Award-winning author Molly MacRae writes the Highland Bookshop Mysteries and the Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries. Her short stories have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine since 1990. Learn more about Molly and her books at her website and blog.
Scones are a perfect food for cozy mysteries. They’re the ultimate cozy experience when they’re flaky and buttery and warm from the oven. What more could you ask for on a wintry afternoon than good smells coming from the kitchen, and then a comfy chair and a good book, with a scone and a cup of tea at your elbow? But for some, the whole idea of scones is a mystery. Maybe because they’ve only ever had those heavy, solid, tasteless, dry-as-hockey puck things you sometimes find. That’s almost a tragedy.
Scones come in a variety of shapes and sizes – large, small, round, triangular and, as in the case of Scottish potato scones, flat as an American pancake. Even the word scone is a bit of a mystery. Does it rhyme with bone or gone? Here’s a link to with an entertaining discussion of the pronunciation debate.
And here’s the recipe for the pear ginger scones mentioned (and eaten with relish) in Plaid and Plagiarism, book one in the Highland Bookshop Mystery series. They’re rich and taste completely decadent, made sweet (but not overly sweet) by chunks of roasted pear and bits of crystallized ginger. In book two, Scones and Scoundrels, orange almond cardamom scones are featured. You’ll find that recipe when I’m a guest on the Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen blog January 11th.
Pear Ginger Scones
Makes 6 or 8 scones, depending on how big you want them.
2 or 3 firmish pears (about 1 pound), peeled, cored, and cut into 1 inch chunks
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 large egg
Heat oven to 375°F.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange pear chunks on parchment and roast (no need to stir) until they feel dry to the touch and look a little browned on the bottom, about 20 minutes. Slide parchment with pear chunks onto a cooling rack and cool to lukewarm. Leave oven on. Line baking sheet with another piece of parchment.
Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, ground ginger, and salt together in a large bowl. Add butter cubes and cut in with a pastry blender until the cubes are about the size of baby green peas. Stir in cooled pear chunks. Give the mixture three or four quick mashes with the pastry blender (to break a few of the pear chunks, but leaving most intact). Stir in crystallized ginger.
In a small bowl, beat cream and egg. Stir into flour mixture with a fork, just until you can bring the dough together in a ball. Don’t overmix.
On a well-floured board, pat dough into a 6-inch circle. Cut either into 6 or 8 wedges. Arrange wedges, two inches apart, on parchment-lined baking sheet.
Bake scones until firm and golden, about 30 minutes if you’re making 6, about 22 minutes if you’re making 8. Transfer to a cooling rack. Serve warm.
Unbaked scones freeze beautifully and you can put them straight into the oven from the freezer. They’ll only take a few minutes longer to bake.
Scones and Scoundrels
A Highland Bookshop Mystery, Book 2
The new mystery in the Highland Bookshop series, bringing together a body outside a pub, a visiting author determined to find the killer, and a murderously good batch of scones . . .
Inversgail, on the west coast of the Scottish Highlands, welcomes home native daughter and best-selling environmental writer Daphne Wood. Known as the icon of ecology, Daphne will spend three months as the author in residence for the Inversgail schools. Janet Marsh and her business partners at Yon Bonnie Books are looking forward to hosting a gala book signing for her. Daphne, who hasn’t set foot in Scotland in thirty years, is . . . eccentric. She lives in the Canadian wilderness, in a cabin she built herself, with only her dog for a companion, and her people skills have developed a few rough-hewn edges. She and the dog (which she insists on bringing with her) cause problems for the school, the library, and the bookshop even before they get to Inversgail. Then, on the misty night they arrive, a young man—an American who’d spent a night in the B&B above Yon Bonnie Books—is found dead outside a pub.
Daphne did her Inversgail homework and knows that Janet and her partners solved a previous murder. She tries to persuade them to join her in uncovering the killer and the truth. To prove she’s capable, she starts poking and prying. But investigating crimes can be murder, and Daphne ends up dead, poisoned by scones from the tearoom at Yon Bonnie Books. Now, to save the reputation of their business—not to mention the reputation of their scones—Janet and her partners must solve both murders. And Daphne’s dog might be able to help them, if only they can get it to stop howling. . .