Jennifer Hawkins is the author of the Chatty Corgi mysteries, as well as an avid amateur baker who probably spends way too much time watching The Great British Baking Show. She lives, works and bakes in southeast Michigan with her husband and son. Jennifer doesn’t have a website, but you can connect with her and learn more about her and her books on Facebook and find links to her other social media.
Bake, Write, Repeat
For me, baking and writing have always been linked. Both were something I discovered as a young person.Both were a way for me to stretch and discover, even when I felt marooned in the suburbs. Both have been something I’ve returned to repeatedly when I need solace, or quality time with, well, me.
And, if you think about it, there’s a certain similarity between the two.
Both are creative, both are unpredictable, both require patience and an understanding that occasionally it just won’t turn out.
For instance, with both, the initial idea is the easy part. Saying “I’m going to bake a batch of shortbread,” is as simple as “I’m going to write about Emma Reed, who moves to Cornwall with her talking corgi to open a tea shop, but there’s a murder.”
Okay, maybe it’s not that simple. After all, baking shortbread generally takes an hour or two. Writing a novel takes a little longer. But you get what I mean. The idea is simple, the actual execution? That’s harder.
Although, when it comes to the perfect shortbread, it’s not actually that much harder.
Like a novel, shortbread requires just a few quality ingredients — good butter, flour, sugar, salt and maybe a dash of zest. Zest is required for the novel too, along with character, plot, and setting. Both require patience, and with both, you need to know how not to overwork the dough.
For a delicious and perfectly simple shortbread, this is what you need:
2 cups/250 grams all-purpose flour
2/3 cup/150 grams granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt (I use kosher)
2 sticks/1 cup/226 grams cold unsalted butter
1 tsp. lemon or orange zest (optional)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cut up the butter into small cubes, and put it back in the fridge while you get the rest of your ingredients together. As with biscuits and pie crust, shortbread works best when the butter’s really cold.
Combine flour, sugar, salt in a food processor, pulse a few times to mix. Add cubed butter and pulse in 10 second bursts until the mixture is sandy and it holds together when you squeeze a lump in your hand. It’s going to look dryer than the usual cookie dough, but that’s okay. It’s supposed to.
Turn mixture into an 8” x 8” baking pan or shortbread pan and press down with your fingers into a smooth, solid layer of dough. Use a fork to prick the surface of the dough all over. This is called “docking” and it will release the steam from the inside and keep the dough from puffing up.
Bake at 325 F for 45 - 50 minutes. Now is a good time to read the next few chapters.
Let cool for 10 minutes before turning the shortbread out of the pan. While the shortbread is still warm, cut into preferred shape.
A Cold Nose for Murder
A Chatty Corgi Mystery, Book 3
When Emma Reed moved to the Cornish village of Trevena, she was looking forward to making new friends, opening up a small tea shop, and taking plenty of brisk walks with her talking dog, Oliver. But when a valuable motorcycle and an old skeleton are found together under the local pub, Emma's antique dealing friends David and Charles become prime suspects in a forty-year-old mystery. The local gossip is soon flowing faster than tea in Emma's shop, and old secrets are being unearthed right along with the old bones.
Although David and Charles insist they have nothing to do with the skeleton, they quickly come under police suspicion. To save their friends, Emma and Oliver will need to dig deep....