Felicity Koerber’s bean to bar chocolate shop on Galveston’s historic Strand has been the scene of two murders – both of which she has been instrumental in helping solve. So when she gets invited to demo her chocolate skills aboard a cruise ship sailing out of the local port, she’s excited at the chance to get away from the shop long enough to regain her equilibrium. She even brings her best friend along, and makes plans for time at the spa. But when she gets on board, she finds out that she’s been booked for a mystery-themed cruise, and said best friend, Autumn, has to finally deal with the real reasons she quit writing mysteries. Only – if that wasn’t stressful enough – it doesn’t take long before there’s a real murder on the cruise, and someone Felicity knows becomes the prime suspect. When said suspect asks her for help, she can’t exactly say no, can she?
Felicity finds herself surrounded by cruise goers who all had connections to the victim – and finds that both Logan (her business partner, whom she recently kissed) and Arlo (the cop who was once Felicity’s first boyfriend, before she moved away from Galveston) are dealing with the case until more official help can arrive. How will Felicity survive the ensuing awkwardness?
One thing that helps: the retired police dog turned therapy dog she meets on board. Satchmo helps Felicity deal with being back on the water after tragedy in her past – and also helps her uncover a vital clue to the case. Can Felicity unmask the killer and keep a friend from being framed before all the suspects leave the ship?
In Out of Temper, my protagonist Felicity gets invited to do chocolate-making demos on board a cruise ship. She brings along samples of some baked goods from her shop to show what it possible to create using the unique flavor profiles found in craft chocolate.
The basil brownies she shows off were inspired by Italian flavors, of pesto and coffee. (One side of Felicity’s family is Italian, so it makes sense for her to draw from these flavors. She has a pastry chef who handles baking and recipe design, drawing from several different culinary traditions.) The strength of the basil makes for a sophisticated balance with the sweetness of the brownie. Don’t worry if your kitchen smells like you’re making something savory while the brownies are baking. It will be very “brownie-like” when you are done.
4 oz. dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
¾ c. unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. strong espresso
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1½ C. granulated sugar
½ tsp. salt
2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 c. all-purpose flour
⅓ c. tightly packed fresh basil, very finely minced
½ c. pine nuts
2 tbsp. candied lemon peel, coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line an 8×8 brownie pan with parchment paper.
Place the chocolate, butter, espresso and vanilla extract in the top section of a double boiler over medium heat and whisk frequently until both chocolate and butter have melted and the mixture has a uniform consistency. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature, then whisk in the sugar, eggs, salt and pepper. Gradually add the flour and the basil. Stir until just combined. Add the pine nuts and candied lemon peel and stir briefly to incorporate.
Spread the batter into the prepared brownie pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack, then cut into squares.
NOTE: When choosing a chocolate for these, look for something with a description of nutty and earthy, or something described as having “brownie” notes.
NOTE: If you don’t like bitter notes, omit the candied lemon peel (which contains part of the lemon’s pith, and will add a chewy element to the brownie). You could zest the lemon and include that instead.
About the Author
Amber Royer writes the CHOCOVERSE comic telenovela-style foodie-inspired space opera series, and the BEAN TO BAR MYSTERIES. She is also the author of STORY LIKE A JOURNALIST: A WORKBOOK FOR NOVELISTS, which boils down her writing knowledge into an actionable plan involving over 100 worksheets to build a comprehensive story plan for your novel. She blogs about creative writing techniques and all things chocolate at www.amberroyer.com. She also teaches creative writing and is an author coach. If you are very nice to her, she might make you cupcakes. Chocolate cupcakes, of course.
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Amber-Royer/e/B00PFV4CGM