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As The Cookie Crumbles

By Anna Dantoni.

Joanne Fluke’s mystery/recipe novel, Cream Puff Murder is one in a series set in the fictitious little town of Lake Eden, Minnesota. It’s freezing-cold winter which is good for business at The Cookie Jar, a bakery and coffee shop owned by Hannah Swensen.

People in Minnesota drink a lot of coffee during the snow-clad months and they tend to enjoy something sweet with it. Hannah has the economic recipe for success with her small business. Sooner or later everyone stops in for a nosh and some gossip. The Cookie Jar is the hub of the town’s social life but its success is disastrous for Hannah’s waistline. She can’t fit into a costume that her mother and two sisters want her to wear at an upcoming celebration.

This fashion dilemma sends Hannah to the local health club, which in typical Hannah fashion, leads to the discovery of a dead body. Lifeless Ronni Ward, the floozie leader of the aerobics class is floating face down in the Jacuzzzi. This puts the intrepid and resourceful Hannah on the case and some 22 recipes later, she solves the crime. Her two boyfriends, siblings, mother, her cat Moishe and various eccentric town characters all figure in the plot which is thin as crepe batter.

Just the same, I didn’t figure out the murderer and I thoroughly enjoyed reading the recipes. The author includes a lot of baking tips and she helpfully includes a recipe index at the end of the book as well as a baking conversion chart. I’m tempted to revisit The Cookie Jar and sample some of Fluke’s other Hannah Swensen books such as Fudge Cupcake Murder, Key Lime Pie Murder or Blueberry Muffin Murder. The newest is the Apple Turnover Murder and it’s still in hardback version. In the meantime, I made this recipe.

Lemon Cookies from the book Cream Puff Murder by

Joanne Fluke

(makes four dozen tart cookies. Recipe can be doubled)

½ cup (1 stick) softened butter

3/4 cup white granulated sugar

1 egg, beaten

1 tablespoon lemon zest

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon sale 1 ? cups flour

½ cup milk

Beat butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add egg, lemon zest and lemon juice. Mix. Add half the flour and half the milk. Stir and add remaining milk and flour. Drop by teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350-degrees for 12-14 minutes. Let cool in the pan for a minute, then remove to a wire rack. Brush topping onto the cookies while they are still hot.

Topping: mix together

1/4 cup lemon juice (heated in the microwave or on top stove)

3/4 cup white granulated sugar

Hannah’s tips for success with these cookies: Make them small, otherwise they spread out too much when cooking and will crumble when handling. Place aluminum foil under the wire rack so you don’t make a mess of the counter when brushing on the topping. Alternatively, bake the cookies on a sheet of parchment paper on the cookie sheet and just bring the cookies and paper onto the wire rack to be topped and to cool. Hannah is a big fan of parchment paper. To make these tart cookies sweeter sprinkle confectioner’s sugar on the cookies before serving.

(Cream Puff Murder by Joanne Fluke. Kensington Books. $10.99, paperback)

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