Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Sugar and Spice Shortbread -- #recipe by @LeslieBudewitz and #bookgiveaway

LESLIE BUDEWITZ:  "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!"

Leslie, I hear you ask, are you perhaps a might bit confused?

Not in the least! In my book, Christmas is only a few weeks away!

Obviously, I'm talking about Peppermint Barked, the 6th Spice Shop Mystery, coming out July 19. (You know what I always say about pre-orders -- a gift you buy your future self. What better gift than a pre-ordered early "Christmas in July" present?)

You know the series: Just a pinch of murder . . . When her life fell apart at age 40, Pepper Reece never expected to find solace in bay leaves. But her impulsive purchase of the Spice Shop in Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market turned out to be one of the best decisions she ever made. Between selling spice and juggling her personal life, she also discovers another unexpected talent – for solving murder. 

In her latest adventure, Pepper investigates when a young woman working the Christmas rush in her friend’s Vinny’s wine shop is brutally attacked, on the busiest shopping day of the year.

In the weeks ahead of Christmas, the staff engage in a friendly cookie contest dubbed "the bark-off." Cayenne, one of the shop's more creative cooks, brings in this shortbread, lightly spiced and totally yummy. It pairs neatly with coffee, spice tea or chai, or even the spiced cocktail Kristen creates. (I'll be sharing that recipe, also in the book in December.)  

Let's get merry! Talk to me in the comments for a chance to win a signed copy of Assault & Pepper, the first Spice Shop mystery, or Peppermint Barked.  

Sugar and Spice Shortbread 

from Peppermint Barked by Leslie Budewitz

butter for pan

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

½ cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed

½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cubed 

1 1/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice OR 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Butter a 9" round springform pan or cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper and butter the paper. Set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, add the flour, brown sugar, and spice. Pulse to combine. Add the cubed butter and pulse until mixture looks like coarse, moist crumbs.

Press mixture into the pan, using your fingers or the back of a wooden spoon to spread evenly and firmly. Freeze 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake shortbread for 15 minutes, then use a fork to prick the dough all over, leaving a one-inch border. Bake another 15 minutes until set and beginning to brown around the edges. (Total baking time: about 30 minutes.)

Remove from oven and place on a wire rack. If you used a straight-sided pan, press the handle of a wooden spoon into the border to create a scalloped edge. Use a sharp knife to score into 16 pieces. Cool 10 minutes. Run the knife around the outer edge to loosen the shortbread and remove from pan. If you used a straight-sided pan, invert, remove parchment, and turn onto rack. If you used a pan with a removable bottom, lift carefully, remove pan bottom, and place on rack. Allow to cool, then cut along scored lines and serve.

Store in a tightly sealed container; keeps about 3 days. 

Let's get merry! Do you celebrate Christmas in July? Ever make Christmas cookies in the off-season? What's your favorite Christmas cookie? Leave a comment -- and your email address -- for a chance to win a signed copy of Assault & Pepper, the first Spice Shop mystery, or Peppermint Barked.  (US and Canada only; Mr. Kitten will pick the winner on Saturday, June 25 -- naturally!) 

PEPPERMINT BARKED: A Spice Shop Mystery (coming July 19, 2022 from Seventh St. Books)

From the cover: 
A Dickens of a Christmas turns deadly…

As the holiday season lights up Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market, Pepper Reece’s beloved Spice Shop is brimming with cinnamon, nutmeg, and shoppers eager to stuff their stockings. Add to the mix a tasty staff competition—a peppermint bark-off—along with Victorian costumes for this year’s Dickensian Christmas theme, and Pepper almost forgets to be nervous about meeting her fisherman boyfriend’s brother for the first time.

But when a young woman working in her friend Vinny’s wine shop is brutally assaulted, costumed revelers and holiday cheer are the last things on Pepper’s mind. Who would want to hurt Beth? Or were they looking for Vinny instead?

The vicious attack upsets everyone at Pike Place, but none more than Pepper’s own employee, Matt Kemp. At first, Pepper is baffled by his reaction, but his clandestine connection to Beth could hold the key to the assailant’s motive. Or perhaps it’s Vinny’s ex-wife who knows more than she’s letting on . . . and what about the mysterious top-hatted man with whom Pepper saw Beth arguing that morning?

As the secrets of the market come to light, long-held grudges, family ties, and hidden plans only further obscure the truth. Is it a ghost of the past rattling its chains, or a contemporary Scrooge with more earthly motives? As Pepper chases down a killer, someone is chasing her, and in the end, the storied market itself may hold the final, deadly clue.

A cozy holiday mystery full of culinary delights and a rich cast of characters, the sixth installment in the Spice Shop Mystery series will keep you turning the page . . . and reaching for another piece of peppermint bark. 

Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries, and the winner of Agatha Awards in three categories. Death al Dente, the first Food Lovers' Village Mystery, won Best First Novel in 2013, following her 2011 win in Best Nonfiction. Her first historical short story, "All God's Sparrows," won the 2018 Agatha Award for Best Short Story. Peppermint Barked, her 6th Spice Shop mystery, will appear in July 2022, and Blind Faith, her second standalone suspense novel (written as Alicia Beckman), will release in October 2022. 

A past president of Sisters in Crime and a current board member of Mystery Writers of America, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat, an avid bird-watcher.

Swing by Leslie's website and join the mailing list for her seasonal newsletter. And join her on Facebook where she shares book news and giveaways from her writer friends, and talks about food, mysteries, and the things that inspire her.


  1. I do celebrate Christmas in July. I have a stack of Christmas books ready to read during that month. Your cookie recipe sounds delicious. I will have to try it. One of my favorite cookie recipes is one I discovered a few years back for cookies and cream flavored cookies. I loved it so much it earned a permanent spot on my Christmas cookie platter. cherierj(at)yahoo(dot)com

  2. As I've gotten older, I try to keep the spirit of Christmas alive and in my heart all year round. Christmas in July is a great way to remind us to do that. Love that they now show some of the Christmas movies in July!

    As for my favorite Christmas cookies, I have three - my Granny's old fashioned tea cake cookie, my Mom's Mexican wedding cookie, and the cut our sugar cookie that my brother and I would spend hours decorating. Again as I've gotten older, my thought has been why have to wait until December to enjoy these wonderful cookies that not only taste yummy but evoke such sweet memories. Life is too short to delay such happiness! I consider Christmas time as a time to make lots of batches of cookies, cakes, and candies to fill the Christmas boxes of goodies, like my Mom did, to share with friends and loved ones. The rest of the year, I can make smaller batches for just hubby and I to enjoy.

    Shared and hoping to be the very fortunate one selected to receive one of your fabulous books. Thank you for the chance!
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. Love this, Kay! You may remember that Russian Teacakes, another name for Mexican wedding cookies aka Snowballs, provide a clue in As the Christmas Cookie Crumbles, in my Food Lovers' Village mysteries!

    2. Yes, I remember that. Reading it got me to craving them so I had to whip out a batch to satisfy that craving. LOL

    3. Love that, Kay! Pass me the plate, would you please?

  3. I'm already celebrating Christmas by reading some "Christmas romance" ARCs from NetGalley. The reason I use quotation marks is that neither was really a Christmas-themed book, just Christmas-adjacent, and that was disappointing. It makes me feel I've been hoodwinked by the authors. Reading the summary of Peppermint Barked, I can tell it is a true Christmas mystery with all the trimmings and I love the series--thank you! I can't wait to read it.

    1. "All the trimmings" -- you bet! Enjoy!

    2. Forgot to leave my email: mbunting(at)sbcglobal(dot) com.

  4. My favorite Christmas cookie is shortbread cookies. During the heat I engage in Christmas books and travel to far off places. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

    1. Arm-chair travel we all know, but arm-chair weather can be just as useful!

  5. It's too hot to bake cookies now but I like to make cut out sugar cookies at Christmas. And peanut butter cookies with chocolate stars in the middle instead of Kisses. I read Christmas books anytime. I love Christmas. ckmbeg (at) gmail (dot) com

    1. Love that you use stars in the Blossoms for a special sparkle! BTW, my next two recipe shares, on July 5 and 19, will be no-bake treats.

  6. I haven't done Christmas in July and it's always too hot to do a lot of cookie baking this time of year (94 today, plus very humid). When it gets cooler I do love making cutout cookies and hot chocolate cookies, plus lots of candies.

  7. Yesterday's high was around 60 degrees in Downeast Maine. (In south Florida that would certainly be considered Christmassy!) That did not discourage my granddaughter from going into the lake at camp!
    libbydodd at comcast dot net

    1. You gotta love their determination -- and their metabolism!

  8. My favorite Christmas cookie is a ginger cookie.

    jtcgc at yahoo dot com

  9. I don't celebrate Christmas in July and I don't make Christmas cookies any time except Christmas. My favorite Christmas cookie is my Mom's recipe for walnut sugar cookies.

    1. I don't know what your mom's walnut sugar cookies are, but I am certain I love them!

  10. It’s too hot to bake today. 100F in the San Francisco Bay Area. And no air conditioning in my old house. My sister always makes rugelach and spice cookies at Xmas which are very good.

    1. Rugelach! No bake recipes coming up, I promise!

  11. I watch the Hallmark channel Christmas in July movies but that's about it. I like persimmon cookies but they really aren't Christmas cookies. lkish77123 at gmail dot com

  12. Oh yeah! I love Christmas in July! I watch the Hallmark channel Christmas movies in July. So fun. I read Christmas books all year. My kids love cut out cookies. They enjoy decorating them. I make them often.

    Thanks so much for the chance!

  13. I start thinking about my Christmas knitting in July! It’s nearly impossible to narrow down to one favorite Christmas cookie but I’ll have to go with Pizelles. Love the Spice Shop Mystery series and visited Seattle because of them! Having this book come out in July makes it Christmas in July! casmith79 at aol dot com

  14. I love all sort of Christmas cookies. If I had to pick one, I would say a soft gingerbread cookie would be my fave.

    allibrary (at) aol (dot) com

  15. anything with spice is my favorite type of dessert.