Monday, November 4, 2019

Cooking with Author Susan G Mathis!

Welcome, Susan, to the Patchwork Quilt Blog. We'll start off with a recipe and then move on to Susan's newest novel, Sara's Surprise, that has just released.

Here’s a recipe for French Eclairs from Sara's Surprise.


Preheat oven to 375º F and lightly grease two large baking sheets. Makes twelve éclairs.

Choux Dough 
½ cup butter
1 cup water
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs
To make:
• In a medium saucepan, heat butter, water, and salt to boiling. Remove from heat and add flour all at once. Stir until mixture forms a ball.
• Add eggs, one at a time, beating until the batter is smooth. Cool slightly.
• Drop by one-fourth cupsful onto cookie sheet two inches apart, in rows six inches apart to make ten eclairs. Form into a rectangle and round the edges. (You can also use a pastry bag.)
• Bake for 40 minutes, until the éclairs puff up and turn golden brown. Turn off oven and let them sit in the cooling oven for 10 minutes. 
• Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes before filling.
• Make Pastry Cream.

Pastry Cream
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoons salt
1 ½ cups whole milk
6 egg yolks
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 ¼ teaspoon vanilla (or almond flavoring)
1 ½ cups heavy or whipping cream
To make:
• In a saucepan mix sugar, flour and salt. Add milk. Heat mixture until it thickens and boils (about ten minutes). Boil for one minute.
• In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Stir yolks into mixture. 
• Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and coats a spoon. (Do not boil.) 
• Remove from the heat, stir in vanilla, and chill for about two hours before filling pastry.
• Beat whipping cream to stiff peaks and gently fold into custard before filling eclairs.
• Make chocolate glaze.

Chocolate Glaze
2 squares of semisweet chocolate 
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons milk
To make: 
• In a small saucepan, melt butter and chocolate then stir in sugar and milk until smooth. Remove from the heat immediately. Stir in almond flavor and let cool for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Assembling the Éclairs 
• Slice off about one-third of the top of each shell and fill with cream.  
• Replace tops and spread with glaze. Refrigerate until serving.


Sara O’Neill, works as an assistant pastry chef at the magnificent Thousand Islands Crossmon Hotel where she meets precocious, lovable, seven-year-old Madison and her charming father and hotel manager, Sean Graham. But Jacque LaFleur, the pastry chef Sara works under, makes her dream job a nightmare.

Sean Graham has trouble keeping his mind off Sara and Madison out of mischief. Though he finds Sara captivating, he despises LaFleur and misreads Sara’s desire to learn from the pastry chef as affection. Can Sean learn to trust Sara and can she trust herself to be an instant mother?

In researching how to make pastries that’ll delight your palate, I learned way more than I’d ever dreamed. Like how to properly break an egg and how to cream sugar and eggs the right way. And did you know that you laminate Pain au chocolat?There’s much to learn about French baking, to be sure, and you’ll learn along with Sara. I hope you’ll pick up a copy and give some for Christmas gifts as it’s a lovely Christmas story as well. And if you ever get harassed, please speak up. You’ll be glad you did.

Susan G Mathis is a multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands, her childhood stomping ground in upstate NY. Katelyn’s Choice, the first in The Thousand Islands Gilded Age series, is available now, and book two, Devyn’s Dilemma, releases in April, 2020. The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family LegacyChristmas Charity, and Sara’s Surprise are available now. Visit for more.

Susan is also a published author of two premarital books with her husband, Dale, two children's picture books, stories in a dozen compilations, and hundreds of published articles. Susan makes her home in Colorado Springs, enjoys traveling globally with her wonderful husband, Dale, and relishes each time she gets to see or Skype with her four granddaughters. 

Where can you find Susan?

Monday, October 28, 2019

Pinwheel at the Grave

Here's a simple and extremely economical way to decorate the grave of your loved one.
1. Buy a pinwheel at The Dollar Store
2. Use the stickers a friend from Japan sent (in my case, watermelon, of course)
3. Place stickers "artistically" around the pinwheel's "spokes"
4. Place the pinwheel by the grave
5. As the wind spins the pinwheel, recall a happy memory
6. Don't forget to smile.

Monday, September 9, 2019

The way to my heart . . . Shortbread!

Do you love shortbread . . . the buttery Scottish biscuit? I do. I'm always looking for ways to perfect my shortbread baking experience. I have one tried and true recipe that I make often because it's simple. Then I found this one with chocolate as one of the ingredients, and had to make it.

Sometimes bakers call shortbread the 1-2-3 recipe because it basically has just three key ingredients---butter, flour and sugar. You can add other flavors, as is shown in my notes---ALICE'S NOTES-- in the following recipe. I have added a number of my notes. They might help you; if not, simply ignore. The recipe is pretty much borrowed from creative baker Ina Garten.

Want to know why your recipes might crumble? Read this piece on the science of using ingredients how and why.

And now onto Shortbread.  Enjoy!!

Shortbread Recipe

* 3/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature [ALICE'S NOTE: For those who don't cook with a scale a have a kitchen scale, that would be three sticks of butter or 1 1/2 cups.]
* 1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling [ALICE'S NOTE: I always use less sugar than American recipes call for. Keeps the shortbread from being overly-sweet. For this recipe, I used only 1/2 cup sugar.]
* 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
* 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 6 to 7 ounces very good semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. [I also added 2 ounces of the chocolate and mixed that in with half of the dough so that the dough has bits of chocolate.] Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.
  3. Roll the dough 1/2-inch thick and cut with a 3 by 1-inch finger-shaped cutter. [ALICE'S NOTE: I don't have a cutter in this shape, so I used a 1-inch round cutter and it worked fine. It did make smaller cookies, I ended up with 6 dozen.] Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar. [ALICE'S NOTE: I put mine on parchment paper---no need to grease it. Our cookie trays/sheets are used for other baking--like fries---and are old, so to keep any old taste from getting onto the shortbread, I lined the baking sheet with parchment paper.] Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. [ALICE'S NOTE: Less time to bake if you make smaller cookies. I baked mine for 12 minutes.] Allow to cool to room temperature.
  4. When the cookies are cool, place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.[I re-used the ones I put on the trays to bake with..] Put 3 ounces of the chocolate in a glass bowl and microwave on high power for 30 seconds. (Don't trust your microwave timer; time it with your watch.) Stir with a wooden spoon. Continue to heat and stir in 30-second increments until the chocolate is just melted. Add the remaining chocolate and allow it to sit at room temperature, stirring often, until it's completely smooth. Stir vigorously until the chocolate is smooth and slightly cooled; stirring makes it glossier. [ALICE'S NOTE: I took about an ounce of the melted chocolate and added 1/2 ts of orange flavoring to it. I also used crushed walnuts to add to the tops of my shortbread after I drizzled chocolate. See my photo above.]
  5. Drizzle 1/2 of each cookie with just enough chocolate to coat it.