Cooking the Books: Not a Creature Was Purring by Krista Davis

With my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, sadly over, we can now turn to a Christmas theme guilt-free! Well, guilt-free except on the part of a murderer who is menacing Wagtail, Virginia, during what should be the most wonderful time of the year. Wagtail is famed as a town as friendly to pets as to people, and here in the fifth Paws & Claws Mystery, the death of a beloved patriarch embroils innkeeper Holly Miller in a lot more holiday hijinks than she’d planned for.

Holly had thought she’d spend this holiday season pining over her childhood sweetheart, Holmes Robinson, as he brings his new fiancée, Norma Jeanne, to town to meet his parents. But now she has to deal with Norma Jeanne’s fractious extended family, as they’ve all descended on her inn in various states of holiday cheer. When Norma Jeanne’s grandfather—who happens to own a very large pet clothing business that is currently rumored to be manufacturing allergen-tainted goods—is found stabbed to death, and Holly’s cantankerous Aunt Birdie becomes the main suspect, Holly throws herself into investigating as much to clear her aunt’s name as to forget her own romantic woes.

Not a Creature Was Purring is another entertaining installment in a series that will please anyone who loves their four-legged companions. The peril that endangers Holly’s pets—Trixie and Twinkletoes—can be as engrossing as the situations the humans find themselves in. I very much enjoyed all the misdirection that had me guessing until the very end as to the identity of the murderer.

I’m not sure how I feel about Holmes, though, and wonder why Holly isn’t with Sheriff Dave, who seems a better match for her in temperament. Oh well, if I wanted cozy mysteries to have more satisfying romantic relationships—especially given all the complaining I've been doing here recently—I should probably write my own.

There were several very satisfying recipes included, with nine for humans and four for pets (and three that could do double duty!). I decided to try this recipe:

Cranberry Breakfast Rolls

Ingredients

Dough

1 cup milk

⅔ cup sugar

1 ½ tablespoons active dry yeast

1 stick unsalted butter, softened (plus extra for greasing)

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cardamom

4 ½ cups all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting)

Filling

1 10-ounce package frozen cranberries, not thawed

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon cornstarch

Glaze

¾ cup confectioners’ sugar

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 ½ tablespoons heavy cream

Instructions

Heat one cup of milk to 95°F. Pour into a mixing bowl. Stir in the sugar and yeast. Let stand 5-10 minutes until foamy. If it's very cold in your kitchen, let stand in an unheated oven or other warm spot.

Add the butter, eggs, vanilla, and salt. Stir together. Mix the cardamom with the flour and add to the dough, mixing on low for 3 minutes. Turn the speed up to medium-high and mix for 10 minutes. Turn the dough (scrape the sides, too) out onto a flour-dusted board. Knead two or three times and shape into a ball. Grease a bowl with butter, add the dough, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for 1 hour or until it has doubled in size.

Line a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with parchment paper and allow the ends of the paper to stick out. Butter the parchment paper. Mix the cranberries with the sugar and cornstarch. Cut the dough in half and make two 10-by-12-inch rectangles. Scatter the berries over the dough and roll into a tight log. Cut the log in half and slice the halves into 4 pieces. Place them in the baking dish. There's not a specific way to line them up, and there will be extra room because they need to rise again.

Cover with a clean, dry kitchen towel and let rise for 2 hours. At this point, you can cover with aluminum foil, refrigerate, and bake the next day.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Bake about 25 minutes. The tops should be golden. Cool on a rack for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the glaze in a small bowl. You don't need a mixer for this. Just whisk the ingredients together. Lift the rolls out of the pan using the ends of the parchment paper as handles.

Using a spoon, dot the tops with the glaze, then spread it over the rolls.

Full disclosure: I don’t yet own a mixer, so I did everything by hand—doubling mixing times, of course. These were totally worth the effort, though!

To begin with, I thought that the idea of putting cardamom in these was sheer genius. The cardamom gives the rolls a lovely, milky taste—though I did wonder whether a little cinnamon wouldn’t go amiss here, either. I also really enjoyed the glaze. It wasn’t too sweet, reminding me of a fancier version of sweetened condensed milk, and it balanced out the tartness of the cranberries perfectly. I loved how the cranberries looked like glistening red jewels in the rolls. This was definitely one of the more beautiful dishes I’ve made (though I’m not sure that my photos do it justice), and I loved how the look of it matched the taste so well.

Next week, we travel north to try some French-inspired cuisine in a post-Christmas setting. Time flies, I know! Do join me!

See also: Cooking the Books: Assault and Buttery by Kristi Abbott

 

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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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