Cooking the Books: Cold Pressed Murder by Kelly Lane

In this delightful 2nd installment of the Olive Grove mystery series, Eva Knox collides with not one but two dead bodies and has to contend with a whole passel of sisterly secrets and gossipy townsfolk.

It’s the weekend of Abundance, Georgia’s, Farm Family Fare—held this year at the Knox family’s olive oil plantation. Three celebrity chefs are headlining the event, raising funds for the local needy. Eva is grinning and bearing her way through both the oppressive heat and the incessant disapproval of her eldest sister—prim, pretty southern belle Daphne—when a local farmer literally collapses on top of Eva. And if that isn’t enough tragedy for one festival, the next morning one of the celebrity chefs is found dead in the deceased farmer’s refrigeration truck.

This is all looking very bad for the Knox plantation, which makes its income as much from being a bed and breakfast as it does from being a functional olive grove. But then, Detective Gibbit—a man whose ambitions aren’t hampered by an overabundance of intelligence—sets his sights on Daphne as the main suspect due to the fact that she’d been, shall we say, intimate with the dead chef the night before.

Eva, of course, feels compelled to clear her sister’s name; Daphne might be a prissy pain in the butt, but she’s certainly not a murderer! As Eva investigates further, her path crosses once more with that of Sheriff Buck Tanner, the same man she left at the altar over a decade ago before she fled north to Boston. There’s still heat between them—to the chagrin of both Buck’s mother and his self-proclaimed fiancée. And then, there are secrets about Buck that Eva’s own sisters are keeping from her. Eva is soon faced with sordid truths, seamy gossip, and sinister intent, as her own life is endangered in her quest to unmask a murderer.

I quite enjoyed Cold Pressed Murder, especially since the characters were all so vivid! The olive oil tasting party in the typhoon was one of my favorite scenes. I also really enjoyed the bond between Eva, Daphne, and their middle sister Pep. Their squabbling was authentic and sympathetic—goodness knows I’ve had very similar experiences with my own siblings. I also, for some reason, kept envisioning the witches of Emerald City when reading their scenes. Daphne, especially, seemed a perfect fit for cool, proper Glinda, with her well-hidden sensual side.

To the recipes! There were five included here, and since you all know I’m a sucker for scones, I decided to try out this one:
 

Precious Darling’s Balsamic Berry and Peach Olive Oil Scones

Ingredients

4-6 ounces blackberries

2 ounces raspberries

1 peach, pitted, skinned, and diced, separating ¼ of the diced peach from the rest

4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

½ cup demerara sugar

4 teaspoons demerara or granulated sugar

4 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional flour to dust work surface and ¼ of the diced peaches

2 tablespoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

⅔ cup Arbequina extra virgin olive oil or similar

2 cups buttermilk

2 large eggs

For Wash

1 large egg

⅓ cup milk

Enough demerara sugar to sprinkle over scones
 

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Line baking sheet(s) with parchment paper. You’ll have enough scones for more than one baking sheet, so plan to reuse on or have more than one ready.
  3. In small bowl, combine blackberries, raspberries, ¾ of the diced peach, balsamic vinegar, and 4 teaspoons sugar.
  4. In medium bowl, whisk together flour, ½ cup demerara sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  5. Add olive oil to flour mixture, stirring with fork until coarse crumbs appear.
  6. In separate bowl, whisk buttermilk and eggs.
  7. Pour buttermilk mixture into flour mixture. Combine until just mixed. Do not overmix.
  8. Dust remaining ¼ of diced peach with flour (for ease of mixing into dough), then add and stir into dough, just enough to mix.
  9. Refrigerate dough for 10 minutes or until chilled.
  10. Turn chilled dough onto lightly floured surface. Shape into ½-inch thick rectangle. Do not overwork.
  11. Pour half of the berry mixture lengthwise down center of dough and press berries into dough.
  12. Fold one half of the dough over berries in center, pressing dough layers together.
  13. Add more berries to the top of the folded section and press berries into dough.
  14. Fold remaining dough layer over berries, pressing layers together.
  15. Refrigerate 10-15 minutes or until chilled.
  16. Whisk one egg with milk for wash.
  17. Cut chilled long rectangle of dough into enough triangles to fill baking sheet. Chill any remaining dough.
  18. Place triangles on baking sheet, about one inch apart.
  19. Brush egg-and-milk wash over triangles on baking sheet.
  20. Sprinkle triangles with demerara sugar.
  21. Bake triangles until golden, about 12-17 minutes. Thinner scones will take less time; thicker scones will require more.
  22. Remove scones from oven and immediately sprinkle more demerara sugar over just-baked scones.
  23. Cool scones on rack.
  24. Repeat steps 17 through 23 until all the dough is cut, washed, sprinkled, baked, sprinkled again, and cooled.

You guys. At Step 10, I knew that something was very amiss. My dough was like oatmeal, and when I turned it on to my floured surface, it just ran all over the place. After panicked consultation with a chef friend, I tried putting the batter back into the fridge to let the flour soak up the liquid for an hour, but that didn’t help much. My lovely assistant Karin and I did the best we could with what we had, but the end product was like rather rubbery berry pancakes. In all honesty, they weren’t that bad fresh out of the oven. The flavors were definitely there. But they did not keep at all and were nowhere near what scones are supposed to be.

My best guess is that there was a typo in this recipe and it was supposed to be 1 cup or ½ a cup of buttermilk—not the excessive 2. Alas, I haven’t the time to experiment to find the right quantities, but if you do, please let us know!

Next week, I recover from this blow to my culinary pride by successfully carrying off two delicious tea-time treats while exploring the geography and history of another Southern city. Do join me!

See also: Cooking the Books: Roux the Day by Linda Wiken

 

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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.

Comments

  1. Barbara Sterling

    It looks like a lot of liquid for the amount of flour, along with the wetness of the peaches. Baking powder sometimes gets old as well.

  2. Doreen Sheridan

    Right?! The baking powder was pretty fresh, so I don’t think that was the problem. I’m convinced it must have been a typo in the recipe.

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