Northern Lights and cookie recipes

cookiesMy upcoming release, Northern Lights, will be out on the first of December. The romantic novella is set in Kirkenes, Norway, and will be available in e-book, paperback and audio format. Writing it really got me in the mood for Christmas, and I hope it will awaken the Christmas spirit in you too! Here’s the blurb:

Hannah Hudson decides to take a break from her busy restaurant and her life in London after her girlfriend, who she thought she’d share the rest of her life with, suddenly walks out on her. She travels to a small boutique hotel in Kirkenes, Norway, hoping to spend a peaceful and relaxing Christmas by herself.

Kristine Miller loves adventure. A bank manager living in a small town in Louisiana, she’ll take every opportunity she can get to explore the world. Kristine travels to Norway hoping to see the famous northern lights but when she meets Hannah, a fellow guest at her hotel, she realizes soon enough that the northern lights might not be the most fascinating thing there.

Both women expected Christmas in Norway to be special but neither of them expected it to bring magic into their lives…

 

I put some of my mother’s recipes for Norwegian cookies in the back of the book, so you can join in with Hannah & Kristine and give it a go yourself, but for those of you following my blog – and apologies for the fact that I haven’t blogged much lately, it’s been super busy- you can start early if you like! I’ve substituted two kinds of cookies that appear in Northern Lights with other recipes that are also popular Christmas cookies in Norway, as I am assuming no one outside Scandinavia will have the special irons required to make these. Therefore you should only need standard kitchen equipment to make the recipes listed below, you can even substitute a rolling pin for a wine bottle—it works just fine. I’ve personally tested all the recipes to see if they could be made without an electric mixer, and although I couldn’t lift my right arm the next day, the cookies tasted great! With tsp, I mean a regular teaspoon you stir your coffee with, and with tbsp, I mean a regular spoon you eat soup with, so if it doesn’t fit in your mouth, it’s too big… ! One final note – please be aware that these recipes make big batches, they are made to be shared & are often given as gifts to friends & family at Christmas.

So, here we go!

Pepperkaker

Makes about 40 small cookies

 

100 gr butter / 0.4 cup / 3.5 oz

85 gr sugar / 0.4 cup / 3 oz

300 gr white flour / 2.4 cup / 10 ½ oz

100 ml golden syrup / 0.4 cup

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp baking soda

 

 

  1. Cream the butter until light and fluffy, then beat in the sugar (this can be done by hand or using a mixer).
  2. Add in the spices, the golden syrup, then the flour and continue to mix until everything is blended well.
  3. Leave the dough to cool in the fridge for 2 hours.
  4. After cooling, roll out the dough and use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes. I like to use Christmas tree shapes for this recipe. If you don’t have cookie cutters, you can simply roll the dough into a sausage shape and slice off rounds.
  5. Line your baking sheet(s) with parchment paper and bake the cookies in a pre-heated oven for 10 minutes, 180 C / 360 F / GM 4.
  6. After removing from the oven leave the cookies to cool down and firm up. Easy!

 

 

 

Smultringer

Makes about 40-50 small doughnuts

 

2 eggs

125 gr sugar / 0.6 cup / 4.4 oz

50 ml full fat cream / 0.2 cup

100 ml sour cream / 0.4 cup

390 gr white flour / 2.4 cups / 10.2 oz

3 tsp baking powder

½ tsp cardamom

Sugar and icing sugar to decorate

Vegetable oil to deep-fry

 

  1. Beat the eggs and sugar together until the mixture starts to stiffen (this can be done by hand or using a mixer).
  2. Add in the cream and the sour cream, then add the flour, the baking powder and finally the cardamom.
  3. Mix again until all is blended well. The dough should look a little stringy at this stage.
  4. Leave the dough to cool in the fridge for half an hour.
  5. Flour your work surface, your hands and your rolling pin and roll out the dough to a 1cm thickness. Use basic round cookie cutters of two different sizes, or an espresso cup to create the outer edge, and a small bottle top to cut out the inner part. After you’ve created your shapes, simply tear away the dough in between the circles and the inner parts of the doughnuts and use the scraps to make another batch.
  6. Heat up frying oil in a big pan (or set your deep fat fryer to 165 C / 330F). When the oil has reached temperature place the smultringer in the oil. They will float to the top so don’t put too many in the pan/fryer at the same time. Turn them after a while so they’re a nice golden brown on both sides (not too dark or they will be dry), then put them on a paper towel to drain most of the excess fat off.
  7. To finish, mix icing sugar and sugar together in a bowl and coat the smultringer on both sides while they’re still hot, then lay them on a cold plate to cool.

 

 

 

Berlinerkranser

Makes about 30 cookies

 

2 hard-boiled egg yolks

2 raw egg yolks

200 gr sugar / 1 cup / 7 oz

320 gr white flour / 2 ½ cup / 11.2 oz

225 gr butter / 1 cup / 8 oz

1 ½ tsp vanilla sugar

Pearl sugar to decorate

 

 

  1. Cut the butter into small chunks and leave them out of the fridge to soften.
  2. Mix the cooked and raw egg yolks together in a bowl until you get a smooth mixture. Set the raw egg white aside for later.
  3. Mix in the sugar and vanilla sugar and then combine the flour and the butter, adding alternatively until the mixture resembles a soft dough. You can do this by hand, which will give you a rigorous work-out, or with a mixer.
  4. Leave the mixture to cool in the fridge for at least an hour.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 175 C / 350 F / GM 4.
  6. Take chunks off the dough and roll into thin sausage shapes of around 12 cm long, about the thickness of your fingers. Now, create a wreath shape by folding one end over the other, letting them cross, this should leave a small hole in the middle.
  7. Brush the cookies with egg white and decorate by sprinkling them with pearl sugar.
  8. To finish, place the cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet, making sure to leave some space between them as they will expand in the oven. Bake them for about 15 minutes, then let then cool down. They will become harder as they cool and your kitchen will fill with the scent of vanilla!

 

 

 

Sandkaker

Makes about 30

 

225 gr butter / 1 cup / 8 oz

255 gr white flour / 1.8 cup / 8 oz

130 gr ground almonds / 1 1/8 cup / 4.6 oz

1 egg

100 gr sugar / ½ cup / 3 ½ oz

For the filling:

200 ml full fat cream / 0.8 cup

200 ml sour cream / 0.8 cup

Berries of your choice

You will also need tartlet or muffin tins to make these.

 

 

  1. Rub cubed butter into the flour until you’re left with a mixture that resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  2. Mix in the ground almonds, the sugar and the egg to the mixture. The mixture should now be forming small clumps and have a sand-like texture to it. Leave the dough to cool in the fridge for an hour.
  3. Pre-heat your oven to 175 C / 350 F / GM 4.
  4. After you have removed the dough from the fridge, press it firmly into the tartlet tins before then placing them onto a baking sheet. Bake them for about 13 minutes, or until they are slightly brown around the edges. Let them cool down completely before you even attempt to remove the cookies from the tins.
  5. Mix the cream and sour cream and place a dollop into each sandkake, then, top them up with berries of your choice. Yum!

 

 

 

Sirupsnippers

Makes around 50 cookies

 

150 ml cream / 0.6 cup

150 ml golden syrup / 0.6 cup

150 gr sugar / 0.6 cup / 5.2 oz

100 gr butter / 0.4 cup / 3.5 oz

450 gr white flour / 3.6 cup / 15.9 oz

¼ tsp ground star anise

¼ tsp ground black pepper

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground ginger

¾ tsp baking powder

¾ tsp baking soda

1 egg white to glaze

Almonds, blanched, for decorating

 

 

 

  1. Melt the butter in a pan.
  2. In another pan bring the cream, syrup and sugar to a boil and then add in the melted butter before removing from the heat.
  3. Whisk in the dry ingredients and kneed into a dough. Leave the dough in the fridge overnight.
  4. The next morning, remove the dough from the fridge – it should be quite tough in appearance at this stage.
  5. Preheat the oven to 175 C / 350 F / GM4, and flour the worksurface, your hands and the rolling pin.
  6. Roll out the dough until very thin, turn it around, and repeat until the dough is almost transparent. It might appear too thin or too flimsy for a cookie, but this is correct. Cut out into diamond shapes, place them on a parchment lined baking sheet and push half an almond into the middle of each cookie. Glaze them with egg white and bake for 5-7 minutes or until golden brown. Place on a plate to cool down. They will make your kitchen smell really Christmassy!

 

 

Fattigman

Makes about 35 cookies

 

4 egg yolks

2 whole eggs

7 tbsp of sugar

120 ml cream / ½ cup

385 gr white flour / 3 cups / 13 ½ oz

1 ½ tbsp brandy

A pinch of salt

½ tsp vanilla essence

1 tsp ground cardamom

Vegetable oil or sunflower oil to deep-fry

Icing sugar to decorate

 

 

  1. Mix the eggs with the brandy and have a shot while you’re at it!
  2. Add the vanilla, cardamom, salt and cream, then fold in the flour. Do this by hand, preferably with a wooden spoon. It should not be beaten, just folded and blended gently until it’s all mixed together. Add extra flour to the mixture if it’s still a little too sticky to roll out.
  3. Dust your work surface, your hands and your rolling pin with flour and roll the dough out thin. Cut out diamond shapes and make a small cut in the middle of each diamond. Fold one end of the diamond through the hole in the center and pull it out on the other side. You now have a ‘bow’ (ish) shape. Don’t worry if they don’t look pretty, they’ll puff up when you deep-fry them.
  4. Heat up frying oil in a pan or set your deep fat fryer to 165C.
  5. When the oil has reached temperature place the fattigman in the oil. They will float to the top so don’t put too many in the pan/fryer at the same time. Turn them around so they’re golden on both sides. Let them cool down, then dust with icing sugar on both sides.

 

 

Kokosmakroner

Makes around 30 cookies

 

8 egg whites

400 gr sugar / 2 cups / 14 oz

2 tsp vanilla sugar

400 gr dried coconut flakes / 4 cups / 13.6 oz

 

 

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C / 360 F / GM 4.
  2. Whisk the egg whites in a big pan (off the heat) until you see small bubbles appear in the mixture.
  3. Gently fold in the sugar, vanilla sugar and the dried coconut flakes.
  4. Place the pan on a low heat and stir until the mixture turns gloopy and sticks to your spoon.
  5. Take the pan off the heat and cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a tablespoon place dollops of the mixture onto the sheet and make sure to leave some space in between them.

Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, then let them cool down so they can set. By the time they’re cold, they should be golden on the outside and white and gooey on the inside

Life in France

france

After my trips to France whilst writing French Summer this spring, I couldn’t seem to pull myself away from the views and the beautiful light that hit my balcony every morning. I’ve been coming here since I was seventeen, staying at a family member’s house, but it had been three years since I’d last been here. It was my wife who suggested I stay for the summer whilst working on my next book, and I agreed that was an excellent idea. I thought I’d bring the dogs, and also the dog of said family member. How hard could it be, driving from the UK to France with three dogs in the back?

I found out soon enough. Luga, our adopted friend who tagged along, is a proper diva and not one for sitting in the back. For the first three hours or so, she tried to fight herself into the front seat, where a grown man (a roofer I brought along) used all his power to keep her in the back seat during the 17-hour journey. She cried and howled the whole way, devastated that she had to sit second row. Luga is a Giant Schnauzer.

Our smallest dog, El Comandante, isn’t the easiest either, as he refuses to sit anywhere else but on my lap while I’m driving. He likes to have his paws on the steering wheel, controlling the car. It always amused me, but this time around, it was extremely stressful driving through the winding mountain roads with his little head blocking my sight. It took me about three weeks to get used to driving here with my little assistant, but we now work seamlessly together. I work the pedals, and he steers the car, warning me about potential enemies around each corner.

Buddy, the good boy, is always in the back. He has no pretensions whatsoever and is more than happy to accept his lot in life, which is playing second fiddle to the two divas. Docile and with a big smile, he settles in and sleeps until we reach our destination, always. God Bless Buddy.

Driving through France is beautiful and fascinating but we underestimated how vast France actually is and the distances are always much larger than you’d expect. Last week, we were lucky to attend a wedding in Biarritz on the Atlantic coast, near the Spanish boarder. My wife is visiting for two weeks and we thought it would be nice to drive there. We didn’t bother to check the distance before we left, and found out soon enough that Barcelona was actually closer!  We weren’t mentally prepared and planned to take the scenic route, explore the Pyrenees and stop for meals in quaint little villages along the way. Instead, we realised we had to take the motorway, driving just over the speed limit without even so much as a coffee break, were we going to make it to the wedding in time. Exhausted, and with eyes like little cranberries, we finally arrived, after driving through the night. We could barely stand straight, but managed to stay awake during the ceremony. After inordinate amounts of Champagne at the wedding, and two more nights at the ‘party house’ we had rented with four other friends, the drive back was even worse. While I was driving in a zombie-like state, my wife was next to me in the front seat with a plastic bag on her lap. Charming. She told me she hadn’t thrown up in a plastic bag in seventeen years, but she sure made up for it during that particular journey.

Waking up on the Cote D’Azure every morning is a blessing and the sun always shines. The villages around here are the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. No one litters, and there are lots of wild flowers, townhouses that look like artist residences, stunning views and cobbled streets with bakeries, cafes and other small businesses. The locals are really friendly and they love to chat. Lucky for me, I really like to make smalltalk too. You know how some people are shy to speak another language? I’ve got the opposite problem. My wife says I’m overly confident; willing but unable. I blurt out random sentences and make up words that sound really French in my head, convinced they’ll understand me. Unfortunately, so far, my victims have been nothing but confused. I’ll never stop trying though.

My wife is really excitable. In fact, she’s one of the most excitable people I know. It’s fun to hang out with someone like that, especially when visiting new places together. A bakery?! “Oh my God, I need to get a baguette,” she’ll shout, before posing with it in one of those charming alleyways with blue shutters and lavender filled pots. A mulberry tree?! “Let’s get some Tupperware and make jam!” An ice-cold river? “Hold my bag, I’m jumping in! And don’t forget to save me if I get dragged away, the current looks really strong!” Needless to say, we’re having a lot of fun. We’ve also gained a lot of bruises, and my wife has lost a chunk out of both her big toes.

The writing is going well, although not as fast as I thought it would. There’s a lot of distraction in the form of people, wine, sunshine and more wine, but I’m pleased to share that I’m almost through a third of the rough draft of my next novel (still untitled), set amongst airline crew, starring Captain Ava Alfarsi (Yes! In uniform :)) and Mia Donoghue (also in uniform, lol).

French Summer will be out on the first of July, and I was thrilled to wake up last week to find this lovely review on Curvemag.com and Lotl.com.

 

May Lesfic Sale

Good news!

I Heart Lesfic is organising a lesfic sale from the 21st of May till the 25th of May. The Kindle versions of my novels, including my latest release The Cruise will be discounted down to $1.99, £1.99 and 1.99 for this period of time!

Besides my own books, there will be tons of other authors discounting their books, including Harper Bliss and Suzie Carr, so grab your change and stock up on your favourite reads!

SpringIntoAGoodBook_Wordpress

French Summer Cover Reveal

French Summer Cover

After four months of non-stop writing and three trips to France, ‘French Summer’ is finally in it’s editing stages. It’s the first novel I’m writing since I went full-time as an author, so it’s a big thing. I’ve enjoyed my time in France so much, that I’ve decided to spend the month of June there to start on my fifth novel. I’ll be bringing El Comandante and Buddy with me and I’ve promised to order them dog-steps for the pool 🙂

Also, I’m thrilled that the super talented photographer Julia Caesar from Sweden has agreed for me to use her photograph on my cover. I think it perfectly sums up the vibe of the book. Let me know what you think!

The blurb isn’t final yet, but here’s a preview:

Newly divorced and bought out of her company, Nathalie rents a holiday home in the South of France. After years of hard work and a failed marriage in Chicago, she’s looking for some peace and quiet, a place to clear her mind and figure out her future.

Lena loves women, her dog, and gardening, but that’s about as complicated as it gets. When she meets her new tenant for the summer, it proves hard to stay professional as a guardian, especially when that tenant turns out to be everything she ever wanted and more.

As time passes and boundaries blur, the moment of goodbye becomes inevitable. Nathalie isn’t looking for a new love, especially not in the form of a woman, and Lena has no desire to get her heart crushed again.

Is it possible to find home in a country you’ve never been? And is it worth the risk, giving up everything for someone you barely know? They say home is where the heart is…

 

Mega Lesfic Sale

DecemberSale_Wordpress

Hi Everyone,

Hope you’re all having a great Christmas! We’re taking it easy, with nice food and wine, and lots of presents for the dogs and the cat. An IQ test for animals that my brother bought them, revealed that El Comandante is very intelligent, but Buddy and Kanye (the cat) not so much 🙂 As expected, the cat was more interested in the packaging than the presents, so we brought him more empty boxes from the attic, which have been spread around the living room overnight and he’s loving it. Besides being festive, I’m writing today, and my wife is reading, as I’m sure many of you are. Well here’s some good news for you!

As part of the Mega Lesfic Sale, organized by I Heart Lesfic, both Lily’s Fire and Beyond the Skyline will now be on sale from the 26th until the 29th of December. Get your copy  today for only $1.99! There are more than fifty authors participating in this event, so it’s a great chance to stock up on books and kick start the new year with lots of reading.

We wish you all a festive boxing day and a fantastic New Year. May it be your best one yet! Meanwhile, I’ll be writing my resolutions…

#spreadthelove