It is with my great pleasure to introduce Donna Cronk, a very talented friend of mine, in the writing of another “guest blog post” for my website. It is also with great pleasure that I announce her newest book, “That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland” to become my newest “Blaise the Baker: Book Club” selection. Welcome Donna!
Welcome to ‘That Sweet Place’: There will be pie
By Donna Cronk
A few days after my new novel, That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland, came out, I made a sugar cream pie for a pitch-in. My husband got more than he bargained for when he asked the question, “How did you get into sugar cream pies?”
I told him that it’s Indiana’s official state pie, that it’s the state’s bicentennial year, that the pie is on the cover of my book –and that Blaise Doubman created the pie recipe that’s featured in the book.
Blaise is not only a gifted baker and cook, he’s a talented food writer, and his column appears the first and third Sundays each month in the Neighbors (lifestyle) section of the New Castle(Indiana) Courier-Times. Just as the kitchen is Blaise’s domain, that section of the paper has been mine for nearly 27 years as its editor. I’m not so sure how we were fortunate enough to land Blaise, but I sure am glad we did.
Blaise is also an enthusiastic supporter of my work, and that included my first novel, Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakast,published two years ago. It’s about Samantha, who returns to her small Hoosier hometown and starts over. There are family recipes and scriptures that speak to the situations the characters find themselves in.
When I started writing the sequel, which includes a romance for Samantha, a new boarder, a new plot to get Samantha’s house from the conniving Ellen, and an unlikely but charming catalyst in the story, a dog named Reggie, I thought hard about what particular recipes I’d like to season into the story.
I raided the files of my own as well as my inherited family recipes, tried several, and even planned to use some that were eventually cut. It was important for me to know exactly where they came from and I had to be convinced that the family ones were original, or at least contained so many changes and updates that they had become new.
Since this is Indiana’s bicentennial year, I knew that I wanted to include a sugar cream pie recipe. I looked through some cookbooks and found one in my hometown church recipe book –but had no idea how to contact the person submitting it who had moved away many years before.
Then, a lightbulb went on. Of course! Ask Blaise! And he agreed to gift me use of his recipe! I’ve asked Blaise to do a post for my blog, at http://www.donnacronk.com, telling how he came up with the recipe. I hope you’ll drop by and read it.
Not only is it delicious, it is a perfectly orchestrated dish, the ingredients simple, the method foolproof. And the crust! If you are like many who shudder at the idea of creating your own pie crust, (why does that task continue to terrify home bakers?) the wait is over because it’s like having Blaise lean over your shoulder and gently walk you through it. And, shock of shock, it’s easy!
Blaise has shared in my excitement over this book, and I was delighted to share with him the picture artist Marilyn Witt created of a delicious sugar cream pie on the cover. So with his permission, I gave him a cameo role in the book.
There was one other recipe that I simply had to share with readers this go-around. It’s called Katherine’s Date Swirls. These cookies come from my Union County childhood when afamily friend in our church made these as a thank-you Christmas treat for my father, who was a farmer-school-bus driver. As a kid, I thought these were the best cookies I had ever eaten. And guess what? I still think that. The secret is using black walnut pieces.
I found the recipe in that same local church cookbook that I mentioned above, and called Katherine’s daughter, Pat Buell. Pat said her late mother would be delighted to know I am using her recipe and gave her full blessing for me to print it. I adapted the recipe a bit from how it was written, trying the recipe out a few times, and adjusted it accordingly for my own clarity, and hopefully yours. But let me tell you it is ALL-Katherine in taste and deed, and the cookies are one of those few things in life that taste exactly as I remember them.
Pat shared that these were her mother’s signature cookies. She was known for them, and they went all over the world—shipped by her mother to servicemen. Katherine hulled her own black walnuts, gathering the encased nut meats from trees on their farm. If you’ve never dealt with black walnuts from their source, let me tell you this is no easy task. With apologies to Pat and Katherine, I purchased mine from small bags in the grocery store on the baking aisle.
There are other recipes in the book, ones I would be glad to unpack in a future blog. Please know that the book is a novel with recipes—and not a cookbook with a story. Yet each of the recipes is part of the bigger overall picture, and I’ve seasoned them into the plot.
Here’s an idea: Why not host a book club and for the wrap-up party, have a pitch-in meal featuring the book’s recipes? And invite me. If you are meeting in Indiana, and I can possibly get there, I will gladly come and be happy to discuss the book with you. Maybe we can talk Blaise into coming too, who knows?
Meanwhile, consider picking up a copy. The print version is up on Amazon, the Kindle edition is coming any day now, copies will be available from me at The Courier-Times in New Castle on and after Monday, May 16, or email me for details on signing and mailing you a copy.
Meanwhile, put on the tea kettle, enjoy a cup of Twinings Green Tea with Lemon (my favorite flavor) or your own. Wouldn’t a slice of pie be just the thing with it?
Donna Cronk would love to hear from you. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Like her author Facebook page at Donna Cronk. Visit her blog at http://www.donnacronk.com. She has a program perfect for women’s groups of many kinds called “Bloom Before You Are Planted.” Ask her about booking a date.
Thank you again Donna for thinking of me in developing the sugar cream pie recipe in your book and for blessing everyone with your multitude of talents. It’s an honor and privilege to know you. -Blaise