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Monday, June 8, 2015


Cozy mystery author Kathy Aarons writes the Chocolate Covered Mystery series. She claims research for the series is hardship: all that sampling of chocolate, making chocolate, sampling more chocolate, and hanging out in bookstores. What a tough life! Learn more about Kathy and her books at her website.

One of my favorite parts of writing is the research. For Death is Like a Box of Chocolates, I learned how to make truffles, what is involved in running a chocolate shop and bookstore, and the special qualities of a small town in western Maryland.

The plot of Truffled to Death was inspired by a chocolate history exhibit in the San Diego Museum of Man where I saw a centuries-old bowl that the Maya had used to hold chocolate. I envisioned the main character, Michelle Serrano, being entranced by the bowl and the plot developed from there. I had a wonderful time exploring not just Maya art and history, but also international art trafficking. Could international art traffickers actually be in sweet little West Riverdale, Maryland? Only if there was something worth stealing. And possibly murdering for.

In addition to buying too many reference books, I had a wonderful resource in Dr. Joe Ball, Professor-Emeritus, San Diego State University. He enthusiastically answered my questions, always getting back to me the same day with pages of information. I could even email him plot questions, and with his knowledge of the international art trafficking world, academics and the museum business, he would suggest ways to make it all happen.

In fact, I’m still amazed (and grateful!) at how much people want to help writers find the right information! Besides my chocolate and bookseller buddies, I have my go-to friends who provided information on medicine, law, psychiatry, marriage and family counseling, special event planning, theater management, academia, and more.

Of course, once the research was done, I had to figure out the most interesting parts to put on the page!

Bananas Foster
Recipe by Isabella Knack, owner of Dallmann Fine Chocolates, San Diego, CA
(yields about 40 pieces)

4 tablespoons butter
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon rum (optional, can substitute vanilla extract or rum flavoring)
½ teaspoon cinnamon
Dash nutmeg
1 ripe banana
¾ cup heavy cream
8 ounce semisweet chocolate, chopped
½ cup cocoa powder, for dusting

Place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl and set aside for now. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a 7-inch skillet over medium heat. Once melted, add the brown sugar and stir it until the brown sugar melts as well.

Add the rum, cinnamon and nutmeg, and stir until the mixture is bubbling and fragrant.
Place the banana slices in the middle of the sugar, and cook them for one minute on each side—no longer, or they will overcook and become mushy.

Once cooked on both sides, remove the banana slices from the saucepan. Add the heavy cream to the saucepan—the cream will first cause the sugar to seize and you might have bits of hardened sugar floating in your cream.

Whisk the cream and sugar together over the heat until the sugar dissolves, the mixture is smooth and the cream is almost boiling.

Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate in the bowl and let it sit and soften the chocolate for 1 minute. Once softened, whisk the cream and chocolate together until it is smooth and no bits of chocolate remain.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and whisk it into the chocolate.

Chop the cooked banana slices into small pieces and stir them into the melted chocolate as well.

Let firm up overnight.

Place the cocoa powder in a bowl and dust your palms with cocoa. Use a candy scoop or a small teaspoon to form 1-inch balls of ganache. Roll them between your hands to get them round. If they start sticking, dust the balls with a little cocoa powder. Repeat until all of the truffles have been formed.

Truffled to Death
Hoping to sweeten sales for their shop, Chocolates and Chapters, Michelle and Erica host a reception highlighting a new museum display of ancient Mayan pottery curated by Erica’s former mentor, Professor Addison Moody. The evening has a few hiccups, but the ladies soon smooth things over with ample servings of wine and chocolate.

Yet with the sweet comes the bitter. The very next day, the antiquities from the reception are discovered missing. The professor accuses Erica of having sticky fingers, claiming she wants revenge on him. And she’s only in more trouble after he’s found stabbed to death with one of the artifacts. Now Michelle must help Erica track down the real killer before someone else finds themselves in less than mint condition…

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Angela Adams said...

Kathy, I love the "catchy" titles of your books! And, thanks for the recipe!!

Di Eats the Elephant said...

Wow! Such research. You're an inspiration. .. now to get to the kitchen although I'm not sure i can wait for the truffles.

Marja said...

Interestingly, I just finished eating a truffle. What timing! : ) And what fun research. Thank you for sharing both your story and your recipe.
Marja McGraw

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Thanks to Kathy I can do the only thing that makes eating chocolate better, reading a great mystery while I have my chocolate. All the research is impressive, and It's always nice to hear that people share so willingly.