Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Meet the Authors of Sweet Christmas Kisses 4 - Milou Koenings and Merrillee Whren

The Gift of Yesterday
Milou Koenings
The Gift of Yesterday is my new holiday novella included in the Sweet Christmas Kisses 4 box set.
The heroine of my tale is Bailey, a pastry chef who moves to Green Pines to open up her dream pastry shop. Of course, she's got a signature confection and it is the stuff of dreams: the merveilleux.

The word is French for marvelous, which describes the thing just right. 

It's made of three layers of meringue held together by whipped cream, covered over by more cream, and rolled in dark chocolate shavings.
The merveilleux is a Belgian treat that only made its way south to France in the last 20 years or so. I found out while I was writing this book that there are now merveilleux shops in London and New York City. So I guess the secret is out. Or at least some of it...

My uncle was a baker and pastry chef in Belgium. Merveilleux were my absolute favorite thing he made. His secret—which I have yet to see anyone else copy—was that he hid pieces of fruit at the center of each merveilleux. My favorite was the pineapple one, but the red currant version he made only in December were pretty special, too.
I'd like to share with you a taste of Bailey's magic in The Gift of Yesterday, so here is Bailey's recipe (courtesy of my uncle!):

 Chocolate Merveilleux

Makes about 6
150 grams egg whites (that's about 3 medium egg whites)
300 grams of sugar
600 ml whipped double cream* or heavy whipping cream
3-4 Tbsp icing sugar
2 tsp vanilla
Dark-chocolate shavings

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius). Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Pour the sugar evenly over the paper and bake in the oven for 5 minutes, or until the edges of the sugar layer start to melt.

Whisk the egg whites in a stand mixer set on low speed. Once bubbles form, increase the speed to high and beat until stiff peaks form.
Remove the sugar from the oven. With the mixer set on high, add the sugar to the egg whites one tablespoon at a time. Keep beating the eggs for at least 5 more minutes after all the sugar has been added. The mixture should be smooth and glossy.

Lower the oven temperature to 200 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius). Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Draw 18 2-inch (5-cm) circles on the paper (9 on each cookie sheet).
Fill the circles with a layer of egg whites about 1 inch (2.5 cm) high. (Use a piping bag or a spoon.) Bake in the oven for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. The meringues should be crisp to the touch. Turn off the oven and let the meringues stay there for another 2 hours.

Beat the cream with the icing sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form.

*It's almost impossible to find double cream in the U.S. Use heavy cream and a stabilizer instead, such as cornstarch, gelatin or a whipping cream stabilizer. If you follow the link to the recipe for lavender and honey merveilleux below, you'll see that recipe uses mascarpone as a stabilizer.

Spread a layer of cream on a meringue disk, then layer another meringue on it to form a sandwich. Cover that meringue with cream as well. If you want to use fruit, place one or two small berries or pieces of canned pineapple on top of this meringue. Cover with more cream and top with a third meringue. Spread whipped cream all over the sides. Refrigerate a few minutes.

Gently hold each merveilleux sideways, holding it by the top and bottom, which have no cream, and roll it in chocolate shavings until the sides are covered. Top each merveilleux with cream and sprinkle chocolate shavings over the top. (You could also just mound whipped cream all over the top, then sprinkle the shavings all around.)
There are a lot of possible variations on this. You could flavor the cream and/or the meringues with coffee, or pumpkin spice, and use chopped nuts instead of chocolate shavings. Be creative, like in this wonderful recipe for a dark chocolate, honey and lavender merveilleux from the blog.

Enjoy — with a good cup of coffee and a delicious, brand new box set of 14 marvelous holiday stories!

Puppy Love and Mistletoe
Merrillee Whren

Interview with Scott Graham, hero of
Puppy Love and Mistletoe.

What is the most interesting thing about you?
I’m the guardian of a six-year-old girl, Lily, and she keeps me on my toes all the time. She’s the daughter of my best friends who died in a tragic car accident.

What do you do for fun?
I love to spend my free time with Lily. We play games. I read to her, and we walk her dog, Jet. With Lily and that dog, there are no dull moments.

What is your current state of mind?
Concerned. I’ve started a new consulting job with the town of Hallburg, Maryland. The mayor ran on a promise not to raise taxes, and that means he has to cut the town budget. That’s my job, and it often makes me very unpopular with the people whose budgets I cut. It isn’t fun being the bad guy.

What are you afraid of most in life?
I’m most afraid of making the wrong decisions where Lily is concerned. She’s the most important thing in my life. I want to keep my promise to her dad and take care of her. I often consider adopting Lily, but I’m never sure that’s the right choice for her. She needs a mom and a dad. Lily is always on the lookout for a prospective mom. That does get embarrassing. I call Lily my personal matchmaker.

What do you want out of life?
I want to have a peaceful life here in Hallburg, where Lily can grow up without the stresses of the city.

Tell me about your family.
I have one sister. She is married with two boys. They live in Baltimore City, so I don’t get to see her as often, since I moved to Hallburg. Our parents have recently retired to Florida.

What do you most value in your friends?
Friends keep their promises. I made a promise to my best friend Danny to take care of his little girl if anything happened to him. That’s why I guard Lily with my life.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I would worry less and enjoy life more. It’s a big responsibility to care for a child, so that worry thing is constantly with me.

Connect with Merrillee:  Website  Facebook  Twitter  Pinterest  Google +



  1. Can't wait to read it, Merrilee. I love single-parent and non-biological parent/child stories - they give hope to so many people! So you've hooked me already on both counts!

  2. Wonderful, ladies. Thanks so much for the recipe and the interview.

  3. Milou, thanks for sharing the recipe. I love chocolate.

  4. Both stories sound amazing! I loved the interview and I can't wait to try the recipe. :)

  5. Yum! That looks so yummy! Thanks for sharing the recipe!