Saturday, October 3, 2009

A Chat with Joanne Fluke

Anyone who reads culinary mysteries knows the name Joanne Fluke. The author of Cherry Cheesecake Murder, Fudge Cupcake Murder, Sugar Cookie Murder and many more delicious titles, Joanne keeps us coming back for more tastes of life at Hannah Swensen's bakery in a small town in Minnesota.

Her books have been translated into Russian, Hungarian, Japanese, and Korean! How fun is that?

Joanne's latest book, Plum Pudding Murder has just been released and includes Hannah's favorite Christmas dinner recipes! In case you can't get enough of Joanne's recipes, you'll be happy to know that she's working on a cookbook to be released about this time next year. But her husband Ruel has to taste all the recipes first. Poor Ruel!

Joanne was kind enough to give us a glimpse into her private life (and her fridge!).

1. Name three foods in your fridge right now (that might surprise

Chipolte salsa, natural yogurt, and (for the dogs) chopped chicken and pork.

2. Who does most of the cooking in your house? There's often a divide between people who love to cook, and those who love to bake. Are you strictly a baker or do you like to cook as

We both do it, about the same. I do most of the baking. Ruel makes the best Lasagna and other pasta concoctions.

3. What's a typical mid-week dinner at your house?

Sandwiches and salad.

4. Name your top five favorite cookie recipes (and tell us what books
they're in, too!)

Impossible. We like them all. When I bake it's usually some new recipe I'm working on.

5. Your amateur sleuth, Hannah Swensen, is awesome and so incredibly
loved! Can you tell us a few ways that you are like Hannah--and a few
ways that you are not like Hannah?

Hannah is quicker with snappy replies. She's a lot younger.

6. This is a really touchy issue, and we don’t mind if you don’t want to answer – just say “pass" -- but can you tell us if Hannah is going to be baking a wedding cake (for herself!) in a future book? To put it another way - will your readers ever hear wedding bells ringing for

We’re going to have to wait to see if Hannah chooses one of the guys. I have very little to say about Hannah’s love life. I can throw her a curve, of course, like Ross, but she has a mind of her own. People think I’m crazy when I say that, but it’s the truth. I have tried making her do things that didn’t “fit” and it always came out flat, so that I had to go back and rewrite it her way.

7. Did you ever have a dream of opening a cookie shop like Hannah's?

No. I love what I do too much to switch. Besides, I'd go broke in business.

8. Your latest book, Plum Pudding Murder, will be released in
October. What's Hannah up to this time?

She finds a body and figures out who done it. And she makes a great plum pudding that is nothing like the ones Mrs. Crachitt made. Hannah's are not steamed and actually have plums in them!

9. Would you care to share a recipe with us?


Lovely Lemon Bar Cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, rack in the middle position.

2 cups flour (no need to sift)
1 cup cold butter (2 sticks, 1/2 pound)
1/2 cup powdered sugar (no need to sift, unless it's got big lumps)

4 beaten eggs (just whip them up with a fork)
2 cups white sugar
8 tablespoons lemon juice (1/2 cup)
1 teaspoon or so of zest (optional) (zest is finely grated lemon peel)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons flour (that's 1/4 cup -- don't bother to sift)

Cut each stick of butter into eight pieces. Zoop it up with the flour and the powdered sugar in a food processor until it looks like coarse cornmeal (just like the first step in making a piecrust). Spread it out in a greased 9 x 13 inch pan (that's a standard cake sheet pan) and pat it down with your hands.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden around the edges. Remove from oven. (Don't turn off oven!)

Mix eggs with white sugar. Add lemon juice (and zest, if you want to use it). Add salt and baking powder and mix. Then add flour and mix thoroughly. (This will be runny -- it's supposed to be.)

Pour this mixture on top of the pan you just baked and stick it back into the oven. Bake at 350 degrees for another 30-35 minutes. Then remove from the oven and sprinkle on additional powdered sugar.

Let cool thoroughly and cut into brownie-sized bars.

Thanks for joining us today, Joanne!

To find out more about Joanne and her books, visit her website at


  1. What a treat having you here at the kitchen today, Joanne! Thanks so much for coming by. I love lemony tastes in my desserts and these lemon bars sound delish! I'm looking forward to reading what Hannah's up to in your next release...

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  2. Yay! One of my favorite mystery writers! What a nice Saturday morning treat to go along with a steamy cup of tea!


  3. Hi, Joanne! Thanks for hanging with the mystery cooks today. I laughed when I read about your husband taste testing the recipes. Mine does, too! Congrats on your new release!

    Java cheers,


    "Where coffee and crime are always brewing..."
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  4. Hi, Joanne. I sure enjoy your writing. Love that your husband is your taste tester. So is mine. And the lemon bars look yummy! Can't wait to try them.

  5. Thank you. I wanted to bake today, but couldn't land on just what I wanted to make. Lemon cookies it is. Very fun interview.

  6. Hannah is one of my favorite cozy characters. I love that Joanne says she has a mind of her own! Although, I admit I definitely would like to see Hannah making a wedding cake!

  7. Love Hannah! Just bought Plum Pudding Murder at Books on Board and can't wait to be able to start it.

  8. What a great Sunday morning treat! I love this series, and adore the recipes. Can't wait for the cookbook

  9. I love this series so much. Hope it never ends!

  10. I can't pass the books! Thanks for them, they are great, and fastinating. (is this the right word?)
    from Hungary