Sailing the seas for the past decade had allowed me to see far-off corners of the globe and experience taste and flavor combinations from different regions and cultures. My palate developed and expanded at each port of call. From spicy curries in Egypt to delicate French pastries, I made it my mission to immerse myself in the food culture wherever the cruise ship’s mighty bow pointed me. I cherished my time on the ocean, but nowhere in the world compared to home.
I’d been home in Ashland, Oregon for six months, and had finally found my land legs. Working in my family’s bakeshop, Torte, and by my mom’s side had helped eased the pain of leaving my husband and the life I’d known. As had the warm and vibrant community of locals and tourists who welcomed me back with open arms. It was nearly impossible to linger in sadness with the scent of fresh bread being pulled from the oven or rich espresso brewing. I embraced my new life and found solace in rolling pie crust and icing dainty tea cakes.
Winter closed in and the tourists returned to sunnier locales, leaving Ashland in a quiet slumber. When my friend Lance asked me to cater a retreat for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s board of directors at a high alpine lodge, I jumped at the chance. I hadn’t seen snow in years and couldn’t wait to prepare a winter feast sure to dazzle Lance and his guests.
Armed with winter boots, a parka, and my pastry knives, I made the trek to Lake of the Woods Resort, a rustic lodge located in Oregon’s Southern Cascade Mountains. The quaint and charming lodge was blanketed in snow. It was like stepping into a winter wonderland. I had to pinch myself when I discovered where I would be working for the next few days—in the lodge’s vintage kitchen complete with cheery gingham curtains and a wood burning pizza oven.
Soon a fire was crackling in the pizza oven as fat flakes fell outside. The atmosphere was picture perfect and the hearty menu of soups and stews and orange cardamom sweet rolls and double chocolate cookies that I’d prepared should satisfy hungry guests. The weekend was off to a great start until the wind began to howl and the snow began to dump from the sky. A blizzard hit at five thousand feet, sending tree limbs hurling through the air and cutting off power to the lodge.
My culinary skills were going to be put to the test. Cooking at elevation was a challenge, but cooking without power was nearly impossible. Thank goodness for the pizza oven. As I quickly sketched out a new plan for the weekend, something even more dangerous than the conditions outside struck—murder!
The lodge’s bartender had been iced, literally. His body had been stuffed into a freezer and left out in the cold. If I couldn’t figure out who had killed him, I might be next. And to make matters worse my estranged husband, Carlos, appeared with a singular mission to win me back. Suddenly I was baking up a storm, distracted by Carlo’s romantic advances, and on the hunt of a killer.
You can read more about Jules latest adventures in On Thin Icing, the third book in the “Bakeshop” mystery series, published by St. Martin’s Press. The first two books in the series are Meet Your Baker and A Batter Of Life And Death.
GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a signed copy of ON THIN ICING along with some delectable winter teas and hot chocolates. (US entries only, please.) The giveaway will end January 7 at 12 AM EST. Good luck everyone!
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, Facebook and Twitter at @bakeshopmystery