Professional baker and amateur sleuth Hannah Swensen has been asked to judge the baking competition at the weeklong Tri-County Fair—a perfect role for her, and one she much prefers to the position of dunk-tank target that her mother sneakily got her to agree to. Her fellow judges are also pulling double duty, with student-teacher Willa Sunquist electing to chaperone the beauty pageant girls, including Hannah’s youngest sister, Michelle. The only mystery currently plaguing Hannah is why her one-eyed, one-eared cat Moishe has suddenly stopped eating.
Determined to tempt him with different delicious things, Hannah heads back to the dunk-tank booth as the carnival is closing up one night in order to grab the burger her business partner Lisa had kindly bought for him. As the lights go down, she hears something suspicious and, perhaps foolishly, goes to investigate. Finding Willa’s freshly bludgeoned corpse is a frightful surprise, and Hannah is only too glad when one of her boyfriends, Deputy Sheriff Mike Kingston, comes to find her before the killer can.
As Hannah looks into Willa’s life to discover who could possibly have it in for such an upstanding member of their community, she discovers that Willa’s past was far more complicated than she’d ever let on. The deeper Hannah goes, the closer she comes to uncovering a murderer who will kill as many people as necessary to keep Willa’s secrets buried.
So this was the first book in the series where I finally got annoyed that Joanne Fluke has Hannah string along her other boyfriend, dentist Norman Rhodes. He is the sweetest, most considerate guy, and while I understand the personality dynamics that have this love triangle in stasis, I’m starting to get impatient for everyone to move on and find people who actually make them happy. Otherwise, this book featured more of the solid storytelling that has made this series such a success, and since I accidentally read a blurb for a book further in the series that makes it clear that the love triangle is not a forever thing, I’m content to continue trusting in Ms. Fluke’s storytelling.
One thing I’ve had little reason to doubt over the course of nine books so far, however, is Ms. Fluke’s culinary prowess! While Key Lime Pie Murder featured 16 recipes, I narrowed down my selections easily as I absolutely had to try these two:
2 cups milk
2 cups flour (not sifted)
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F., rack in the middle position.
Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with Pam or other non-stick cooking spray. You can also grease them with clarified butter, or lard if you prefer.
You should mix this recipe by hand with a whisk. If you use an electric mixer, it will add too much air to the eggs.
Whisk the eggs until they’re a light, uniform color, but not yet fluffy. It should take no more than a minute or so.
Add the milk and whisk it in until it’s incorporated.
Measure out the flour and dump it in the bowl all at once. Dump in the salt on top of it. Then stir for a moment or two with a wooden spoon until all the flour has been moistened and incorporated. You will still have lumps (like brownie batter) but that’s fine. In this recipe you actually want lumps!
Transfer the batter to a container with a spout (I used a measuring cup). Pour the batter into the muffin cups, filling them almost to the top.
Bake at 450 degrees F. for exactly 30 minutes. (Don’t peek while they’re baking or they’ll fall!)
When 30 minutes have passed, remove the pan to a cold burner or a wire rack and pierce the top of each popover with a sharp knife to release the steam.
Let the popovers stand in a pan for a minute or two, and then tip them out into a napkin-lined basket.
Serve with sweet butter, salted butter, fruit butters, jams, jellies, or cream cheese.
Yield: 12 large popovers that everyone will love.
½ cup softened butter (1 stick, ¼ pound)
1 Tablespoon honey
Soften the butter and place it in a small mixing bowl.
Add the honey and stir until well blended. Scrape the mixture into a small serving bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.
First off, I have no idea why I thought making honey butter would be so much more difficult than this; kudos to Ms. Fluke for ensuring that my household will never be short of honey butter again should the desire arise. Secondly, I rather pride myself on my Yorkshire puddings, so I was definitely intrigued by this popover recipe (as the two are arguably the same thing). The proportions are wholly different though (I use equal parts egg, flour, and milk for about three cups total, compared to the five cups here), so I was curious as to how these would compare.
Bernadette’s Popovers are definitely a denser baked good than my Yorkshire puddings, but they do rise beautifully and are slightly easier to make than mine. I wonder why these popovers taste eggier despite having a lower proportion of egg than my go-to recipe. Regardless, these were very yummy with a side of honey butter, and while I’m not completely converted, this is a great starter recipe for people new to popovers who would like to make some at home.
Next week, we continue our sojourn in summer on Lake Eden while baking up dessert! Do join me!
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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.