Interview with Alison Walsh, Author of A Literary Tea Party

If you saw my review from earlier this week about my favorite new cookbook, A Literary Tea Party, you can imagine how excited I am about today’s blog post: an interview with the author, Alison Walsh!

A Literary Tea Party

Alison Walsh first began cooking as a way to stretch her post-college paycheck, and it quickly grew into her blog, Alison’s Wonderland Recipes. Every month, Alison features a different classic novel on her blog, with a new recipe each week inspired by the Book of the Month. Currently, Alison is a mother and private tutor by day, and a wild food enthusiast by night. A Literary Tea Party is Alison’s first book.

How did you first get into baking?
I first started cooking when I graduated from college. Money was tight, so I used a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook I got for free to stretch my grocery budget. Even though it started out as purely practical, I wound up loving the cooking process. I found it really relaxing, and I loved that it could double as a creative outlet.

Are you a fan of any baking shows or other cookbooks?
I love the earlier seasons of the Great British Bake Off. Mary Berry is the greatest.

How did you choose which novels to create recipes from?
I love the classics. So for my blog, I think of what classic book I want to read, then I make a list of foods in the book as I read it. If there are enough to make a meal and I’m excited to do it, then I cook them up! For the cookbook, I created updated versions of recipes from my blog (plus some brand new ones) that I thought would work best in a tea time scenario.

Which of the recipes in this cookbook was the most fun to create? The most difficult?
The Cyclone Cookies from Wizard of Oz were fun to experiment with. They’ve got a unique look, and I enjoyed taking the time to perfect the recipe. The Turkish Delight was by far the most difficult. At first I had issues with the candies losing their shape after setting. Then my new version fused to the pan no matter what I used to grease it! I went through several variations, and I’m happy to say I love the version in the final copy. It was SO satisfying to finally figure it out!

What’s your favorite book?
That’s a tough one! I don’t know that I have one specific favorite. If I do, it’s definitely something by Agatha Christie!

What snacks do you like to keep beside you while you’re reading?
A mug of tea for sure. If I’m really on top of things, I’ll make some madeleines to go with it. If not, I have toast or Belvitas—anything I can share with the baby. He gets mad if I don’t share!

Do you have plans for any future books or cookbooks?
Nothing official yet, but I’ve got some ideas!

Now for my favorite question: If you were hosting your own literary tea party, which characters would you invite?
I LOVE this question! Jo March for sure. Then Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot…or maybe Sherlock Holmes? And Gandalf.

Thank you, Alison, for taking the time to answer these questions. If you haven’t already, please go visit Alison at her blog, Alison’s Wonderland Recipes. And look out for A Literary Tea Party in bookstores and online this week. Alison is also hosting a giveaway for her cookbook! Click here for all the details.

But before you go, tell me who you would host for your own fictional tea party? I’d love to have tea and sweets with Anne Shirley, of course, as well as Catherine Morland (I’d really just love to see her and Anne meet). I also think it would be fun to have Jules Verne or H.G. Wells stop by. The conversation sure would be interesting :)

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A Literary Tea Party by Alison Walsh

A Literary Tea Party

Tea and books: the perfect pairing. There’s nothing quite like sitting down to a good book on a lovely afternoon with a steaming cup of tea beside you, as you fall down the rabbit hole into the imaginative worlds of Alice in Wonderland, The Hobbit, and Sherlock Holmes…

But Fire up your literary fancies and nibble your way through delicate sweets and savories with A Literary Afternoon Tea, which brings food from classic books to life with a teatime twist. Featuring fifty-five perfectly portioned recipes for an afternoon getaway, including custom homemade tea blends and beverages, you will have everything you need to plan an elaborate tea party.

Accompanied with photographs and book quotes, these recipes, inspired by the great works of literature, will complement any good book for teatime reading and eating.

A Literary Tea Party by Alison Walsh
Published June 5, 2018 by Skyhorse Publishing
Format: Netgalley* e-book; 160 pages
Cookbook
Goodreads | Amazon | Author’s Website
My Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Thoughts

If you are a bookworm with a particular love for classics and you also enjoy cooking and/or baking, this cookbook is for you! It is very rare that I find a new book and read it in the same day. I have a bad habit of buying great books and then sitting on them for months (or even years!) before actually reading them. But when I came across A Literary Tea Party, I could not get it onto my Kindle fast enough. I read through all 50+ recipes in one afternoon and felt so inspired to host a tea party, or just spend an entire weekend baking.

Honestly, the fact that these recipes are inspired by several of my favorite literary stories and characters was enough to get me to read it. But I also found a lot of enjoyment in making a few of these delicious recipes. I like to bake, but I am in no way a talented baker. It’s just something I enjoy doing. So I picked two easier recipes and one that was slightly more challenging, and I loved every literary-inspired moment!

The first recipe I made was for these Blackberry Lemon Sweet Rolls from A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

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This was the first time I ever used yeast to make bread (except for maybe one time during 8th grade Home Ec), and it felt complicated at first, but overall I think I did well for a novice. This recipe is kind of messy, due to the jam and sticky dough, and overall I thought the rolls were slightly dry and maybe a little dense, but that could be my fault and not the recipe’s. I will definitely be making these again sometime, because they were a good breakfast bun that pairs wonderfully with a warm cup of tea.

The second recipe I tried was also for a muffin (I should have branched out with a savory recipe, but I can’t help that breakfast foods and sweets are my favorite things to bake!), an Arctic Trail Coffee Muffin from White Fang by Jack London.

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I did take a few liberties with these, namely using french vanilla instant cappuccino mix because I didn’t have regular instant coffee mix, using pumpkin pie spice instead of a ginger-nutmeg-cinnamon combo, and adding walnuts (because I love walnuts in my baked goods). This recipe was super quick and easy, and I loved spreading the recommended maple butter on top. My son also ate his weight in these muffins for a mid-morning snack/second breakfast (he is a hobbit baby).

The final recipe I tried (at least so far!) was for Dark Chocolate Earl Gray Lavender Truffles from “The Naval Treaty” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

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I’ve never made truffles before, but these were much easier than I had anticipated. This recipe calls for a whole tea bag of Earl Gray mixed with some chopped lavender buds, but I just used a Lavender Earl Gray tea blend my sister recently brought me from Portland. This tea is yummy, but can be super fragrant, so I only used about 1 1/4 tsp. of tea leaves. I probably could have used a tad bit more of the tea, since the lavender flavor was very mild, but I didn’t want to risk putting in too much and having soap-flavored truffles. These truffles were a little messy, but they came out super cute and I would love to make them again for a tea party or coffee date :)

Overall, I think this cookbook is the perfect gift for the special bookworm in your life, or something you should treat yourself to if you are a whimsy literature lover. There are some simple sandwich recipes as well as more complicated cakes and candy recipes, and even if you aren’t a fan of tea, there are tea alternatives (there is a raspberry cordial recipe I am going to make for when Season 2 of Anne With An E premieres on Netflix!). I have bookmarked at least 30 more recipes I really want to try, including some savory ones that would be perfect for the fall.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. These opinions are my own!

Walnut Spice Cake Inspired by Anne of Avonlea

Anne of Avonlea

“Poor Anne got her hat and her twenty dollars and was passing out when she happened to glance through the open pantry door. On the table reposed a nut cake which she had baked that morning…a particularly toothsome concoction iced with pink icing and adorned with walnuts. – Anne of Avonlea, Chapter 2

Yummmm. That was my thought when I read this passage from one of my all-time favorite books. Anne Shirley has many baking catastrophes when we first meet her in Anne of Green Gables, but every now and then she creates some truly delicious “concoctions” and pregnant me started craving this particular nut cake as soon as I pictured it with pink icing and walnuts. So I became inspired to bake my own! I know it’s summer and this cake has more of an autumnal taste to it, but it’s delicious all the same!

I found this recipe by Martha Stewart for an Applesauce Cake that I tweaked a bit

Walnut Spice Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey (I didn’t measure it out; I drizzled it)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups applesauce
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • For icing: 3 tablespoons melted butter, 2 cups confectioners’ sugar (add more or less, depending on your sweet-tooth), 4 tablespoons water, 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, red food coloring. Side note: next time I make this icing I will probably use a butter cream icing instead.
Messy Kitchen

I love messy kitchens while baking! (I also love cleaning it up as fast as I can once the cake is in the oven)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice. Set aside.

  2. In another bowl, with an electric mixer, beat butter, brown sugar, and honey until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined. With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture; beat just until combined. Beat in applesauce. Fold in walnuts.

  3. Generously coat a nonstick 9-inch tube pan with cooking spray. Spoon batter into pan; smooth top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean (but slightly wet), 60 to 70 minutes (I moved the pan to the bottom rack after 60 minutes so the middle of the cake would bake faster).

  4. Cool on a wire rack 10 minutes. Turn out of pan onto a cutting board or baking sheet; invert cake onto rack, top side up. Cool completely. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving, or top with icing and chopped walnuts, if desired.

  5. For Icing: Mix melted butter, confectioners’ sugar, water, and vanilla extract until smooth. Add 1-2 drops of red food coloring to get the pinkness you desire. Stir until blended. Pour over cake and sprinkle chopped walnuts on top. Tip: reheat icing just before pouring. Halfway around the cake I noticed that my icing wasn’t “dripping” enough.
Walnut Spice Cake

Ta-da! Walnut Spice Cake, inspired by Anne of Avonlea by L. M. Montgomery.

Enjoy!

It’s A Wonderful Life!

Christmastime is upon us!!

Normally we buy a tree and kick of the Christmas season one or two days after Thanksgiving, but this year we had to delay a week and it was hard! But finally we have Christmas-fied our house!

On Thursday night we went and bought a tree, but we couldn’t decorate it until Friday night.

Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree Decorated Tree

Isn’t it pretty?!?! I’ve always loved “traditional” Christmas trees, as I call them, with the multicolored lights and various types of classic and homemade ornaments. Last year in France we  had more of a red, white, & wood mountain-themed Christmas, which was lovely and totally fit the region we lived in. But this year I’m super excited to have a Christmas tree like we always had growing up. The last time we spent Christmas at my parents’ house was before we moved to France!

Per tradition, I also made Christmas cookies and then last night we watched one of my all time favorite Christmas movies, It’s A Wonderful Life. I laughed, I cried, and I felt all warm and fuzzy when it was over :) Such a classic!

The Christmas cookies I made were de-lish-ious. I did not make the recipe, but I’ll share it with you since I’ve had several requests :)

Hidden Candy Cane Kiss Cookies by Once Upon A Cutting Board

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They look amazing, right?!

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The recipe itself is actually super easy.

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My cookies came out a little different from the picture, but when you eat them straight out of the oven, the peppermint kiss just melts in your mouth and it is DELICIOUS.

The one problem I had with these cookies is that when I ate them the next day, they were too hard for my taste (but still yummy). I just heated them up in the microwave for 10 seconds and they were once again perfect.

I definitely plan on making these cookies again before Christmas, but I want to try adding some cocoa powder! Chocolate + peppermint = <333

Click here for the recipe!

What are some of your Christmas traditions? Do you have a favorite Christmas cookie recipe? I’d love to try it!

‘Tis the Season to Be Jolly!

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Last Monday (November 25th) we turned our apartment into our own personal winter wonderland! I know it was technically before Thanksgiving, and usually I always wait until after my favorite Thursday of the year before even listening to Christmas music, but this year I was aching to get into the holiday spirit! And besides, we had our Thanksgiving the Sunday before the actual day, so I wasn’t really breaking my own rules ;) Plus, we’re leaving for the States on December 17th, so we wanted at least 3 weeks to enjoy our Christmas decorations.

I am so happy we decided to decorate our living room with reds, whites, blacks, and dark browns, because it totally made it possible for us to put up a red-white-and-silver woodsy theme for our tree! The color red never used to be pleasing to me, but when I was a Junior in college, our apartment was furnished with this amazing red corduroy couch that I fell absolutely in love with. Ever since then, it was my dream to have one of my own, and when we moved to our new apartment, Matt found me one that even came with a matching ottoman! Major husband points :)

So last Monday evening, we went out and bought our first real tree together (last year we only had room for small, fake ones), and it’s so cute and adorable! French Christmas trees are pretty different from the giant and full ones I’m used to back in the States, but the one we found is perfect!

Tree

It’s always so hard to make a Christmas tree look as beautiful on camera as it looks in real life, but at least you can see most of our Disney ornaments from this picture ;)

Ornament

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After setting up our tree, nativity scene (‘crèche’ en français), and various Christmas decorations, we ate our Thanksgiving leftovers (which is half the fun of Thanksgiving!), and then curled up to watch It’s a Wonderful Life (my favorite Christmas movie of all time!) and munch on some tasty Chocolate Peppermint Cookies I whipped up. These cookies were so delicious I’m sharing the recipe I found with you (including my alterations):

Cookies

Mmm :)

I found the recipe here, but I made the following alterations:
• I did not use chocolate chips; instead I used 1 cup of Andes Peppermint Crunch baking chips (the peppermint taste was strong)
• Judging from the picture, you can also see that I did not make the glaze the recipe calls for.

The cookies were a blend of crunchy and chewy, and with the Andes chips I used, the peppermint flavor was strong, so if you make this recipe yourself be careful not to add too much unless you want your cookies tasting like toothpaste ;)

Hope you all are having a wonderful December so far :) Since we’ve put up our Christmas decorations, we have only had one calamity happen–Solo got so excited when we came home Tuesday night that he ran into our tree and knocked it completely over, which caused several ornaments to break :( But don’t worry, after a bit of a time-out, he was forgiven…

Tree

Our tree has since been restored to its jolly Christmasey self :)

Thanksgiving in France!

Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am a little late in publishing this post, but there is a perfectly reasonable explanation…I have been rereading Catching Fire and Mockingjay and for any of you who have already read those novels, you can understand my procrastination. But tonight I’m abstaining from reading until I get this post up!

We celebrated Thanksgiving with my husband’s family the Sunday before the actual big day, and for my first time solo-cooking/baking, everything turned out exceptionally well! Understandably, there were some dishes that weren’t a hit with everyone (pumpkin pie is a very American dish, after all), but there were also a couple that were nearly wiped clean! Here was our menu (for future Thanksgivings):

Turkey – I combined these two recipes (here & here), and although I was a little grossed out from handling raw turkey, the meat was perfectly moist and Matt has already told me I have to make it like that again next year. Putting the vegetables at the bottom of the tray made the entire kitchen smell like delicious turkey soup all morning :)
Mashed Potatoes – very simple recipe here. Mashed potatoes are one of the easiest things to make.
Browned Butter Sweet Potato Casserole – I made this recipe twice (we celebrated two different Thanksgiving meals last week). With my in-laws I didn’t brown the butter (mainly because I was pressed for time), and honestly I thought it tasted worlds better without that browned nutty-butter flavor, but it’s up to you. Everyone raved about the plainly melted butter version, so that is the one I’ll be sticking to for future Thanksgiving meals.
Green Bean Casserole – I take it back, this is the easiest thing to make since you don’t even need to follow a recipe. If you’ve ever had green bean casserole, it’s extremely simple to make yourself. We found fried onions at a Lidl here a few months back, and although they don’t have cream of mushroom soup here, they do have mushroom sauces, which probably made it taste better. This was the second favorite dish of the day, after the sweet potatoes.

Thanksgiving Plate

Oh my, just looking at this photo makes me want to eat it all over again!

Apple and Onion Stuffing – Recipe here. Originally I wanted to make these into muffins, but I only had paper muffins cups and no muffin tin so the muffins wouldn’t hold. I think I was the only one who really liked this dish (I loved it, actually), so next year I may have to make two different types of stuffing…oh darn ;)
Cranberry Sauce – Because we couldn’t find fresh cranberries here (not very French apparently), I found a recipe using dried cranberries instead. It wasn’t my absolute favorite, but it was still decent. Next year I may have to have my mom mail over the good old-fashioned canned cranberry sauce (seriously though, I love that stuff).

 

Football

I can’t tell you how many times someone got hit in the face with the football…

After stuffing ourselves with all that goodness, we moved on to a couple of activities! Thanksgiving Bingo, which was fun but next time I’ll have to find something that lasts longer than 2 minutes. It was a good vocabulary exercise for all the Frenchies though ;)

After that we played some “paper football” (I guess that’s what it’s called?). It was fun seeing everyone flick a paper triangle at each other’s faces! We had a little tournament, which neither Matt nor I won, despite the fact that no one else had ever played before. But I always love those types of competitive games :)

Overall we had a marvelous Thanksgiving celebration. I’m so grateful that I was able to share my favorite holiday with my French family! They were really open and welcoming of my traditions and hopefully they’ll want to celebrate with us again next year!

And now it’s Christmastime!! If I don’t end up procrastinating again, tomorrow I’ll be posting about all of the decorating we did last week :)