Please welcome our guest today: our good friend, a terrific writer and a talent in the kitchen as well as on the page: Shelley Costa.
Shelley is the author of You Cannoli Die Once – a 2014 Agatha nominee for Best First Novel -- Basil Instinct, and most recently, Practical Sins For Cold Climates. Her crime stories have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and several anthologies, and in 2004 she was nominated for an Edgar® for Best Short Story. Her latest novel, A Killer’s Guide to Good Works, was just published.
She most enjoys writing fish-out-of-water stories, partly because they’re a great source of humor, and partly because she identifies with them. Today she’ll talk about The Kindness of Cookies and make us a gift of these fabulous Madeleines. And for you, there’s more than one giveaway: read RIGHT to the end for details!
And now, The Kindness of Cookies:
They say you always remember your first love. In terms of humans, mine was an affable, yellow-haired boy named Tommy Haskell, and we were in second grade. I pined. When Valentine’s Day rolled around, I gave all the other kids in the class those cheap and cheesy boxed valentines that show a cartoon space capsule with boy and girl astronauts wearing upside fish bowls over their heads, with the sizzling message, Valentine, let’s go around together. But for Tommy Haskell I made a great big heart out of red construction paper and a white paper doily. You can imagine how that went over with twenty-four eight-year olds. You would think they were all watching the antics of Clarabell on The Howdy Doody Show. One way or another, first loves slide into the vague and forgiving mists of your own personal history.
But then there’s the cookie. The first cookie love. The ur-Cookie. The cookie that was always there when you needed it. For me, this cookie was Chips Ahoy, which debuted when I was thirteen (okay, so, five years after I really needed it). These marvels were lined up single file in a narrow rectangular box. The lettering – CHIPS AHOY! – was black. It was a serious cookie, a cookie with depth. I was smitten. To this day, dunk it reflectively in a cold glass of milk, and life’s problems sink to the bottom of the glass, along with a few crumbs. Cookies carry memories. No one understood this better than Marcel Proust, whose narrator discovers the kindly wonders of one particular cookie. Call it a cookie, a cake, a pastry (and Proust calls it all of those things), the fluffy scallop-shaped madeleine is the narrator’s delicious vehicle back to a boyhood of love and security.
In my latest mystery, A KILLER’S GUIDE TO GOOD WORKS, Book Two in the Val Cameron series, Val’s assistant editor, Ivy Breshears, twice quietly provides her with a box of delectables from Bouchon Bakery, twenty blocks away from their Manhattan workplace.
Once, when Val is grieving the murder of her best friend. Next, when, near the end of the book, she is filled with longing, and another box from Bouchon appears. After I relinquished the book to its final editorial fixes, I wondered what elegant and consoling treat lay inside that bakery box. I have decided it is the pistachio madeleine, keeper of memory, purveyor of awakening joy. Here for your gustatory delight is The Recipe itself from the cookbook, THE BOUCHON BAKERY, by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel.
And here is a photo of me, sampling my batch of extra-pistachioed madeleines – it’s Sicilian pistachio paste that gives the recipe its extra kick and color – and I think I am cast back into a second grade classroom ringing with laughter.
And I am thinking what rises above it is a red and white handmade outsized valentine that I would never take back, no matter what, no, never.
¼ c + 2 ½ TBS all-purpose flour
3/8 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp Kosher salt
¼ c + 1 tsp eggs
3 TBS + 2 tsp granulated sugar
1.9 oz unsalted butter
2 tsp dark brown sugar
1 1/8 tsp clover honey
3 TBS pistachio paste
Place flour in a medium bowl, sift in baking powder and salt, then whisk together. In a separate bowl, mix eggs and granulated sugar on medium-high speed for 1 minute. Then increase the speed and whip until the color lightens and the batter doubles in volume. Heat the butter, brown sugar and honey in a saucepan, whisking until the sugar dissolves (about one minute). Remove from heat. Fold half the dry ingredients into the eggs and sugar mix, then fold in the rest. Then fold the butter mixture into the batter and incorporate until smooth. In a separate bowl, place the pistachio paste, first stirring in one-quarter of the batter, then the rest. Cover the batter and refrigerate overnight. Brush a 12-mold madeleine pan (I use silicone for even browning) with melted unsalted butter, and refrigerate the pan overnight to harden the butter.
Spoon 1 generous TBS of the batter into each mold, tapping the bottom of the pan against the work surface to smooth the tops
Bake in a 350⁰ oven for 8-9 minutes until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Immediately unmold your madeleines onto a cooling rack.
Thanks for inviting me today. As a giveaway, I’m offering a signed copy of my newest mystery, A KILLER’S GUIDE TO GOOD WORKS, where you can find out what’s inside the first Bouchon Bakery box that Ivy gives to Val. Also, there’s murder ... Leave a comment here with your email address.
But look, here's a great bonus! To celebrate the launch of A KILLERS GUIDE TO GOOD WORKS, Shelley is running a contest on her website http://www.shelleycosta.com/ beginning October 10th and spanning one week. The prize is a $100 (USF) gift card to your favorite indie bookstore! Hint: You could remember your school days and just wing it, but your chances increase wildly if you read the book first. Also, check out Facebook's Shelley Costa Mystery Author page for updates!