Welcome to my weekly feature where authors share about the hobbies, careers, or passions of their characters.
I’m pleased to introduce today’s guest, Maria Imbalzano…
Baking May Not Be My Forte, But I Love It!
I’ve always hated to cook, but I love to bake. The reason is simple: I have a sweet-tooth and licking the bowl, beaters, spoon or spatula is far superior than tasting some sauce or chicken and veggie concoction.
Every year during the holidays, my mom, daughters and I bake Christmas cookies. When my mom was in charge, they all came out perfectly. We made butter balls, chocolate walnut, chocolate chip and kiefle (a square of thin pastry dough stuffed with a nut mixture, lekvar or apricot jam). While my mom, who is now 94, still supervises, she doesn’t jump in and help. Unfortunately, my cookies never come out as good as hers did, and after a few years I gave up on the kiefle. My dough was never thin enough and I didn’t have the patience to keep rolling it out after it stuck to the rolling pin or cutting board.
The problem with my baking in general is that I’m a little casual with quantities. My mother, daughters and husband have all commented on my methods of measuring water, flour, sugar etc. and my response to anything that doesn’t come out quite right is “oh well.”
My heroine, Bella, in “Red Velvet Crinkles and Christmas Sprinkles” has a little bit of me in her. She’s a lawyer who lost her job in Manhattan and returns home to Princeton over the holidays to regroup. She learns that her parents’ gift shop in town is failing and she comes up with the idea to turn it into a cookie cottage.
Her parents bristle at the idea at first, but realize they may not have a business if they don’t change. In an effort to bolster the new cookie cottage during the holidays, Bella suggests that her father video her and her mom baking—with Bella making all kinds of mistakes. These videos will be posted on TikTok in an effort to reach a broader audience.
In order to write this scene, I researched common mistakes in baking – most of which I make. Who knew there was a proper technique for measuring flour? Apparently, you spoon it into the measuring cup instead of dipping the measuring cup into the flour bag, because no one wants excess flour causing a crumbly cookie. And too much sugar makes cookies brittle. You wouldn’t want others to break their teeth on over-sweetened treats. Not thoroughly creaming the butter and sugar results in flat, dense cookies instead of the more appealing light and fluffy ones. Not chilling the dough when called for means the batter will spread quickly and aggressively once in the oven. Presumably no one wants an aggressive cookie.
And the mortal sin of baking—using liquid measuring cups to measure dry ingredients. Or vice versa. So much to learn. Perhaps Bella and I will take heed. Perhaps not.
But one thing is for sure. “Red Velvet Crinkles and Christmas Sprinkles” is a heartwarming holiday romance that will squeeze your heart and make you smile. And it might even make you head to the kitchen to make Christmas cookies.
Find the recipe here:
Competitive, work-obsessed Bella Simonetti has just been fired from her high-paying job at a Manhattan law firm. At an all-time low, she returns home and helps her parents at their small-town gift shop, but the business is failing and may not make it past the Christmas holidays.
Successful landscape architect Dean Jackson is like a son to Bella’s parents. But he’s a persistent annoyance to her—he seems to have forgotten his unforgivable blunder thirteen years earlier.
When Bella transforms her parents’ gift shop into a cookie cottage, Dean’s generosity and magnetic smile are hard to resist, and those feelings of unrequited adolescent love come rushing back. But can Bella let go of the past and accept Dean for the man he is today?
“I agree with Dean. Barb’s Gift Cottage has been in Princeton for thirty years. You don’t decide one day to revamp the entire business. Get rid of the old, make way for the new. It doesn’t make any sense to me.”
Bella bit her tongue before responding, reminding herself to stay cool. “Okay. I’m open to anything. Let’s talk about your ideas to stay afloat.” She sat, poised with her pad in front of her, pen in hand.
She looked directly at her dad first, eyebrow arched. “I’m listening.” Then she scanned over to Dean.
Her gaze moved up to his eyes—sea green in the harsh kitchen light but beautiful just the same.
His gaze locked with hers and held her hostage— an unwilling prisoner to his warden. All ire morphed into a swirling eddy of primal lust, and she felt herself disappearing into his aura. She needed to save herself as well as her ego. Fighting the pull, she surfaced, blinking to clear her eyes, inhaling to bring her back to the present.
She disconnected and glanced at her parents. Had they noticed she’d been missing?
The smallest smile quirked Dean’s lips—surely acknowledging her lapse into Dean-land. She reached for the annoyance she’d let slip from her grasp and pulled it back into her arsenal.
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Maria Imbalzano is a retired matrimonial lawyer who now writes full time. Instead of drafting motions, legal memoranda, and briefs, although fascinating, she now spends her days creating memorable characters and taking them on their emotional journeys through her contemporary romance novels.
Her novel, “Unchained Memories,” won the Wisconsin Romance Writers Write Touch Readers’ Award and the ACRA Readers’ Choice Heart of Excellence Award. “Sworn to Forget,” the first of the four-book Sworn Sisters Series was a finalist for the illustrious RONE award as well as the Book Buyers Best Award. Two of her novellas, “The Blueberry Swirl Waltz” and “A Song For Another Day” won first place awards in their categories in the NEST (National Excellence in Story Telling) contest. Both of these novellas were also finalists for the Beverley Award.
Visit Maria at http://www.mariaimbalzano.com
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