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  • Writer's pictureCulinary Cam

Brownies of Pure Enjoyment #FoodieReads

Culinary cozy mysteries have become my go-to read-to-unwind books. I stumbled across the Sugar Creek Mystery Series and blazed through all three that were available. The first, Death and Wedding Cake by Nova Walsh inspired this post.

On the Page

At the center of this series is Chef Abby Hirsch who has just graduated from culinary school in California, but has returned to her hometown of Sugar Creek, Texas. She is there to cater the perfect wedding feast at her Aunt Meg's bed and breakfast. But, almost immediately, the drama begins when the bride's rival is found murdered on the property with the bride's ring under the body.

So, like all cozy mysteries, there's amateur sleuthing. Abby and her best friend, Cassie, rush to solve the murder and get the wedding back on track. Then there's a second murder and a budding romance between Abby and the new sheriff in town.

This was a quick read with lots and lots of food mentioned as Abby brainstorms on her menus or actually preps and cooks.

"My mind began working on what I might throw together. Mushrooms stuffed with local sausage and breadcrumbs came to mind. Perhaps puff pastry rounds with brie and jam or even my secret special artichoke dip I’d planned to serve at the wedding" (pg. 54).

"Relieved to have the kitchen to myself again, I quickly worked through the rest of the happy hour prep, sautéing sausage with garlic and herbs, then mixing in breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese before stuffing the mushrooms, and then pulsing ingredients for gazpacho in the food processor with olive oil and a touch of vinegar until smooth. I exchanged the pan of brownies with the mushrooms in the oven and set the dessert on the counter to cool. They smelled heavenly, all caramelized sugar and gooey buttery sweetness" (pg. 79).

And I so related to this sentiment of hers...

Cooking is my job, my hobby, and my passion. It’s never putting me out to cook for someone. It’s what I love to do most in this world.

But the passage that sent me to the kitchen was when Abby gave the sheriff some homemade brownies. My version uses buckwheat to keep it gluten free; and I add lemon olive oil and candied lemon for culinary intrigue.

"He took a bite of the brownie and I watched a spark of pure enjoyment move across his face. I smiled in response. Creating pleasure through food was the highlight of my work. He saw me watching him and smiled quickly before setting down his brownie and flipping open his notepad, suddenly all business" (pg. 119).


  • 1/4 cup buckwheat flour

  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt (I used a smoked sea salt)

  • 1/3 cup olive oil (I used a co-milled lemon olive oil)

  • 5 ounces dark or bittersweet chocolate (70-75%), finely chopped

  • 3/4 cup organic granulated sugar

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or paste

  • 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chunks or chips

  • 2 Tablespoons candied lemon peel

  • Optional: lemon curls for garnishing


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a square baking pan with parchment paper, or butter the pan.

Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine olive oil and chopped chocolate. Stir over low heat, with a spatula, until chocolate is almost melted. Remove from heat and continue to gently stir until smooth.

Whisk in granulated sugar until completely moistened. The brownie batter will be slightly grainy and paste-like. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, until batter is smooth and shiny. Whisk in vanilla. Gently fold in the dry ingredients until just moistened. Stir in chocolate chunks. Spread into prepared pan, smoothing the top of the batter with a spatula.

Scatter candied lemon peel on the top and press into the batter slightly.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until top is shiny and crackly. A toothpick inserted near the center should come out mostly clean. Cool on a wire rack until completely cooled before slicing and serving.

I am adding this to the May #FoodieReads link-up.

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Margaret Wuestenenk
Margaret Wuestenenk
6 days ago

And now I want brownies!


Wendy Klik
Wendy Klik
May 08

So many books, so little time.....

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