What goes better with cookies than milk?
How about…classic literature?
OK, maybe the pairing hadn’t occurred to you until now. But thanks to the fine folks at Penguin Random House, there’s a new special edition of Jane Austen’s classic novel “Pride and Prejudice” featuring recipes from the Martha Stewart test kitchens!
Think cream scones with currants, berry tartlets, sugar-and-spice cake, and French macarons. Perfect to serve while hosting a civilized literary discussion over tea. And if we can’t have Mr. Darcy, we’ll take a tartlet as a consolation prize. You know?
In addition to Martha-approved recipes you can make at home, the book comes decked out with illustrations by New York-based pastry chef Amber Spiegel. These are no ordinary illustrations—they’re photographs of the designs that Spiegel, who grew up baking with family before graduating from the baking and pastry program at the Culinary Institute of America, piped with royal icing.
“This style is what I’m known for,” said Spiegel. “Soft colors and antique-y looking designs with cameos and gold trim. When [Penguin Random House] approached me [about the book], it was right up my alley.”
Each of the 80 intricate cookies took about 20 minutes to decorate, to say nothing of the fanciful cover and volume openers modeled after the lavish estates in the films. In total, Spiegel spent about two weeks on the project, including nights and weekends. It was a labor of love: “It’s probably my favorite project I’ve ever worked on,” she said.
As cookie-decorating season is right around the corner, we asked Spiegel for tips on mastering decorating with royal icing. “Getting the proper icing consistency is the most important thing,” she said. “You want it so it holds its shape, but not too stiff; smooth, but not so thin that it runs off the edges of the cookie.”
Since the ideal sugar-to-water ratio can change with the weather, Spiegel recommends using a 15-second rule when testing the icing consistency. “Take a spoonful and drop it in a bowl,” she said. “It should take 15 seconds to smooth itself out.”
We’ll be trying that tip out this holiday season—and snagging a copy of the new “Pride and Prejudice” for everyone we know.
Watch how Amber Spiegel piped the elements for the cover of the book: