werewolf. For those who are a fan of–or who have read–the series, you’ll know at this point that Mercy is living a rather eclectic life as a mechanic and non-werewolf wife. She’s also a shape-shifting coyote, is friends with a powerful fae, is bonded to an equally powerful vampire, and has adopted a fire-generating fae spirit. Mercy can also see and command ghosts. So. Yeah. Not a normal life by any means, and things just escalate from there.

One of my favorite things about Mercy is the fact that she bakes cookies. You laugh at this minute detail, but seriously, she does a lot of baking in the books. I admire her for that, because honestly, how does she find the time between being kidnapped by vampires and having to fend for herself against the Gray Lords and coyote-hating pack members? But she does, and in the beginning of Silence Fallen legit starts with her trying to bake cookies.

Of course, everything goes horribly wrong afterwards, but that’s besides the point.

The point is, I ended up with a craving for chocolate chip cookies. So I made them.

Thankfully, I wasn’t making cookies for a pack of werewolves, so I didn’t have to worry about lack of ingredients! So no vampire-induced car accidents here!

I was, however, baking these cookies for a get-together, so I decided to add a bit of extra into it. Mmm…coffee chocolate chip cookies here we come!

I used the recipe from Cathy at Lemon Tree Dwelling. And they came out delicious, by the way!

The coffee flavor came out, and the cookies themselves were seriously disappearing pretty quickly! I’d definitely make them again.

Anyway, I’ll end it there. Gotta run and frolic!

This post counts as #3 of my Food and Fiction Challenge.

Food and Fandom: Winter King’s Pirozhki

bearnightingaleNot gonna lie, the entire time I read The Bear and the Nightingale I kept thinking about the old-school baking that was happening in the oven at Pyotr’s hearth. Every single time, Dunya was always baking something, and Vasya almost always tried to steal some of the food that came freshly out of the oven.

Vasya, thinking of cakes, went meekly to her stool. There was a heap of them already cooling on the table, brown on the outside and flecked with ash. A corner of one cake crumbled as the child watched. Its insides were midsummer–gold, and a little curl of steam rose up. Vasya swallowed. Her morning porridge seemed a year ago.

So naturally, I turned to Russian inspiration for this Food and Fiction Challenge, and there were several descriptions of food that made me think about what I wanted to do.

They dined outside, on eggs and kasha and summer greens, bread and cheese and honey. The usual cheerful muddle was subdued. The young peasant women stood in knots and whispered.

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Mmm…apples and cheese are the best.

One thing I did note was that there was a lot of bread and honey involved. So from the get-go, I wanted to do something with bread and honey. And honestly, bread with honey just sounded lovely and traditional and simple (well, not too simple, considering bread tends to take more time with the whole rising thing).

The table was laid with two silver cups and a slender ewer. The scent of warm honey floated through the room. A loaf of black bread, smelling of rye and anise, lay beside a platter of fresh herbs. On one side stood a bowl of pears and on the other a bowl of apples…

Cautiously, Vasya picked up an apple and bit down. Icy sweetness dazzled her tongue. She reached for the bread. Before she knew it, her bowl was empty, half the loaf was gone, and she sat replete, feeding bits of bread and fruit to the two horses.

And then it hit me. Why not put apples INSIDE the bread, too? Isn’t there some kind of Russian dessert that does that?

So I found that there was. Say hello to the pirozhki.

Morozko’s Pirozhki

In essence, pirozhki are baked or fried bread buns filled with stuffing inside. Stuffing can be either savory or sweet, and the dough can be formed into various shapes so long as it holds the stuffing properly inside. Typically, people use meat like beef to stuff inside a pirozhki. Personally, I always go for the sweet stuff, because why the heck not.

This brought me into thinking about the book, The Bear and the Nightingale itself. For the most part, I was struck by the scenes in the winter-king’s home. I swear he always tried to feed Vasya, so whenever Vasya woke, she always found an abundance of fruit, bread, and mead at the table. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Morozko HAD put in some apple pirozhki for Vasya to eat at some point. They sound super-delicious.

I got the recipe from Natasha’s Kitchen, along with the apples and then-some. I really didn’t do anything differently from the recipe, so I won’t re-hash the steps and ingredients again. I mean, there was some point where I ALMOST forgot to put the second half of my divided sugar, which would have been a BAD idea, but I remembered at the last minute, so it was all good.

Just something to think about, though, as far as playing with yeast: I do not have a thermometer (I really need to get one, considering…) nor do I have a proofing chamber, so I improvised by turning on my oven, letting it heat up for a couple minutes, then turned it off again and let it cool. Once it was relatively warm, but not too warm, I put my dough in the proofing chamber and let it rise. The effects were roughly the same as a proofing chamber, and honestly, the bread baked so well that I have no complaints.

I also didn’t process the apples, choosing instead just to dice them and then lightly cook them with sugar. Nothing fancy. Next time, I may add some cinnamon, though.

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I did run out of apple filling, so for the last two batches of dough, I broke them into pieces, rolled them into round shapes, and then doused them with honey before baking them in, too.

Verdict: The results were MAH-VELOUS, dahling. I could taste the warmth of the hearth and of gold and sunshine, etc. etc. Now all I need is a bit of mead…

Food and Fandom: Rephaim Chestnuts

I had planned to include this in my book review of Samantha Shannon’s The Bone Season but Winter had other plans. I mean, I couldn’t exactly get myself groceries when the snowstorm pretty much last weekend. And okay, I may be exaggerating the degree of the weather, but no way was I driving in it on a darn Saturday morning.

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Anyway, that really isn’t the point. The point is, this is officially my first entry into my Food and Fiction Reading Challenge. I’ve already said what I had to say about the book itself, which I highly recommend, so I just wanted to focus a little bit on some of the foodie-things in the pages.

Chestnuts Roasting on a Rephaim Fire

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Firstly, Rephaim don’t really eat. Not in the human sense. What they feed on is more menacing, and relates to voyant aura (actually, it pretty much IS voyant aura). However, because the Rephaim do keep amaurotic (“non-clairvoyant”) and voyant (“clairvoyant”) humans on Sheol I with them, it makes sense that food is still a viable product of the society. Not only that, Paige is getting a pretty good deal out of it, considering how much Warden tends to like feeding her. I suppose his reasoning runs along the lines of keeping her fit enough to mind-fight some Emim, but I’m pretty sure he just likes watching humans eat. Some people are like that.

The boy returned with a pot of coffee. He placed the tray on the table with a generous plate of baked chestnuts, dusted with cinnamon. Their sweet smell made my mouth water. There was a vendor near the Blackfriars Bridge that sold them in the winter months. These ones looked even better than his, with cracked brown shells and velvety white insides. There was fruit, too: segments of pear, glossy cherries, soft smiles of red apple…

I plucked a chestnut from the plate, still hot from the oven. It tasted like warmth and winter.

(The Bone Season, p. 252)

Considering it’s snowing AGAIN as I look up from my computer, I find this passage highly appropriate. It also reminded me somewhat of those roasted nut carts scattered around New York City, where they often sell a pack of nuts that are either lightly salted or sweetened, depending on the vendor (and omg, the smell of roasted almonds and pecans are AMAZING). But in all my wanderings around the city, I don’t think I ever encountered chestnut vendors. Then again, I’ve never really had much experience with chestnuts to begin with.

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I don’t remember much of the taste of chestnuts, though after opening up the pack of peeled chestnuts, I was reminded that I actually DID try chestnuts before. That said, I wasn’t sure which ones were better, so I ended up purchasing two different types: peeled and unpeeled.

They were both ready to eat, but I wanted them “still hot from the oven” as described, so I dusted a bit of cinnamon on top and popped them into the oven for a few minutes. Then I proceeded to make tea. (Yes, not coffee, but only because I already had my coffee earlier in the day, and I prefer the comforts of tea to go with my snacks. Also, Paige mentioned having tea at some point in the book as well, so there’s that, because, you know, she’s in the friggin’ UK, lol!) On top of that, once the chestnuts were finally baked a bit, I added some dried fruit to the side. I didn’t want to get too literal, mostly because I don’t like pear and I figured an assortment of dried fruits would help me figure out which ones tasted really well with the chestnuts.

Verdict: Oh yum. They seriously did taste like warmth and winter in your mouth! That said, The cinnamon wasn’t utterly necessary, because the chestnuts themselves have a nice sweet potato-ey taste. The unpeeled chestnuts were my favorite of the two, because you got that extra smoky baked flavor after biting into the chestnut. Probably because the heat gets trapped inside, what with the shell covering most of the insides to begin with.

Food and Fiction 2017: A Reading Challenge

I’m trying to tell myself not to be silly-nervous about starting up and hosting a reading challenge this year, but I can’t help it, considering I’ve seen so many stellar reading challenges floating around already and I mean…another one? Cue groaning, am I right? (RIGHT?)

But all the same, I have been playing with the idea for a while now, and thought, well, why not? It seemed like something fun to do, and if all else fails, it’ll motivate me to at least continue to update my Food and Fandom section–which I hadn’t updated in a while…

(In hindsight, sorry about starting this a bit late, I should have started this earlier in the month, but what’s done is done…it’s not like I’m going to be closing off the signing up list or anything, though!)

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Food and Fiction Reading Challenge 2017

Intro

Plenty of fiction books talk about food. As a spec-fic reader, I am always in awe of the worldbuilding that goes about in the story, and one particular detail I pay attention to is how authors describe scenes where characters interact over a meal. These scenes are not groundbreaking or anything, and most of the time they don’t really move the plot along (unless you’re drinking wine at the Purple Wedding, hem hem…). But come on. It’s FOOD. What’s not to be inspired about it?

Challenge Guidelines

  • The challenge will run from January 1st, 2017 to December 31st, 2017.
  • Read a book of fiction with some mention of food. It could be as simple as a mention of a rare cup of aromatic Colombian coffee or a grand Mediterranean feast in some faraway kingdom.
  • Share your review of the book (short, long, a teeny status update) on your blog, Goodreads account or, heck, YouTube channel and other similar bloggy places.
  • Include a blurb about what food craving you ended up having after finishing the book! Blurbs can be: pictures of what you think the food looked like through the author’s description, accounts of you attempting to make the food or an interpretation of it, a recipe blog post of the food from the fictional book, or even pictures of where you went afterwards to satisfy a particular craving.
    • Examples (and reading challenge inspiration, really) can be found at my Food and Fandom page.
  •  You can set your own number of books you’d like to use for this challenge!

To Participate

  • Challenge yourself to read, review, and foodify a certain number of books. Again, it can be as little or as much as you want. Comment below to let me know you plan to participate and how many book-food-thingies you may be doing for the year. Also, you could tell me what food cravings you’ve had so far when you’ve read books.
  • Make sure to link me! I will be setting up a linky each month for you to show me what you guys have read and done. I love looking at pictures of food, obviously.
  • Spread the word! I will be using #foodandfiction for Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, so feel free to use it so I can see what you guys have up. And share the love, because the more the merrier!

For 2017, I plan to do at least 12 food and fiction-related posts (once a month). This means I need to step it up! So with that all said, good luck and have fun with it!

And of course, feel free to comment below with questions, etc. Again, this being my first attempt at a challenge, I could be missing a few things and it won’t hurt to point me to the right direction. 😀

Food and Fandom: Hodor

The fall season is practically the funnest and busiest time for me, and honestly, most of the “busy” bit tends to fall on October and November, especially since I’m spending half that time baking goodies for relatives and friends. I also have two siblings sharing the same birthday month, so I definitely had to step it up and make them something extra creative. My sister already got a Nyan Cake, so at this point, I was all caked out.

Which meant when my brother’s turn came, I wanted to do something else.

Cue the brownies. And the zombies. And the Game of Thrones reference.

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Thank you, Erin Browne, for the Ooey Gooey Fudge Brownies Recipe! I’ve made these brownies a few times now, and they’ve always been real delicious (although, yes, again, I made alterations according to my semi-sweet vs. dark chocolate taste buds).

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1 Tbsp flour for coating chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven 350 F. Coat 8×8 baking dish with light layer of cooking spray (or, well, if you want to take the brownies easily out of the dish, line the dish with parchment paper).

Combine sugar, butter, vanilla until smooth and fluffy. Sift dry ingredients in different bowl. Beat eggs slowly into sugar mixture until combined. Add flour mixture 1-2 cups at a time, mix until combined.

Coat chocolate chips into 1 Tbsp flour, then fold into brownie batter. Pour into pan, level with rubber spatula. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Some Changes: I actually like adding a bit of a dark chocolate glaze to smooth out the top of the brownie, but for this particular case, I didn’t, because my sister wanted a rougher look to our “brownie door.” I also didn’t have any dark chocolate chips in my cupboard at the time, but I did use my last batch of Jacques Torres dark chocolate (which is AMAZING, by the way), so I just broke that up into pieces and tossed it into the Tbsp of flour. For pans that are larger than 8×8, I would suggest lessening the baking time, which I did. I think 20 minutes was my maximum, to be honest. The only other thing I would also point out is that I found this set of brownies was a little less gooey than the previous times I’d baked it. I’m thinking it’s because my eggs were medium-sized, so I’d probably go with larger eggs whenever I make these brownies again.

Hodor Brownies

SPOILER ALERT: If you have not watched the latest season of HBO’s Game of Thrones and don’t plan on getting a face-full of spoilers, you might want to skip the rest of this post altogether, because uh, yeah. For the brownie is dark and full of spoilers.

Onto the decorations…

My sister and I had already decided early on what we wanted to do for our brother on his birthday. In fact, it would have been PERFECT had we managed to get the Hodor Funko Pop doll, but it was already vaulted, and neither of us were too keen on paying an exorbitant amount of money just for a tiny decorative figure (even if it IS Hodor). So we decided on the next best thing:

A Hodor cake. Because my brother must always be taught that we respect men who hold doors.

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Too soon? Yeah, my brother thought so, too.

With my sister’s help–because she’s the more artistic one–we proceeded to gather up some colored melting chocolates to use as our brownie topping. Using this picture as reference, my sister began her awesome piping skillz and started sketching out the epic Hodor image that continues to haunt my siblings and me even now.

Alright, you can stop crying now, guys.