The Little Women Cookbook Giveaway

UPDATE: Thanks to all who entered the past giveaways for The Little Women Cookbook. The winners have been contacted, and books are on their way. 

Here are the winners:

• Rebecca B. from Brooklyn, N.Y. won the Eye Prefer Paris giveaway.
• Carrie G. from Evergreen, Colorado, won the giveaway below.
• Val P. from Latimer, Iowa, and Lisa B. from Greensboro, N.C., won the giveaway from Ally’s Sweet and Savory Eats.

If you didn’t win, why not try another giveaway? I just caught wind of this one at a new blog called Girls That Create. Good luck! And thanks for your interest.

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It’s here. And you could win a copy.

It’s here. The Little Women Cookbook: Tempting Recipes from the March Sisters and Their Friends and Family, filled with recipes from Little Women, has arrived. I just got my box of author’s copies and I’m giving one away! To enter this giveaway, simply follow me either on Twitter or Instagram. I’ll randomly pick a winner from all the new followers that start following me on either platform from now until midnight Pacific Standard Time on September 28, 2019.

U.S. addresses only, please. I’ll sign the book if you’d like — and I’ll even gift-wrap it to send to your favorite Little Women fan. Or anyone else who loves charming heirloom recipes (updated for today’s cooks, of course).

So … you might be asking yourself: What does Little Women have to do with France? After all, this is a French food blog, right? I answered that question on Richard Nahem’s fabulous Eye Prefer Paris blog last week. (If you don’t know about Richard and his newsletters — which brim with photos of Paris from a contemporary flâneur — you should!)

Not on Instagram or Twitter? Simply leave a note in the comments section below telling me which of the pictured recipes shown here you’d cook first if you win the book, and I’ll enter you in the drawing. Truly — I can’t wait to hear. P.S.: Yes — there are more photos in the book, and they’re equally lovely. No, I didn’t take them! Alison Bickel (a true pro) did!

Top row: Hannah’s Cottage Pie, Amy’s Parisian Profiteroles, Fruit-and-Nut Trifle, Pink-and-White Ice Cream Dessert. Bottom Row: Spice Trade Deviled Eggs, Amy’s “Pickled Lime” Sugar Cookies, Hannah’s Turnovers, Blanc-Mange

Good luck, everyone. And as always, thanks for reading Chez Bonne Femme.

 

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Chocolate Drop Cookie Recipe from The Little Women Cookbook

Chocolate drops were a popular goodie in the days of Little Women. Good news: Hershey’s still makes these delightfully old-fashioned candies. And they’re terrific in cookies.

Hershey’s Chocolate Drops. Smaller than a Hershey’s Kiss, larger than an M&M — i.e., a great size for cookies!

I loved researching the recipes for The Little Women Cookbook. One of my favorite “finds” was when I read about the chocolate drops that Professor Bhaer always gave Meg’s children whenever he visited:

Demi . . . soon discovered that his sister like to play with Mr. Bhaer better than she did him,
but though hurt, he concealed his anguish, for he hadn’t the heart to insult a rival who kept a
mine of chocolate drops in his waistcoat pocket.

(In case you’ve forgotten, Mr. Bhaer is the German immigrant/language teacher whom Jo eventually marries).

I scoured 19th century cookbooks to find a recipe for chocolate drops, and I did find a few. Yet, while I started developing the recipe for today’s cooks, I thought: Wait a minute. How likely is it that the “philosophically inclined” Professor Freidrich Bhaer actually made the chocolate drops? Surely, he bought them from a candy shop, right?

From “The American Pastry Cook.” Recipes “Especially Adapted for Hotel and Steamboat Use” (Steamboats? Is it any wonder I loved researching the recipes for this book?)

So, I looked around for purchased chocolate drops, a candy that I really had never heard of. I was afraid that they’d be something obscure, something you’d have to mail-order from afar. And I didn’t want any ingredient in my book that had to be mail-ordered!

Lo and behold, I found that Hershey’s still makes these delightfully old-fashioned chocolate drops. And I’ve found them in the packaged candy aisle (not the baking aisle) of every supermarket I’ve looked for them in my midsized Midwestern city. I bet if you look, you’ll find them, too.

A little smaller than chocolate kisses, these little goodies are a little like large M&Ms, but without candy coating.

My next task was to figure out how to use these little delights in a recipe for my cookbook. I immediately thought of the famous Peanut Butter Blossoms cookies, but … that wouldn’t have been true to the era (peanut butter really wasn’t a thing during Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy’s time).

Butter cookies, however, were very popular. And that’s how I came up with my Butter Cookies with Mr. Bhaer’s Chocolate Drops recipe.

Chocolate Drop Cookies from The Little Women Cookbook

Chocolate drops make an excellent addition to butter cookies. Nothing against chocolate kisses, but I personally prefer the cookie-to-chocolate ratio of chocolate drops. I also think the flatter drops are easier to bite into than the kisses.

What happens when you don’t chill the dough long enough before baking.

I’ve made this recipe a few dozen times since I developed it last year for the book. Each time, they came out perfectly, except once: One day, when I was in a hurry to make these, I didn’t chill the dough long enough before baking. And look what happened. They cookies spread out. Oh, they tasted great, but they weren’t really the thumbprint-esque butter cookies I had in mind. So, be sure to chill the dough as recommended … unless you like a more thin, spread-out cookie. (Please try it my way first — it’s better!)

P.S.: To find out more about The Little Women Cookbook, and get a peek at some of the beautiful professional photos of the recipes (which are so much better than the ones on this page!), read this recent post on Five Favorite Photos from The Little Women Cookbook.

Enjoy!

Chocolate Drop Cookie Recipe from The Little Women Cookbook
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 dozen
 
Be sure to let the dough chill as indicated, or your cookies will spread out too thinly as they bake.
Ingredients
  • 1½ sticks (12 tablespoons [167 g]) unsalted butter, allowed to stand at room temperature for 20 minutes to soften
  • ¾ cup (150 g) sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1¾ cups (220 g) all-purpose flour
  • 4 dozen chocolate drops or stars
Instructions
  1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy, about 30 seconds. Add the sugar, egg, vanilla, baking powder, and salt and beat until combined. Beat in 1 cup (125 g) of the flour with the mixer, then stir in the remaining ¾ cup (95 g) flour with a wooden spoon. Gather the dough into a large ball; wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
  3. Shape the cookie dough into 1-inch (2.5 cm) balls. Place the balls 2 inches (5 cm) apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Center a chocolate drop on each cookie, pushing it down to flatten the dough—the chocolate drop should be level with the surrounding dough.
  4. Bake the cookies until they are just starting to brown around the edges, about 8 minutes. Let the cookies remain on the cookie sheets for 1 minute. Then, use a thin metal spatula to transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely. To store, layer the cookies in an airtight container, separating each layer with waxed paper. Store at room temperature up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.

The Little Women Cookbook: Tempting Recipes from the March Sisters and Their Friends and Family, is available on Amazon.

 

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Why Now Was the Perfect Time to Write My New Book

I’ve been a cookbook and food magazine writer and editor for over 20 years. I’ve also banged out stories as a wine writer and a restaurant reviewer (a position I held at The Des Moines Register for 15 years). I’ve traveled and dined in best-of-the-world restaurants from La Broche in Madrid to Charlie Trotter in Chicago.

And yet … in the past few years, I’ve found myself less and less interested in the kind of detailed, ground-breaking, experimental cuisine that I once passionately sought in every place I traveled. These days, when someone at a party comes up to tell me about the latest Michelin-starred restaurant they’ve dined at in some far-away spot — somewhere they say that I just have to try — I listen and nod for as long as I can, then try to duck away as fast as I can.

While I still seek well-crafted dishes made with well-chosen ingredients, on most days, I’d rather have a thoughtfully prepared trout amandine than an exquisitely detailed plate at a #foodporn-worthy restaurant. A good-quality gin on the rocks with lime and a splash of excellent tonic—served in the appropriate rocks glass—makes me infinitely happier than a rarified craft cocktail. 

Indeed, I’m most gratified when I’m at a table where, as renowned Boston chef Gordon Hamersly once put it, “the food is not being worshiped or fawned over, but rather has just simply taken its natural place in the moment.”

And so, when my editor from Harvard Common Press asked me if I’d write a cookbook based on foods in Louisa May Alcott’s masterpiece, “Little Women,” the timing could not have been better. The project aligned perfectly with where I’m at in my culinary life right now.

What? You haven’t read “Little Women“? Now’s the time. In celebration of the 150th anniversary (and pegged to the upcoming movie, I’m sure) here’s a beautiful edition of this beloved novel.

Published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869, “Little Women” begins with the March sisters taking Christmas breakfast to a destitute German immigrant family; it ends with a picnic in the orchard on apple-picking day, when the sisters and their mother reflect on the great harvest of the fruit and of their lives. 

Food lovingly cooked and happily shared weaves in and out of the 450-plus pages of Little Women, but it’s never the sole focus. No one ever fawns; rather, food takes its natural place in an ongoing narrative of lessons learned, affection given, love made visible.

Food’s true role is perhaps most movingly apparent when Jo seeks to earn money from her writing so that she can give her gravely ill sister Beth everything she desires, “from strawberries in winter, to an organ in her bedroom.” 

Want a taste of what this book is all about? Try my recipe for Amy’s “Pickled Lime” sugar cookies. It riffs on one of the more prominent foods in the book: pickled limes, a trendy treat among the schoolgirls in 12-year-old Amy’s set. 

What, pray tell, were pickled limes? According to a cookbook published in 1845, pickled limes were made by curing the limes with salt, then pickling them in a mixture of garlic, onions, clove, ginger, vinegar and mustard seeds. Though hard to believe, pickled limes were a food fad during the mid- to late 19th century.

Alas, this delicacy did not stand the test of time. While I developed the recipes in my book to match a genuine spirit of the era, I only included recipes that we’d truly yearn to cook and eat today. I put Amy’s beloved limes (albeit candied, not pickled) atop a buttery sugar cookie (something the March sisters would have definitely enjoyed). Hence I came up with this sweeter and more delightful way to tip our hats to charming Amy and the beloved limes she’s so eager to share with her friends.

Amy's "Pickled Lime" Sugar Cookies
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 36
 
Would the March sisters have used a mix? Honestly, I bet if a truly good sugar-cookie mix had been available during the Civil War, they may well have done. The trick is to use an excellent mix, such as Betty Crocker's Sugar Cookie Mix, that calls for adding a stick of butter. When I developed this recipe, I tested it with five different from-scratch sugar-cookie recipes, and honestly, truly, this start-with-a-mix version won out. But if you wish to use your own tried-and-true sugar cookie recipe, do so, and simply top with my zippy-sweet lime frosting and a jellied lime candy. Enjoy!
Ingredients
  • 1 package sugar cookie mix (see note*)
  • 1½ tablespoons unsalted butter, allowed to stand at room temperature for 20 minutes to soften
  • 1½ cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 4½ teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 1½ teaspoons grated lime zest
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Milk (optional)
  • Green food coloring (optional)
  • 8 jellied lime candy slices, cut into small wedges
Instructions
  1. Prepare the sugar cookies according to the package directions. Allow to cool completely.
  2. For the lime frosting, beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for a few seconds to soften. Add the sugar, lime juice, lime zest and vanilla. Beat until smooth. If needed, add milk,
  3. teaspoon at a time, to make a spreadable frosting. Tint as desired with food coloring. (A little goes a long way, so start with the smallest dot possible.)
  4. Frost the cooled cookies with the lime frosting and top each with a wedge of jellied lime candy. To store, layer the cookies between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container and keep in the refrigerator up to 3 days. Makes 3 dozen cookies.

 

 

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