Winnie Johnson is back with her delightful cast of friends and neighbors in this second installment of Laura Bradford’s Emergency Dessert Squad mystery series. Since getting her baked goods delivery business up and running four months ago, Winnie has been enjoying not only the profits, but also the delighted smiles of her dessert recipients—as well as the company of her business professor boyfriend, Jay Morgan. He’s been a bit distracted lately though, and when Winnie discovers that he’s agonizing over failing a troubled student, she offers to let the young woman, Alicia Worth, intern with her for college credit.
Unfortunately, Alicia seems incapable of taking anything seriously. That changes, though, when her very first delivery with Winnie results in the poisoning death of the recipient—a conscientious and unpopular journalism student with a bent for uncovering scandal. The local press is only too quick to latch onto the Emergency Dessert Squad’s involvement in the murder despite Winnie’s complete lack of motive.
In a small town like Silver Lake, Ohio, however, reputation is everything, and the dessert orders dry up faster than a dropped flan in the desert. In an effort not only to save her business, but also prove to an increasingly distant Jay that she had nothing to do with the murder, Winnie and her friends dive into the surprisingly murky world of college ethics to find a ruthless killer.
As always, Ms. Bradford’s fondness for puns makes her an author after my own heart, as does her obvious fondness for the elderly neighbors who provide so much support for Winnie’s efforts, culinary or investigative. This is also one of the few series where I actually approve of the nascent love triangle, reversing completely my opinion of which man was best for Winnie from the first book. Communication and faith in one another are hugely important parts of successful relationships, after all.
I do wish Ms. Bradford had included a chapter detailing Winnie’s confrontation with the murderer, however. The novel jumps forward in time from Winnie discovering she’s not alone to a block party after the fact, and I felt a bit cheated that I had to hear it described in dialog instead of being afforded the chance to read the proceedings directly.
That said, the jump does bring the recipe section closer! Of the three tasty dessert recipes, I chose to try the following, whipped up in the book to celebrate new arrivals:
Kootchy-Kootchy-Koo Kuchen (Apple)
1 cup flour
¼ cup confectioner's sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter
4 Granny Smith apples (peeled, and cut into 6-8 wedges each)
1 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ tablespoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons flour
1 8-ounce container sour cream
1. Combine all crust ingredients in a bowl to form dough. Pat gently into lightly sprayed 13 x 9 pan.
2. Arrange apple wedges across top of crust.
3. In separate bowl, beat eggs. Blend in sugar, salt, cinnamon, flour, and sour cream. Pour over fruit-topped crust.
4. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Then reduce heat to 325 degrees and bake for 30-35 minutes until filling is set.
5. Top with whipped cream if desired. Great warm with ice cream.
6. Store in refrigerator.
Emergency Dessert Squad recipes never disappoint, even if there were—as with the previous book—exactly zero appearances of the titular treat. Though, since eclairs do show up here, maybe there will be flans in the next book? This kuchen was super easy to make and a huge hit with my family. I also loved how unfussy the directions are. Baking may be an exact science, but there’s a lot to be said for a relaxed approach that still produces excellent results, as with this recipe.
Next week, we cruise Lake Champlain and try out a dish simple in ingredients but complex in flavor. Plus, I get to set things on fire (on purpose)! Do join me!
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Doreen Sheridan is a freelance writer living in Washington, D.C. She
microblogs on Twitter @dvaleris.
Read all posts by Doreen Sheridan for Criminal Element.