Cooking the Books: Bleeding Tarts by Kirsten Weiss
With the reputation of Val Harris’s Pie Town bakery restored after the events of the first book in the series, our heroine is looking to expand operations somewhat, especially after hiring more staff. She’s thrilled when Ewan Frith, the wealthy owner of the nearby Bar X, contacts her about supplying pies for an event that the highly exclusive ghost town is hosting. If all goes well, she might even be able to wrangle a lucrative long-term contract out of it.
Alas, things go poorly almost from the moment of her arrival. First, a pie from the stack she’s carrying from her car to the Bar X saloon is shot right out of her grasp. While scrambling to safety, she rounds the corner of the saloon and suffers an even worse shock when she finds a dead man lying in the alley, shot deader than her pie.
Devon Blackett was Bar X’s bartender and seemingly without an enemy in the world. Val’s irrepressible elderly crust maker Charlene McCree is convinced that Devon was collateral damage and that the killer was really after Val. While Detective Gordon Carmichael, Val’s almost-boyfriend, is far more cautious than Val is in dismissing this notion, he does want Val to stay out of investigating Devon’s death for fear that the killer will target her next. But when Charlene’s frenemy Marla declares that she’ll be able to get to the bottom of the case before Val and Charlene’s Baker Street Bakers detective club does, Charlene’s competitive spirit revs into top gear, dragging Val along with it. At first, Val merely wants to keep Charlene safe in both body and ego, but as more life-endangering events occur with her as their target, she starts to believe that perhaps Charlene has been right all along and that someone really is out to get her.
I was genuinely perplexed by whodunnit until the satisfying revelation at the end of this culinary cozy mystery novel! I loved the levels of misdirection here almost as much as I loved the interactions between all the characters, particularly between Val and Charlene. Motherless, sensible Val naturally gravitates toward the woman whose relationship with her own daughter has been strained for some time now, and the two make a delightful pair as Val tries to rein in some of Charlene’s kookier excesses.
There were four delicious recipes included, as written by one of Val’s new hires. Abril is a poet but should honestly consider writing romance, given the leanings of her prose.
4 C sliced apricots
1 C sugar*
1 T lemon juice*
3 T minute tapioca
½ tsp cinnamon
1 package premade pie dough (2 rounds), chilled
1 T butter
3 T milk
*Use less lemon and/or more sugar if the apricots are particularly sour
Turn up the heat to 425 degrees.
In a large bowl, mix the sliced apricots, sugar, lemon juice, tapioca, nutmeg, and cinnamon in a wanton tumble. Let stand for an achingly long 15 minutes.
Line a 9” pie pan with one crust and pour the fruit filling into it. Dot the succulent mound of apricots with butter. Cover the pie with the second crust and crimp the edges together using fork tines or your fingers. Cut three vents into the top of the crust. Using the milk, brush the crust to create a lustrous glaze.
Bake until the pie is a luscious golden brown, approximately 35-40 minutes.
Wow, this apricot pie comes out as decadently rich as the prose used to record its recipe! Since I couldn’t find sliced apricots at the store, I just cut up the canned halves I could find—though, I imagine fresh would have been even better. I was a little worried about my top crust initially: whenever I use pre-made pie shells, they have a weird habit of standing up too tall in my finished dish. Perhaps my fumbling attempts at cutting vents helped the top crust fall gracefully to cover the filling, as the end result was nearly picture-perfect, in my opinion. And the taste was absolutely divine! I think this might have been the first pie I’ve made with instant tapioca, which was a delightful revelation. It was definitely a success all around.
And that’s it for the year from us here at Cooking the Books! We’ll ring in the New Year with the last book in this series that I’ve yet to cover, with another delectable dessert to start our year off deliciously. Do join me!