Monday, May 21, 2018
In the Kitchen with Abigail Drake… Recipe for Turkish Baklava
In my newest book, “The Enchanted Garden Café,” my main character Fiona is working as a baker in her mother’s café until she can finish up her MBA. Like many mothers and daughters, Claire and Fiona have issues. Claire is a former stoner chick who surrounds herself with artists and oddballs, tarot card readers, Wiccans, reiki therapists, and musicians. Fiona, a born skeptic, has little time for things she can’t see or quantify. She longs for control, and a stable, predictable, boring life – something she’s never had before.
“The Enchanted Garden Café” is the story of a mother and daughter, but it’s also the story of a community, of the people who live near the café and frequent it often. It’s about growing up and figuring out who you really are and what you want, and it’s a romance as well. Although Fiona is dating a businessman named Scott, she feels a strange pull of attraction to Matthew, a musician with a mysterious past.
Will she go with the guy who looks better on paper, or will she follow her heart…and risk ending up just like her mother?
One fun part of writing this book was writing about the cookies and all the baking that went on in the café. Fiona spends a lot of time preparing wonderful treats for the weekly tea parties held in their back garden. I used my own personal cookie baking experience as inspiration for many of Fiona’s confections, but I also drew on the time I spent in England to come up with the perfect foods for an afternoon tea. It made me long for Yorkshire, where I first tasted scones slathered in fresh cream and jam. Yum. It’s as close to heaven as you can get on earth – trust me.
Another aspect I enjoyed was thinking up ideas for the aprons worn by the people working in the kitchen. The aprons often add a bit of a foreshadowing to what is going on in the story, but they were also entertaining. In this excerpt, Fiona put on an apron that said “Kitchen Bitch” by accident, and it makes her consider her feelings about baking, and about love and relationships in general:
I enjoyed working in the shop, but the kitchen was my favorite place. I loved chopping and sifting and kneading. When the aroma of baking cookies filled the air and I smelled spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or cloves, I felt happy and content. I couldn’t cut a lemon without lifting it to my nose for a whiff of its bright, citrusy beauty, and there was nothing as satisfying as putting bread dough into an oiled bowl and coming back to see it doubled in size.
I needed a “Kitchen Witch” apron instead of “Kitchen Bitch” because this was the kind of magic I could believe in. It wasn’t the magic Mom and her friends talked about, with omens, charms, and crystals. My magic was practical. Scientific. I mixed the right ingredients in the correct amounts and created something wonderful.
I planned my life this way, too, putting the right things together in the correct amounts to get the desired results. If I had a recipe, it would read, “Take four years of undergrad in a useful major. Add an MBA. Work hard. Stir in the right man, if desired, and enjoy a happy and successful life without ever worrying about things like peeling paint, broken air conditioners, leaky fountains, or irresponsible parents.”
I sighed. Mom would never change, but at least I could control the other elements in my life. Any cook knows, to get the best outcome from a recipe, choose the highest-quality ingredients and buy only the best in kitchen supplies. That’s what I’d done by choosing Scott. He was as reliable as a good copper pot.
I share several recipes in the back of the book, but I’d like to share something extra special today. A fun fact about me – I lived in Istanbul, Turkey for three years and my husband is Turkish. Although Fiona doesn’t make baklava in my book, this is one of my favorite recipes, so I thought I’d share it here today.
Abigail Drake’s Turkish Baklava
1 box of phyllo dough, defrosted overnight in the fridge
2 cups of chopped walnuts, sprinkled with a bit of sugar
4 sticks of butter (you may need slightly less)
2 cups of sugar
1 cup of water
A few drops of fresh lemon juice
1. Take a 9x13 pan and grease it thoroughly with butter. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Melt a stick of butter in the microwave and unroll the phyllo dough. Put one sheet of phyllo dough into the prepared pan, and brush it carefully with the melted butter, covering all the dough completely. Repeat this process over an over again until half the sheets of phyllo have been used (you will need to melt more butter as you go).
3. Spread the phyllo dough with the chopped nuts.
4. Beginning layering the rest of the phyllo, brushing each sheet once again with butter.
5. When you get to the last sheet, do NOT brush it with butter. Instead, cut it into serving size portions with a very sharp knife (either small squares, or cut on a diagonal for a more interesting look). Once you have cut the entire pan, brush the top with butter and bake it in the over until brown – usually around 30 minutes.
6. As the baklava bakes, make a simple syrup. Put 2 cups of sugar and one cup of water into a small saucepan. Cook it on med-low, stirring and bringing it to a gentle boil. Once the syrup thickens slightly (usually after 20-25 minutes or so), remove it from the heat and add a few drops of lemon juice. This will keep the sugar in the syrup from crystalizing.
7. Remove the baklava from the oven, and spoon the warm syrup over it. Let it cool, and enjoy. Or, as they say in Turkish, “Afiyet olsun!”.
I hope you enjoy the baklava recipe, and I also hope you enjoy my new book. Happy reading, and happy baking to all of you!
The Enchanted Garden Café
South Side Stories
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Publisher: Kindle Press
Date of Publication: May 1, 2018
Number of pages: 272
Word Count: 89,000
Cover Artist: Najla Qamber
Tagline: Something magical is happening in the garden.
For her sixth birthday, Fiona Campbell’s mother, Claire, made her a peace sign piñata filled with wishes for a better planet instead of candy. When she got her period, her mother held a womanhood ceremony at their café and invited the neighborhood. On her sixteenth birthday, they celebrated with a drum circle.
Fiona grew up trying to keep the impulsive Claire in check, and their struggling café afloat. She plans to move out, but first must find a way to stop a big corporation from tearing down their business and destroying her mother’s livelihood.
Claire thinks karma will solve their financial and legal problems. Fiona prefers a spreadsheet and a solid business plan. The last thing she has time for is Matthew Monroe, a handsome complication who walks through their door with a guitar on his back and a naughty gleam in his eye. But when disaster strikes, and Fiona’s forced to turn to him for help, will she learn to open her heart and find she can believe in something magical after all?
Falling in love is like baking.
Results may vary with experience.
I opened the box and stepped back, tripping over a pile of Himalayan wind chimes I’d left lying behind me on the floor of the shop. They clanked in a discordant melody as I untangled them from my feet.
“What the heck?” I asked, ignoring the chimes and focusing on the parcel that had arrived in the mail earlier that morning. Tiny stone phalluses in various shades of gray filled the container to the brim. Checking the return address, I noticed the shipping cost and wanted to cry. Most of our inventory budget for the entire month had been used to mail this one small box halfway around the world.
“Mom, what exactly did you order from Inuyama, Japan?”
My mother popped her head around the corner, a bright smile on her face. “Did they finally arrive, Fiona? I’ve been waiting for ages.”
“For stone penises?”
Why was I even surprised? This wasn’t the first time something like this had happened, and it probably wouldn’t be the last. My mother, Claire de Lune Campbell, had never been the master of impulse control, and she had a history of making very poor decisions. She’d been born Claire Campbell and added the “de Lune” in, what I can only guess, was a moment of pot-induced inspiration. The pot no longer played a part in her life, but the total inability to make common-sense decisions remained.
Mom picked up one of the stone penises, a happy twinkle in her eye. “Aren’t they lovely?”
On the outside, Mom and I looked alike. The same blonde hair, the same blue eyes, the same stubborn tilt to our chins, but there the resemblance ended. Mom was as happy and bright as a butterfly landing on a flower, and she had the same level of fiscal responsibility. I stressed about everything, especially money, but I had good cause.
My mom owned and operated the Enchanted Garden Café, where we served food, coffee, and specially blended teas and sold unusual items in our small gift shop. Nestled in the middle of the South Side, the funky hippie district of Pittsburgh, it was the perfect spot for my mom but a constant source of anxiety for me.
I wiped sweat from my face and brushed off my clothing. Dust covered my T-shirt and shorts, and some kind of stone powder had fallen out of the box from Inuyama onto my tennis shoes. Mom, glowing in a dress made from recycled saris, didn’t have a speck of dust on her, but she hadn’t handled the phalluses.
Kate, the girl who worked behind the counter, came over to us, her blue eyes alight with curiosity. “I want to see them,” she said. Mom handed her one, and she studied it closely, peering at it through the thick black frames of her retro hipster glasses. Her ebony hair was pulled off to the side in a low ponytail, and her colorful tattoos peeked through the crocheted black cardigan covering her pale skin. “At least they are anatomically correct. Look at those veins.”
My cheeks grew warm, and Mom smiled, putting a cool hand against my face. “Aww, Fiona is blushing.”
“No, I’m not. It’s hot in here.”
“Of course it is,” she said, making me feel twelve instead of twenty-five, but it was hot for early June, and the air-conditioning was broken. Again. Even with all the windows open, it still felt stuffy.
I ignored her and picked up a penis. “What are these things anyway?”
She beamed at me with pure, unfiltered happiness. “Fertility charms from a little shrine in the mountains of Japan. They have a big festival there every year. I went once.”
She sighed, most likely remembering happy times at the fertility festival, and went back to the kitchen. I looked at Kate and rolled my eyes, making her snicker, before getting back to work. The fertility charms came in all sizes and seemed handmade. I just wasn’t sure how to sell them or where to display them in our shop.
A Victorian eyesore, the café was painted on the outside in what once had been a mix of bright pink and various shades of green. The pink had faded to a dull rose, and the green looked like the color of old limes just before they rotted. It needed work and a fresh coat of paint, but instead of doing so, we spent our money on phalluses from Japan. That was how things worked with my mother. No planning. No rhyme or reason. No logic. No rational thought.
The bell above the door tinkled, and I turned, a penis in each hand, as a stranger walked into the shop. I couldn’t see his face at first because the sun was at his back, but he carried a guitar case. A sure sign of trouble.
“Hello,” he said as he came closer.
He had straight dark hair that brushed his shoulders, brown eyes, and a goatee. He reminded me of a sexy, naughty French pirate, and I knew his kind well. Close to my age, he was definitely one of the artsy, flighty types who always hung out around my mom. I could spot them a mile away.
“Holy guacamole, if he were any hotter, I’d need new underwear,” whispered Kate, taking off to the back of the shop and leaving me alone to greet the stranger.
About the Author:
Abigail Drake is the award-winning author of twelve novels, including three young adult books under the name Wende Dikec. She has spent her life traveling the world, and collecting stories wherever she visited. She majored in Japanese and International Economics in college and worked in import/export and as an ESL teacher before she committed herself full time to writing. She writes in several romance genres, and her books are quirky, light, and fun.
Abigail is a trekkie, a book hoarder, the master of the Nespresso machine, a red wine addict, and the mother of three boys (probably the main reason for her red wine addiction). A puppy named Capone is the most recent addition to her family, and she blogs about him as a way of maintaining what little sanity she has left.
She is a member of Pennwriters, RWA, Three Rivers Romance Writers, Mindful Writers, Women's Fiction Writers, and the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. She teaches writing to children, and her non-fiction article about the life of a child in Istanbul was published in Faces Magazine (an imprint of Cricket Magazine) in February 2016.