Tuesday’s Table Welcomes Author Jana Richards

I am so excited to be hosted Jana Richards today. Not only is she an incredibly talented storyteller but she’s a friend. She’s here to share her latest release, Home Fires, and talk about her love of baking.

Easy as Pie

I’ve always liked to bake. I remember as a teenager learning to make chocolate chiffon cake. It was the size and shape of an angel food cake, and had a light, airy texture that melted in the mouth and left a nice chocolate buzz. Brownies were also a favorite of mine to bake. I guess I had a thing for chocolate. Still do.

These days I don’t bake much, due to a busy schedule and a concern for my expanding waistline. But one thing I still love to make is pie, especially for guests. Pie crust can be a tricky thing to master, and  honestly, my crusts don’t always turn out as flakey as I would like. The perfect pie crust requires exact balance. Adding a little too much or too little of any of the ingredients can result in frustration and sometimes disaster. At least it does for me.

So when I was looking for a challenging dish for my heroine to master in my novel “Welcome to Paradise”, I had her learn to make pies. Bridget is a talented chef who calls herself the “Queen of the Cocktail Party” because of her expertise with appetizers, but she has little experience with pie. The people of her small North Dakota hometown rally around to teach her. It takes a village not only to raise a child, but also to teach Bridget to bake!

Here’s the recipe for pie crust I taught to Bridget:

Fruit Pie Pastry

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

1 cup shortening (removed from fridge about an hour before using)

8 tbsp. ice water (approximately)

2 tbsp. milk

Place oven rack on lowest level and preheat oven to 450 F. Sift flour, then measure into a bowl that will accommodate it but isn’t too big. Add salt. Add shortening to flour and use a knife to cut into dice-sized pieces. Then using a wide-bladed pastry blender, quickly combine shortening and flour until fully integrated and there’s no loose flour in bowl.

Add ice water one tablespoon at a time in different parts of the bowl. Use a table fork to quickly stir mixture. If it doesn’t start to form a ball, add another 1 to 2 tablespoons ice water and continue stirring vigorously.

When dough starts to come together in a ball, remove it from the bowl, shape it into a more uniform ball and cut in half. Generously flour a plastic pastry sheet or large wax paper. Place one of the dough halves in the centre and flatten slightly with your hand. Place a large piece of waxed paper on top and use a rolling pin on top of the waxed paper to work dough into a large, fairly thin circle that is large enough to cover the pie plate.

Remove waxed paper and gently fold circle of dough in half. Gently place it over the pie plate, unfold it and use your fingers to work it down to the bottom, against the sides and over the rim.

Repeat process with second ball of dough. Put prepared filling into pie crust. Moisten your fingers and dampen the edges of the bottom crust. Then put the folded upper crust over the filling and press the edges of the upper and lower crust together to form a seal.

Use a sharp knife to trim pastry along outside edge of pie plate, then use your fingers to crimp the edge to make a nice finish. Baste top crust, but not the crimped edge, with milk, then use a sharp knife to cut a pattern of vents in the top crust to allow steam to escape.

Bake pie on lowest rack of preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes at 450 F and then reduce temperature to 350 F for 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool somewhat before serving.

And here’s one of my favorite pie fillings. I got this recipe from my mom, and since we grow rhubarb in the garden, it’s one I make often.

Rhubarb Pie Filling

2 ½ cups rhubarb

1 cup raisins (optional)

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

¼ tsp. salt

½ cup sweet heavy cream or whipping cream

1 egg

Combine all ingredients and pour into pie crust. Makes one pie.

With practice, Bridget eventually learns to master the pie crust, and eventually learns that baking, and love, is as easy as pie.

Do you bake pie? Do you have a favorite kind of pie?

Thanks, Jana. Home Fires is a delightful read and I highly recommend it!

Anne Wakefield travels halfway around the world for love. But when she arrives in Canada from England at the end of World War Two, she discovers the handsome Canadian pilot she’d fallen in love with has married someone else. Heartbroken, she prepares to return to London, though she has nothing left there to return to. Her former fiancé’s mother makes a suggestion: marriage to her other son.

Badly wounded and scarred during the war, Erik Gustafson thinks he’s a poor substitute for his brother. Although he loves Anne almost from the first time he sees her, he cannot believe she would ever be able to love him as he is – especially as he might be after another operation on his bad leg.  Anne sees the beauty of his heart. The cold prairie winter may test her courage, but can she prove to Erik that her love for him is real?

Jana Richards has tried her hand at many writing projects over the years, from magazine articles and short stories to full-length paranormal suspense and romantic comedy.  She loves to create characters with a sense of humor, but also a serious side.  She believes there’s nothing more interesting then peeling back the layers of a character to see what makes them tick.

When not writing up a storm, working at her day job as an Office Administrator, or dealing with ever present mountains of laundry, Jana can be found on the local golf course pursuing her newest hobby.

Jana lives in Western Canada with her husband Warren, and a highly spoiled Pug/Terrier cross named Lou. You can reach her through her website at http://www.janarichards.net

Follow the Links:

Website:  http://www.janarichards.net

To read an excerpt from Home Fires:  http://www.janarichards.net/ExcerptreviewsHomeFires.html

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/JanaRichardsAuthor

Buy Link for Home Fires:   http://www.thewildrosepress.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=176_145&products_id=4902

Amazon Author Page:  http://www.amazon.com/author/janarichards

Blog:  http://janarichards.blogspot.com

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13 thoughts on “Tuesday’s Table Welcomes Author Jana Richards

  1. Nice to see you here, Jana – and I’m excited to hear about “Welcome to Paradise” – I’m hoping that means the story is soon to be published???

    Pie crust is my nightmare. I can bake bread like nobody’s business, but I can not make a flaky pie crust! My mother-in-law is a wonderful baker, her pie crusts are amazing, even she can’t help me. I think I work the dough too much (blaming my love of kneading the bread dough over and over again). But maybe it’s time to try it again – if you don’t at first succeed…

    Oh, and favorite pie – apple pie (no ice cream, thanks).

    • Hi Janet!
      Pie crust is so tricky, and I have to admit that sometimes I just go straight to the grocery store and buy the ready-made shells! But occassionally I’ll get the urge to make some pies from scratch. You’re one up on me in the bread making department. I had some success with my bread machine, but making bread from scratch, no way. When I tried to make buns they were more like hockey pucks.

      I’m very excited about the contract with Carina Press for “Welcome to Paradise”, which I gather will undergo a name change – stay tuned for that. They say they want to release it in October 2013 so I think I’m going to have a very busy year ahead!

      PS – I love apple pie too. We used to have an apple tree in Melfort, so I used to make a lot of apple pies.
      Jana

      • Congrats, Jana – it’s been so long since we’ve talked, I didn’t know about your contract with Carina. I’m so happy for you, I know how much Welcome means to you!!!

  2. Thanks for being here today, Jana. I’m not a baker. The thought of attempting to make pie crusts scares me, but I’m willing to give it a try. Home Fires is such a fabulous story! What was the inspiration behind the story?

    My favorite pie is pumpkin pie with whipped cream. LOVE the taste and love the scent of pumpkin and all the spices! But Rhubarb Strawberry would be my second choice.

    • Hi Karyn,
      Thanks for having me today! It’s great to be here to talk about food, one of my favorite things. I love pumpkin pie with whipped cream too. Who am I kidding? I pretty much love any kind of pie. The smell of a pumpkin pie baking is the best thing about Thanksgiving. About my rhubarb pie recipe – I’ve actually convinced people who thought they didn’t like rhubarb with my pie. It’s got a custard filling that is so good. Mind you, with the heavy cream and sugar it’s not exactly a diet food!

      The inspiration for “Home Fires” came from a fascination with all things World War Two in general, and war brides in particular. I’m blown away by these women who left their families and their countries to marry men they sometimes barely knew, and follow them to Canada, to a way of life totally different from the one they’d known. It must have taken great courage and determination. These women deserve to be written about.

      Jana

  3. Congrats on your book Jana! I like the premise and the fact that your heroine is queen of the cocktail party! lol I already feel for her because I struggle with pie crusts too…and to this day I always have a back up box of pre-made crusts!

  4. Jana,

    Carina Press?! Congratulations! Although I looked over the pie recipe I am not a cook or a baker by choice. But what at great ‘problem’ to have your heroine have to solve. Best of luck with your next release.

    • Thanks Margo! Yes, from experience I knew that making pie crust was a tough skill for my heroine Bridget to learn to master. It ‘took a village’ to teach her the skill, and in return she learns to be part of the community she’d once run away from.

      Thanks for stopping by!
      Jana

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