Who do you turn to when you're looking to make something tasty for your sweetie this Valentine's Day? Why, cozy mystery authors, of course! (Who did you think we'd say, Martha Stewart?) After all, many of them craft their suspenseful stories around decadent treats. Today, the lovely ladies from Mystery Lovers' Kitchen are here to share their favorite V-Day dishes, sweet and savory, and best of all? You can take all the credit!
Lucy Burdette’s Strawberry Cream Pie with Chocolate Graham Cracker Crust
My series character, Hayley Snow, is a food critic in Key West, Florida. One of her favorite restaurants (a real place) is called Seven Fish. Hayley loves one of their desserts, strawberry cream pie. She prepares it for her family when they are in their darkest moment in Murder with Ganache. But heck, it would be perfect to celebrate Valentine’s Day, too!
For the crust:
1 package chocolate graham crackers, crushed to crumbs (about 1 and 1/4 cups)
4 Tbsp butter, melted
2 Tbsp sugar
Whir the crackers to fine crumbs — in your food processor is easiest. Stir in the sugar and melted butter and combine well.
Press the crumb mixture into a pie pan (mine is 10 inches) and tap it firmly up the sides of the pan into a crust, using your fingers, the back of a spoon, or a water glass. Bake the crust for 15 minutes at 350 and let it cool.
For the filling:
1 and 1/2 lb strawberries (try not to make this unless it's close to strawberry season)
2 cups whipping cream
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Wash, hull and slice the strawberries, then set them aside. In one bowl, whip the cream cheese. In another, whip the cream and the vanilla until stiff. Add the sugar and whip that in. Gradually mix the cream cheese with the whipped cream until it's all nicely combined. (You may cut back on the sugar if you prefer the dessert less sweet — and depending on how ripe your strawberries are.)
In the chocolate crust, alternate two layers of strawberries with layers of whipped cream, ending with the third layer of strawberries, artistically arranged.
Chill thoroughly. Serve and sit back to watch your guests swoon.
Visit Lucy at www.lucyburdette.com
Cleo Coyle’s Aphrodisiac Brownies
In these delectable Valentine treats, three ingredients long believed to be aphrodisiacs—chocolate, coffee, and cinnamon—blend together to create rich, intriguing layers, the perfect description for my new RT Top Pick! culinary mystery, Billionaire Blend, in which a coffeehouse manager turned amateur sleuth saves the life of a charming billionaire and soon must decide whether he’s a victim, a lover or a mastermind of murder.
Makes one 8- or 9-inch square pan of brownies (about 16–20 squares)
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp. kosher salt (or 1/4 tsp table salt)
12 Tbsp. (1½ sticks) unsalted butter
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. espresso powder (or instant coffee crystals)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line bottom of an 8- or 9-inch square pan with parchment paper. Lightly coat the paper with nonstick cooking spray. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, egg yolk, both sugars, and salt. Set aside. Use either a microwave or a saucepan over low heat to melt the chocolate and butter. Stir in the cinnamon and espresso powder. Allow to cool and then whisk into the mixing bowl that you set aside. Stir in the flour, baking powder and chocolate chips. Blend enough for a smooth batter, but do not over-mix. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake about 30 minutes. Under baking is smarter than over baking. The brownies are done when the top surface has become solid and displays small cracks. Cut into squares, and eat with joy!
Visit Cleo Coyle at www.CoffeehouseMystery.com
Daryl Wood Gerber aka Avery Aames's Chocolate Truffle Cake
The lead characters in both of my series love chocolate. What’s not to love? Chocolate isn’t only delicious; it’s brimming with antioxidants. Jenna, in the Cookbook Nook series, isn’t a cook, so a recipe with very few ingredients appeals to her. This decadent cake is what she’ll make for Valentine’s Day to serve the new man in her life. It is so luscious, it’s bound to win his heart.
2 cups half-and-half
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup applesauce
2 oz. flavored liquid of your choice (cordials, coffee, etc.) * I used espresso
2 lbs. dark, milk or mixed chocolate, chopped (5 CUPS) * I used half dark, half semi-sweet
6 eggs (whisked)
Preheat the oven to 300º. Brush a 10" spring-form pan with butter, line the bottom with buttered parchment and wrap the pan in foil in case of any leaks.
In a saucepan, bring the half-and-half, sugar, applesauce and coffee JUST to a boil. Place the chocolate into a mixing bowl. Pour the hot milk mixture over the chocolate.
Let sit for a few minutes. [It will melt nicely.] Mix at low speed for two minutes. Add the eggs in all at once and mix 30 seconds, until incorporated. Pour batter into prepared spring-form pan. Bake until the cake is “set” — about 1 to 1 ½ hours. The cake will still look wet and slightly loose in the very center, but the edges will be set, slightly puffed and have small cracks. [I cook mine for 1 hour then turned off the oven and let it set for another 20 minutes]
Remove from oven and allow cake to cool on a rack (this takes about 2 full hours), then chill for 6 hours or overnight before removing pan sides.
Visit Daryl and Avery at www.darylwoodgerber.com
Sheila Connolly's Marzipan Cake
This cake would be perfect to serve at tea at the old manor house in my mystery, Scandal in Skibbereen, when all the suspects are gathered together and the murderer is revealed.
For the cake:
1/2 cup sifted flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 oz. almond paste
4 large eggs
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 Tblsp amaretto liqueur (optional)
1 pint fresh or frozen raspberries
2 Tblsp sugar
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease and flour an 8” cake pan. Cover the bottom with parchment paper or wax paper to prevent sticking. Sift together the flour and baking powder and set aside. Beat together the sugar, butter and almond paste with an hand mixer or stand mixer, until thoroughly blended. Add one egg at a time, beating well after each one. Add the liqueur if you’re using it, and the almond extract.
Beat the batter until it triples in size and becomes very light and airy, about five minutes. Gently fold in the sifted flour mixture (do not overmix!).
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 40-50 minutes. If the cake browns too quickly, cover the top loosely with foil.
When done, remove the cake from the oven and invert it onto a rack to cool. When you’re ready to serve it, transfer it to a serving plate and sift confectioner’s sugar over it.
For the sauce, puree the berries in a food processor or blender (if they are frozen, thaw them first). Push the puree through a fine sieve to remove the seeds. Taste and add sugar if you like.
Visit Sheila at www.sheilaconnolly.com
Peg Cochran's Chocolate Truffles
Both of my upcoming releases, A Fatal Slip from my Sweet Nothings Lingerie series written as Meg London, and Iced to Death from my Gourmet De-Lite series under my own name, Peg Cochran, take place over Valentine’s Day. Maybe Emma will make these for Brian, or Gigi will make them for Bill!
9 ounces semisweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup unsalted butter
3 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup cocoa powder
1/8 cup instant powdered coffee (I used Medaglia D’Oro instant espresso)
Break chocolate into pieces and melt in a double boiler. Combine cream, butter and sugar and bring to a boil, stirring, until sugar is dissolved and ingredients are blended. Remove from heat and stir in melted chocolate. Set in a pan of ice water, stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens. When chocolate is thick and holding its shape, form into rough, bite-sized balls using a spoon. Place on waxed paper or parchment paper. Mix cocoa powder and instant coffee on a plate. Roll truffles in mixture. Refrigerate until ready to eat.
Visit Peg/Meg at www.pegcochran.com
Krista Davis's Linzer Cookies
In The Diva Wraps It Up, Sophie Winston's love life is a mess. She loves to bake, and if she were giving her sweetie a Valentine, it would be these heart-shaped Linzer cookies. Now if she only knew whether to give them to her ex-husband Mars, former boyfriend Wolf or Alex, the new man in her life who seems too good to be true ...
Makes approximately 24 2-inch cookies
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon lemon
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup ground hazelnuts (about 7/8 cup whole hazelnuts)
6 ounces seedless raspberry jam
3/4 cup or so powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 400. Roast whole hazelnuts for about 5-6 minutes until fragrant.
Reduce oven heat to 350. Grind the hazelnuts until fine.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Cream the butter with the sugar. Beat in the egg yolks. Add the lemon and vanilla and beat. Combine the flour, salt and cinnamon. Stir with a fork and beat into the dough. Add the nuts and beat. The dough will be quite stiff. Refrigerate the dough until it's easy to handle, or overnight.
Roll out the dough and cut with a cookie cutter. Use a smaller cookie cutter to cut out the centers of half of the cookies. Make sure you have the same amount of solid cookies as you do cut-out cookies. (Wise bakers might make a couple extra cut-out cookies in case one or two break.) Bake 8-10 minutes, until very lightly golden on the edges.
Cool on a rack. Place all the cut-out cookies on a rack over a piece of the used parchment paper. Sift powdered sugar over them. Place a generous dab or two of raspberry jam on the solid cookies but not all the way to the edge. Top with cut-out cookies. Store in the refrigerator with a sheet of waxed paper separating layers.
Visit Krista at www.kristadavis.com
Victoria Abbott's Garlic Shrimp for Two
A romantic meal for two needs to be fast and easy, to leave time and energy for canoodling. This tasty shrimp dish takes less than five minutes if you’ve done your prep before. Enjoy a chilled glass of wine together while it cooks.
12-14 shrimp, peeled and deveined, thawed if frozen
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 crushed garlic cloves
¼ tsp red pepper flakes (more if you like spicey)
1 tsp steak spice, or Penzey’s Murale, or similar seasoning (could be sea salt and fresh pepper)
1 tsp lemon zest
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon prepared parsley (or freshly chopped)
1 tablespoon chopped green onions or chives
Pour two glasses of chilled white wine. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes and shrimp. Stir in steak spice or other seasoning.
Cook three minutes until shrimp are just pink. Toss with lemon zest, lemon juice, parsley and chives. Transfer to a serving platter, pour liquid from pan over. Enjoy it together. The rest is easy.
Visit Victoria at www.victoria-abbott.com
Hungry? We know we are! Now, who wants to make us that chocolate truffle cake? For more genre news and views, check out our Everything Mystery page. And have a Happy Valentine's Day!