Cooking the Books: Knit to Be Tied by Maggie Sefton

The 14th book in Maggie Sefton’s Knitting Mystery series picks up over a year after the last novel, Purl Up and Die, left off. Our heroine, Kelly Flynn, is still a regular at the House of Lambspun, the knitting and fiber arts shop based on a real Colorado store. But, changes are afoot for her and her social circle, with family additions and changes of residence having already altered some of the social dynamics (though fans will rest assured that none of these are for the worse). 

The group is looking forward to the impending wedding of two of their members, when they meet Nancy Marsted, a pregnant graduate student who wants to learn how to knit for her unborn baby. Unfortunately for Nancy, all her dreams of familial happiness are shattered when her boyfriend does an abrupt one-eighty, publicly dumping Nancy and claiming that her baby isn’t his. Shattered, Nancy turns to her recovering alcoholic father and to the Lambspun knitters for support.

But then, Nancy’s (now ex) boyfriend becomes the victim of a hit-and-run spree that strikes even closer to home for Kelly and gang. Kelly has to balance providing emotional support to Lambspun knitters old and new, with finding out who was responsible for the violence that robbed Nancy’s baby of a, however unwilling, father.

Despite the potential for drama in the plot, Knit To Be Tied is a very relaxed example of cozy mystery, perfect for idling away hours on the beach (or, if you’re picking this up later in the year, in front of a roaring fire.) Getting reacquainted with Kelly and her friends can be as comforting as falling into the knitting rhythm she describes so well. In fact, Ms. Sefton’s many lovely and encouraging descriptions of knitting have me tempted to dive back into my long-neglected yarn stash and perhaps work on a pretty sweater I long ago gathered the materials for.

I was not as tempted by the knitting pattern included in the book—as that’s for a Llama Headband and I haven’t the slightest idea whom I would make that for—but I did find the included recipe quite intriguing:
 

Cranberry Orange Nut Bread

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ tablespoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ cups white sugar

1 cup orange juice

¼ cup melted butter

2 eggs

1 cup fresh cranberries (not frozen)

1 cup chopped walnuts

½ cup grated orange peel

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease on regular-size bread loaf pan (or two small loaf pans). Dust pan lightly with flour, dumping excess. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in large mixing bowl. Combine sugar, orange juice, melted butter, and eggs in another bowl, mixing well. Stir into flour mixture along with cranberries, walnuts, and orange peel. Mix well, blending all ingredients. Pour into prepared loaf pan. Bake for 50 minutes or until knife inserted into center of loaf comes out clean. Remove pan to wire rack to cool for 10 minutes, then run knife around edges of pan and turn out onto rack to cool completely.

 

I could not easily find fresh cranberries in my supermarket, despite Ms. Sefton’s assurances in the introduction to the recipe, so I had to make do with dried. I must say, I don’t think it detracted too much from the end product, though fresh would likely have made for juicier mouthfuls. I also wasn’t thinking when I made my shopping list for this recipe, as I bought only the one orange, which could never provide me with half a cup of grated peel. The amount it yielded was still decent however, and the orange juice ensured that there was plenty of delicious orange flavor throughout the bread.

I did have to bake the bread for ten minutes longer than recommended. My inability to properly grease a baking pan also resulted in bits of the crust adhering when I removed the loaf, but my kids very much enjoyed the opportunity to take care of those for me.

I actually think the word “bread” might be a bit of a misnomer, as this recipe produces the best darn fruit cake I’ve ever had. Granted, I tend to dislike fruit cake, but this recipe has gone a long way to changing my mind about them. I enjoyed the blend of sweet and tart and am definitely keeping this recipe for future reference—to be substituted should an occasion ask for fruit cake. It might not be traditional, but it’s head and shoulders better than its peers.

 

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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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