The familiar scent of rich espresso and fresh baked bread hit me as I opened the front door to our family bakeshop, Torte. I couldn’t help but smile. Even though I’d been back in Ashland, Oregon, my hometown, for a few months I still loved opening the front door every morning.
All of my best memories growing up took place at Torte. Torte is more than a bakeshop, it’s a gathering place for friends and neighbors. Whether you’ve lived in our charming town for your entire life or are stopping through for a few days to take in a show at the world famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival, at Torte you’re always family.
When my parents started the bakeshop they wanted to create a cheery and welcoming space where they could share their love of baking and our family recipes. I think they succeeded. From the bright red and teal walls, to the chalkboard menu with a rotating Shakespearean quote and the sunny booths lining the front windows, the bakeshop is the perfect combination of both of them. After my dad died, my mom, Helen, kept the busy shop humming with customers and delectable sweets and pastries while I ventured out on my own to see the world. I’m glad that I did because after exploring the globe, I’ve come to understand that there’s no place as special as Ashland.
Being back again had given me new appreciation for my hometown, with one small exception—my name. My parents named me Juliet after Shakespeare’s most romantic heroine. I prefer Jules. It fits and it’s much less pressure.
I’m a romantic at heart, and my heart was in need of some repair. Ashland was the perfect place to let my heart mend. And, while I wasn’t sure what the future held for me, I knew one thing—I was exactly where I wanted to be at this moment.
I also knew that Torte needed a serious influx of dough. Not in the pastry or pie making form. One of our ovens had finally quit on us. Mom hadn’t upgraded the kitchen equipment in years. Torte was in desperate need of a makeover, and that required cash. Lots of cash.
When a Pastry Channel producer came calling, I thought it was almost divine intervention. The popular network was coming to Ashland to film their hit bake-off series Take the Cake and they wanted to shoot at Torte. Not only would being on the show give us some great national exposure but the Pastry Channel offered to pay us for the use of our kitchen—one step closer to shiny new ovens!
What could possibly go wrong, I thought as I swung open Torte’s front door and inhaled the scent of sweet rolls and banana nut bread.
It turns out a lot could go wrong. I would soon come to learn that new ovens were the least of my worries when I discovered one of the Take the Cake contestants buried in buttercream.
You can read more about Jules and the TV show in A Batter of Life and Death, the second book in the “Bakeshop” mystery series, published by St. Martin’s Press. The first book in the series is Meet Your Baker.
GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 12 a.m. eastern on June 29 for the chance to win a print copy of A Batter of Life and Death. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. Winner will be notified within 48 hours after giveaway closes and you will have three days to respond after being contacted or another winner will be selected.
About the author
Ellie Alexander is a Pacific Northwest native who spends ample time testing pastry recipes in her home kitchen or at one of the many famed coffeehouses nearby. When she’s not coated in flour, you’ll find her outside exploring hiking trails and trying to burn off calories consumed in the name of research. Visit Ellie at www.bakeshopmystery.com.