Updated: Feb 27, 2021
Hey y’all! In today’s episode of Booking with Katja, I’m gonna talk about the amazing Torticas de Morón I made and the fabulous book and author that inspired my kitchen shenanigans: A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea & Tomorrow by Laura Taylor Namey.
(okay, okay, Booking is a bad name. BUT I am writing about cooking and using recipes that come from books...so BOOKING IT IS. Just you wait, one day Netflix will find my blog and be all "who is this witty writer? We must have her for an original series where she bakes book related foods...")
So first, a little background. I have an intense dislike of cookies that involve chocolate chips. I like cookies. I like chocolate chips, I just don’t like them combined. (srsly, it's a HUGE point of contention between me and my friends and they harass me endlessly for my very RIGHT opinion). I’m also not a huge fan of super sweet treats--the occasional off-the charts sugary rush is fine, but I prefer my cookie to be simpler and along the lines of delicious shortbread.
TL&DR: I have opinions regarding cookies. But, never fear, the Torticas de Morón have fulfilled my every cookie wish and are now my new favorite cookie.
But first, let's discuss this gem of a book: A Cuban Girl's Guide to Tea and Tomorrow. I first met Laura at Bookcon in 2019 (remember, the Before Times, when we could meet in outrageously large groups???) where she was handing out signed ARCs of her debut novel, The Library of Lost Things. I handed her some homemade chocolate chip cookies (hey, just because I don't eat them doesn't mean I don't respect people who do & I do have a killer recipe...) and she handed me this lovely signed ARC of The Library of Lost Things.
I read Library and LOVED IT. So when A Cuban Girl's Guide to Tea & Tomorrow was announced, I knew I was going to love it too and eagerly await my chance to get a copy. This sweet romance follows Lila Reyes as she moves to England to spend the summer with her aunt and uncle after a trifecta of bad luck ruins her senior year of high school. This novel is sweet, endearing, and if your groove is slow burn romances, then you've hit the jackpot here. Lila meets local motorcycle riding-tea-aficionado Orion Maxwell and her fortunes seem to take a turn for the better--but first she needs to face the truth of how she ended up there in the first place. There are so many parts of A Cuban Girl's Guide that hit perfectly. Laura really nails the emotions of having dreams shattered and having to regroup and rebuild. As always, her prose is lovely and lyrical. Spoiler alert, you will be gut punched by this novel a few times. The end is totally worth it, but be prepared! (CW: Death of a family member (off page), depression, chronic illness, mild self-harm)
Also, in case you didn't realize *flips hair and points to book* A Cuban Girl's Guide to Tea & Tomorrow was not only a Reese's Book Club pick, but it also hit the NYT Best Seller list! So take a second and appreciate the fact that I, humble blogger of books, personally know a NYT Best Selling author. *points finger at self* THAT'S RIGHT. ME.
Alright, so now that you've gone ahead and ordered yourself a copy of the book, lets talk cookies. The Torticas de Morón were not only incredibly easy to make, but they require very simple ingredients: BUTTER (look, anything that calls for ½ a pound of butter is gonna be badass), shortening, flour, sugar...so simple! I also maintain that guava paste is simple to find if you don’t live in Hickville, USA like me. Alas, I had to order mine online.
The second best thing about these cookies is you can eat the dough as you bake without fear of salmonella. RIGHT! I KNOW! It's honestly a major bonus here. So you whip these ingredients together, roll the dough into little balls, then squish 'em down, add the guava and BAKE. It's that simple and simple is how I roll.
These cookies are so delectable and perfect. They're mild and nourishing and pretty much anytime I went into the kitchen I was like, JUST ONE MORE. The guava paste is the perfect compliment adding just the right amount of sweetness.
To be honest, these cookie did not last long in my house, even though I am still quarantining all by my lonesome. It took a lot of discipline to keep them for the three days I did and not just sit down and eat them in one sitting. These cookies BEG to be served with a delicious tea. And, as I have become a bit of a tea connoisseur over the past year, here are my recommendations. First, there is an actual tea based on this book you can buy from Friday Afternoon Teas aptly named: Sweaters & Stars. This wonderful guava based tea pairs perfectly with the Torticas de Morón. If you're looking for something that's already on your shelf, I recommend either a stronger breakfast tea or a smooth earl grey. My absolute two favorite teas to pair with these cookies are Scottish Afternoon and Earl Grey Supreme, both available from Harney & Sons. I hope Orion approves of my tea pairings!
And we've reached the bonus round of this blog where I was able to interview Laura and get a sneak peek at her next novel!
What is your favorite pastelito?
Laura: My favorite is the pastelito de guyaba y queso, or guava cheese. To die for! (I googled this and it looks DELICIOUS)
Is cooking/baking something that has been passed down in your family?
Laura: Absolutely. Most of my relatives are fabulous cooks, and my mother taught me some of her best kitchen tricks and recipes as soon as I was old enough to help her prepare meals or cook food for parties and family events. I’m definitely more of a cook than baker. Lila’s love of baking and her skill is more of a tribute to my family members than a testament to my own love of baking.
Do you have a favorite cooking memory or moment?
Laura: I sure do! I will never forget the day I helped my beloved tía, who inspired the abuela character in my book, bake and decorate a beautiful brazo gitano dessert in her Miami kitchen. This is similar to a jelly roll cake with meringue icing and it’s one of my favorites.
You always have excellent mental health rep in your stories--why do you think it's important to have stories that show teens positive ways to handle mental health?
Laura: Thank you so much. Books bring empathy and understanding to the world. Many teens will encounter friends and peers with mental health concerns, and they might also be working through concerns of their own. I think it’s important to name and recognize issues, while presenting them with sensitivity. I am never trying to teach lessons to teens in my books, but rather to illuminate the kinds of relationships that they might find themselves in. Navigating joys, trials, and changes along with peers is part of growing up and coming of age. Some of those peers will view the same circumstances differently than they do, as they approach them with varying skills and coping mechanisms. This is not only okay, it is the core of humanity.
Can you give us a hint about your next book?
Laura: WHEN WE WERE THEM is my first friendship-centered book. It’s told in two timelines! In the present graduation week, three friends navigate a secret that has just come to light: One of their group betrayed another months before and tried to hide it. In the past, the reader sees this friend group over the last four years of high school and all of their defining moments. The story asks two questions: what did this friend do and why, and will everything this group has been to one another be enough to withstand all they’ve become?
In conclusion, you need to go make yourself some Tortica de Morón, get some tea & you need to get caught up on reading all your Laura books before WHEN WE WERE THEM comes out. I was privileged to read a draft of this novel, and W O W. My lips are sealed otherwise, but OMG IT'S SO GOOOOOOOOD!
Thank you to Laura Taylor Namey for graciously dealing with my fangirling and for letting me interview her for my blog!! 💜💜💜
Drop me a line on Twitter to let me know what I food book I should read and bake from next!