by Olivia Greyson and Maddie Briggs, cookie mavens and crime fighters.
From THE COOKIE CUTTER SHOP MYSTERIES, by Virginia Lowell.
Visit them in Dead Men Don’t Eat Cookies.
At six a.m., Olivia Greyson unlocked the door of the Gingerbread House and stepped into a garden. Or at least it smelled like a garden. She’d expected the usual mouth-watering aroma of lemon sugar cookies. Instead, a flowery fragrance permeated the store’s sales floor. Lavender? What is Maddie up to this time?
Olivia opened the kitchen door and poked her head inside. “Maddie? Have you forsaken our beloved lemon cookies?”
Maddie looked up from her mixing bowl, her freckled face dusted with flour. “Not to worry, Livie. Lemon cookies rule. I’m just prepping for the baking class your mom wants me to teach at her new arts & crafts school. I’m trying out her old recipe for lavender meringues. This is my third batch.” Maddie pointed to the kitchen counter, where a large plate held an array of pale lavender meringue cookies in a variety of misshapen sizes. “I haven’t quite gotten the feel of it yet.”
Olivia popped a whole cookie in her mouth. The explosion of floral sweetness transported her back to her childhood. “You’ve got the flavor right, though.”
Maddie grabbed a cookie and ate it. “Not bad,” she said, “but maybe it needs a tad more superfine sugar. Some folks don’t care for the taste of lavender, but I’m going to include it in my class anyway. It’s too intriguing to pass up.”
Olivia selected another meringue cookie. “You know, when I was growing up, Mom and I used to dry our own lavender to make these cookies. I loved them.”
Maddie pointed to a battered recipe box on the kitchen counter. “Your mom gave me a whole bunch of her favorite recipes to try out.”
“Mom gave your her favorite recipes? The ones she wrote out by hand? I thought that was my inheritance.”
“Don’t pout, Livie. Eat another meringue.” Maddie dumped two egg whites into her mixing bowl. “I’ll let you copy the recipes. Eventually.” She flipped open the lid of the recipe box and selected a card. “Look, here’s her lavender meringue recipe neatly printed on a lavender 3x5 card. That is so quaint and sweet.”
Olivia arched an eyebrow. “You didn’t say that to Mom, did you?”
“Are you kidding?” Maddie’s emerald eyes widened. “Your mom has a black belt.” Maddie slid the tattered card back into the box. “Ellie couldn’t remember exactly when and where she got this recipe, but she thought it was from a magazine some time in the mid-nineties.”
“That sounds right.” Olivia’s mind drifted back to her childhood and her mother’s warm, sweet-smelling kitchen. “I don’t know how old I was the first time she baked these cookies, but I do recall she was trying out a recipe in a magazine. It might have been Victoria. I think she has kept all her Victoria magazines stacked in the attic.”
“Ooh, sounds like a lovely rainy day project for us,” Maddie said. “Who knows what exotic cookie recipes we might find!”
Olivia checked the kitchen clock. “Meanwhile, we open in one hour. What do you say we try these out on our customers?” She looked over the misshapen yet tasty meringues. “Maybe we should include a plate of decorated cookies as a back-up. No offense meant.”
“Or maybe these should never see the light of day?” Maddie grinned and tossed a meringue in her mouth.
2 egg whites (room temperature)
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
6 tablespoons superfine sugar
1 tablespoons dried lavender flowers (or 3 tablespoons fresh)**
2 tablespoons superfine sugar
Preheat oven to 250º F. Add egg whites and cream of tartar to mixer bowl and beat at high speed until stiff. Continue beating at high speed and gradually add 6 tablespoons of superfine sugar, 1 teaspoon at a time. Beat until meringue is shiny and the peaks hold their shape. Fold in remaining two tablespoons of sugar and lavender flowers.
Line a baking sheet with parchment. Drop spoonfuls of meringue onto the parchment. Makes about 15 meringues.
Bake at 250º F for 50 minutes. Use a thin spatula to remove meringues from the parchment.
**Be sure the flowers are pesticide free!
SUBMITTED BY VIRGINIA LOWELL
Virginia Lowell is the author of COOKIE DOUGH OR DIE, A COOKIE BEFORE DYING, WHEN THE COOKIE CRUMBLES, ONE DEAD COOKIE, COOKIES AND SCREAM, and DEAD MENT DON’T EAT COOKIES. Visit Virginia at: www.virginialowell.com