Friday, August 7, 2015

In Dreams: Saskatoon Berry Galette & Big Book News

 "Do anything, but let it produce joy." ~ Walt Witman

There I was, standing in my little green kitchen on the afternoon of February 13.  I had just put the kettle on for tea, as the wind was howling outside and I needed to warm up after coming in from the cold.  A few days earlier I did this, and frankly I felt like my life was at a crossroads.  I was excited and scared and aware that I was on a new path; I just didn't know what it was yet.  While the water was beginning to simmer, I scanned my phone for anything of interest.  Hmmm.  What's this?  An email from an associate publisher at TouchWood Editions.  She introduced herself, and thanked me for the wonderful review I did of this book.  She also said that if I had any ambitions of writing a cookbook, I should get in touch with her.  My heart skipped a beat.  Maybe two.  It does that when I get really excited.  I re-read that email a few times to make sure I wasn't hallucinating.  And then I called my mom.  

One week later, I'm on the phone with this lovely associate publisher.  We talk about cats and dogs and how I got into blogging and what the heck I do out here in Saskatoon.  We talked about books and publishing and she told me to put together a cookbook proposal because she could see us building a beautiful book together.  After that conversation, I did a little dance around my kitchen, not quite believing my good fortune.  So, over the span of the next four months, I whittled away at this project.  On days off and evenings, in between my pastry chef job, food column writing and freelance recipe writing, I ever so slowly found out how I should write a book proposal (thank you Dianne Jacob - your book is a small masterpiece).  Ideas, recipes, stories all popped into my brain and I somehow arranged it all to make sense.  When I was happy with the proposal I sent it to three people whose opinions I value greatly.  They all replied with positive feedback.  On June 25th, I pressed "Send", and the next day I heard back.  She loved it.  She just had to send it to more people.  So I waited, for what seemed like a lifetime, but in reality it was only about 19 days.  Then I got the email.  She wanted to talk to me the next day.  I don't think I slept at all that night, tossing and turning, assuring myself I'd be fine if it wasn't what I wanted to hear.  I called my mom the morning of July 15th.  Good luck, she said.  You've got this, she said.  Later that afternoon, the phone rang, and we small talked for a couple of minutes.  And then the news came.  TouchWood Editions would love to offer me a contract.  After I hung up, still in shock, I sat down on my couch and burst into tears.  Head in my hands, my fat grey cat meowing at my feet (she's always super vocal when I cry - it's as if she's saying you'll be okay - stop your sobbing), I let everything out.  Everything I had worked so hard for, for so long, had been worth it.  I gathered a small bit of composure and called my mom.  She picks up.  They said yes, I told her.  And then I started the ugly cry.  Renee, she said, you should  be so proud of yourself.  And I could hear the pride in her voice, which only made me cry harder.  Are you happy, she asked?  I'm so happy, I told her, over the meowing of my fat grey cat, who's really vocalizing her opinion of my emotional state now.  Tears dried, shock settled, reality dawned.  You guys.  I'm writing a cookbook!!!

I still get goosebumps just writing all of this down for you, and frankly a little teary.  Only in my dreams did I ever think I'd have my name on the front cover of anything so beautiful as a cookbook.  With my manuscript and photography due April 1st, I know the next eight months are going to be busy - but it's going to be the best busy I've ever been.  All the Sweet Things:  Baked Goods and Stories from the Kitchen of Sweetsugarbean will be released sometime in the spring of 2017.  I get shivers just writing that!  The cookbook is going to contain over 100 recipes for sweet things - some favourites from the blog - but many, many new recipes as well.  I'm doing all of the food styling and photography, and I couldn't be more excited!  I've already been working on new recipes - gotta get at that glorious summer fruit while it's here - and I love how they are turning out.  As we speak, there is a pan of no-churn chocolate and cherry ice cream in my freezer and I'm officially in love with it.  I can't wait to hold this book in my hands, and to pass it into yours.  

Alas, let's talk about this positively lovely galette.  I finally found a patch of wild Saskatoon berries, not far from where I work, along the riverbank of the South Saskatchewan River.  On a scorching afternoon in late July I picked about 2 cups worth.  The birds and heat had begun to take their toll on the berries, but I had enough for this free-form tart, so I was happy.  If you don't have access to Saskatoon berries, blueberries will do just fine.  I love galettes because there's no pressure for them to be perfect.  Just roll out your favourite pastry recipe, dump the berries in the middle, and bake for about 45 minutes, until the middle bubbles and the crust browns.  Served with a dollop of cream or a scoop of your favourite vanilla ice cream, this is simple, summer dessert goodness.  

Things might be bonkers busy over the next few weeks, but I'll pop in to say hi, let you in on the book's progress and any other adventures I may get up to.  To all of you who have been here since those early days, thank you thank you thank you.  I know some of you are just as excited as I am!  I will be on holiday next week, going to see some old friends and take in a rock show.  I've got so much to celebrate right now, might as well do it with Dave Grohl.  See you soon. Renée xoxo.

Saskatoon Berry Galette

dough:  recipe here


2 cups Saskatoon berries or blueberries
1/4 cup cane sugar plus more for sprinkling
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp pure almond extract or pure vanilla extract 
all purpose flour for dusting surface
2 tbsp milk or cream

Preheat oven to 375*F.  In a large bowl, toss together the Saskatoon berries, 1/4 cup sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and almond extract. 
Roll out disc of dough on a lightly floured surface into a 12 inch circle (or thereabouts - it's a galette, don't stress).  Fold dough in half and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Unfold dough and place the berries in the middle, leaving a two-inch border.  Fold the edges over, overlapping slightly.  Brush the edges with milk or cream and sprinkle with cane sugar.  Bake for 40-50 minutes until pastry is golden brown and filling bubbles.  Cool before serving.  Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.  Serves 6-8. 


  1. Such fantastic news! Congratulations!

    1. Thank you!!! I'm terribly excited about this project!!!

  2. congrats!!! i love seeing behind the scenes cookbook things, so i hope you'll keep us up to date on things (:

    1. Hi Heather - I will be showing lots of behind the scenes stuff as we go along...can't wait to see how it all unfolds. Thanks for dropping me a line!

  3. I couldn't be happier for you! Well deserved, lady! xox

    1. Movita - thanks lady. Wouldn't it be awesome if I could do a signing in Halifax?? Imagine meeting in real-life?? Thanks for all of your support and kind words here on the bloggy. Means so very much to me. xoxo

  4. This is so very exciting. I'm thrilled for you! Thank you for sharing this sweet, personal story. I loved reading it, and yes, I know all about those heartbeat-skipping moments...

  5. There's nothing like a hold-in-your-hand real book :) I've followed your blog for several years and have enjoyed everything I've read and seen. I look forward to sitting with your 'real' book, too! Congratulations!

  6. Colette - you are so kind! Thank you. I can't wait to see what the "real" book will look like. It's an exciting time in my kitchen!


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