Cooking the Books: Raspberry Danish Murder by Joanne Fluke
What. Just. Happened?!
Joanne Fluke returns to gripping form with this latest Hannah Swensen book set in the present-day, as Hannah tries to get through her days without her husband, Ross Barton, who mysteriously disappeared at the end of the last novel. While I’m #TeamNorman all the way, I still feel deeply for Hannah, who finally cared enough for someone to get married before finding herself thrust without explanation into the weird limbo of being wedded without a spouse.
Fortunately, she’s got her friends and family to help her investigate—as well as cover for—Ross’s disappearance. Unwilling to let gossip paint Hannah as a victim, the Swensen family has put out the story that Ross has headed off to film a big story for the TV station where he’s employed as a producer. This is made easier with the help of his assistant, PK, who seems to be developing feelings for Hannah’s little sister, Michelle.
Before PK and Michelle can discuss the bond between them, PK accidentally ingests a lethal dose of poison hidden in candy mailed to Ross’s desk at the station. Hannah, of course, immediately involves herself in the investigation into PK’s death, and for once, her detective ex-boyfriend, Mike, doesn’t try to obstruct her. The candy might have been meant for Ross, after all, and could perhaps be a clue to his abrupt departure from Lake Eden.
I found the solution to PK’s death to be wholly satisfying (even as I didn’t really understand his ex-fiancée’s change of heart), but what really got me at the end was that we finally find out what happened to Ross! It might be a single-sentence cliffhanger, but it totally worked. I neeeeeeed to find out what happens next! I absolutely did not see it coming, and I’m a little stressed out that I have to wait several months for the next book.
So I decided to look through the 28 recipes included here to make something that would help take that edge off. I do think that Ms. Fluke’s best recipes are for cookies, so I chose this fall-flavored treat to try:
Maple Crunch Cookies
DO NOT preheat oven—dough must chill before baking
2 cups white (granulated) sugar
1 cup salted butter (2 sticks, 8 ounces, ½ pound), softened to room temperature
2 large eggs beaten (just whip them up in a glass with a fork)
½ cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour (pack the flour down in the cup when you measure it)
½ cup crushed corn flakes (measure AFTER crushing—I used Kellogg’s Corn Flakes)
1 cup (6-ounce package) white chocolate or vanilla chips
½ cup white (granulated) sugar (for later, to coat the cookie balls you will make before baking your cookies)
Place the white sugar and the softened salted butter in the bowl of an electric mixer.
Beat them together until they are smooth and creamy.
Add the beaten eggs and mix them in thoroughly.
Add the maple syrup and mix it in until it is well combined.
With the mixer running on LOW speed, beat in the baking soda, baking powder, salt, and vanilla extract. Mix until everything is well combined.
Measure out the flour and add it to the bowl in half-cup increments, mixing thoroughly after each addition.
Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl and remove it from the mixer.
Add the crushed corn flakes and white chocolate chips to your mixing bowl and stir them in by hand. Continue stirring until they are evenly distributed.
Give your Maple Crunch Cookie dough a final stir by hand with a wooden spoon.
Chill the dough for at least 1 hour before baking. (Overnight is fine, too)
When your dough has chilled, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F., rack in the middle position.
While your oven is preheating, prepare your baking sheets by spraying them with Pam or another nonstick cooking spray or lining them with parchment paper.
Measure out the ½ cup of white sugar and place it in a shallow bowl. You’ll use this to coat your dough balls.
Roll the dough into walnut-sized balls with your hands.
Roll the dough balls in the bowl of sugar and then place them on the prepared cookie sheets, 12 to a standard sheet.
Flatten the dough balls just a bit with a metal spatula. (This will keep them from rolling off the cookie sheet as you carry it to the oven.)
Bake your Maple Crunch Cookies at 350 degrees F. for 10 to 12 minutes or until they are golden brown.
Take the cookies out of the oven. Cool them on the cookie sheets for no more than 2 minutes. Then remove the cookies and place them on a rack to complete cooling. (If you leave them on the cookie sheets for too long, they’ll stick.)
I wound up with seven dozen delicious cookies that disappeared from my house very quickly! This is actually my first attempt at any of the “crunch” cookies from the series, and I loved what the cornflakes brought to this recipe. I did not like the white chocolate chips as much, however, especially after the cookies had cooled. I think they could have been skipped without the cookies losing anything, flavor-wise. I’ll definitely give this recipe a try without the chips soon!
And that ends our coverage of the Hannah Swensen series until the next book is published, but you’d better believe we’ll be first in line when it comes out! Next week, we travel east and south to try an unusual chili with the first book in a series I’ve already sampled for this column. Do join me!