Cooking the Books: Potions and Pastries by Bailey Cates

I so much enjoy being back in Savannah with Katie Lightfoot and her delightful friends and family. Okay, maybe not so much with her annoying fiancé Declan (#TeamSteve), but it’s so great for me as a cozy mystery fan to be back investigating deaths that look suspiciously linked to paranormal hijinks. Katie, you see, is a Light Witch, which means she’s called to cancel out evil (but not necessarily Dark) magic wherever she may find it. This all too often means bringing a paranormal murderer to justice.

In this case, Orla Black—an acquaintance and regular customer of the Honeybee Bakery that Katie co-owns with her aunt and uncle—has just died right outside the shop after suddenly walking into oncoming traffic. Katie receives a whole bunch of signals from the otherworld urging her to investigate; trouble is, she barely even knows where to start.

Detective Quinn, her sometimes contact in the police department, can’t see Orla’s death as being anything but a suicide or perhaps a singularly unfortunate accident. But Katie is convinced that something darker must be afoot. Her investigations lead her to Orla’s extended family, a tangle of Irish Traveler relations who introduce Katie to a new mystical tradition that could explain what happened to Orla—or could claim Katie as its very next victim.

I super loved reading all the ways in which Katie continues to explore her gifts as well as all of the new lore that Bailey Cates introduces in each book. I really enjoyed not only the development in Katie and Detective Quinn’s relationship but also the way Katie’s dilemma regarding a future home for her impending married life was resolved (which is not something I can always say about this series, given my ongoing antipathy to Declan). Is it terrible that when Orla, and later the tarot cards, foretold great sacrifice on Katie’s behalf, I was kinda hoping that it meant she and Declan would break up? I can’t tell if I’m the worst or if he is.

Anyway, there were two delicious recipes included, and I could not resist the allure of brown butter, so I chose this recipe over the one for a rhubarb crostini:

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies


1 ½ cups (3 sticks) butter

1 cup slivered almonds

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

¾ cup granulated sugar

¾ cup packed dark brown sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

2 large eggs

1 10 oz. package 70% cacao chocolate chips

smoked salt (optional)


Place butter in a heavy saucepan, preferably with a light-colored bottom so you can judge the color of the butter as it browns. Place over medium heat. Stir now and then to make sure the butter is cooking evenly. It will start to foam, then turn tan, then a darker brown. The foam will brown and crisp and fall to the bottom of the pan. When the butter has browned—about the color of light maple syrup—remove from heat and transfer all but 2 tablespoons into another container to cool. You should have at least 1 cup, as the butter decreases in volume when the liquid cooks out. If you have a bit more, set the extra aside to add to pasta, steamed vegetables, or even oatmeal. It's delicious and will keep in the refrigerator for months.

Add the slivered almonds to the butter left in the pan and cook over medium heat until crisp and lightly browned. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Combine flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside. Using a mixer, beat together 1 cup of the brown butter, sugars, and vanilla. Add the eggs, one at a time. Beat in the flour mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips and almonds. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto the baking sheet about two inches apart. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes until golden brown. Immediately sprinkle/grind a little smoked salt on top if you wish. Move to wire racks to cool.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

While these are not the best cookies I’ve ever had, they come in a solid third behind Joanne Fluke’sBlack and White Cookies” and Ms. Cates’s own “Iris’ Pumpkin Spice Softies.” I ordinarily avoid nuts in cookies, but the crispy almonds in this were absolutely delightful. I was unable to find 70% cacao chips, however, so I used 63%, and they came out quite nicely. I’ll definitely be making these again, nuts and all!

Next week, we travel back to the midwest (where, to my horror, I meet a boyfriend who annoys me even more than Declan does!) to try a salty snack while sleuthing. Do join me!

See also: Cooking the Books: Sugar Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke


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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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