Ginger Biscuits, interview with Theresa Romain, and a giveaway!

by spiceaholic on October 27, 2011

From the moment I read a draft of my best friend Theresa Romain’s novel Season for Temptation, I knew I was in for a treat.  Aside from sharing a warped sense of humor, we also share a love for Regency romance novels.   That’s why I was so excited when she told me that it was getting published!  It was released earlier this month and I’ve been making sure people know – I even scolded our local Barnes and Noble for not carrying it!

Season for Temptation

One of my favorite scenes in the book is in the beginning, where the heroine devours an unbelievable amount of biscuits (that’s cookies, for us Americans!) — namely ginger biscuits.  I thought it would be fun to try to make the biscuits in question, and luckily for me Theresa had posted a recipe for them on her website.

I have to give props to a recipe that is not only delicious but incredibly forgiving — I had made gingerbread the day before, and was in quick-bread auto-pilot mode and totally ignored the part in the directions about creaming the sugar with the butter and eggs.  Instead, I’d added the sugar to the flour  and spices.  Convinced I’d messed up the recipe, I considered starting over, but soon realized I’d used up the last of my butter.  So I figured I’d forge on and if I’d messed it up that badly, I’d just make Mr. Spice go buy some butter.  Instead of the soft dough referenced in the recipe, I ended up with a crumbly dough, but surprisingly I was able to form it into small dough balls and was rewarded by this:

We didn’t even bother waiting for them to cool down, and tried a couple hot out of the oven.  I loved them — just enough of a gingery taste to keep you coming back for more.  I could definitely understand how these could get devoured.

I also got the chance to interview Theresa to ask her all sorts of questions about food and the Regency period.   There’s even a giveaway afterwards!

As we all know, in the first chapter of SEASON FOR TEMPTATION, there are an unbelievable number of biscuits consumed. Having made and tasted the ginger biscuits, I can understand why. How did you decide what biscuits were scarfed down? Did you research recipes first or did you just pick a biscuit that was known at the time?

Ok, first of all, I love that you actually made these ginger biscuits. And I love that you became as addicted to them as I did!

It’s not exactly a Regency-correct recipe (1811-1820), but it’s not too far off. I know that ginger biscuits in some form were around then, as were shortbreads. So I wrote the first scene to include foods I knew the characters could have eaten in 1817. When I happened upon a British ginger biscuit recipe in an old cookbook of Mr. R’s (really, there are so many unlikely things in that sentence), I had to give them a try to see just what I’d been feeling my characters. And then I understood why they’d been such gluttons, because I became one too.

**Mr. R is Theresa’s husband! 🙂

Has Mr. R ever explained how it was that he came to own an old British cookbook?

Ok, I should clarify: when I say “old” I mean “old enough to have lots of gross-looking aspic-like recipes.”  But it’s a modern cookbook in the sense that it assumes you have measuring cups and an oven and all that fancy stuff. The big problem was the measurements being in grams, which is a significant barrier to me (and actually wouldn’t be a problem if the cookbook was older than the 1960s, because England was still using the Imperial system of cups, etc., then).

As for HOW he came to own it: I am guessing thrift store or garage sale. Mr. R is big on cheap books that look interesting. We also own a cookbook that’s entirely in French; I’ve never dared cook anything out of it. What if I mistranslate something and wind up stewing up a tennis racket instead of a beef shoulder?

Have you cooked anything else out of that cookbook?

I’ve hit the cookie—excuse me, biscuit—section pretty hard. There’s a really wonderful Christmas cookie recipe. Have you ever smelled a Christmas Cookie Yankee Candle? They smell exactly like that, and they taste as good as they smell.  Julia and James would have gobbled them up if I’d served them in SEASON FOR TEMPTATION.  Unfortunately, their Christmas dinner involves beef tongue instead. (Which, ok, I’ve heard is wonderful.)

Have you come across any “interesting” recipes from the Regency period? Would you be willing to make them or eat them?

Just about every Regency recipe is interesting in some way, because they’re so imprecise. They use quantities like “two handfuls” or “a good amount,” or instructions like “bake in a quick oven.” Um, what?? Any historic recipe requires a little translation to work well for a modern cook in a modern kitchen.

That being said, I’d really like to try the iconic holiday dessert: a plum pudding. I don’t think I could make one, since they require boiling in cheesecloth and soaking in brandy for weeks on end, and…yeah, I’m sure I’d screw it up. I know you can buy plum puddings, but the store-bought ones seem so fruitcakey, and I’m sure homemade pudding is nothing like that. I’ve got a recipe on my blog here, which I haven’t tested. It involves suet, which is a little freaky to me, but heck, I’ve eaten blood boudin. I shouldn’t be afraid of a little hardened fat.

I seem to see a lot of seed cake being served at tea in these types of novels – I always imagine something like lemon poppy-seed cake. Am I imagining wrong? Have you found any recipes for seed cake?

If you’re imagining lemon poppy-seed cake, you’re imagining something you’d probably enjoy more than an actual seed cake.  The Regency palate preferred heavier and less seasoned foods than we do, probably because of the limitations of cookery at the time: leavening agents were picky and not in wide use, garden produce had limited seasons (unless you were very wealthy and had a hothouse), and spices were on the pricey side.

They did enjoy their desserts—though I’d say overall, we’d find Regency pastries dry and under-sweetened (or to flip that around, they’d find ours gooey and cloying). A seed cake is a dense, bready kind of dessert that’s flavored with caraway seeds. They’re actually stirred into the batter rather than sprinkled on top.

Author Kalen Hughes has posted a few historic seed cake recipes and even tried them out in her kitchen. The richness of the recipe just floors me: equal weights flour, sugar and butter!

What’s the difference between afternoon tea and high tea?

There are two differences: the time of day, and the amount of food. At afternoon tea, served before around 5 pm, you might get little sandwiches and pastries. High tea is served later, until around 7 pm, and would include less of the pastries and more cold meats, meat pies, cheeses, and the kind of stuff a pescetarian would like (read: fish galore).

A formalized teatime wasn’t really part of the Regency, though they guzzled tea like none other. Any time visitors came to call, they’d be offered tea and refreshments. By the Victorian era—1830s to about 1900—the idea of afternoon tea was pretty well entrenched.

***Thanks, Theresa for answering all my food-nerd questions!  I’m so excited for you!

Be sure to check out Theresa’s blog and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Have we whetted your appetite for ginger biscuits, tea, and Regency romance novels?  I hope so, because now you can win a copy of Theresa Romain’s Season for Temptation!

All you have to do is answer one of the questions below:

  • Have you ever read about a food in a book that you’ve wanted to try? Leave a comment below
  • Ever goofed up a recipe but still have it turn out okay? Do tell!

You have until 9 pm, Wednesday, November 2nd to enter.  Make sure you provide an email address.  I’ll randomly select a winner and will email you for contact info.  U.S. residents only, please!

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Gayle Cochrane October 28, 2011 at 1:17 am

Great looking cookies, and I love ginger so will have to give them a try. I have recently read about a food in Paula Graves Playing Dead in Dixie that I have since become obsessed with. It’s not a regency food but it is just as mysterious to me. She writes about Mississippi Mud Cake, which when I’ve asked people about it they all have such varied answers. In California we have Mississippi Mud Pie, but that’s not it at all. My hubby and daughter were super excited to bring home Popeye’s version which was a very sweet brownie.

I don’t need to be entered in the giveaway. 🙂

Amanda October 28, 2011 at 10:43 am

Glad I’m not the only person who reads food scenes in books and thinks, “hey, that sounds yummy. I wanna make that!” (I once even actually made a recipe I included in a story).

I’ve already bought the book (and even started reading it!) so I don’t need to be entered, either.

Theresa Romain October 28, 2011 at 11:32 am

Spiceaholic, thanks for hosting me! I’m honored to be associated with your drool-worthy food pics and so happy to be blogging with you.

Gayle–I think of Mississippi Mud Cake as Rocky Road in cake form (chocolate, marshmallows, nuts). Is that kind of the recipe you found? Good stuff.

Amanda–I love reading about food in books. What was the recipe you wrote about and then cooked?

Kim October 28, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Congratulations on the new release, Theresa. I hope to read it soon.

I have goofed up a recipe and still have it still turn out okay. I was making Italian sauce and meatballs, when I realized I forgot the grated cheese in the meatballs. Unfortunately, the meatballs were already in the sauce and cooking on the stove at high heat. So I had to spoon out the partially cooked meatballs; smash them; mix in the cheese; and then mold them into round shapes again. This isn’t easy when the meat is semi-cooked. When dinner was ready and I tasted the meatballs, they were actually quite tasty. Disaster averted.


Theresa Romain October 28, 2011 at 7:03 pm

Kim–thanks for stopping by! Your meatball recipe sounds delicious. Glad they still turned out ok!

spiceaholic October 29, 2011 at 11:08 pm

@Gayle — definitely give the cookies a try! I think I agree with Theresa’s vision of Mississippi Mud Cake.

@Amanda — You can’t tease us like that and not tell us the recipe you included! 🙂

@Kim – Wow, I’m impressed you fished out the meatballs to fix them!

@Theresa — this was fun, I’m so glad we did this!

Teslaca October 31, 2011 at 3:00 pm

I love to read and to cook, so I’m frequently coming across references to different foods or dishes that I want to try. I recently read a novel set in England that referred to kippers. I had heard of them before, but never tried them after reading that book.

Theresa Romain October 31, 2011 at 10:46 pm

Teslaca–in the US, we don’t usually have fish for breakfast, so kippers are a strange concept! I’d be up for trying them, but probably not in the morning. What are some other fun foods you’ve learned about from books?

Maha November 2, 2011 at 3:46 pm

The first book that pops in my mind as one with a food that made me think “YUM” is one of my favorite childhood books, Matilda. The scene in which Miss Trunchbull forces one of the kids to eat this gigantic chocolate cake is priceless. I haven’t had the guts to make a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting from scratch yet, but it’s on the to-bake list!

Also, a goof-up is what led to my famous chocolate chip cookie recipe! I can’t reveal the secret, but that mistake is the best one I’ve ever made.

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