APPLE STRUDEL ALIBI, the eighth book in the Oxford Tearoom Mysteries by H.Y. Hanna is a very fun addition to an enjoyable series! The protagonist, Gemma Rose, owns Little Stables Tearoom, a successful tearoom near Oxford, England. She’s having a difficult time connecting with her investigator boyfriend… murder cases keep getting in his way and his latest cancellation of their holiday plans is the last straw. When Gemma’s tearoom Traditional English Scones win a contest, she sees it as the perfect chance to go on holiday to collect the award in Vienna, Austria. Fortunately for the entertainment of the reader, the four elderly women (aka the Old Biddies) who frequent Gemma’s tearoom, decide to invite themselves along for the holiday. From there zany antics abound as they find themselves embroiled in murder and mayhem away from home.
While Gemma’s English village and tearoom are charming, it was a refreshing change to see Vienna through her eyes. I loved the description of Austria – the sights, sounds, smells and above all the tastes of their famous pastries! Ms. Hanna made the location come alive and I felt like I was on vacation with Gemma. Muesli, Gemma’s adorable and mischievous tabby, also makes the trip and plays a prominent role. But once again, it’s the Old Biddies who steal the limelight of each scene they’re in! They are such great characters and talk Gemma into the craziest trouble, providing lighthearted humor. Their sauna scene is one of the funniest scenes I’ve read in a long time and one I won’t soon forget.
The mystery itself is well plotted with plenty of suspects with viable reasons to kill the victim. I didn’t figure it out until just before the reveal and the suspenseful conclusion wrapped up the plot and subplots nicely. I was a bit unnerved when a young child was threatened but it was handled with sensitivity and the resolution adhered to our cozy guidelines: a happy ending… which is why I enjoy cozy mysteries so much!
Be prepared to drool all over the pages with the many mentions of Vienna’s delectable pastries and desserts! Ms. Hanna provides a recipe for Traditional Apple Strudel at the back of the book, which was generously provided by Ursula Schersch, blogger at Li’l Vienna. I’ve provided a photo and a link back to Li’l Vienna’s blog at the bottom of the page for that recipe. I’m re-sharing my post of Ms. Hanna’s recipe for Traditional English Scones which was published in A SCONE TO DIE FOR, the first book in the Oxford Tearoom Mysteries. These “award winning” delectable scones will make you feel like you’re visiting a quaint English tearoom… like Little Stables Tearoom!
When Gemma’s romantic holiday with her boyfriend is cancelled, the tearoom sleuth finds herself heading to Vienna instead, with her cat Muesli and the nosy Old Biddies for company. And it’s not long before they stumble across a murder right in the heart of Austria’s historic capital.
A handsome art critic dies suspiciously at their hotel and the Old Biddies are determined to sniff out the killer. Is it the bitter hotel owner nursing a grudge? The critic’s jealous mistress wanting revenge? Or even the visiting American who seems inexplicably nervous around the police?
Soon Gemma is dragged into an impromptu investigation which has her tackling Vienna’s famous pastries, snooping in police files and even braving a nude sauna in search of clues!
But can she sort the suspects from the Schnitzel, and solve the mystery before the killer strikes again?
A special thanks to H.Y. Hanna for providing one winner the choice of print or an e-book copy of APPLE STRUDEL ALIBI! Contest is open worldwide and ends Monday, April 16, 2018 at 11:59 pm PST. Please use the Rafflecopter box located below to enter. The winner will be announced on this page and on Cinnamon & Sugar’s Facebook page, as well as notified by email (so check your spam folder!)
- 500 grams all-purpose flour (approximately 4-1/4 cups or 17.6 ounces)
- 4 teaspoons double-acting baking powder*
- 1/2 cup caster sugar (super fine sugar**)
- 125 grams butter (room temperature (1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon or 4.4 ounces)
- 150 ml full fat milk (just under 2/3 cup)
- 2 eggs beaten lightly
- Egg and milk wash for the “egg wash” to glaze the scones***
Preheat the oven to 250C / 400F
Sift the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl (this is important to add more “air” to the mixture).
Rub the butter into the flour mixture with your fingers – it is important to coat the flour with butter as much as possible. Keep doing this until the mixture has the consistency of fine breadcrumbs.
Add the sugar to the mixture and mix well with your fingers. (This is the stage when you can add in extra ingredients such as raisins and currants, if you wish.)
Add the eggs and some of the milk – do not add all the milk at once; go slow and check that the dough does not become too wet otherwise the scones will “drop”.
Mix well with your fingers until the dough forms a ball.
Tip the dough onto a floured board, scatter some more flour on top, and then knead lightly. It is very important not to over-work the dough otherwise the scones will become very hard.
When the dough looks smooth, gently pat it out (or use a rolling pin) into a thick slab, about 1 – 1.5 inches thick. This is one of the secrets to great scones – not rolling the dough out too thinly.
The dough should now be rested for at least 30 minutes – unless you are using a single-acting baking powder. Some chefs say that resting the dough for hours, even overnight, is the secret to getting really light, fluffy scones.
Using a cutter of your choice, stamp out the scones from the dough. Be careful not to twist the cutter as you are pressing it down – only twist it gently at the very bottom to free it.
Roll up any leftover dough and spread it out again – keep cutting out scones until you have used up all the mixture.
Place the cut rounds onto the greased baking tray or baking paper. Brush the tops with the the egg and milk wash – this will give them a lovely golden glaze.
Bake in the hot oven for about 12 – 15 minutes.
Cool the scones on a wire rack. Serve warm with some jam and butter or clotted cream! Enjoy!
*”Double-acting” baking powder contains both cream of tartar and baking soda and causes the dough to rise only after heat is applied. If you use single-acting baking powder (which rises immediately), then you must not leave the dough to “rest” but must cut the scones and bake them immediately.
**If you don’t have super fine sugar on hand, run regular granulated sugar in the food process for a minute or two.
***I used 2 teaspoons egg taken from the recipe’s beaten eggs and 2 teaspoons whole milk. You don’t need to waste an entire egg for this. A little goes a long way.
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Apple Strudel (“Apfelstrudel”) is a typical and beloved Austrian dessert. This is Ursula Schersch’s granny’s recipe! http://www.lilvienna.com/original-viennese-apple-strudel/