Monday, August 03, 2015

Baker's Blues by Judi Hendricks: A Giveaway and Conversation with the Author

One of the best things about writing Farmgirl Fare for the past ten (!) years has been making friends and meeting so many wonderful people from around the world.

I was already a huge fan of Judith Ryan Hendricks' Bread Alone and The Baker's Apprentice when Lisa Munley at TLC Book Tours contacted me back in 2009 to see if I was interested in being part of a tour for Judi's new book, The Laws of Harmony.

Of course I jumped at the chance (and loved the book), and Judi and I have been great friends ever since, emailing back and forth and chatting on the phone every couple of months for hours at a time—mostly about food.

Judi, who lives in Santa Fe with her husband Geoff and dog Blue, has a degree in journalism and worked as a journalist, copywriter, computer instructor, travel agent, waitress, and baker before turning to fiction writing.

Her first novel, Bread Alone (so named because she's a fellow Daniel Leader fan), was a national bestseller and a BookSense 76 pick. It was followed by Isabel's Daughter (which I also love), The Baker's Apprentice (book two in the Bread Alone series), and The Laws of Harmony, which was nominated for The Santa Fe Reporter's "Best of Santa Fe." Her work has been translated into 12 languages and distributed in 16 countries.

Bread Alone is the story of thirty-one-year-old L.A. executive wife Wynter Morrison, whose upper class life is turned upside down when her husband announces one evening that their marriage is over. Emotionally devastated and desperate for a change of scenery, Wyn escapes to Seattle and takes a job as a bread baker, rekindling her love of baking and discovering that making bread possesses an unexpected healing power.

Bread Alone is one of my favorite novels, and for years I've been anxiously awaiting (and pestering Judi about) the publication of part three of this bakery trilogy, Baker's Blues. This new book is just as good—and just as food-filled—as all of her others, and I've already read it twice.

Baker's Blues can be read on its own, but you'll enjoy it much more if you read Bread Alone and The Baker's Apprentice first.

I'm so happy to be kicking off this 19-stop TLC virtual book tour for Baker's Blues with an in-depth interview with Judi, recorded during one of our marathon phone chats.

Read the interview below. . .

Book Giveaway:
If you'd like to win a copy of Baker's Blues, simply leave a comment at the bottom of this post telling us something—anything!—about bread or Bread Alone. The giveaway is over. Thanks for your entries! Favorite bread recipes and bakery recommendations are especially welcome!

Please make sure there's a way for me to contact you, or include your email address in your comment. I'll pick a random winner on Monday, August 10, 2015. Sorry, but the book can only be shipped to a US or Canadian address.

Related links:

Signed copies of any of Judi's books:
Click here to order signed copies from Judi's favorite indie bookstore, Collected Works in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Free shipping included.

Farmgirl Fare Bread Recipes:
My Favorite Easy Pizza Dough Recipe (just 3 minutes of kneading)
Oatmeal Toasting Bread (one of my favorite recipes)

A Special Conversation with Judith Ryan Hendricks:

Judi (and foodie) fans are sure to enjoy this intimate and laughter-filled chat, where we discuss everything from the writing of Baker's Blues and her inspiration for the Bread Alone series to cinnamon swirl yeasted banana bread and a delicious way to grill pork tenderloin.

It's a long interview, so grab a snack and something to drink and settle in for a fun conversation between two food-loving friends...

Susan: So I'm pretty sure I'm your biggest fan and have probably read Bread Alone more times than anyone else.

Judi: Including me. [laughs]

S: But I'm not alone in my love for that book. It's been translated into 12 languages and distributed in 16 countries, and it reached #11 on the bestseller list in England. Didn't you once tell me about women showing up at your book signings with stacks of books?

J: That was up in Bellingham, Washington. That was so funny. It was two women. This was like my first or second book signing and I was kind of a nervous wreck, and I walked into the room and it was full of people, and there were these two women sitting in the front row and each one of them had a stack of books on their lap. They told me later the extra copies were for all their friends who were getting divorced.

S: Oh, that is funny. You've written four other novels besides Baker's BluesBread Alone, The Baker's Apprentice, Isabel's Daughter, and The Laws of Harmony—but Bread Alone has been by far the best seller.

J: Yes.

S: Why do you think it's so popular?

J: Well, for one thing I think it's one of the first books that really incorporated food, at least in that way.

S: In a novel?

J: Yeah. I mean there have been other novels that mention food, like the first time I ever saw food in a novel was in The Godfather. One of the Mafiosi was making spaghetti sauce, and he talks about how he puts a little sugar in to smooth it out.

S: That works!

J: Yeah, I've been doing it ever since. [laughs] And the other one was—have you ever read the Spenser novels by Robert Parker?

S: I have. I love those. And I really love the audio books too. Joe Mantegna reads several of them and he has such a great voice.

J: Well Spenser is always cooking and eating stuff.

S: He is, you're right. I love how much you talk about food in all of your books. It drives me nuts when I'm reading a novel and it says something like, "They went out to lunch and then got back on the road." I always want to know what they had to eat!

J: Me too! That's why when Wyn stops for lunch at Mustard's Grill up in the wine country, I just had to get crazy about the burger and fries.

I also think Bread Alone was one of the first novels that actually worked in recipes, and did it in the context of the book, not separate at the end. I also think there's something special about bread. A lot of people relate to baking; it has kind of a romance to it. Don't you think so?

S: I do. And it seems like it does even for people who don't bake bread. Or maybe even more so with them.

J: And when Bread Alone came out in 2001, artisan bread was just getting really big. I mean it was around before then, but I think it was really getting to be popular.

And the cachet about being a baker, because up until that time it was just manual labor. It didn't have the quality, and it didn't have the atmosphere of it. I thought there was a certain romance about this woman working all by herself at night in the bakery, and I think that appeals to a lot of women, especially women who aren't happy with their situation in life. They think of escaping like that.

S: Yes. Wyn's life was completely turned upside down and she went in a totally different direction. She pretty much changed everything about her life. She did one of those kind of escape things—ran off and became a bread baker. It does sound kind of romantic—except the going to work at 11 o'clock at night thing.

J: You know, I've always liked working at night. I didn't work nights at the bakery, but I did work nights when I worked for Delta Airlines, and I loved it. I would go to work at 11 and get off at 7 in the morning. It's like you're in your own little world at night.

S: I think, too, the other thing when you were talking about a change in the bread baking industry—it also kind of seems like it was always a men's thing. You think of men, French men baking bread and things like that.

J: Definitely. It was a man's world because it was such hard work. So that's why the French saying, To be a boulanger, you have to be big, strong, and dumb. Big to carry the sacks of flour, strong to knead the dough, and dumb to work so hard.

S: So not only was Bread Alone different because of its whole focus on food, but you also have a female bread baker, which was also kind a new thing, or at least a new mainstream thing. I'm sure there have always been women bread bakers, especially in this country, but you were also bringing that to the forefront.

J: I think that's very true when you say, "especially in this country," because in France there were no women bread bakers for a very long time. The Compagnons Boulangers du Devoir guild was strictly for men.

S: I know whenever I reread Bread Alone it always makes me want to experiment and bake new breads, rather than just making the same few breads I get into the habit of baking over and over for months at a time. We need to come up with a recipe for that yeasted banana bread that's in Bread Alone. Or is there already one? I know I've asked you about this before.

J: Well, there is one but I think it could be improved. What I did was I took the yeasted banana bread recipe from the Tassajara Bread Book and made it into like a cinnamon swirl banana bread.

S: Okay, this is sounding familiar now.

J: I think it needs a little tweaking, but we can work on that. I think when I originally posted recipes from Bread Alone on my website, I didn't post the banana bread recipe [which wasn't in the book] because I didn't think it was good enough. But it was good enough that I would definitely work on it and tweak it a little bit, because it could be great.

S: Every time I read about it in Bread Alone I want to try it and see what it tastes like. I wonder how it would be with some oatmeal in it—or do you think that would be too busy?

J: I'm thinking maybe it would be good because oats are kind of nutty, and if you put them into the food processor and turned them into oat flour, it might be really good.

S: I remember asking you years ago why you chose to start the Bread Alone story in 1988, and you said you needed to start it far enough in the past so the sequels weren't taking place in the future, because you already had the entire story figured out, and it takes place over a period of 18 years.

J: Yeah, it was a funny thing. I usually don't work that way. I usually don't know how things are going to turn out when I'm writing a book, but this one was different. I knew from the very beginning how everything was going to happen. Maybe not the details, but the general overall arc of the story I always knew.

And it was weird; I didn't even really know that I knew until I was well into working on The Baker's Apprentice and I realized that things were coming out about Mac and his depression that I had written in the first version of Bread Alone but then took out. The first draft of Bread Alone was like a thousand pages!

S: I want to read that version!

J: Oh god, there were I think six different versions of the story, and they were all totally different, but the beginning and the ending were always the same, so it was just kind of getting from A to Z.

S: That's really interesting. You know I'd love to hear about those different versions sometimes. So did you always know the story was going to be three books?

J: No, actually I thought at first that it would just be two, but I realized by the time I got into The Baker's Apprentice I already had reams of material I didn't have room for, so it would have to go in another book because it was still stuff I wanted to write about.

In fact, the section on my new website that is about Baker's Blues has an excerpt from the book, and usually the excerpt is the first chapter. But for obvious reasons I didn't want to use the first chapter for my excerpt, so I used a scene that got cut from both The Baker's Apprentice and Baker's Blues, which was the scene where Mac takes Wyn to meet his mother in New York.

S: I was wondering about that scene.

J: Well it's now printed in full on my website as the excerpt, although it doesn't actually appear in the book. It was cut each time for reasons of length. And when my agent was trying to sell Baker's Blues, I had used that scene as the prologue and she didn't like it because there was too much switching back and forth from the time, because this went from 1991, when they went to New York, to the very present [in 2005], then back to 2000 where the Baker's Blues story starts. So I cut it from this third book, but I felt that it was important, so I decided to use that instead of an excerpt.

S: You said you had the whole general arc of the Bread Alone story figured out from the start, but not all the details. So it was just the basic plot line and the idea of where everything was going? I remember one time that you said something to me in an email about having to get back to Wyn. So I searched through my computer and found it—it's from June of 2010. I can't believe it's been that long.

J: I can't either. [laughs]

S: And what you said was, Okay, gotta get back to work. I left Wyn languishing in the bad-boy chef's kitchen. I need to figure out how to move her into the bedroom...

J: Yeah, that's what I mean. I knew that things were going to happen but I wasn't sure how. There were events that I knew would happen, but some of them didn't even show up until the final draft.

S: I guess I've never really asked you much about your writing process. How does it work? Like when you had Wyn in the kitchen, do you just sit down and think it out or figure it out right there, each page or scene or...

J: It's sort of a scene by scene thing, and it's a lot of trial and error for me. I know not all authors work the same way. Jo-Ann [Mapson, my good friend and mentor] outlines everything before she starts, like a timeline, and I wish I could do that but I can't because usually when I try to do that I end up being unhappy with what I've got, and I have to go back to doing it my way which is that I write a scene, and if it works I put it in, and if it doesn't work I throw it away and start over again on that. For example, Wyn's relationship with Alex has gone through a lot of changes since I first wrote it.

S: And I noticed, too, in all the books that you don't necessarily jump around, but sometimes the next chapter or the next section will be the next day, and sometimes it will be a couple of weeks, and it always just seems sort of free flowing.

Do you think that's because you're writing these different scenes and they're just the specific parts of their lives or the story you want to tell? Sometimes it's just a week later, sometimes it's two months later?

J: Yeah, I mean I try to limit my writing to the interesting parts. [laughs] I forget which writer it is—one of the mystery writers—he does that and I read his rationale for it and I thought, "Yeah, that's what I do!" He said nobody wants to hear about going to the grocery store unless it has some plot point, so he just skips a lot of stuff. And he has a lot of the double breaks in his books like I do, where there'll be a double space and then the story picks up at a later point with no transition, just a break.

S: And those breaks aren't always the same; sometimes they're just a little while later and sometimes they're days later.

J: Right. And sometimes it's backwards—backstory or memories or something like that.

S: Like in Bread Alone with the scenes where Wyn is doing her college work-study program at the bakery in France.

J: Right.

S: Speaking of bakeries, much of Bread Alone and The Baker's Apprentice takes place at the Queen Street Bakery in Queen Anne Hill in Seattle, and that's a fictional bakery, but you based it on a real bakery where you worked.

J: Right, the McGraw Street Bakery, which closed several years ago, but the building has been brought back to life as Macrina Bakery on McGraw, owned by Leslie Mackie.

S: My mom actually went to the bakery and bought me a signed copy of Leslie Mackie's Macrina Bakery & Cafe Cookbook years ago when she was in Seattle because she knew about the connection with you and Bread Alone. Everything in that book sounds so good.

J: It is good—all of it. Whenever Geoff and I go to Seattle we always go to Macrina for breakfast at least once.

S: But when you worked at McGraw you weren't a bread baker.

J: Right. I was just like the flunky. I was the kitchen slave, and I worked for the cake baker. I helped her make the cakes. She was a really artistic cake decorator; she did beautiful work. I never got to decorate any cakes; I just got to do the crumb coat.

S: So she's Diane in Bread Alone?

J: Yes. I also did scones and muffins and cookies, stuff like that. I did whatever they told me to do. [laughs]

S: Maybe I should put something here about there being a brief pause in the conversation while Blue goes nuts when the garbage truck drives by your house and we crack up. [laughs] This is why we aren't doing a podcast. I left my dogs downstairs. [laughs]

So how did you end up working at the McGraw Street Bakery? Did you just want some bakery experience?

J: That's kind of an interesting story. We had just moved from Atlanta to Seattle in 1988, and I had sold my share of my travel agency in Atlanta to my partners, and I was all lined up to take a job at a travel agency in Seattle. And the more I thought about it, the less I wanted to go to work at a travel agency when I'd owned my own travel agency. And also the thought of getting dressed up and going to work every day was very unappealing at that time.

So Geoff and I were out walking around one day exploring our new neighborhood in Queen Anne Hill, and we saw the McGraw Street Bakery. It was about three o'clock in the afternoon and we were going to go in and get something, but they were closed.

So we look in the window and there was Jessie, who is Ellen in the book, and she was working making cakes or something and she was wearing a really sloppy apron, and I could hear in the back that she had Aretha Franklin on full blast.

S: Ha, I love it!

J: And there were all these women in the back that I could see, because the bakery was like a shotgun place where you could see from the front door through to the back door. The front was the seating area and the display cases and everything, and then there was the prep area, and then behind that was the baking room. And in the baking room there were all these women working at this big table, dancing around and singing. And I was like, "Shit, I want to work here!"

S: I can't believe you've never told me this story.

J: So we knocked on the door and Jessie came and answered the door and she was really nice and was telling us about the bakery, and she said they were open from I think 7 A.M. to 2:00 or 2:30, and then at that time they closed the bakery and would do wholesale baking in the afternoon.

S: Did the wholesale stuff go out that night or did it get picked up in the morning?

J: The bread was made overnight, and I'll tell you about Kathy. (I think that was her name! Remember this was 1988!) I don't know if I ever told you about her; she was the bread baker. The afternoon baking was mostly the Mazurka bars [which are talked about in Bread Alone]. So we called them the Mazurka bar ladies. They worked in the afternoon making Ellen's/Jessie's Mazurka bars, which we sold in the bakery and also wholesale.

So I asked her if I could apply for a job, and she didn't want me to because I had no professional baking experience.

S: So how old were you then?

J: I was in my early 40s. So I talked her into taking my resume.

S: Which had nothing to do with baking?

J: Right. It was all travel business. So I guess she gave it to Diane, the cake baker. I mean Nancy, who was Diane in the book, and she called me and asked me if I wanted to come in and talk to her so I did. And she said, "Well I'll be glad to train you because I need somebody to help me."

So it paid nothing for money, but I took the job and I was there for almost a year and made great friends and had a great time and it was so fun, especially because I didn't have to come in early in the morning. Nancy was a night owl; she didn't like to get up early, and she didn't need to get up early to make cakes.

So I would come in at ten o'clock and I would have everything all prepped for her when she got there around ten. And we would bake until about 2:30, and then we would close the place and pull the blinds, and everybody would sit down at this big table and have lunch together.

S: That's neat.

J: Oh, it was great. And then we would go back and bake the rest of the afternoon.

S: So why did you leave?

J: I needed money. We were struggling. Geoff was working remotely for his company and he was breaking in a new territory, so he wasn't making a lot of money and we had house payments and car payments and...I think I was making like six bucks an hour or something.

So anyway, I went to work for Society Expeditions Adventure Tours and that was fun too—I got to go to Antarctica. But it wasn't as much fun as working at the bakery.

S: [laughs] Before writing Bread Alone, you had only written essays, memoirs, and other non-fiction. And this first novel, which became a national bestseller and is loved by fans around the world, all started because instead of walking away from a 'closed' sign at a bakery, you peered inside and knocked on the window instead?

J: Sort of...yeah.

S: So when did you actually start writing Bread Alone? And how long after working at the bakery did you have the idea of incorporating your experience there into a book?

J: When I started Bread Alone, eight years after leaving the bakery, I had no intention of writing a novel. It began in a creative non-fiction class at UC Irvine with an assignment to write an essay about something we loved to do. I chose to write about making bread—duh!

Somewhere in a dark corner of my mind, a tiny light went on. Something about the piece nagged at me. Every time I thought I was finished, it drew me back to the computer. It turned into a memoir about working at McGraw Street, then a short story. Then a long story. At about 350 pages I realized I was committed to something I never thought I’d do…writing a novel.

S: I can't believe that during the past six years I've never asked you for more details about when you worked at the bakery. We always get sidetracked with other stuff.

J: We always start talking about food!

S: Speaking of food, I started reading through that 2010 email conversation thread when you had to get back to Wyn and the bad-boy chef, and it was mostly about food, of course, including my Mexican Jumping Bean Slaw, which you'd just bookmarked, and which I really need to make this summer if I ever get enough tomatoes for the dressing—I haven't made it in ages. Then there were two marinated pork tenderloins you were grilling that sounded really good.

I remember those, yeah. They are good; that's my favorite way to have pork.

You were serving them with a veggie salad with a really tasty marinade/dressing made with red wine boiled down almost to a syrup, red wine vinegar, honey, garlic and rosemary.

Oh, that's not the recipe I was thinking of. The one I was thinking of came from Sunset magazine back in the 80s, and it's a brine. The meat sits for three days in all this brine and spices, and then when you put it on the grill, you strain the brine and you take all the spices that are in there and you throw them on the coals. And they give you three different seasonings: one for pork, one for beef, and one for lamb. It's really good; we use it all the time.

S: I'll have to try the one for the lamb. You always eat so well and are always telling me about all this great food you make. On that same day I think you were making custard for vanilla bean ice cream.

The reason I had actually emailed you that day was because I was asking about substituting brandy for the bourbon in the amazing sounding recipe in Bread Alone for Patty's Cake with Caramel-Espresso Sauce, which I still haven't made.

J: Oh god, just make it, it's so easy.

S: I know. I was finally going to make it for my birthday a few weeks ago, but I never got around to it. Because now I have a big bottle of Kentucky something—I guess it's bourbon—in the pantry. We had the flu last winter and we went to buy a little bottle of whiskey or something to make hot toddies, and they had a really small bottle, and a giant economy-size bottle that only cost like twice as much as the little bottle. We were really sick, and I didn't think the little bottle would be enough. [laughs] So now I've got this giant jug of Kentucky whatever-it-is in the pantry, and I was going to use it to make the cake.

J: That recipe makes two loaves so you can put one in the freezer.

S: I saw that and was thinking maybe I should just make one. I'm kind of afraid the second one won't make it into the freezer. And you said that you don't even have to make the caramel-espresso sauce, that it's good just with whipped cream or powdered sugar?

J: Yeah, but the caramel-espresso sauce is killer.

S: And I do always have heavy cream in the fridge because we buy raw Jersey milk from our friends down the road, and the gallon jars have several inches of cream on top. So I have no excuse; I've got the booze and I've got the cream.

J: You'll be mad at yourself that you waited so long to make it.

S: That's probably true. Years! What's funny is that when my mom read Bread Alone a few years ago, I think the first thing she asked me was, "Have you made Patty's cake?"

J: [laughs]

S: And I told her I'd been meaning to since the first time I'd read the book.

Okay, let's go back to Baker's Blues. In between all that food talk in the 2010 email thread you also said:

I've been having an interesting time with this book. . .it's become like a set of those nesting Russian dolls. I keep peeling away layers of stuff that I was absolutely sure I was going to use and finding new and more intriguing ideas inside. I'm enjoying the process for a change, probably because I don't have a deadline.

J: I did throw out an awful lot, and I changed the beginning so many times. And some things got moved around. I swear I think I have enough for another book, but I have no desire to write part four. Unless it would be about Tyler.

S: That would be interesting. There's something else I've been wondering regarding the timeline...

J: Before we get too far, did you want to know about the bread baker at the McGraw Street Bakery?

S: Oh, yeah. See how we get sidetracked talking about food?

J: She was sort of my inspiration for Wyn, although I have no idea what her backstory was. She was pretty young; she was probably in her late 20s or early 30s. And she would come in at five o'clock in the afternoon when the rest of us were getting ready to leave, make the bread overnight, and leave when the first shift was coming in about six o'clock in the morning.

She rode her bike to work and she always wore sweatpants and flannel shirts and down vests, and she lived by herself in a garage apartment. And I thought she was the most content person I'd ever met.

S: Do you know how long she'd been baking bread?

J: Several years at the McGraw Street Bakery. I don't know if she'd worked anywhere else before that.

S: So if she was the bread baker there, and she was your inspiration for Wyn, did you just invent Linda [the head bread baker in Bread Alone], who is about as different from Wyn and Kathy as you can get?

J: Yes. Linda was totally a creation—I needed an antagonist.

S: She's a great character.

Okay, so there's another thing I've been wondering about the timeline of the three books. Bread Alone starts out in 1988 and goes forward from there, and the sequel, The Baker's Apprentice, starts in September 1989, two weeks after you left us hanging in Bread Alone, and it ends, if I remember correctly, in 1991.

J: When Wyn and Mac are getting ready to go to New York.

S: Then not only does Baker's Blues skip nine years ahead in time, but—I'm digressing again here—that had me wondering, especially when you were talking about all that extra material. Was there ever going to be a book in between, during all those years, or were you always just going to skip that part?

J: No, there wasn't going to be a separate book, but when I first started writing Baker's Blues, it started off with Wyn looking at places to open the bakery in L.A., but then I decided it was boring. In fact it was more like a prologue, where she's looking at space and she finds this perfect place, and the commercial real estate guy is telling her something about the building's karma, and she's thinking, Oh yeah, I'm really back in L.A. now.

S: That's funny.

J: And then I think that version picked up at the Y2K party.

S: Because not only do you skip way ahead in time in Baker's Blues, but you also chose to open the book in 2005 by dropping a pretty big bombshell on page one. For the sake of anybody who is reading this and wants to go back and start by reading Bread Alone and The Baker's Apprentice first—which I definitely recommend—I don't want to say what it is, even though I know it's on the back of the book, on your website, on the Amazon synopsis...

So you open Baker's Blues in 2005, and then you go back four years to 2000, and the rest of the book basically leads us up to that 2005 bombshell. So what made you decide to let us know what ends up happening right from the start, spoiling the ending so to speak, for lack of a better way of putting it?

J: Well, there are a couple of things. First of all, you can tell from the way I write that I'm not a linear person. [laughs] And a lot of times I think that what happens in a story is less interesting than why and how it happens. So I didn't really see a problem with putting that [bombshell] up front because to me the interesting part was how it happened.

So like I said, in one of the early versions there was that prologue about Wyn finding the space in L.A. for the bakery, and then it picked up at the Y2K party. And then one day I was going through a bunch of old files in my computer looking for something—because I always have these strip mine files where I put things that I take out of manuscripts that I might use again somewhere else—and I was going through that and I found this three-page section that I had apparently written years earlier and had no memory of whatsoever, and it was Wyn getting a phone call about the bombshell.

But I liked the way it was written, and I liked where it went, even in just three pages, so I immediately changed the whole beginning of the book to be that, instead of Wyn looking for the bakery building, and I worked up from there. It was weird because I had no memory of having written that scene.

S: So you were always going to go back—or forward, in the version that started with the L.A. bakery space prologue—to that Y2K party.

J: I thought it was kind of appropriate because you know that whole thing about Y2K and how all the computers were going to fail and the earth was going to implode because the computers wouldn't be able to handle the 2000s.

I'd found a great quote that I didn't end up using that was by some guy in the government talking about how there were gonna be weird things happening all over the world because of the Y2K effect, and I'd I guess in some versions I'd kind of started the story earlier or later, but that's why I ended up starting it in 2000—to show that things were going to happen, just not the things the guy in the government thought.

I was also thinking about The Doldrums, that area in the Atlantic Ocean where people used to get stuck because there was no wind. And it occurred to me that there was a lot of potential for this book to get stuck somewhere, without some kind of push from behind. To me it just felt like you know what happens, but there's a push to find out why.

S: We'd originally talked about collaborating on the recipes for Baker's Blues, but then you decided not to include any recipes in the book, because you said that it wasn't as happy a book as the first two, since Mac is dealing with depression and all that stuff.

J: Yeah, I just thought it would be more of a distraction. It didn't seem to be organic; it was more like, the first two books have recipes so I'm going to stick some in here. But I definitely want to post the recipes that are mentioned in the book on my website because there are some really good ones, like That Chocolate Cake.

S: That's what I was going to ask you next. Is there an actual recipe for That Chocolate Cake?

J: There is, but it's never been tested at any altitude except 7,000 feet. [laughs] But if you want, you can try it.

S: Yeah, I'll definitely be a tester for that one.

J: And I still want to come up with the Guadeloupe tart.

S: I remember we talked about that tart before. And you said you wanted a really good cornbread recipe...and are there others?

J: Oma's dinner rolls that Wyn makes in Alex's kitchen. And there was something else. Oh, the festival scones with dried apricots, currants, pecans, and candied lemon peel.

S: You know I love scones. Those sound really good.

Thanks so much, Judi, for doing this interview, and a huge congratulations on finally publishing this new book!

J: Ha!

S: Okay, let's talk some more about food. About That Chocolate Cake...

©, the always hungry foodie farm blog where Farmgirl Susan shares recipes, stories, photos, and laughs from her 240 acre remote Missouri farm.

Disclosure: Copies of Baker's Blues were provided by TLC Book Tours and Judi Hendricks.


  1. I have read this author's novels and found them captivating and unforgettable. baker's Blue would be a wonderful novel which I would enjoy greatly. Thanks for this great feature and fabulous giveaway. The interview was very interesting and gave me a great deal of insight into the author, her writing and the novel. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  2. I enjoyed reading Bread Alone. It actually inspired me to start baking bread and I took an evening class that introduced us to yeast and kneading. it was a lot of fun. At home I have been successful with every other dough, though.... bearliner at gmail dot com.

  3. I love your friendship with Judi!! Your mutual affection really shines through in this conversation. That I had a small hand in it makes me ridiculously happy! Thank you so much for kicking off the Baker's Blues tour!

  4. I love Bread Alone! It have owned a copy for years and reread it several times, and had no idea that the author had other books- how exciting! That book was so inspiring, yer so cozy. The warmth of the bakery, her growing self confidence, that adorable little cottage she rented. Such a lovely book. I can't wait to read her other books, now! kastelling at MSN dot com.

  5. Nice interview---it's like reading a story. You inspire me to bake bread Susan...once there is more time in my life, I will.
    Say hello to everyone at the farm!

  6. I know this comment is a little different than what you suggested, but "Bread Alone" naturally brings this to mind:
    “But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”” - ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭4:4‬ ‭

    But I also like this, which contains a wonderful promise:
    “Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” - ‭‭John‬ ‭6:35‬ ‭

  7. This would be a great addition to my library.

  8. I think I 'll have to add this to my library.

  9. Thank you for offering the give away . I had never heard of this author so, I am running out to the library to get started.
    I live in a Canadian city, and everytime I open your blog I see your donkeys. They are adorable - who knew? I have been telling everyone I want them - can't have them- have to be content when you talk about them. Thanks again... Cynthia

  10. My daughter and I just made two loaves of bread on Sunday. She couldn't wait for it to be done and kept peeking at it through the oven window. While it was cooling on the counter she was picking at it. There were two beautiful loaves of bread with ginormous holes in them. I have never heard of these bread books, but they sound interesting and I will be searching for them to add to my reading queue.

  11. Oh my gosh, could I use this book! I have been baking "trying" to bake bread for about 20 yrs. and it’s more of a hit and miss for me. I get so excited when I think things are going to turn out right, and then something awful happens. The dough is too sticky, too dry, and hard to knead, won’t rise, and if it does, the loaf doesn’t rise any more in the oven, or it deflates, or I could use it as a door stop……….. I really need help. I have tried everything, I mean everything. I tired of spending money on ingredients and just having them go to waste.
    One deflated baker. :(

  12. I was just getting ready to bake bread when I checked my email and read your blog. I'd love to discover a new author and would really enjoy reading her newest book.

  13. In my early bread baking days in college I was trying to impress someone with my cooking. I decided to make a loaf of cracked wheat bread. I guess I didn't read the instructions, so I didn't soak the wheat and when we ate a slice it was like eating bits of glass shards! I can laugh about it now, but it was a huge failure at the time.

    1. Christina--As Susan and I can both attest, even pretty experienced bread bakers have those "uh-oh" moments. As my French baker Jean Marc says in Bread Alone, bread may not always turn out the way you expect, but it always turns

  14. So sweet to know everyone's still reading and baking! Thanks to all!

  15. My husband & I have been making all kinds of bread for years. There is nothing better than homemade bread! I am looking forward to reading all three books while sitting on the couch in front of a fire with a warm slice of fresh, homemade buttered bread to snack on!

  16. How have I not discovered this author already? She sounds wonderful! I'd love to read her newest - and all the others, too. As for bread: my latest attempt is to revive sourdough starter I had in the freezer. Wish me luck!

  17. Just requested Bread Alone from the library. Looking forward to it. I'd be delighted to win the 3rd one!
    I just tried a gluten free cinnamon raisin bread recipe that was supposed to be a "wet dough". I got BATTER! so sad, so messy. Must try again-much later.

  18. We are Ukranian and every Easter my Mother would buy Paska Bread which was so delicious, it was an egg bread with lots of raisins. A wonderful memory from my childhood.


  19. CANNOT wait to read this entire post. Am at work and could only skim. Also can't believe I haven't read her novels. I think when you first mentioned them in 2009, my dad and sister were deathly ill and my heart was elsewhere. Am so excited to explore Judi's novels. I've yet to conquer making bread myself (first try in college yielded a healthy brick door stop), and have been gun shy ever since. Thanks so much for sharing this new-to-me novelist. In dire need of a great summer read(s). !!! Hugs to you, kiddo!

  20. Love your web site and have use almost ALL of your recipes. Your relish recipe won first place at our local fair a couple of years ago. I make your bread recipes a lot and followed you in the bread blog several years ago.
    Would love to start reading all the novels sound great. Thanks for all the good food and I enjoy your farm as I enjoy my little farm. Bev

  21. I have always wanted to make bread, especially Pumpernickel bread because I can't find it anywhere around here and I really like it.
    Digicats {at} Sbcglobal {dot} Net

  22. Finally got a chance to finish this post 6 days after posting! So much worth the wait. I cannot wait to read Bread Alone and the other 2 now. I think when you first wrote about Bread Alone (novel) we'd just made the move of a lifetime across the country and I was pretty shellshocked for quite a while. You were a lifeline to me then, grounding me from my bitty living room office in Southern California suburban cement, (dreaming of a large veg garden and chickens of my own), to sanity in the New England woods, solitude and beauty beyond belief, green and water and fertility. I think your introduction then of BA came at a time when idea of reading a novel was overload. Reading about it now, though, can't wait to get my hands on it! Thanks Susan, for the extended interview. I am sensing a change a brewing for youse and am all ears. ;) Hoping both our tomatoes come in soon. Thinking about time to throw in the towel on large juicy heirloom toms for persnickety New England. Next year may be a hybrid for insurance. Did pick tomatoes from farm down the road and made killer salsa last week and gazpacho to die for last night! Slurp of summer is definitely on, even if not entirely from my garden alone. Happy August to you and Joe and the critters. Hugs galore!!!

  23. Susan, I love your oatmeal bread and recommend your site to people who want to learn to bake bread. Thanks for your information and recommendations.

    I am dsbernhardt and the rest of my address is at


December 2015 update: Hi! For some reason I can't figure out, Blogger hasn't been letting me leave comments on my own blog (!) for the last several months, so I've been unable to respond to your comments and questions. My apologies for any inconvenience! You're always welcome to email me: farmgirlfare AT gmail DOT com.

Hi! Thanks for visiting Farmgirl Fare and taking the time to write. While I'm not always able to reply to every comment, I receive and enjoy reading them all.

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