Thursday, September 29, 2016

Smells Like Fall in Our Kitchen! {Book Review *plus* Recipe}


Polish Honey Bread, or "Piernik"


Happy Thursday, My Lovelies!  It smells like fall in our kitchen: I just cooked a loaf of Piernik!  I got the recipe from Susan Wiggs' The Beekeeper's Ball.  I'll talk about the book first, then I'll share the recipe!





According to Goodreads:

#1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Wiggs returns to sun-drenched Bella Vista, where the land's bounty yields a rich harvest…and family secrets that have long been buried  

Isabel Johansen, a celebrated chef who grew up in the enchanting Sonoma town of Archangel, is transforming her childhood home into a destination cooking school—a unique place for other dreamers to come and learn the culinary arts. Bella Vista's rambling mission-style hacienda, with its working apple orchards, bountiful gardens and beehives, is the idyllic venue for Isabel's project…and the perfect place for her to forget the past. 

But Isabel's carefully ordered plans begin to go awry when swaggering, war-torn journalist Cormac O'Neill arrives to dig up old history. He's always been better at exposing the lives of others than showing his own closely guarded heart, but the pleasures of small-town life and the searing sensuality of Isabel's kitchen coax him into revealing a few truths of his own.


My Review:

Archangel sounds like the most perfectly quaint hamlet in all of Sonoma County.  The Beekeeper's Ball is encouraging me to book a trip to Northern California ASAP, and I bet that the Sonoma Tourist Office is thrilled that Susan Wiggs is writing books that highlight the beauty of the area.  This is the second book in the series; the first one is The Apple Orchard, and I'll write a post about it soon.  I didn't read them in order, but I didn't feel lost at all from not having read The Apple Orchard.  I didn't find out until later that The Beekeeper's Ball is part of a series. 

Isabel is living a dream life on her family's apple orchard by keeping bees and opening a cooking school in the main house she's lovingly restoring.  At around thirty years old, it has been a long journey for Isabel: Ten years earlier she was in culinary school but left before finishing her coursework due to a disastrous affair with one of her instructors.  This lapse in judgment has shaped her life and made her very guarded....until Cormac O'Neill shows up to write a book about her grandfather's heroism during World War II.

Cormac is very talented at getting people to open-up about their own lives, and I enjoyed the story of Isabel's Grandfather Max and the horrors of the Nazi occupation of Norway.  Cormac is also an amazing detective: He uncovers many secrets in Isabel's family.  He has a good eye for detail, and he can deduce facts from observations that most would overlook.  I really like how his character is developed in the book.  He, like Isabel, is jaded, but he is more than willing to take a chance on Isabel almost from the beginning of the book.  Their story is so sweet!  If you like romance, intrigue, action, family drama, historical fiction, and a gorgeous setting, you'll love The Beekeeper's Ball!

Speaking of sweet, the book is full of lovely honey-infused recipes.  I couldn't wait to try one, so I tried the Polish Honey Bread, or Piernik.  I had to adapt the recipe because some important information was missing (like what to do with the egg whites and the baking temperature, for example).




Piernik baked in my round bread baker


Piernik is a moist, sweet honey bread that is delicious served toasted with a bit of butter and a cup of tea. Thanks to the intense spices, the bread has a long shelf life.

It’s an old Polish tradition to bake piernik to welcome the birth of a baby girl. The loaf is then buried underground to preserve it. The bread would be brought out and eaten at the girl’s wedding.
These days, this is not recommended.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup of soft butter
1-1⁄2 cups honey, warmed in a pan or in the microwave
1-3⁄4 cups of sugar
1⁄2 cup of vegetable oil
6 eggs, separated
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup of dark beer
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon ginger
1 teaspoon cloves
3 to 3-1⁄2 cups flour
2 cups of dried fruits and nuts: raisins, candied orange peel, walnuts, dried apricots, dates, etc.



This is a great recipe for the holidays, especially Thanksgiving.  I like to try recipes in advance before I share with guests!


  
Procedure:

Preheat the oven to 325.

In a medium bowl sift together the baking soda and four.  Beat together the butter, oil and warm honey. Add the egg yolks one at a time. Beat in the sugar and spices. Then add the beer and flour mixture alternately. 

Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Finally, fold in the beaten egg whites and fruits and nuts.

Bake in buttered loaf pans for about an hour, until the tops begin to crack and the cake tests done.
Yield: 3 loaves or 6 mini-loaves.



The butter crock is Polish.  This bread tastes great warm with a small pat of butter.







The bread has a nice texture.  It would make a great breakfast with hot tea or coffee on a crisp autumn day.



Cook's Note:  I divided the recipe in half.  I also replaced the spices with Penzy's Cake Spice.  I used Guinness Stout Beer and wildflower honey because it tends to be sweeter.  I've seen recipes with a chocolate topping similar to icing.  When I bake this next, I'll not add any fruit and rely on the honey and spices for flavor.


Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill


4 comments:

  1. This does look delicious! I, too, would probably like it better without the fruit. Do share again when you do it next time, because I would love to try it for the holidays. (Great to see you yesterday!)

    ReplyDelete
  2. The book sounds like one I would enjoy and add in the location I know I would love it! I will save the recipe, I would love to serve this for an afternoon snack with coffee when I have a house full. I love baking with recipes with these spices, makes the house feel so warm and cozy on a cool crisp day. Pretty baking bowl........

    ReplyDelete
  3. this sounds like a wonderful combination! sigh! I want both.
    thank you for the recipe, I love introducing new ones to my little girl:)

    ReplyDelete
  4. The book sounds pretty good! It's been awhile since I've read a book that I absolutely loved. I'm intrigued by this. ;)

    The Piernak looks amazing.

    ReplyDelete

Because you leave comments, you are awesomesauce!