Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What would elves make for breakfast?

While neither my Tracy Eaton mysteries nor my Samantha Brennan & Annabelle Haggerty magical mysteries are cooking novels, in the course of an entire book, it’s natural that my characters would eat. 

I bring considerable thought to their dining choices, and I make up recipes for those dishes, which I print as recipe cards and give out at signings, as well as posting them on a recipe page on my website.

The dish not only needs to suit the tastes the characters, it also needs to fit the story-circumstances. After all, if they’re being chased by bad guys, they can hardly take the time to prepare a five-course gourmet meal, which they consume in a relaxed manner. Since I create these dishes in my author’s test kitchen — which happens to be my real home kitchen — it also has to be something I can create, even if it means stretching in the kitchen.

I started this practice with my first book, REVENGE OF THE GYPSY QUEEN. In that book, Tracy and her husband Drew traveled to New York to attend the wedding of his younger sister Marisa, only to end up dealing with Marisa’s kidnapping. Since Marisa and her fiancĂ© owned a trendy restaurant, it was essential that the dessert they served at their family dinner be first-rate. That was a tough one for me. I’m a pretty decent cook, creative even. But I’ve usually regarded desserts as something to buy, not something to make.

It did help that I had a great love of tiramisu at the time (and still do!), and that I’ve always thought Bailey’s Irish Cream was a pretty spectacular drink. I put those together and created a winner — Irish Cream Tiramisu. Those recipe cards are always such a hit. I’ve given out thousands of them and people never fail to rave about it. I did make the dish a number of times, tweaking the ingredients until I thought it was absolutely perfect, and loads of readers have shared their experiences with it. But it’s hard to imagine how you could combine the ingredients of a classic tiramisu with Bailey’s Irish Cream in any proportion, and not have it turn out great.

Molly Westin, “Meritorious Mysteries” reviewer and “inSinC” editor, is a fan of my Bailey’s Tiramisu. Here’s what she says of it: “When I saw the recipe card for Bailey's Irish Cream Tiramisu from Kris's REVENGE OFTHE GYPSY QUEEN, I knew my family and friends would love it. And what a hit it has been. I never wonder what to take to special gatherings. In fact, one couple expects it every Thanksgiving! Thanks for sharing such a special dish.”

If you’re also a Bailey’s and/or tiramisu fan, you can find the recipe here:

Along the way, I’ve created other book-related recipes, including Tracy’s Favorite Chicken Crepes from REVENGE FOR OLD TIME’S SAKE and Fit for a Goddess French Toast for HIGH CRIMES ON THE MAGICAL PLANE. They’re all particularly good, and they all suit the novels they’re described in.

But the recipe for my latest title, Lefty Award-nominated MAGICAL ALIENATION, came with a particular challenge. All my earlier recipes were made by people. This recipe had to be for a breakfast dish created by elves. And it had to be a dish they’d make for a goddess. I mean, that’s like us cooking for the President, or the Queen of England, or even…Giada. It had to be that special.

What would elfin magic create (and I don’t mean that cracker company that co-opted my term…or I theirs.)? To inspire me, I decided it should involve one of my favorite ingredients. No, not Bailey’s. Sure, that is one of my all-time favorites, but I’ve already created some spectacular desserts with it—not just my tiramisu, but Baneful Bread and Butter Pudding with Last Gasp Sauce, which you’ll also find on the recipe page of my website. Besides, this had to be a breakfast dish, and I try to avoid the hard stuff at dawn.

That left one of my other favorites — cinnamon. It’s hard for me to imagine any kind of pastry that isn’t made better with lots of cinnamon. I decided this dish should be some kind of muffin. But was a plain ol’ cinnamon muffin good enough? Wouldn’t it need an outstanding premise and lots of really phenomenal ingredients to bring the muffin up to elfin level? 

Here’s what I came up with:

Elfin French Toast Muffins
as served in
Magical Alienation by Kris Neri

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for topping
½ cup butter, softened
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla, plus ¼ tsp. for maple glaze
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
½ cup cinnamon chips
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon maple extract
1/4 cup milk

In a large mixing bowl, cream 1 cup sugar into butter. Add eggs, vanilla, sour cream and blend. In another bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and baking soda, and gently work into wet ingredients. Fold in cinnamon chips. Pour 1/3 cup into a paper muffin liners in a muffin pan. Mix together sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the top of the muffins. Bake at 350 degrees for 16-18 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Blend together maple extract, milk, powdered sugar and ¼ teaspoon vanilla. Drizzle icing over top of cooled muffins or spread with knife, if you prefer a thicker coating. Makes 12 large or 18 medium muffins.

By the way, cinnamon chips can be hard to find. Actually, they’re called cinnamon chips, but they’re really cinnamon and chocolate, though the cinnamon taste dominates. They’re made by Hershey’s, and though the chip selection in the baking aisle typically contains loads of varieties now, cinnamon chips can be scarce. I only found them in one of the markets we have where I live. But I also live in a small town, so if I can find them, I’m sure you can. They’re also available online, if you’d prefer that route. If you love cinnamon as much as I do, you’ll want to keep some on hand anyway. They also make a great snack. Someone (She has a name - I'm just not sure if she wants me to use in a public blog.) also wrote and told me that if you're allergic to chocolate, you can find pure cinnamon chips with no chocolate here:

And the muffin? Absolutely to die-for. The elves and I promise you this will be one of the very best muffins you’ll ever taste. It also stays moist for days. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did all the times I made during my perfecting process. It’s a dirty job, but thankfully, I got to do it.


  1. Yum with some yum sauce. Will have to try this...

  2. As the official food taster for the Neri household, I can attest to the magical deliciousness of these muffins!

  3. Liv, love your description! It's absolutely guaranteed yummy.

  4. My official food taster is not steering you wrong!