Several weeks ago, I had the pleasure of reviewing the latest in Bailey Cates’s Magical Bakery Mystery series, Spells and Scones. Today, I’m going to start reading and cooking my way from the beginning of this delightful series to see if there’s more magic to be had from where that 6th book came.
For those unfamiliar with this particular series, Brownies and Broomsticks tells the story of how our heroine, professional baker Katie Lightfoot, moves from Ohio—after her fiancé calls off their wedding—to Savannah, Georgia to help her newly retired aunt and uncle run the bakery they’ve always wanted to own. Soon after arriving in Savannah, Katie’s Aunt Lucy starts to broach the delicate subject of why Katie has always felt “different” all her life: she comes from a long line of witches and possesses mystical powers herself!
As Katie is processing that, she finds herself attracting the romantic attention of two men who just happen to hate each other. And then—as if things aren’t complicated enough—a nasty business owner is found dead, and Uncle Ben is accused of the murder. Katie refuses to sit by and do nothing while her family’s lives and livelihood are threatened, so with the help of her suitors, her burgeoning magical abilities, and her aunt’s (Spell)Book Club, she sets out to find the real killer—running into plenty of danger along the way.
That is a whole lot of plot for 300-odd pages, but Bailey Cates handles it all with an admirably deft writer’s touch that grounds the otherworldly in very human emotions. The love triangle is also written in such a way that the men aren’t just standard-issue romance novel archetypes. Despite myself—and despite having read Book 6 already—I really enjoyed Steve, who had the self-awareness to know when he was veering dangerously close to stereotypically awful behavior. Plus, the murder mystery itself is rock solid, perfectly paced and executed.
And if all that wasn’t enough, there are two recipes included! A large part of why I wanted to go through this entire series is because of the amazing recipe Ms. Cates included in Spells and Scones. For this book, I decided to overcome my misgivings with savory scones and try out this recipe:
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried sage
6 tablespoons butter, cut into 1-inch pieces and chilled in the freezer for fifteen minutes
⅔ cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
½ cup milk
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Set aside ¼ cup flour in a small bowl. In a medium bowl, combine 2 cups flour, baking powder, salt and sage. Add chilled butter and cut into flour by rubbing with your fingers or a using a pastry blender until the consistence of rough cornmeal.
Add the grated cheddar to the ¼ cup flour and toss to coat. Shake to remove excess flour and add to pastry mixture, tossing with your hands to evenly distribute the cheese.
Whisk together the egg and milk. Add to flour mixture, stirring lightly with a fork until ingredients are moistened and just hold together.
Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead twenty times. Add more flour to the surface if needed. Pat into an 8-inch circle, slightly higher in the center than on the edges. Using a very sharp knife, cut eight equal wedges. Place scones on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, slightly apart from one another. Bake for 12-14 minutes, until golden brown.
This was another winning recipe from Ms. Cates that converted me from savory scone sceptic to fan. The taste was delicious, with the sharp cheddar and smoky sage combining perfectly to make a delightful baked treat. I tried it two ways: with jam and butter and as a side with roast chicken and arugula. Both were exemplary, proving that this savory scone can stand alone as a tea-time treat or as accompaniment to a main course. It makes for a terrific, sophisticated alternative to your usual biscuit or dinner roll side.
Bonus: it was also super easy and relatively quick to fix.
This recipe combines with a well-balanced, deeply entertaining romantic paranormal cozy to start off what’s looking to be one of my new favorite series. Next week, join me as I go back to baking a dessert while devouring the next book in the Magical Bakery series!
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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.