Tag Archives: J.R.R. Tolkien

Adventures in Making Lembas Bread

Have you ever read a book that described fictional foods you desperately wished you could try? I blogged about this topic in detail a few months ago. Recently, I decided to finally try the closest thing to real Lembas bread that exists on our planet since the elves left Middle-earth at the end of The Lord of the Rings.

Not only is this recipe simple, it uses ingredients that are very common. You might have all of them in your kitchen already!  Not having to shop for obscure ingredients that I probably won’t use in any other dishes was one of the main reasons why I chose this particular recipe to try. I bake pretty infrequently (as you’ll hear about below), so I generally only buy seasonings, spices, and other things that I can use in multiple ways in the kitchen.

I’m copying over the ingredients and instructions into this post so that they’ll still exist somewhere if the site I linked to above ever goes down. Do click on over for the nutrition information and for a gorgeous picture of the final product, though.

If you want to know my detailed thoughts on making this recipe and how I’d change it in the future, keep reading.

Ingredients

    • 2 1/2 cups of flour
    • 1 tablespoon of baking powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
    • 8 tablespoons (or 1 stick) of cold butter
    • 1/3 cup of brown sugar
    • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
    • 1/2 teaspoon maple syrup or honey
    • 2/3 cup of milk or heavy cream (or more, if necessary)
    • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla

 

Directions

1) Preheat oven to 220 degrees Celcius (425 degrees Fahrenheit).
2) Mix the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl.
3) Add the butter and mix with a fork or a pastry cutter until the mixture resembles fine granules.
4) Add the sugar and cinnamon, and mix them thoroughly into the mixture.
5) Add the milk/cream and vanilla and stir them in with a fork until a nice, thick dough forms.
6) Roll the dough out about 1/2 in thickness.
7) Cut out 3-inch squares and transfer the dough to a cookie sheet.
8) Criss-cross (DO NOT cut all the way) each square from corner-to-corner with a knife.
9) Bake for about 12 minutes or more (depending on the thickness of the bread) until it is set and lightly golden.(the recipe makes about 10-12 pieces of lembas)

The first time I try any recipe, the only substitutions I make are to replace any milk and milk products in it with foods that won’t cause any allergic reactions for me. It’s important to know what something is supposed to taste like before you fiddle around with the ingredients too much.

I used vegan butter instead of traditional butter and almond milk as a replacement for the milk/heavy cream. If you consume dairy products, I’d love to know how this turns out with them.

The dough did feel slightly dry when I was rolling it out. That made it a little challenging to keep the dough together when I was cutting it into pieces. When I make this recipe again, I’d like to see how it turns out with a full cup of almond milk. I suspect that will be just enough additional liquid to solve the minor issues I had with getting the dough ready to be baked.

As I mentioned above, I don’t regularly bake stuff like bread or sweets. My supply of brown sugar had dried out, and I didn’t know that was the case until I’d reached that section of the directions. It was slightly challenging to mix that ingredient into the dough thoroughly. The little brown speck you see in the final product was a result of that.

Next time I’ll use fresh brown sugar and won’t have that problem. Raisins might be a nice addition to it as well. Despite my minor problems with the dough, the final product tasted delicious. It is definitely something I’ll be making again.

I know that my tastebuds have changed since I started eating a low sugar diet, but the combination of cinnamon, maple syrup, vanilla, and brown sugar made me think of it as a dessert.

Keep in mind that this isn’t as sweet as a typical dessert, but it does have a sweetness and chewiness to it that made it an appealing snack.

The Lembas bread I made two days ago has been keeping well so far. It honestly tastes even better after it’s had a day or two to rest. I love non-fussy recipes like that.

As for whether or not it will sustain you on a long journey or vex the Smeagols in your life, only time will tell. 😉

3 Embarrassing Things I’ve Learned From Books

Today I have three embarrassing stories to share with you.

Before I dive into them, let me explain a few things about my childhood to the new readers of my blog.

I grew up in a series of small towns and rural communities in the United States. I was also homeschooled for the first several years of my education. While the Internet has technically existed since before I was born, it wasn’t until I was older that it became at all well-known. In fact, I was in high school before my family finally bought a computer that could surf the web.(Based on how much I begged them to do this, I’m going to take the credit for it, too. LOL!)

My parents were lovingly protective of their children. There were certain facts of life – and, as I like to joke, a particular English sweet as well – that they shielded us from until we were old enough to fully understand them.

Sometimes People Get Pregnant Before They Get Married

The time: Early 1990s

I should warn my sensitive readers that this section of today’s post post contains two brief references to infant deaths.

My parents were married long before they conceived their kids. This was a pattern that was also repeated with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, family friends, and the vast majority of the other adults in my community.

While I met some kids whose families didn’t fit that mold when I began attending public elementary school, my assumption about the world was still that this was a rare and very recent occurrence.

Due to all of these assumptions and previous experiences, I was endlessly confused by a line I read in a biography of Winston Churchill that gave a date for his parents’ wedding that was much less than nine months before his birth.

Shortly before I picked up this book, I’d read a Reader’s Digest article* about a premature baby who died despite many heroic efforts by her doctor and nurses to save her. My family knew at least one other family who had lost a baby this way.

Due to all of these facts, it didn’t make any sense to me that premature babies born in the 1980s and 1990s who had access to wonderful medical care would die while one who was born at a time when no one knew anything at all about keeping preemies alive would thrive in the 1870s.

I spent an embarrassing amount of time assuming that his parents had been unbelievably lucky and resourceful instead. There was even moment when I briefly wondered if Mr. and Mrs. Churchill had shared their amazing knowledge with their local doctor. Maybe he was the first doctor who ever began testing new theories on how to keep premature babies alive?

You really don’t want to know how long it took me to figure out that Winston Churchill was probably conceived months before his parents got married and not a micro-preemie at all.

*Yes, I literally read everything I could get my hands on as a kid. I even read my mother’s nursing school textbooks!

The Meaning of Words Can Change Drastically Over Time

The time: Late 1990s

One year I decided to read J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Winter felt like it was never going to end, so I hoped I could pass the time by finally finding out what happened during Bilbo and Frodo’s adventures.

Suddenly, I began to notice references to “faggots” in these stories. Characters wandered into the woods to pick them up without any explanation of what was really going on there.

The first time it happened, I thought Tolkien was being vulgar, homophobic, and nonsensical. When I looked up that word in a dictionary, I was completely confused by the idea that such a hateful term was originally used as a unit of measure for wood.

As much as I enjoyed the storyline itself, I shuddered every time that word appeared again. Knowing that the author in no way meant it as a slur definitely helped, but I was still horrified by the thought of an innocent word being twisted into such a vile one over the centuries.

Turkish Delight Is Real

The time: The late 2000s

I briefly referred to this story a year and a half ago, but now it’s time to tell it in full.

The first time I read C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, my mouth watered at the thought of Turkish Delight.

Like talking animals and lamp posts growing in the middle of a magical forest, I assumed it was yet another piece of this fictional world that I’d always wish could become real.

It was hard to picture what Turkish Delight really was. Edmund loved it so much he betrayed his siblings for it, so I imagined it was the most delicious candy that would or could ever exist.

Occasionally, I’d try to picture it over the years for the sheer joy of challenging my imagination. Sometimes it was some sort of dairy-free gourmet chocolate that I could eat. At other times I imagined contradictory combinations of treats that couldn’t possibly exist in our world. For example, the softness of cotton candy combined with the warmth of hot fudge might have tempted me into climbing into a strange woman’s sleigh as a kid if Narnia was capable of producing such a thing.

I grew up, moved far away from home, and got married. Turkish Delight occupied less and less of my speculations about the world until one day I spotted a box of it sitting on a perfectly ordinary candy store shelf.

“Wait, Turkish Delight is REAL?” I said in a voice that was slightly too loud for the occasion.

“Yes,” my spouse said.

“Since when?” I asked. Another film version of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe had come out a few years before then, so I assumed that the producers of it had taken a look at all of the wildly successful Harry Potter candies and decided to make this treat a reality as well.

When my spouse explained that this wasn’t a new type of sweet and that it had existed back when C.S. Lewis first wrote this series, my brain practically exploded. Why hadn’t Turkish Delight become commonplace in North America since this series was released? Was it a common treat in England? Why was this the first I was hearing about it?

I still don’t have the answers to those questions, but I smile every time I see it for sale at the store. Maybe one of my British readers will have answers for me someday!

What is one funny, embarrassing thing you’ve learned from a book?

Writing Influences: J.R.R. Tolkien

One RingThis is the first in a series of posts I’ll be sharing about the authors and books that have influenced my writing style in some way.

When I was a kid, my uncle gave me a copy of The Hobbit as well as copies of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It took a couple of years for me to grow into The Lord of the Rings, although I loved The Hobbit immediately.

Hobbits seemed like my kind of people. They were peaceful, bookish, and loved even the simplest meal as long as it was hearty and filling. They weren’t particularly interested in glory or in being the centre of attention. I often daydreamed about how much fun it would be to live among them.

What I liked the most about Tolkien’s stories, though, were the details. He’d stop in the middle of a scene to describe the long history of the building the characters were visiting or exactly what the land around them  looked like.

While I’ll admit that this strategy did slow down the pacing of the plot in some places, it also gave me extremely clear mental images of the settings . Even today I can close my eyes and see exactly what those places looked, sounded, and in some cases smelled like. It’s as though I’ve visited them myself instead of read about them in books, and that’s pretty amazing considering how long its been since I’ve read those passages.

As an author, I don’t include as many details about the setting in my stories as Tolkien did. I prefer to let my audience imagine certain details for themselves, although I do try to pick a few specific things to focus on when I’m describing where my characters are. There’s definitely something to be said for taking a moment away from the main conflict of the story to show what the main characters are sensing at that exact point in time. It can be a very powerful way to draw a reader into the conflict and help them empathize with the characters they’ve been following.

This is something I do in real life as well. Some of my strongest memories of certain events exist because I took a minute to emotionally step away from what was happening and absorb all of the sights and sounds around me.  It’s amazing to see what kinds of things you’ll notice when you take the time to pay attention to everything that’s happening around you.

Have you ever tried to drink in every sight and sound around you in a particular moment?