Getting Deep Into Character While Drafting A Novel

My main character is a chef, so I’m creating recipes for her bistro.

Something about this process helps me understand my main character (Ivory Bainbridge) and her challenges in the kitchen. 

This time I tried making Petit Fours. These tiny squares of layered cakes decorated with dainty sugared violets are perfect in a high-class bistro or tea room. 

Now that I’ve experienced the process, I have no idea why Ivory would include those on a tea room menu. Pain in the rump to make at scale. 

Ok, a trained chef such as Ivory would have instinctively known to thin the icing to a pourable glaze barely thick enough to hold together. The recipe I followed was thick enough to spread with a knife, which I now know from experience does not work well. Yes, the recipe author mentioned adding a few drops of milk if the icing was too thick, but this was THICK. It took at least 1/3 of a cup to make it pourable. 

Don’t get me started on the sugared violets!

Another pain in the backside.

Access to both dark purple violets and the white version with lavender streaks was not a problem. The yard and woods are full of them in the early spring here in Illinois. Hand-picking a couple dozen, then washing was a breeze.

The next step in sugaring or candying flowers is to dip into a lightly whipped egg white, then covering with powdered sugar. Each time I dipped a delicate flower in the egg white, it folded up like an umbrella. Short of opening each one with a toothpick after dipping, there seems to be no other way to keep this from happening. The weight of powdered sugar on each bloom did not help.

As I worked, I was suspicious of the instructions about drying the sugared flowers on a paper towel. “Wouldn’t the egg white/sugar concoction stick to the paper towel?” I mused. Given this was the first time I did this, I followed the directions as given.

After drying in the refrigerator for a day, then room temperature for another day, I had the answer to my question. 

Yes. The delicate petals were practically glued to the paper and impossible to pry off without destroying the flower. 

Next time, if there is a next time, I’ll try them on parchment or waxed paper. 

At the end of the three-day process to create a group of tiny cakes, I am still not sure why Ivory Bainbridge decided this would be a good idea. 

Except for the few tiny, bite-sized cakes that actually worked, the result is beautiful. 

Next time, I will not allow Ivory to choose the pastries. I’ll write in something much easier.

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