The Novel Bakers Present The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living

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I’m joining The Novel Bakers with a review of

*The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living: A Novel

by Louise Miller

When 32-year-old pastry chef Olivia Rawlings finds her Boston career going up in flames, she leaves the big city for the country, seeking the comfort of pie at the F&G truck stop and her best friend Hannah, in Guthrie, Vermont. Broke with her dog, Salty at her side, she accepts a job baking desserts at the Sugar Maple Inn and moves into the sugarhouse. The inn’s owner, Margaret, has a personality best compared to Crème Brulee~ a hard, crusty shell on the outside, hiding a soft interior.

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Olivia soon discovers Margaret’s motive behind hiring her~ to reclaim the inn’s blue ribbon status at the annual county fair apple pie contest:

“From the ceiling hung ribbons. Hundreds of them, all blue, their pointed tips swaying gently. They extended the entire length of the ceiling, each one emblazoned in gold with the same words: Coventry County Fair–First Place. In a large wooden display case hung larger ribbons, the heads fat with extra loops of fabric like petals of a sunflower. These ribbons were all blue as well with the exception of the last three. Those ribbons were red.”

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This book was just the right combination of ingredients for me with its small town charm and idyllic setting, delicious dessert details, and colorful characters, including Livvy, with her ever-changing hair. . .from Manic Panic Atomic Turquoise to Electric Banana and Amethyst. Add some humor, mix with family, blend with hard decisions, and stir in a cup of romance and you have a novel that’s a perfect recipe of flavors, characters, and country life.

You’ll want to read this book with a fork and a slice of apple pie!

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 It’s obvious by the mouth-watering descriptions of desserts that the author is a pastry chef:

“I measured the almond paste, sugar and cocoa powder into the bowl of the stand mixer and set it in motion. The mixture began to make a swish-swish sound like maracas being shaken. The inside of the bowl sparkled like a black sand beach as the tide went out, the almond paste perfectly cut by the sugar and cocoa. After adding egg whites that had been whisked together with instant espresso powder and a drop of rum, I stopped the mixer, pinched off a piece of raw dough, and popped it in my mouth – the mixture melted on my tongue. All right, Guthrie bakers. Bring it on.”

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This book sets the mood for autumn and will whet your appetite for a harvest dinner, a New England getaway, county fairs, apple picking and pie baking!

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There’s a bake sale-fundraiser for the public library:

“The best bakers in the county donate several dozen cookies. It would be a chance for the people in town to try something you’ve made.”

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“But it’s a bake sale, not a contest. Isn’t it?”

“That doesn’t mean there isn’t a winner at the end.”

Livvy makes her legendary macaroons. I looked for an award-winning recipe and found Maple Cookies from a 2014 Gold Medal™ Flour Cookie Contest.

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The original recipe makes 7 dozen cookies. I divided the recipe in half and added dried cranberries. I thought the cookies were plenty sweet between the maple flavoring and the white chocolate chips, so I didn’t top them with the maple glaze in the original recipe. Here’s my contribution to the bake sale:

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White Chocolate Chip Maple Cookies with Cranberries and Pecans

Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups Gold Medal™ all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup shortening

1/4 cup softened butter

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon maple extract

6 ounces white chocolate chips

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup dried cranberries

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Preheat oven to 350°F.  In bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt, set aside. With a mixer, cream together shortening, brown sugar and butter on medium speed. Add egg, vanilla, and maple flavorings, mixing until incorporated.

Gradually add the flour mixture, mixing until well blended. Combine white chocolate chips, dried cranberries, and pecans and stir into batter by hand.

Using a medium size cookie scoop (1 1/2 tablespoon size), scoop cookie dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets, three inches apart. Bake at 350°F for approximately 10 minutes or until light brown in color. Allow cookies to remain on cookie sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer cookies to wire rack to cool.

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In addition to some recipes, I’m setting the mood for life in the country with photos from a recent trip to The High Country.

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We’ve never stayed at the Mast Farm Inn in Valle Crucis, but every time we pass it, I stop to admire the charming country setting, wonderful old barn and gardens.

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The sunflowers and cosmos were blooming alongside the veggies in the garden.

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The barn looks like the perfect setting for a harvest dinner!

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Barn at Mast Farm Inn

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You can’t read this book without craving apple pie. . .

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“Nutmeg, allspice, and cardamom were added and subtracted by the eighth of a teaspoon. Crates of apples from the McCracken farm were peeled, cored, and sliced into several different pies, each with a different combination fruit. Chef Al and I spend the afternoon discussing the benefits and drawbacks of cornstarch versus arrowroot. By the end of the week I was left feeling like a deranged mix of Sherlock Holmes and Christopher Kimball, my palate completely numb.”

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“I tossed the pile of apple slices into the cast-iron skillet with a couple of pats of butter and turned on the flame. The cinnamon scent of the McIntoshes mingled with tang of melting butter, reminding me of my old neighbor Mary’s kitchen where I wove my first lattice crust.”

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There’s a recipe included in the book for Blue Ribbon Apple Pie by the author and pastry chef, Louise Miller.

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“Pour-through, crumb crust, Dutch, and dried apple—I made them all. Hazelnuts in the crumb, in the crust, then pecans. I changed the spices, tried every variety of apple I could get my hands on, but in the end I couldn’t improve on what Margaret and I love best—Cortland and McIntosh, sautéed in butter and lightly sweetened with good old white sugar, with a half teaspoon of cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg, piled high and tucked in with a top crust. No bells and whistles. Perfect in its simplicity.”

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I followed the filling part of the recipe included the book and a handy tip: To prevent the apples from shrinking in the pie and for a thicker filling, cook the apples briefly in skillet.

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With the images of Autumn and harvest dinners, I couldn’t resist adding some pie crust leaves for decoration. I bought my spring-loaded leaf pie crust cutters at Williams-Sonoma several years ago. They have a new version available this year and I’ve seen some recently at Sur la table and at Michaels with the fall baking season around the corner.

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 I used a combination of a crumb topping with the pie crust leaves for a double topped apple pie, that I found at Blue Ribbon Kitchen for a First-Place Winning Apple Pie recipe.

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“You should always do what you can to make life sweeter.”

~ The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living

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Visit Novel Bakers Jain, Michael Lee, and Linda for a taste of The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living

a quiet life

Rattlebridge Farm

More Fun Less Laundry

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*Thank you to Viking Penguin for providing copies of The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living for our review.

This is the debut novel for Louise Miller, a pastry chef who lives and works in Boston. She’s a self-proclaimed art school dropout, amateur flower gardener, old-time banjo player, obsessive moviegoer, and champion of old dogs. :)

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Thank you for your visit, sharing at:

 Metamorphosis MondayThe Scoop,

Wow Us Wednesdays,  Home Sweet Home,

 Foodie Friday and Everything Else Link Party

  33 comments for “The Novel Bakers Present The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living

  1. August 17, 2016 at 6:16 am

    How delightful. I can not wait to buy the new book and make your many leaf topped apple pie.

  2. Michelle
    August 17, 2016 at 7:28 am

    I can’t wait for fall crisp apples! My mouth is already watering! I just love apple pie and apple cake! I will need to look at the cook book, might just have to get it!🤗😎🌴

  3. Ellen Stillabower
    August 17, 2016 at 7:30 am

    I love baking and this book will add to my resume…that pie is too beautiful to cut….but thank you for sharing…❤️🍎❤️🍎❤️🍎

  4. Sherlie Magaret
    August 17, 2016 at 7:59 am

    Fall is on its way in and you have made me hungry for apple pie. My grandmother always made the bed apple pie and I really miss her. She was a treasure in cooking. This is a beautiful post and I will check out the book for sure.

  5. August 17, 2016 at 8:08 am

    Mary, this is a must read for me. Thanks for the review. I love apple pie and yours looks amazing and wow those cookies, will be making those for sure! Happy Wednesday, Pam @ Everyday Living

  6. August 17, 2016 at 8:38 am

    Ooh Mary, how I’m craving a piece of your own award winning apple pie, while reading this novel!! However, those cookies would sure go with my cup of tea that I’m having right now. Your photos, the description of the book, and the lovely Inn that you shared, have me smiling from ear to ear. I can’t wait to make that pie. I personally love the idea of cooking the apples first because I don’t like biting into crunchy apple slices, in my pie. I’m ready for Fall and your recipes!

  7. August 17, 2016 at 8:42 am

    Since it’s early morning and I love sweets for breakfast I wish I had a cookie and a piece of apple pie now. Always love your Novel Bakers posts.

  8. Linda
    August 17, 2016 at 8:47 am

    Everything about this takes me to my happy place :-). Thank you!!

  9. August 17, 2016 at 8:48 am

    Mary, I’m sure you would be taking home multiple blue ribbons at that fair for all your delicious creations! And the cookies are so yummy looking and perfect for a New England bake sale with their maple syrup and cranberries, with a touch of southern pecan magic too! I think the North Carolina hills are such a gorgeous spot. Your photos of the barns and inns and flowers are making me anxious to visit again. That barn would be perfect for the Harvest Dinner! And I want to see the yards full of sunflowers with those butterflies and bees so intoxicated by their nectar that you could walk right up and snap their picture feasting. This was a great book and I want to go back and re-read all the descriptions of food and also try the apple pie recipe. I hope you do make it to New England soon. Our water is much colder than your lake! :) Linda

  10. Sandy Park
    August 17, 2016 at 10:38 am

    OOOOOOOOOOOOOO that pie is so beautiful. Indeed to pretty to cut and eat.

  11. Vikki
    August 17, 2016 at 11:42 am

    This book sounds enchanting! Two of the best parts of life…reading and eating.Your pie is a masterpiece. Loved this post. Vikki in VA.

  12. Cindy
    August 17, 2016 at 11:52 am

    Your photography is amazingly beautiful. A FEAST for the eyes! Thank you for helping make my morning beautiful.

  13. rattlebridge farm -- foodie friday
    August 17, 2016 at 12:00 pm

    Oh, how beautiful, Mary. I enjoyed the story your photos told, and each photo is utterly beautiful–as if your pie. I had the same idea, and my poor pie collapsed while baking. :-0 However, it was edible, as my hips can attest. Love the way you captured the baker’s heart and dreams. And your apple orchard photos are incredible. I am going to email you about the getaway to High Country. I must find out where this is located and make a trip up there. So much fun to play with you again, my dear!

  14. Letty Blanchard
    August 17, 2016 at 12:06 pm

    What a nice review and those photos are beautiful! And the pie!!! Amazing!! I loved this book so much that I was sorry to see it end. So, so good!!

  15. Ellen
    August 17, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    This is the very best post ever!!! I love, love, love to read and this book sounds like a must read right now! I am sharing this post with my pastry chef daughter (lucky me) so that I can have the cookies and the apple pie too! The cranberries are a perfect addition to the cookies. Thank-you, Thank-you, and Thank-you again for this beautiful post. Your photos are always so lovely and the Mast Farm Inn looks so inviting.

  16. August 17, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    The book is already added to my “To Read” list…Thank you!
    Your pie is gorgeous…That leafy top is stunning!

  17. August 17, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    Thrilled to see the Novel Bakers back posting and sharing delicious treats from the kitchen. Your pie is perfection. I think I need to bake an apple pie today! Thanks for sharing the book. Our library doesn ‘t have it, so think I’ll order a copy. It looks to be a fun read.

  18. Amma
    August 17, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    Love your blog and all the recipes! Also really love your photos! Can you share the details on the camera and lens that you use? (brand, model, specifics on your lens) Do you also use and additional light source equipment?

    • August 17, 2016 at 5:04 pm

      Thank you! You can find my camera and editing info in this post. :)

  19. August 17, 2016 at 4:54 pm

    Lovin’ that cute little double leaf cutter Mary! Your pie is beautiful and the sunflower pics are spectacular:@)

  20. Jain
    August 17, 2016 at 5:01 pm

    Oh how I love busting us all to see our differences! I love the multitude of shots you shared but WILD OVER YOUR NANCY DREWS! It’s funny how it stood out for both of us :-) No wonder you hubby loves the novel bakers, who can resist blue ribbon pie! I keep scrolling back and forth, the orchard, score card, scenery, cookies, what a darn TREAT! Thanks so much for pulling out the apron, it may be tons of work, but the beauty and joy shine through!

  21. Jain
    August 17, 2016 at 5:55 pm

    Loved backtracking the last hour, I feel refreshed and exhausted at the same time enjoying all your hard work!

  22. Shelley Trunnell
    August 17, 2016 at 8:19 pm

    Before I even finished reading your blog post I signed on to the local library’s website and put a hold on this book. I’m not sure if it was your photos or the book description but I’ll be reading it as soon as they notify me it is in. Thanks for another beautiful post full of pictures to entice me into trying new things and going new places.

  23. August 18, 2016 at 8:24 am

    Oh I have loved these Novel Bakers series….and yes, nothing like the Highlands area in the summer…so beautiful…your photos are exquisite as always Mary!….you always start off my day on a beautiful note! I am getting some leaves cookie cutters as I so love how you layer them for the top crust….so beautiful! In my younger years, apple pie was my favorite thing for breakfast!

  24. August 18, 2016 at 10:05 am

    Cookies, Pies, Flowers….what FUN!!! Lovely photos of some really yummy looking treats. I think I’d like a recipe that makes 7 doz. cookies for those times I’ve volunteered to bring some to quilt guild. :)
    These are always such wonderfully informative collaborations you gals create. I’ve already googled the Mast Farm Inn…perhaps I’ll visit it one day on my way to FL. Thanks for all the delightful ideas!

  25. August 18, 2016 at 2:31 pm

    What a perfect way to step into fall Mary, visions of apple orchards, aromas, and the last glory of summer’s sunflowers! I love a good foodie story, with a little romance thrown in- Your leaf topped blue ribbon winning pie will put all future apple pies to shame! I had to smile when you added the quotes mentioning the McCracken {so close to your name!} farm and the neighbor Mary, as well as your stack of Nancy Drews- thanks for sharing this prize winner, and the apple tip. The Novel Bakers have once again brought us delicious tales and delights :)
    Jenna

  26. August 18, 2016 at 9:19 pm

    Mary, what beautiful photos. Those sunflowers! The pie looks almost too beautiful to eat. What abreast post.

  27. August 22, 2016 at 10:11 pm

    Those cookies look just delicious and I just love the way that apple pie is decorated with the leaves.

  28. August 24, 2016 at 1:41 pm

    Mary that pie is just beautiful! Love it! Thanks for sharing at Home Sweet Home!

  29. Sherry
    August 25, 2016 at 10:49 am

    I will feature this pie today at HSH!

  30. Char
    September 1, 2016 at 10:21 pm

    Thank you for the book recommendation. Just finished reading it, and I would love to see it as a movie!

  31. Markelle
    December 20, 2016 at 4:22 pm

    I would love to try your apple pie recipe, do you have it posted somewhere?

Thanks for your comments~ they make my day :)

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