Please welcome Jessica Beck to our kitchen. Jessica is the penname of an author who was nominated for the Agatha Award and named an Independent Mystery Booksellers Association national bestseller nearly a dozen times. This month, St. Martin's Press is launching her new series of mysteries set in a cozy North Carolina donut shop. Here's a little peek at Glazed Murder, the first novel in her series...
THE DONUT SHOP MYSTERIES
Suzanne Hart, owner of Donut Hearts, is at her store at 2 AM when she looks out the window and sees a body being thrown from a speeding car in front of her shop. She can’t see much, but it becomes obvious that the driver thinks she witnessed the whole thing. Suzanne endures a series of threats until she is forced to investigate the murder herself. To make matters worse, Suzanne’s ex husband Max is trying to work his way back into her life, something she’s not at all sure she wants to happen.
Everyone deserves the chance to indulge themselves now and then, whether it comes in the form of escaping with a good mystery, carving out five minutes of blissful silence in a hectic day, or savoring a bite or two of a delicious, homemade donut. I would never dream of advocating a steady diet of donuts alone, but at the same time, I couldn’t bring myself to give up one of the special little perks that remind me of just how nice life can be. While donuts probably aren’t going to bring about world peace, they can sometimes create a little joy in our lives, and that can never be a bad thing, can it?
My family got hooked on homemade donuts early on. My mother-in-law, thankfully a true joy to have in my life, got me started doing two things in the kitchen: creating pie crusts by hand using lard, and making donuts dusted with powdered sugar. The donuts were an Easter event for my spouse’s family, a tradition I quickly adopted for my own clan. There’s something comforting about sharing the treats these days, and they’ve become something much more than just a delicious bite; they remind us of those who may be gone now, but will be with us in spirit as long as we keep up our family traditions from one generation to the next. The last time I made these donuts, my teenaged daughter watched every move, and I suspect that someday when I’m long gone, these will be a reminder for her as well. All in all, it’s not a bad legacy for a donut to have, is it?
A GOOD BEGINNING DONUT RECIPE
From GLAZED MURDER
This donut is a good place to start your morning, or your donut-making career. It’s a fairly simple recipe that yields good results, and with a little practice, can be your go-to recipe when you need a quick fix. ~Jessica
4-5 cups bread flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 dashes of salt
½ cup sour cream
1 egg, beaten
1 cup buttermilk
Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl and sift it into another bowl. Add the beaten egg to the dry mix, then add the sour cream and the buttermilk to the mixture and stir it all in lightly. You may need more buttermilk or flour to get the dough to a workable mix. This varies based on temperature and humidity, and the dough should resemble bread dough when you’re finished. That is, it shouldn’t stick to your hands when you touch it, but it should be moist enough to remain flexible. Don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it soon enough.
Knead this mix lightly, then roll it out to about 1/4 of an inch. Then, take your donut hole cutter-a simple circle with a removable center-and press out your donut shapes, reserving the holes for a later frying. The cutters are inexpensive, and worth having on hand, but a floured drinking glass could be used, too.
Set your fryer for 375 degrees, and when the oil is ready, put four to six donuts in the basket, depending on the size of your equipment. This can also be done in a deep pot, but I find the precision of the fryer worth the money, especially if you’re going to make donuts very often at all.
Let the donuts cook for around two minutes on one side, then check one. If it’s golden brown, the shade I prefer, flip it over with a large chopstick or wooden skewer, and let that side cook another two minutes.
Once the donuts are finished, remove them to a cooling rack or a plate lined with paper towels, being sure to drain them thoroughly before serving. You can coat the top with butter and then sprinkle them with powdered sugar, cinnamon, or eat them plain.
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