Cooking the Books: Charms and Chocolate Chips by Bailey Cates

Oh, thank goodness. This book laid to rest any concerns I had after reading its immediate predecessor, Bewitched, Bothered, and Biscotti.

Several months after the events of that book, our heroine—Katie Lightfoot—is busying herself with her work and spellcraft as well as volunteering with a local conservation group. She’s chosen firefighter Declan over druid Steve, and while I personally believe that she’s keeping herself so busy so she doesn’t have to spend more time than she has to with her boring boyfriend, I do understand how learning that she’s a lightwitch makes her feel more compelled to do good in the mortal realm than before.

But it’s as she’s heading in to her volunteer work that disaster strikes again, this time in the murder of her boss, Autumn Boles. At first, Katie is reluctant to investigate. But urged on by the voice of her deceased grandmother, she starts to take her responsibilities as lightwitch more seriously, if still hesitantly. Soon, she and her (Spell)Book Club find themselves embroiled in danger, as sinister magical forces seek to stop her from interfering in their nefarious plans.

I really liked how this 3rd book in the Magical Bakery series—sans Detective Taite, who’s abruptly hied himself off to New Orleans—continued the examination of moral choices laid out in the first one. It was especially interesting to see how a certain member of Katie’s coven, with a history of dark magic of her own, reacted to the revelation of Katie’s magical nature. How that got worked out during the spooky climax was a highlight of this book for me.

And despite being on Team Steve, I was mollified by how the Declan of this book seemed eminently more reasonable than in previous installments of the series. I’m still not his biggest fan, but I’m open to being persuaded now.

To the recipes! There were two in this novel, and I decided to try out the first one—primarily to use up the store of instant coffee in my pantry:

Mocha Shortbread Cookies

Ingredients

1 ¼ cups flour

¼ cup cornstarch

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 teaspoons instant coffee or espresso powder

1 cup softened butter

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Instructions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Sift together flour, cornstarch, cocoa and instant coffee; set aside. Beat butter with an electric mixer until it is creamy and lighter in color—about 5 minutes. Add confectioners’ sugar gradually, beating into butter until thoroughly incorporated. Add flour mixture and mix just until smoothly blended.

Spread parchment paper on a large cookie sheet. Divide the dough into three portions and, covering each portion with plastic wrap, press each one into a circle that is 5-6 inches in diameter. Be sure to press the rounds into place on the parchment where they will bake. If your cookie sheet is too small for all three round, use two smaller sheets with two rounds on one and a single round on the other. Remove plastic wrap.

With a very sharp knife, score each round into eight wedges. Bake for 25 minutes or until the shortbread feels firm to the touch (it will puff up a bit first). Remove from oven and rescore each round while it is still quite hot. Slide the shortbread, still on the parchment paper, onto a wire rack to cool. After they are completely cool, break or cut the rounds into wedges along the scored lines.

These are fabulous served with vanilla ice cream!

I wish I’d had some ice cream handy to try out Bailey Cates’s recommendation, but these were a tasty coffee-flavored treat on their own. I’d never made shortbread before, so I was a bit confused by the use of the plastic wrap, but I cannot recommend it enough now that I’ve worked with it in this context. As a matter of fact, I’d also suggest leaving the wrap on and using the back of a knife to score each portion before putting it into the oven, as that really helps keep the dough tidy.

Next week I try out a lemon cake favored by Detective Quinn. I know this doesn’t make any sense, but am I the only one who sees Detective Lance of TV’s Arrow whenever he walks into a scene? Just me? Okay then.

 

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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.

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