Welcome to Torte—a friendly, small-town family bakeshop where the oven is heating up as high as the body count…
Jules Capshaw is still chewing over her husband Carlos’s return to Ashland, Oregon. Could there be too many cooks in the kitchen? Whatever is stirring between those two will have to wait. Despite the Oregon Shakespeare Festival being dark for the winter, the bakeshop is bustling, the dough is rolling, and there’s no rest for the weary… especially when murder is thrown into the mix.
When Mindy Nolan, the owner of a new restaurant in town, turns up dead, the batter at hand thickens. Jules knows that there was bad blood between Mindy and others in town, and tracking the killer could prove to be an unwelcome treat. And to top it all off, there’s Carlos, who is pleading—with those delicious dark eyes and sexy Spanish accent—for Jules to take him back. Is home where the heart is or will she make a fresh start… and risk getting burned?
Ellie Alexander is a Pacific Northwest native who spends ample time testing pastry recipes in her home kitchen or at one of the many famed coffeehouses nearby. When she’s not coated in flour, you’ll find her outside exploring hiking trails and trying to burn off calories consumed in the name of research. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter to learn more.
I sighed and brushed flour from my hands. Perfectly round balls of bread dough lined the island. I placed them in greased bread pans, covered them with thin dishtowels and placed them on the industrial steel rack near the oven to rise. The heat emanating from the oven would give the yeast a boost.
Sundays tend to be a later start for our regular customers. Unlike the early morning weekday rush, our busiest hours on Sunday are around brunch. Locals come in for a late morning coffee and pastry with the Sunday paper. I wanted to make something hearty and comforting to serve this morning, and I knew just the thing.
On cold winter mornings, my dad would bake a creamy potato casserole. With the bread rising, I gathered all the items I needed to recreate his casserole, with my own spin. I started by scrubbing russet potatoes. Once they were cleaned I pricked holes in them with a fork and dropped them into a pot of boiling water. They would boil until tender.
Next I chopped yellow onions and sautéed them in butter. I heated cans of creamed of chicken soup with our homemade chicken stock, and added the onions and butter to the milky mixture. I let that simmer for a few minutes while I checked on my rising bread dough.
The round balls had stretched in the bread pans. I poked each one with my finger. The dough sprang back with every touch. My bread was ready to bake. I slid the pans into the oven, set the timer, and returned to my casserole.
Steam funneled from the pot of boiling potatoes. It reminded me of the fog outside. I turned the heat off and drained the potatoes. Once they had cooled I would peel and grate them. The kitchen windows began to drip with sweat and the smell of bread baking made me smile. This is how Sunday mornings should start.
I grabbed a cup of coffee and a block of sharp cheddar cheese and two pints of sour cream from the refrigerator. This casserole was not low in fat or milk products, but if it turned out the way I remembered, it would be a savory and creamy accompaniment to our sweeter offerings.
The coffee wasn’t quite as strong as the pot I brewed at home. I used a breakfast blend. It’s a customer favorite—a light roast with a bright finish.
I sipped it as I began peeling the potato skins. I shredded them into a large plastic bowl in the sink. Mom uses most of our fruit and vegetable waste for her garden at home. She takes home the plastic bowl every night and dumps it into her composting bin. As Torte’s menu continues to expand, her garden might have to as well.
After the potatoes had been skinned, I grated them and the cheddar cheese into another bowl. Then I poured the soup mixture over the top. I incorporated the cheese, soup and potatoes and added both pints of sour cream, a handful of chopped fresh chives, and sprinkled in pepper and salt. The dish smelled exactly like I remembered it.
I poured the potatoes into two ceramic casserole pans and slid them in the oven with the bread. When Sterling arrived, I would have him fry some thick-cut bacon and breakfast sausage links to serve with the casserole.
My mouth watered as the cheesy potatoes began to bubble in the oven. The timer beeped to alert me that the bread was done. I pulled on oven mitts and removed the loaves of bread. They had nice golden crusts and had risen a few inches over the top each pan.
Signed copies of all 4 books in the Bakeshop Mysteries, Cupcake tea towel and pot holder, Love cake topper, Bakeshop page flags, Assortment of gourmet lemonade and Triple Chocolate Chunk cookie mix.
Ends July 20th