For your holiday cooking: An awesome dinner roll recipe

A few weeks ago I was looking for a bread recipe to make in my bread machine. I turned, as I so often do, to Twitter, and as a result, ended up with this completely awesome dinner roll recipe, compliments of Bree, one half of the Moira Rogers writing duo. Normally, when I make rolls or bread, my family doesn’t eat more than once piece or roll. So I made this full recipe and then followed the directions in the comments for freezing a portion. I baked only 6 rolls. Umm, big mistake. These rolls were a huge hit with my family. So much so that I’ve made them two batches, and the second batch I made, I doubled, so I could freeze even more.

I didn’t adapt the actual recipe itself from the recipe on AllRecipes, but I did make smaller rolls, and I also didn’t bake them all at once, but froze some for easy baking on weeknights. So I’m including all of those directions.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup dry milk powder
  • 1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast

Directions

  1. Place the bread flour, sugar, salt, milk powder, water, butter, and yeast in the pan of the bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer (this is generally liquid first, and then the dry ingredients, with the yeast coming in last, to keep the liquids and yeast apart until the machine starts mixing). Set on Dough cycle; press Start.
  2. Remove risen dough from the machine, deflate, and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into eighteen equal pieces (original recipe calls for 12 but I like reasonable sized dinner rolls), and form into rounds. Place the rounds on lightly greased baking sheets. Cover the rolls with a damp cloth, and let rise until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes to an hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) during final stages of rising.Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until the rolls are golden brown.
  4. Take 1/4 stick of butter and rub over the top of fresh-out-of-oven rolls to make them shiny (and taste good!)
Some tips I picked up from the reviews:
Don’t scoop the flour out of your flour bag with your measuring cup. Spoon the flour into your measuring cup (keeps you from getting too much flour because scooping compacts into the measuring cup)
You can add dried herbs or well chopped fresh herbs to the rolls to make them a bit different. I like rosemary, oregano and basil.
If you don’t want to back the whole batch of rolls, separate what you want (I do 6-8 rolls at a time) and let only that amount rise for 40 minutes. Take the other 12 or so rolls and place them on a cookie sheet and into freezer, covered w/plastic wrap. Don’t let them rise first! Once they’re frozen, you can throw them in a freezer bag and take out the portions you want when you’re ready. Thaw them in the microwave for about 30 seconds (more if they’re still frozen after 30 seconds. The time depends on your microwave wattage). Then let them rise for 40 minutes to an hour.

Submission call from me! (something I rarely do anymore)

So Carina Press keeps me pretty busy on the admin (and travel, omg, the travel!) side of things and it doesn’t leave me a lot of time for editing. I still do some editing, but it’s generally not much more than one or two novels a year, and then the holiday novella collections. I almost never acquire from slush anymore but…

I’m looking to acquire a few things for my own schedule for Fall 2012.

Here’s what I’m specifically looking for:

A contemporary romance trilogy or series. I love editing Shannon Stacey’s books and I want to edit more contemporary romance, so I’m looking to acquire an author who has a contemporary romance trilogy or series planned. Any heat level considered! I’m specifically looking for contemporary romance novels (over 70k) but will consider a novella series (for novellas, even better if they’re erotic, but not necessary)

A new paranormal romance (or urban fantasy w/romantic elements) series. The good news for you is that I’ll consider all manner of paranormal, including vampires, shifters, etc. I’m not wore out on paranormal, so hit me with your A-game, even if it’s a vampire series! Again, any heat level considered.

A very, very hot erotic romance series. Smokin’ hot. Any subgenre, any length. Can be BDSM or m/m. Just looking for smokin’ hot erotic romance (not erotica, please).

So the trend here is that I’m looking for an author/authors I can build within a series in these particular genres. I’m not looking for standalone novels or novellas for this particular submissions call for myself (though Carina Press is always willing to and does acquire standalones).

If you have something now, or in the coming weeks/months that fits the bill, please follow the submissions guidelines here, and send to the submissions address. However, please note in the body of your query letter that you’re responding to my specific call for submissions (many subs come in addressed to me, so I won’t know, just based on that, that you’re responding to this call).

Edit: I’ve had some questions about subbing an idea or partial. Carina Press submission guidelines require a full manuscript and so do I, unless we’ve worked together before, or you have an established history of publishing quality work, and you have an established author brand, in which case, I’d consider a proposal/partial w/thorough synopsis.

Easy Christmas “Cookie”–Cracker Candy (w/gluten free option!)

2012 update: Thanks to the power of Twitter and a recommendation from Mary Ann Vadnais, this recipe now has a gluten-free option. To make gluten free, substitute the saltine crackers with Yehuda Matzo Style Squares. I’ve been told since from several people who tried this, that it worked very, very well!

2011 note: I originally posted this recipe nearly 2 years ago in 2009. It’s probably the single most popular post on this website, and I still get people asking me about this recipe, sharing the link and talking about making the cracker candy. It’s just that easy to make and just that good. So I decided to pull it back to the top for all of you who never saw it the first time. In the comments are discussions for variations, and I’ve tried them all, including the club crackers, adding crushed candy canes, etc. Honestly, my favorite cracker candy is still the kind that’s just the saltines and chocolate, not even any nuts on top. But this is a forgiving recipe, so experiment and find your own favorite way!

I think most of you are going “uh…what?”. I had never heard of cracker candy until about 3 or 4 years ago, when we did our first cookie exchange for our playgroup. My friend Jennifer did this for the exchange and I fell so madly in love with it. It’s probably just about the easiest Christmas cookie you can make (it took me twice as long to write this post as it did to make the actual candy) and super tasty.I have, in the past, made these and sent them to people who think I’m crazy when I talk about them. But the combination of the salty cracker and the butter/sugar that turns into a toffee, with the sweetness of the chocolate is so addictive! Here’s how to do it, complete with (bad) photos.

Spread out your crackers in on a jelly roll/cookie sheet pan. One with edges that you’ve lined completely with foil. Trust me on this, line the pan with foil. I decided to do a mix of soda crackers and club crackers, because I thought the buttery taste of the club crackers might be divine in this recipe.

Melt the butter, add the sugar and bring to a boil for at least three minutes. It may take a bit longer, but you’ll see it thicken and get a bit more gooey. I think there’s an official candy-making term for this. Soft ball stage? I don’t know, I’m totally making crap up now.

Warning!! Do NOT walk away from your pot. You must stand and stir the entire time or you’ll end up with a huge mess on your stove and probably burnt butter and sugar.

Pour the butter mixture over the crackers. All over the crackers. You won’t be able to get them all coated just by pouring, you’re going to have to pour it as evenly as you can (I didn’t do that and made it a little harder on myself) and then go back and spread it out with a spoon.

It should look like this, all cracker surfaces covered with butter goo. Now put the crackers in the oven on 400 degrees for 5 minutes. Set a timer. You’ll be ticked if you leave them in too long and burn them. And that can happen.

While your crackers are in the oven, grab your commercial-size can of cashews–what do you mean you don’t have one? Everyone has one, right? Well, anyway, at this stage, if you’re going to use nuts like pecans, walnuts or cashews, even peanuts, you’re going to want to chop them up.

Like this. I used my handy countertop Black and Decker chopper. You’ll see this featured a lot in my cooking posts. I just chopped the cashews until they were appropriate for topping. I use cashews because I like them best, but you can use whatever you want. A cup of cashews unchopped resulted in enough chopped cashews for the entire pan of cracker candy.

Here’s a shot of the crackers in the oven. This was longer than five minutes because I had to run upstairs and tuck Brianna in.

I pulled them out of the oven, see how they look kind of brown? That’s not bad, but you don’t really want them to get any darker than that. Don’t try to go for any particular color. Just bake them for five minutes and pull them out.

Now sprinkle the chocolate chips over as soon as you pull them from the oven. I also had an industrial size bag of dark chocolate chips (hey, I shop at Sam’s Club) so I had to guess at how many to put on, but it’s hard to have too much chocolate. I use dark because it’s my favorite. The chips will begin to melt immediately, but get them sprinkled on and then worry about spreading. You have lots of time. I spread one side out, the other side looks like they’re still formed but really they’re melted too. Spread the chocolate evenly. I had to move some around because I had a bare spot after I was done.

Look to see if anyone is around.

Lick the spatula. You’re done with it, it’s okay. Now put it in the sink and wipe the chocolate off the corner of your mouth. Be glad no one saw you.

At this point, you can just leave your cracker candy naked. You don’t have to do anything more to it if you don’t want. You can be done now.

I added cashews to only half, because I do like naked cracker candy too. Instead of adding nuts, this year Jennifer added Christmas color candy sprinkles to hers. I almost put some fancy sea salt on one corner of this, because dark chocolate and sea salt? Yum. But I didn’t want to get the salt out (I’m lazy).

Now the hard part. Waiting. Let it cool in the fridge or freezer. Possibly overnight on the counter if it’s cool in your house, but you might need to stash it in the freezer for a few minutes to firm it up. You don’t want the chocolate to be soft at all. You want it totally set. Now break it apart. You can be anal and break it into the cracker squares, or you can just break it into random pieces. It really doesn’t matter. It all tastes the same. Addictive. Oh, and next time? I’m making them all with club crackers. The extra buttery taste made them insane!

Cracker Candy

35-40 Saltines
2 sticks of salted butter -do NOT use margarine
1/4 cup sugar (I use white but some people use brown. Your call!)
1 bag of milk (or semi or dark) chocolate morsels
Sliced almonds or any other nuts

Line cookie sheet with foil (sides too). Lay saltines side by side in one layer, sides touching. Melt butter, add sugar and boil 3 minutes. Drizzle over crackers, (keep crackers together). Bake 5 minutes @ 400°. Remove from oven and sprinkle chocolate over baked crackers. They will start to melt – spread over crackers. Sprinkle top with nuts. Refrigerate until cold, even overnight. Break into pieces.

10 things authors should know about Twitter

1. When you start your tweet with the @ symbol, your whole tweet stream doesn’t see what you’re tweeting.

Starting with the @ creates a reply. Not a broadcast to your tweetstream. So only the person you “replied” to and those who follow both of you will see it. In other words: starting a promotional tweet with an @ is ineffective and wrong.

@angelajames taught me something new about Twitter today (only I and people following both of us will see this tweet. Sad. I want people to know how awesome I am!)

If you absolutely want to start with that person’s name, you can get around this by simply adding a period at the beginning of the tweet.

Ie: .@angelajames taught me something new about Twitter today.

Nathan Bransford wrote a great blog post about this more in depth.

2. If you have your tweets protected, and you tweet me, and I’m not following you, I do not see you tweeting me.

Here’s the thing: By locking your twitter account, you’ve told Twitter you don’t want people who aren’t following you to see your tweets. Twitter assumes you don’t want ANYONE who doesn’t follow you to see your tweets. Including people you’re trying to talk directly to. So if you follow me, and you see me tweet something you want to talk about with me, and you tweet me? I have no idea you’re tweeting me. I don’t see it. You don’t exist for me on Twitter.

Essentially, by locking your account, you’re creating a very small circle of people you can have a conversation with. If you’re an author, this makes Twitter a lot less effective as a promotional tool. How are you going to get new people to follow you if they can’t see you conversing with others? Also? A large percentage of people don’t want to follow you before they can see what your account is like. Is stopping a few spammers from entering your tweet stream really worth the promo effectiveness you’re giving up by locking your account?Also? A lot of people assume you must really think you’re someone special if you’re locking your account. It can give a negative impression, which is a bit counter-intuitive to the purposes of social media.

3. You should not, really ever, I mean never, query or pitch an editor or agent on Twitter, unless they’ve specifically said: “Please query me on Twitter.” and you have confirmed with them that it’s actually okay to query them on Twitter. 

Do I really need to explain any more about this? Please use each editor or agent’s individual submission guidelines and system to query.

4. Please don’t use Twitter DMs (or Facebook messages) to do business with an editor/agent unless they somehow initiate that with you.

If you want to ask an editor or agent a specific question about a business matter, please tell them that and ask if you could get their email address. People actually do business with me a lot via DMs and messages and, the truth is, I’d much rather have everything like that in my inbox. It allows the editor or agent time to absorb and think about their reply, as well as sort, forward, save the info and otherwise reply with full words and a professionally worded email rather than, “Not sure what U R asking. Can U give me more deets, plz?” because they only have 140 characters in which to reply. It also allows YOU to look more professional! Try not to think of Twitter or Facebook as a substitute for a professional email.

5. Just because the editor/agent is on Twitter at 11pm on a Friday night, it doesn’t mean they want to do work, think about work, or answer questions about work on Twitter at 11pm on a Friday night. Or 8am on a Sunday morning.

Twitter makes remembering there are boundaries more hard. Sometimes we editors and agents also make that hard to remember because we talk about more than just business, and sometimes we talk about business at odd hours of the day and night.

But still, do try not to tweet, message or DM us on the weekend or late at night about work. Of course it’s okay to say “I’m reading a book you edited and I love it!” But that’s a lot different than hearing “Your autoresponder isn’t working, what should I do?” at 5pm on a Saturday.

We actually already work pretty long hours, especially since most work reading and a lot of editing is done outside of normal work hours. And if you ask us a question when we’re obviously on Twitter, we’ll feel obligated to answer it so we don’t look like a douche. But it’s forcing us back into work mode during off-hours and we’d think you were awesome if you tried not to do that.

Remember, we might be “us” as editors and agents on Twitter, but we’re also just as often “us” as everyday people there too, and we use it for fun, so just because you see us there, don’t automatically think we should be available for work questions.

6. When we say you should “engage” on Twitter, we mean you should move outside your own tweetstream.

This one has a few parts. First, this means replying to the people who reply to you. Okay, not every tweet, but a good percentage of them. The more followers you have, the harder this will be. (trust me, I know this). Use your common sense about what you should respond to!

This also means moving outside your own tweets replies, and replying to others. Engaging people is a great way to get more followers. And it also makes you seem more interesting!

(as an aside: if you have a Facebook profile or page, you should be monitoring it. Don’t assume no one is posting there. Monitor and reply to reasonable things!)

7. You should be talking about other people’s books. Or other publishers’ books.

To be honest, I think there are a lot of people who can take this advice, not just authors. Editors and agents are guilty of only talking about their own stuff as well. But talking about other people’s work makes you look like more than just a promotional machine, it makes you look like a reader. You know, the people who make the industry go round? You appear more engaged with and interested in books when you talk about other people’s work, not just the stuff you have a direct connection to.

So don’t be afraid to talk about other people’s books, RT other authors’/publishers’ contests or info. You’ll look engaged with what’s going on with others in the industry and you’ll also spread goodwill!

8. And while we’re on the subject of promotion, you shouldn’t be going into someone’s tweetstream to promote to spam them.

Your promo should be done in your own stream, where people choose to follow you and read it. You shouldn’t be doing this:

@angelajames, My book, Circles of Hell, released to day. I KNOW you’ll love it. Buy it here:

Think of Twitter a bit like an email inbox: if someone didn’t invite you to send them a newsletter or promotional email, you shouldn’t be sending it (there are actually laws against this). Twitter isn’t regulated by law, but it should still be regulated by common courtesy: don’t go into someone else’s stream, where they don’t get to choose to read your tweets, and promote to them. Just. Don’t. Do it. You might find yourself in trouble with Twitter, for one thing, because if a lot of people block you and report you for spam (I do this if you promote to me uninvited) and your tweetstream shows a clear pattern of @’ing people with promotional messages, you can get your account shut down.

9. It’s a good idea to be mindful of what you’re tweeting.

If your bad days are the the norm, rather than the exception, you might want to disengage from talking about your personal life, or what’s going on with you, and keep your tweets related more to hobbies, reading, writing, etc.

If you tend to be sarcastic, or passive-aggressive, or find yourself being coy while complaining about something someone did, without naming names, try to keep in mind that this can create an overall negative impression of you if you do it often.

Have an opinion about politics, religion, the news, something having in the publishing industry but don’t be surprised if someone takes exception to it!

And if you feel really, really, really emotionally charged about something, type the tweet in a separate document, like Word or Notepad, and let it rest for a half hour, hour or half a day. If you still think it’s a good idea to post it after that, then go. Just remember, the internet is forever.

10. Twitter should be fun.

If it’s not fun for you, don’t do it. Find another social media or promotional vehicle. If you feel like you’re being forced to be on Twitter, and it’s sucking the life out of you, you’re likely not going to be effective at it. Go ahead and find a different thing that suits you better.

So you’re done with #nanowrimo? Now edit!

Here’s the thing: editors and agents know you’re really proud of the book you completed during NaNoWriMo. We think you SHOULD be proud of it. It’s not an easy task to complete a book, and especially not in a month. But please, do us a favor and don’t send it to us…yet. First, set it aside for a few weeks. No really. Distance gives you fresh eyes (and renewed love for the story). Go ahead and start writing the next book while you’re letting this one percolate on the back burner.

Once a few weeks–or even a month, maybe after the distraction of the holidays?–have passed, then it’s time for a step that’s just as important as the writing of the book–the self-editing and polishing. No editor, agent or reader should be seeing your book just after it’s written. It doesn’t do justice to your hard work, and it doesn’t show a respect for the reader, editor or agent’s time.

Yesterday I did a round of #editreport on Twitter, and if you’re wondering about that, you can read them on Storify. Essentially, this shows what an editor is thinking as they read the slush pile. The things we see and reject for are so very often things the author could catch in edits. Many of the reports I see from the editors say “this author needs to learn to self-edit.” Yes, story is more important than good writing, but to get either a reader or an editor/agent to read that great story, your writing still needs to be above average. A great story won’t overcome a manuscript full of errors, awkward sentences and bad grammar. It will only overcome a small portion of that!

So now that you’ve completed your NaNo book, no editor or agent should have seen it in their slush pile yet (or even worse, if it was a book you wrote to fulfill a contract obligation, don’t send that to your editor or agent either!) First, you have to self-edit.It shouldn’t be an optional step.

To support this, I’m offering all #nanowrimo participants a discount on my Before You Hit Send self-editing online workshop, which starts in January. For the month of December only, use code NANO on checkout and receive $9 (18%) off the workshop price.

 

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