Cooking the Books: Peanut Butter Panic by Amanda Flower
Bailey King has been roped into helping with Harvest, Ohio’s first annual village-wide Thanksgiving celebration, with dinner seating both in the town square and in the church just beyond it. The formidable organizer, Margot Rawlings, has put Bailey in charge of desserts, a natural fit given the fact that she runs the now-famous Swissmen Sweets shop with her Amish grandmother. While Bailey expects to be very busy with the shop over the impending Black Friday weekend, she’s never been able to say no to Margot—even when the latter dumps a checklist of items on her and asks her to take charge on Thanksgiving Eve.
When Bailey asks why, she’s surprised to elicit a frazzled response from the usually imperturbable Margot. Turns out that Margot’s mother, Zara Bevan, is flying back into town for the holidays, her first visit in years. If not quite a hanging judge, Zara was notorious for handing out harsh sentences, particularly to lawbreakers from the local Amish community. She’s also been exceptionally demanding of her daughter, looking down on Margot’s choice to become a homemaker and community organizer instead of choosing a professional path like her own. Margot is thus understandably anxious about seeing her again, beginning with picking her up from the airport and leaving Bailey in temporary charge of the festivities.
After word leaks that Zara is coming back to town, Bailey finds herself working not only to cover for Margot but also to soothe the feelings of the Amish townsfolk who are ready to abandon the planned celebration altogether if Zara attends. Bailey is determined to make the big dinner a success for poor Margot, but she’s discomfited by the unwanted attentions of the fiancé Zara unexpectedly brings with her. Blaze Smith is half Zara’s age, a tennis pro with a roving eye and a severe peanut allergy. When Zara and Blaze announce their engagement at the already awkward Thanksgiving dinner, Bailey figures that that’s the biggest holiday surprise Harvest will have to put up with in what’s been a long string of them. But then Blaze drops dead, face-first into his mashed potatoes.
Margot is terrified that she’ll be considered a prime suspect and begs Bailey to help exonerate her. Bailey agrees with perhaps more enthusiasm than she has for any of Margot’s other requests. Her investigations are unfortunately hampered by the fact that her boyfriend, former police detective Aiden Brody, is now working for the Bureau of Criminal Investigation based out of Columbus. It’s not that she needs his help; the fact that he’s barely been able to spend any time with her over the holidays has, however, been preying on her peace of mind. Add to that her anxieties about expanding her business, and solving a murder mystery seems almost like a welcome diversion from her personal issues. Until, that is, her inquiries put her in mortal danger once more.
This is probably my favorite of the Amish Candy Shop mysteries I’ve read so far, as Bailey tries to juggle her personal and professional lives with solving another murder mystery. I’m kinda with her Maami on the need for expansion (why work yourself ragged making more things when you can just increase the price on your limited, artisanal production?), but I was really glad Bailey and Aiden were finally able to talk about their future together. The Amish representation was also diverse and convincing, with information that was new and intriguing to me.
There was only one recipe included, but it’s a classic.
1 stick softened butter
1 ½ cups peanut butter
1 pound powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
12-ounce package chocolate chips
Blend butter, peanut butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla well.
Roll into balls and chill overnight.
Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler.
Dip the balls into the melted chocolate using a toothpick in the center of the peanut butter balls.
Let cool and enjoy!
I’m not the biggest fan of peanut butter (which I know is weird!), but I still thoroughly enjoyed the flavor of this delicious candy. It’s also super easy to make, even without a double boiler. I microwaved my chocolate chips for thirty seconds and stirred, then repeated that process until the chocolate was nice and smooth. I used another half bag to cover all 43 of the buckeyes I rolled, and I recommend reheating the chocolate as necessary while dipping the peanut butter balls to make for a smoother coating.
I’d also recommend putting the candies back into the refrigerator to chill instead of just letting them sit out at room temperature to cool. The buckeyes are much tastier firm than soft. I also venture that they taste even better if you invest in good chocolate; my store-brand chips were delicious but probably not as sumptuous as more expensive chocolate might be.
Next week, we travel back to the East Coast to whip up a wedding pasta while working to solve a case long gone cold. Do join me!