ALL FOUR STARS AUTHOR INTERVIEW: TARA DAIRMAN–WORLD TRAVELER

allfourstars_finalWhen I posted ALL FOUR STARS by TARA DAIRMAN as one of my top anticipated releases for 2014 at the beginning of the year, I had no idea the blog would be one of her interview stops, or that I would write a recipe-inspired post from the book. If you’ve read my review of this contemporary middle grade novel, out July 10th, you will know that it is one of my new favorites, and I absolutely fell in love with Gladys and her culinary antics!

I appreciate that Tara took the time to visit the blog and answer some questions I devised for her. I think you’ll enjoy reading her responses. And A SEQUEL!! She talked about a sequel!!

Enjoy!

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1. I loved All Four Stars and think the plot is fantastic. Where and when did the idea for the story start to brew?

Thank you so much, Katie! I was living in New York when I first started to write ALL FOUR STARS, and working as an editor at a small magazine. In that job, I had freelance writers who wrote stories that I edited, but I never met most of them, or even talked to them on the phone. So it occurred to me that if a kid was a good writer, she might be able to hoodwink me into publishing her. And if she could trick me, why not the biggest newspaper in New York? 

I was interested in food and cooking, too, so it made sense for me to make my young writer a wannabe restaurant critic. And I moored her out in the suburbs, where I grew up, with parents who couldn’t have been less interested in gourmet food. The rest of the plot just kind of flowed from that!

I loved the contrast of a foodie protagonist with parents who cooked using the microwave–brilliant! 

2. What’s your writing process like? Is it very structured? Do you have to write in a specific location, have a certain noise level, etc.?

These days, I tend to be more structured about my writing process than I used to be. I prefer to work in the mornings, either at home or in public. I don’t mind a low level of background noise, but I can’t listen to music while I write. A hot beverage next to the computer is nice. But really, I can write anywhere if I have to. I drafted parts of ALL FOUR STARS on the New Jersey Transit Bus during my morning commute when I was living on the east coast, and in various spots (mostly cafes) around the world while I backpacked for two years with my husband.

I love to write while traveling, and I love the idea that some of your story was written in different cafes of the world!

3. What would you say to young readers who pick up ALL FOUR STARS and then want to learn to cook or bake, but have never made anything before? What would you encourage them to start with?



That’s a terrific question! Well, first of all, I’d make sure you have permission from an adult and supervision if necessary, especially if you are going to use knives or the stove or oven. Then I would pick a recipe that has a short list of ingredients. If you’re baking, something like muffins or a quick bread can be a good place to start; for dinner, maybe pasta with a very simple sauce, like garlic and oil. And a fancy salad is easy to make and can be surprisingly delicious—baby spinach with sliced pears and blue cheese was the first salad I ever made, and I love it to this day!

That is a lovely salad combination!

4. I love Gladys’s determination to get that restaurant review completed—are there any parallels between Gladys’s antics and her experiences in the book and your own childhood?

Haha—not that I can recall. Gladys is much bolder and more adventurous than I was at that age. The only real parallel I can think of is that I eventually developed a taste for surprising people—for instance, in high school, I did Mathletes and cheerleading at the same time. But that was about as bold as things got for me. 🙂

I enjoy hearing about unique high school experiences–they definitely make for interesting plot lines…

5. These are important questions I love to ask authors who visit the blog: Favorite kind of donut, Favorite kind of pie, Favorite kind of cake?


My favorite donut is the peanut butter and jelly donut from Square Donuts from Terre Haute, Indiana! My favorite kind of pie is cherry (closely followed by rhubarb), and my favorite kind of cake is carrot. Mmm, now I’m hungry for all of these things.

Excellent choices! Cherry pie is such a perfect choice for this time of year–I have to say I wouldn’t mind a slice myself.

6. I read about your amazing two year journey around the world with your husband—could you name your top three favorite meals? (and places where you had those meals?)

Ooh, a trip down culinary memory lane! It’s almost impossible to narrow it down, but here are three amazing meals I had:

-Breakfast of pan de yuca (cheese bread) and yogurt smoothies in Quito, Ecuador (2009)

Breakfast of pan de yuca and yogurt

-Lunch of donkey meat in Beijing, China—surprisingly tasty! (2011)

Lunch of donkey meat in China

-Christmas dinner in Hyderabad, India—chicken saag, Hyderabadi biryani (a specially-prepared rice dish with beautiful, extremely long rice grains), and so many different kinds of bread that the waiter warned us that we were ordering too much (2010)

Christmas dinner in Hyderabad

These look like three amazing meals! My cousin is getting ready to visit China–I’ll have to ask her about trying donkey meat. That Indian meal is definitely making my mouth water….Thank you for sharing these wonderful photos! 

7. Will there be any future books with Gladys or do you think you will write another foodie book?



Yes—there will be a sequel to ALL FOUR STARS in summer, 2015! It’s set during the summer after sixth grade, and Gladys faces a whole new world of professional and personal challenges. I’ll hopefully be able to share more information about it soon. I’m really excited about it.

(jumps up and down) I can’t wait!

8. Is there a dessert place in NYC like Classy Cakes that you would recommend to your readers?

Classy Cakes wasn’t based on any one place, but the restaurant Serendipity 3 on the Upper East Side is pretty well-known for its pricey desserts (and its long lines and snippy attitudes!), so I may have drawn a bit of inspiration from it. 

The Internet tells me that there is also an all-dessert restaurant in Manhattan called ChikaLicious, which sounds a lot like Classy Cakes, but I’ve never been! Maybe next time I’m in town…

Yes! I’ve been to Serendipity 3–we waited a long time to get in, but we wanted to try that frozen hot chocolate. 🙂 

Thank you so much for having me, Katie! These were terrific questions!

Thank you, Tara!!

Do look up this debut author–see links below! And you can get her book, out in just TWO DAYS!

Social media links:

Website: www.taradairman.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TaraDairman

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TaraDairmanAuthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13598351-all-four-stars

Also, be sure to check out The Midnight Garden ALL FOUR STARS blog tour, if you haven’t already!

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All Four Stars by Tara Dairman Blog Tour: Caramel Walnut Brownie Recipe & Giveaway!

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Welcome to the July 4th stop of The Midnight Garden’s All Four Stars Blog Tour!

It’s time to celebrate the upcoming release of the fantastic middle grade novel, All Four Stars…with a brownie recipe.

Calling all bakers and aspiring bakers!

When I saw All Four Stars on the list of upcoming releases for 2014, I was beyond excited. Three of my passions were combined in one book: cooking, baking, and writing! What a fantastic premise—a twelve year old chef and foodie accidentally lands a job writing a restaurant review for a prestigious newspaper. Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to read the book.

The meals, recipes, and cooking adventures detailed in the story made my mouth water, and led me to brainstorm a baking-related tour stop for The Midnight Garden’s Blog Tour! After much thought and deliberation, I decided to pursue the perfect recipe for the caramel walnut brownies that Gladys’s neighbor, Mrs. Anderson bakes. Mrs. Anderson is known for her “experimental brownies” and gives one to Gladys, though Gladys “never had the heart to tell Mrs. Anderson that she didn’t really like walnuts.” Gladys gives her brownie to a classmate the next day at lunch:

“You want it?” Gladys said, holding out the brownie.

Charissa took it right away, of course, without protesting, proposing a trade, or even saying thank you…Charissa held the brownie at arm’s length. She was shaking…

“Oh my God,” Charissa said, her eyes wide with disbelief.

“This brownie..this brownie…” The cafeteria table was dead silent; all eyes were on them…

“This brownie is…AMAZING!!”

brownie 1

DSC_0246I decided to bake my own caramel walnut brownies, but I also made a batch without the walnuts—and hoped that Gladys would approve. For the recipe, I went straight to the professionals because there was a brownie recipe I was dying to try from an amazing cookbook: Baked Elements by Matt Lewis, Renato Poliafito (Photography by Tina Rupp).  I think Lewis & Poliafito really have the best brownie recipe, and you can actually visit their bakery in Brooklyn. Their brownie recipe doesn’t have the caramel walnut glaze or the two tablespoons of boiling water I added, but the rest of the recipe is theirs. I would strongly recommend buying their cookbook–you won’t regret it. There is an amazing recipe for Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls that you should try next!

Gladys: “I’ve made 142 recipes from twelve different cookbooks,” she cried, “and they all turned out fine!”

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(I didn’t have to use my stand mixer for this, but thought it looks lovely next to the cookbook.)

Their Spicy Brownie recipe includes ancho chile powder to deliver a gorgeous spicy dimension to a perfect fudgy brownie. Think ancho chile powder is hard to find? Not really. You can find it at World Market as well as other grocery stores. In a pinch, you could probably use cayenne pepper, but I would recommend using about half of the ancho chile powder amount.

More research found me a simple recipe for a caramel walnut glaze that I thought would be the perfect finish. These spicy brownies could certainly go without them, if you wanted to omit the caramel and walnuts. The truth is—I made these brownies once in California, and then I made them while on holiday on Cape Cod. I actually liked the once with bigger chunks of walnuts, surprisingly. I’m in love with these brownies! Look at that amazing fudgy-ness.

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These actually aren’t THAT spicy and those who are expecting more of a kick could be disappointed. What they do deliver is a smoky and warm flavor that I think pairs perfectly with the caramel and walnuts. The Baked authors had originally used a chipotle powder in these spicy brownies, but felt this was a bit much, and so opted for something a little less spicy. My taste testers were not disappointed—I received raving reviews of these brownies for days.

A few important notes on this recipe:

-Make sure your eggs are room temperature! Don’t skip this step.

-The recipe asks you to grate your cinnamon, but in a pinch, it was fine for me to use the cinnamon I already had in my spice cupboard.

-Don’t overmix the brownies!! This is crucial to their wonderful fudgy texture. Fold everything together at the end just until combined.

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Mrs. Anderson’s Aztec Brownies with Caramel Walnut Glaze

(The Baked Spicy Brownie with Caramel Walnut Glaze)

Adapted slightly from the Spicy Brownies Recipe in Baked Elements: The Importance of Being Baked in 10 Favorite Ingredients by Matt Lewis, Renato Poliafato, Tina Rupp (Photographer) [2012, by Stewart, Tabori, & Chang]

Makes: 12 large or 24 small brownies

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
2 teaspoons freshly grated cinnamon (or from your spice rack)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger OR 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
8 ounces good-quality dark chocolate (60 to 72%), coarsely chopped
2 ounces good-quality milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 tablespoons of boiling water (from bottom double boiler pan)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature (very important to have the eggs at room temperature!)

Caramel Walnut Glaze

14 unwrapped caramels

¼ cup heavy cream

1/2 to 1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (depending on how much walnut-ness you desire)

Making the Brownies

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Take a 9 by 13 inch glass or light colored metal baking pan and butter the bottom and sides. Then, line the pan with parchment paper and butter the parchment.

2. Next, get a medium bowl, and whisk the flour, cocoa powder, chile powder, cinnamon, salt, and ginger. Set that aside.

3. Now, you need to melt the butter and chocolate. You can construct your own double boiler on the stove by filling a pot about halfway with water, and then placing a glass bowl or another pot over that one. It’s really easy! Check out this link for more info. Once you get the water boiling, you can place your butter and chocolates in the top bowl. Stir occasionally until everything is melted and combined nicely! Now, turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water. **If you want to add my magic mishap [see description below] into the recipe, take two tablespoons of the boiling water and add it to the chocolate/butter mixture. Then, add both the white sugar and the brown sugar and whisk until they are combined. You need to wait a little now, while the bowl comes to room temperature, but remove it from above the water.

4. Add 3 of your room temperature eggs, and mix it until everything comes together nicely. Don’t overmix! Add the last 2 eggs and do the same–mix until just combined.

5. Now you can add the flour mixture to the batter and fold the flour mixture in with a spatula. It’s very important that you don’t overmix here—once you see the last of the flour disappear…stop!

6. Pour the brownie batter into your prepared pan with the parchment.

7. Bake for 30 minutes in your preheated oven, but set your timer for 15 minutes and rotate the pan halfway.

You’ll need to check to see that the brownies are finished by using a toothpick. You should only see a few crumbs on the toothpick to make sure the brownies are done. Let them cool now and transfer to a wire rack.

Once the brownies are cool, you can make the glaze.

8. Chop about ½ to 1 cup of walnuts—it’s up to you depending on how many walnuts you like on your brownie. You can preheat the oven to 350 degrees and toast the walnuts for about 8 minutes first, if you prefer. Or, skip this step, if you’re pressed for time.

9. Unwrap your 14 caramels and place in a bowl that you can microwave, or in a pot on the stove.

10. Add ¼ cup of the heavy cream and stir everything as it melts. I melted the caramel and cream on the stove, and this worked out just fine. You just want to make sure you keep an eye on the mixture and turn off the heat as soon as everything is combined.

11. You can drizzle some caramel on the brownies first, and then top with the walnuts. Or you can sprinkle the walnuts, and then pour the caramel over.

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Cut into squares and enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee. And be sure to read ALL FOUR STARS, out JULY 10TH from Putnam!

BONUS: *My Baking Mishap*

No, it wasn’t as destructive as Gladys’s experience making crème brulee, but since I didn’t have a double boiler to melt the butter and the chocolate, I constructed my own. My pots weren’t the right size, though, and as I was stirring my chocolate and butter for these brownies (and they were melting very nicely), my top pot slipped and tipped into the water below it! That gave me a start, but I quickly righted the pot, and surveyed the damage. Had any water gone into the chocolate and butter? How would that affect the final product? I had no choice but to press on—time was of the essence!

The fact is, that some of the water had gone into my chocolate and butter, a few tablespoons, by my estimation. But….the texture and taste of the brownies was so amazing, that I really couldn’t say if it damaged the recipe at all. In fact, I thought the finished brownie was so perfect, that I think I may have to suggest adding a tiny bit of boiling water to the chocolate and butter mixture, in case there was a bit of magic in my mishap.

Should I be berated for this? Maybe. But I think Gladys would show me grace. And I certainly hope she would appreciate the brownies, minus the walnuts, of course.

Win a copy of All Four Stars!

Thanks to Putnam, there are 8 finished copies of this lovely book to give away throughout the blog tour. Visit each stop to earn extra points, or you can also tweet, pin, etc.

Open to U.S. and Canadian residents aged 18 or older, or 13 or older with parental permission. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Be sure to visit the blog again on Monday for a special interview with author, TARA DAIRMAN!

All Four Stars Tour Schedule
Don’t forget to check out the rest of the All Four Stars Blog Tour! There are fantastic posts, excerpts, recipes, and giveaways at each stop.

Tuesday, July 1st              The Midnight Garden
Wednesday, July 2nd        The Reading Date
Thursday, July 3rd            For What It’s Worth
Friday, July 4th                 The Spirit of Children’s Literature
                                           A Baked Creation
Monday, July 7th              Xpresso Reads
Tuesday, July 8th             For the Love of Words
Wednesday, July 9th        Finding Bliss in Books
Thursday, July 10th          Candace’s Book Blog

Where to buy the book links:

BON APPETIT & HAPPY READING!

TMG blog tours

 

#AtoZChallenge: B is for Baking in Books

I love to bake! Cakes, cookies, pies, scones, pastries of all sorts, cinnamon rolls, donuts—I love to bake them all.

I especially enjoy reading books that feature baking in them, so my “B” post is the perfect opportunity to mention a few of those.

Bread and Jam for Frances is one of my favorite childhood picturebooks, and though there isn’t a lot of baking in the book, the food references warrant it a place in this post.

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And how about The High Rise Glorious Skittle Skat Roarious Sky Pie Angel Food Cake by Nancy Willard?

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A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff is a wonderful middle grade fantasy, complete with recipes! You can read my review of the book here.

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A few months ago I was part of a blogging event and for one of the activities I designed some dessert menus that I would serve to characters from some of my favorite books. You can check that out here.

All Four Stars is an upcoming release that I suspect will have its share of baking.

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Then there’s Pie by Sarah Weeks, focused on the search for a world-famous pie crust recipe!

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Check out this Pinterest board on Cakes in Children’s Literature to see some picturebooks featuring cake and cake making!

What are your favorite books featuring baking and/or bakers?

#AtoZChallenge: A is for Apple Pie Perfect, A Cookbook by Ken Haedrich

A children’s and young adult literature blog that shares cool cookbooks too? Why not?!

I’m participating in the A to Z Blogging Challenge for the month of April, and you can imagine that many of my posts will be concerned with books. Some may concern other topics, but regardless, it shall be an adventure!

A is for Apple Pie!

Apple Pie Perfect, to be exact.

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It’s a cookbook by Ken Haedrich, who wrote the mammoth tome, Pie, which is also excellent.

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Apple Pie Perfect is a collection of 100 recipes for Apple Pie, and I can attest that this cookbook is a must-have for any avid pie baker. I don’t usually review cookbooks on the blog, but I am considering making this a regular feature.

As a baker who loves to make pies, cakes, and other desserts, I have tried a handful of Haedrich’s recipes already, including several of his crust recipes (he includes a whole section in the beginning of the book). In addition to a section on Apple Pies of Fall and Winter, there is the chapter, “Apple Pie on the Fringes” and “Apple Pie in a Jiffy.” The book includes a section on all the different types of apples for baking pies. I loved the apple pie made with honey and appreciated the apple butter pie as well.

The section on summer apple pies is not to be missed—I now regularly bake a blueberry apple pie.

In closing, it seems that there could be a spiritual aspect to the art of pie baking…and of course pie sharing with dear family and friends.

Happy Pie Baking & Happy A to Z Blogging!

 

 

Baking & Books: Mini Challenge #4

Book Blogger Love-A-Thon

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Mini Challenge #4: Bookish Life + Non-bookish Passion

[The Girl of Fire & Thorns, Tiger Lily, Anne of Green Gables, The Book Thief, The Madman’s Daughter]

Today’s challenge asks bloggers to mash-up their bookish lives with a hobby or passion they have in real life. One of my passions is baking!! I love to try new recipes, and I especially love to have people over and entertain—murder mystery dinner parties have been a favorite in the past, but also brunches. For this challenge, I’m going to share different baked goods I would prepare for characters from some of my favorite books. If you would eventually like to see recipes or know what cookbooks these recipes are from, leave a comment letting me know which food item you would most want to try.

Happy reading and happy baking! vintage cake

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1. Elisa from The Girl of Fire and Thorns is one of my new favorite heroines.You can see my review here. She loves baked goods, as we find out in the first book, and so I am going to prepare her breakfast. I think an ideal time for this would be at the beginning of Book 3, right before it begins, when things are a bit difficult.

I’m going to serve:

Doughnut French Toast

Ham and Mushroom Muffins

Chai Tea

For the road for Elisa and the gang (right before Book 3):

Nutty Apple Loaf

2. Tiger Lily is another new favorite, read at the end of 2013. You can read my review here. I love Tiger Lily!! I decided to bake for both she and Peter. I’m going to give them some treats to take along on one of their walks. I might throw in something savory that is easy to transport.

Brown Butter Snickerdoodles

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Sesame Peanut Noodle Wraps

3. There’s no way I can stay away from Avonlea! I will be paying a visit to Anne Shirley’s house from Anne of Green Gables to have tea with her and Diana Barry. Here’s the menu:

Cherry Chip Cake with Cherry Buttercream

Blueberry Pie

Old Vermont Burnt Sugar Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

4. Liesel and Max in The Book Thief are living in a tough time! World War II! So, I’m going to arrive as a kind of “baking fairy” and bring them an evening dessert from my world. Here’s what I’ll prepare for them:

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake (amazing!!!)

Whole-Wheat Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

For Max, Hans, & Rosa: S’mores-Style Chocolate Whiskey Pudding with Whiskey Marshmallow Topping

5. When Juliet Moreau arrives back from her trip somewhere between The Madman’s Daughter and the second book, Her Dark Curiosity, I think she needs to have a splendid tea waiting for her! I loved The Madman’s Daughter and you can see my review here.

Here’s what I hope she would appreciate:

A good strong black tea with milk

Vanilla Bean Malt Cake

Coffee Crunch Spiral

Hazelnut and Chocolate Cupcakes

Those are my ideas for now, but this certainly could turn into a book length work! Regardless, you can see I enjoy baking and love to combine this with my reading (and writing!). What would you bake for characters from your favorite books??