Sunday, February 15, 2015

Welcome to Barbara Early!


A very warm welcome to Beverly Allen, author of the Bridal Bouquet Shop Mysteries. FOR WHOM THE BLUEBELL TOLLS, the second book in the series, was just released this month!

Today, Beverly is giving away a copy of FOR WHOM THE BLUEBELL TOLLS to one lucky person. To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment. (Look for the word COMMENT at the end of the post and click on it.)

But don't miss her amazing recipe for Sponge Candy!


I was delighted to be invited today! Even though my current series isn’t a culinary mystery, I spend a good amount of time in the kitchen. I’m a bit of a down home country cook, more at ease at big family dinners and the occasional church potluck, than I am familiar with haute cuisine. But I love cooking for people, seeing friends and family gathered around the table.


Audrey Bloom, the amateur sleuth in the Bridal Bouquet Shop Mysteries, isn’t much of a cook, I’m afraid. She’s more at home in the flower shop she owns with her cousin Liv--or running around Ramble, Virginia, solving murders. Rather, she cooks up bouquets for brides, based on the language of flowers. It must work, since all of the marriages that have been blessed by her bouquets are still intact.


Still, she has a sweet tooth, and local baker Nick Maxwell keeps her supplied with all the carbs she needs to keep her energy up while finding clues and following suspects. Nick has inspired me to take a “baking break” more than once while writing.


When I was going through my recipes, deciding what to share today, I recalled this regional favorite. And the timing couldn’t be more perfect, just before Presidents’ Day. Kids might enjoy helping with this one--just be careful with the heat!


If you’ve never had sponge candy, don’t expect it to be spongy in texture or to taste of sponges. The name comes from all the bubbles in the finished candy, giving it the appearance of sponges. It’s actually quite crunchy under a layer of chocolate. And since that crunch is 99 percent sugar, it melts away on the tongue almost immediately, much like cotton candy.



Sponge Candy


Half recipe, half science fair project, this Western New York staple is almost as much fun to make as it is delicious.


Ingredients:

1 cup sugar (sorry, the real thing only)

1 cup dark corn syrup (I use Karo)

1 Tbsp cider vinegar

1 Tbsp baking soda

Your favorite melting chocolate.


In a large saucepan (at least 2 quarts. Trust me, this stuff EXPANDS!) combine sugar, corn syrup and vinegar. Heat over medium heat until all the sugar dissolves and mixture begins to boil.

You’ll need a candy thermometer for this. Continue to heat the mixture until it reaches 300 degrees F. There’s no need to stir at this point. It will bubble pretty well on its own.

When the thermometer reaches 300 degrees, remove the pot from the heat, QUICKLY stir in baking soda, and then pour into an ungreased 9 x 13 baking pan. As soon as that baking soda mixes with the vinegar, it will bubble like those science fair volcanoes. Don’t over-stir it, or you’ll stir the bubbles right out. And don’t spread it out in the pan. Just dump it in and let it do its own thing.

Allow to cool completely. If the recipe is successful, the sponge candy should be crunchy, brittle, and with obvious holes. Break or cut into smaller pieces. If desired, coat with your favorite melting chocolate. Set on a tray lined with waxed paper or foil and put in refrigerator for ten to fifteen minutes, until the chocolate is well set. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Quick tips: Some plastics will melt at 300 degrees F, so use a metal spoon! And I recommend a metal pan over glass, because if the sponge candy sticks, metal plans can flex, helping with easier removal. You can melt your chocolate in a double boiler, in the microwave, or I prefer a slow-cooker on low.

And sponge candy is a seasonal food. (My grandmother always said you can only make sponge candy in months with an R in them.) Don’t try it in the summer months. Too much humidity in the air will cause it not to turn out. (It will absorb moisture and be soft or weepy.)

And yes, it’s basically sugar mixed with sugar and covered in chocolate. What’s not to love?



  

  

  



Bio:

Beverly Allen (aka Barbara Early) writes cozy mysteries with a healthy dose of comedy and sometimes a splash of romance. The first two books in the Bridal Bouquet Shop Mystery series: Bloom and Doom and For Whom the Bluebell Tolls are now available from Berkley Prime Crime, with the third, Floral Depravity, set to release in October.

Barbara grew up in the suburbs of Buffalo, NY. When not reading or writing, she enjoys cooking, crafts, home-improvement projects, and spending time with her husband, daughter, and four naughty, but adorable cats.


Readers may friend her on Facebook, like her author page, and follow her on Twitter.


Book blurb (For Whom the Bluebell Tolls):

Everything is coming up roses for Audrey when her dazzling creations are picked to be featured on a wedding reality show. The hot series is filming an episode about a bride who’s bonkers for bells, and Audrey’s bouquets of campanulas, calla lilies, and Bells-of-Ireland are perfect for the bridal theme.

But Audrey’s debut quickly becomes a hothouse of trouble. Her ex, Brad, shows up as a crew member on the show, threatening her blossoming relationship with Nick the baker. To make matters worse, when one of the show’s hosts is found dead in the bell tower of a historic church, all the evidence points toward Brad.

Now Audrey needs to weed out the real killer before someone else’s chance at stardom is permanently nipped in the bud . . .



72 comments:

  1. Thank you for the giveaway! I most remember as a child making Christmas tea cakes with my mom. Also, when she or my grandmother baked pies, she would give me a bit of pie dough to roll out and play with.
    dmskrug3 at hotmail dot com

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    1. I loved baking with my grandmother, as well. When I had pie dough to roll out, we then sprinkled cinnamon sugar on it, and baked it. Yummy! I still do that today with any leftover pie dough--although I must confess, it's usually the store made stuff. Just too convenient.

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    2. Pat (patdupuy@yahoo.com)February 15, 2015 at 2:24 PM

      This may sound awful. My brother and I went through a phase where we added food coloring to everything we made. Even ice cubes. Poor Dad would get home from work to green ice and blue cake with purple icing.

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  2. Thank you for the Sponge Candy recipe, and the candy sounds yummy. FOR WHOM THE BLUEBELL TOLLS is on my TBR list. I'm looking forward to reading it. Thank you for the giveaway.
    myrifraf(at)gmail(dot)com

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  3. Favorite memory of cooking, as a child = baking a Pineapple Upside Down Cake with my mom, using my grandmother's special recipe. EMS591@aol.com

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  4. This candy is one of amy favorites. My husband introduced me to what the Australians (and others) call honeycomb candy. I will have to try making it myself. One of my favorite memories of cooking as s child was licking the beaters to "help" my mom make chocolate chip cookies. I'm not sure how much help it was, but it was always fun.

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    1. Yes, I've heard of honeycomb candy. I've also heard of molasses puffs, which I don't know is the same thing. And when you search for sponge candy on Amazon (Yes, it's there), Cadbury Crunch shows up, so I'm wondering if that's similar as well. Good things catch on!

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  5. I was told by my mother that one of my first sentences was to ask to lick the bowl, and that I enjoyed watching cooking shows with her when very young. My mother and grandmother made everything from scratch so my sister and I were given small tasks here and there. Thanks for the giveaway.
    sallycootie@gmail.com

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    1. Now they warn you against bowl licking. Nice to meet a fellow survivor!

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  6. Thanks for the giveaway. My favorite memory is baking with my grandmother. I would go to her house and ask to bake and she would very patiently help me every time.

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  7. Good morning! I don't think that there's anyway you can go wrong with sugar mixed with sugar and covered in chocolate! I'm going to have to try and make this, but not today because I have a chocolate/sugar hangover from yesterday! When I was a young girl, I remember making 2 things with my mom---one was bourbon balls (which I wasn't allowed to eat---lol!) and the other was a banana nut cake, which I still make to this day. Happy Sunday! :-)

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  8. My mother didn't cook a lot, but when she did I helped. She taught me how easy it is to make a pie ,crust and all. You sound like my kind of cook.

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  9. I think this recipe is easy enough for even me to try---and it sounds good, too! I could much on it while reading your book. Thanks for the contest.
    suefarrell.farrell@gmail.com

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  10. My mother wasn't a good cook and I have a huge sweet tooth so I realized that if I wanted sweets I had to make them. 2 of my friends also loved to bake so we would after school or on the weekends.

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  11. I remember making fudge and divinity with my mom as a little girl. More often than not, they wouldn't set, but we had fun together. Now I'm the official fudge maker in the family. Everyone expects it every Christmas as part of their stocking stuffer.

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  12. When I was a kid I did not like to cook, but I do remember making a scalloped corn recipe out of my Junior Betty Crocker cookbook for my grandpa because he liked scalloped corn. Thank you for the chance to win this book. griperang at embarqmail dot com

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  13. Thanks to my mom, I love to bake! :) Love to try new recipes . Sure this one is one that we will be trying soon. Thank you! :) Patty paddydee54 at hotmail dot com

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  14. I remember making Mac and cheese, hot dogs, and peas for family meal when I was 10 to get my Girl Scout cooking badge.

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  15. I think this would be way too sweet for me.
    sgiden at verizon(.)net

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    1. My grandmother used to say the same thing, but she loved it anyway. She'd take her time nibbling on one piece, and made a sensible decision not to have more than one piece a day. I on the other hand, have a serious sweet tooth...

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  16. Beverly, I remember making the sponge part of this candy for a cake made by Blum's (now out of business). It's delicious. Inside the chocolate, it must be fabulous! Pretty cover, by the way. Thanks for joining us on MLK. ~Daryl / Avery

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    1. Thanks! Most things are fabulous covered in chocolate--and this is a real winning combination. Thanks for letting me visit!

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  17. I think I could make and eat this - sans chocolate ... Thanks.

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  18. I'm always looking for a new candy recipe to put in Christmas baskets. And I'm looking forward to reading For Whom the Bluebell Tolls. I hope I win. dbahn@iw.net

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    1. I've made this to give away, too. I hope it's a hit! (And I hope you enjoy Bluebell.)

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  19. My mom was a great baker so I have lots of memories. The first one that came to me was when she would let me have the left over pie crust. Of course, sometimes I would just spread it with jelly and roll it up and bake or I would spread it in a pie pan or use a mixtures of sugar and cinnamon, dot with butter and then sprinkle with water and bake.I also remember icing cookies to take to school for my birthday. Thanks for the giveaway and the great question. It's nice having those warm memories on this bitter cold snow covered day in Ohio.
    MarshaMysteryreader@yahoo.com

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    1. Yes, we did the same thing with pie dough and cinnamon and sugar. Never added butter or water, though. Now you have me wondering what that would do. I still do it with pie trimmings.

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  20. I didn't cook much as a child. My mother was such a good cook that she took over everything I started. But that was okay with me! This recipe looks delectable. What's not to love about sugar and chocolate?! And my favorite flower is a tulip.

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  21. I loved to bake cookies with my family, and I still do.

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  22. I didn't cook much growing up. But I do like baking xmas cookies every year.

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  23. Thank you so much for joining us today, Barbara. These photos are making me crave sponge candy. And I agree with everyone else, your cover is gorgeous!

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    1. Thanks, Krista! I wish I could take credit for the cover. The folks at Berkley have done lovely covers for this series. And thanks for inviting me today!

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  24. Picky eater as a chii, so I had to learn how to prepare the stuff I would eat. First attempt at hard boiled eggs was too exciting. I put lid on pan but did not turn off burner. Lid blew off and exploded eggs were everywhere, including the ceiling.

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    1. Oh, no! But those are the stories to pass on.

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  25. Excited to try making this sponge candy and to start a new mystery series to me, the story looks like a lot of fun!

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  26. I love sponge candy, but to be honest I just pick some up from the store when I crave some...although I may just try making it one day-the recipe seems easier than I thought it would be! I remember decorating my moms Kris Kringle cut out cookies at Christmas and stuffing the celery with cream cheese for Thanksgiving!

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    1. Yes, you also live in a place where you can get it at any candy or grocery store. :) It's not everywhere. I didn't learn to make it until I moved away for a few years. Now it can be ordered online. Still, sometimes it's nice to try things the old fashioned way.

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    2. I just found a recipe handwritten by my grandmother for sponge candy. The same as yours except she doesn't specify cider vinegar and she says to butter the pan. She's marked the recipe as "good". What's interesting is that there's no mention of chocolate. While tasty without I really didn't think it qualified without chocolate!

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    3. I agree. Much better with chocolate. It's a nice mix of textures.

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  27. Your candy looks delectable. I did cook wonderful blintzes and roly polys with my grandmother who was a really great cook and baker. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  28. I had no interest in cooking or baking since my grandmother ruled the kitchen and wouldn't allow anyone to interfere, so when I was older I taught myself to cook tasty, homecooked family meals that were healthy and appetizing. Baking was another thing which I never mastered. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

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  29. Cozies with a healthy dose of comedy...Perfect!
    libbydodd at comcast dot net

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  30. My dad was the candy maker in the family. He always made fudge and divinity for the holidays. He would have loved this recipe! Thanks for sharing it. I will put it with my candy recipes and note to make it in months with a 'R' ! Thank you for the giveaway. I hope you are having a warm and safe winter day :)

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    1. Thanks, Deb. Not leaving the house, today. Pretty wicked outside at the moment. Hope you enjoy!

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  31. I can't remember not helping my mother in the kitchen. She was from New Jersey and married a Georgia boy so she had to mix her northern style with his southern taste buds. It worked! I love the language of flowers - thank you for bringing it back!

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    1. I'm a Buffalo Gal married to a North Carolina boy, so I can empathize. I also make a great Eastern NC barbecue.

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  32. My favorite cooking memory was helping my mom make savory sticky rice packets filled with marinated pork, chinese sausage, shitake mushrooms and salted egg yolks. This filling was placed inside glutinous rice mixed with peanuts and mung beans (I believe) and all of it was wrapped in bamboo leaves and tied with string. These were steam cooked. We made these once a year and would save some for freezing to be enjoyed later.
    Thanks for sharing the sponge candy recipe. There is an Australian candy I loved called Violet Crumble which is chocolate covered sponge candy in a bar form.
    little lamb lst at yahoo dot com

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  33. I love making a cake with my mom as a kid. The best part was when I got to lick the spoon.

    xzjh04@gmail.com

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  34. I didn't learn to cook until I was an adult, but I enjoy it today. Never heard of Sponge Candy, but it looks great. As for my favorite flower, pink roses are the way to my heart. tcuevas@iccable.com

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  35. The book sounds great and the recipe looks delicious. Thank you for this chance! areewekidding@yahoo.com

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  36. The only thing I ever got to help with was the stirring and then licking the bowl and beaters. I took foods in 7th grade and learned to make cookies and others things that I have forgotten now since that was so long ago. (1961)
    lkish77123 at gmail dot com

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  37. Favorite memory cooking as a child was rolling out sugar cookie dough and using cutters of all the different shapes. Also I would help make cake batter, but that was only because I wanted to lick the beaters. Lol. My favorite flower is a Gerber Daisy. Thanks for the chance! angelhwk68@yahoo.com

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  38. Love peonies.
    littleone AT Shaw DOT ca

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  39. I loved cooking and eating with my grandfather. We would always have something incredibly simple, like hot dogs and mac n cheese, but we always ate by candlelight. :)

    brookeb811 at gmail dot com

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    1. Aww. How sweet to have those memories of your grandfather.

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  40. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  41. sponge candy - going to have to try that one with the grandkids - thanks for the chance to win a great book jody.714@hotmail.com

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  42. Both my mother and grandmother were superlative cooks...I guess I inherited the trait...I love to cook and create delicious things out of whatever is on hand...however, I found to my dismay, at the age of 10 or so, you cannot use Cream of Wheat when you are out of oatmeal for cookies! This is a lovely giveaway and I'd be delighted to be selected. Kathleen Bylsma

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  43. I loved reading everybody's childhood cooking memories. Interesting how they stick with us, and how we then go on and share the same things with our kids!!

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  44. I don't think I have any real memories of cooking as a child. At least not anything special. I did have to start learning to do things in the kitchen when my mom had to be outside helping my dad on the farm. But she always had detailed instructions. I like to try new recipes now. My mom used to make sponge candy, usually around the holidays, and it was too sweet for my likes but my oldest sister loved it! I think lilacs and wild roses are my favorites. They remind me of May and June growing up on South Dakota, before the weather got too hot and icky. The book sounds great!

    ElaineE246atmsndotcom

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  45. I remember finding an old cookbook of my mom's. I make lemon sugar cookies. I thought they were the best. Unfortunately, I don't know what happened to the cookbook. Never made them again. :(

    cb (at) carolbee (dot) com

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  46. "Helping" to make cocoa fudge---had to cook and then stir vigorously so that it wouldn't be grainy. It's still my favorite fudge! I also used to make a candy similar to your recipe~simply divine and ADDICTIVE! Thank you for the recipe, review and contest!
    woodrumbetty@gmail.com

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  47. I grew up helping to cook. I don't have a favorite, but I won a Reserve Champion Ribbon for my 4-H cake at the county fair.

    kaye.killgore@comcast.net

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  48. Anything Chocolate sounds good to me. Thanks for the contest.
    Marilyn Watson ewatvess@yahoo.com

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  49. When I was little I "helped" my grandma cook Thanksgiving dinner. I was in charge of potatoes.
    dotkel50@comcast.net

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  50. This candy sounds so good. I remember my grandmother always made divinity at christmas.
    I can't wait to read this book! I loved Bloom and Doom!

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  51. I like the sound of this book and the look of the candy! I've never heard of Sponge Candy before. When I was very young my Grandmother let me help her make biscuits. The best part was rolling them out with my hands! oh_bother88@otmail.com

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