As the holidays approach, it is the perfect time to dive into a Hannah Swensen culinary whodunit, and Joanne Fluke's Lake Eden Cookbook couples the sweet Minnesota tales with scrumptious recipes from Hannah's shop, The Cookie Jar!

Here's an excerpt from Chapter 1:

Hannah had just re-stacked the cookie boxes in a safe corner of the kitchen when the phone rang. She grabbed the phone on the wall so that Lisa wouldn't have to leave the customers to answer it. "The Cookie Jar," she said. "Hannah spreading."

"Hello, Hannah. It's Bertie." Hannah could hear the high-pitched whine of hair dryers in the background and she knew that Bertie was calling from her beauty shop, the Cut n' Curl. "You'll be at your mother's cookie exchange, won't you?"

"I'll be there. Lisa and I are catering the luncheon."

"Perfect! I was wondering if you'd share something with me."

"Share what, Bertie?"

"A recipe."

Hannah began to smile. To her, share meant dividing something tangible into pieces, and she couldn't help forming a mental picture of Bertie grasping one side of a printed recipe while she held on to the other and awaited the signal to tear it in half. Of course that's not what Bertie meant, and Hannah didn't mind giving out her recipes to anyone who asked. The chances of Bertie refusing to order something Hannah sold at The Cookie Jar just because she could go home and bake it herself were negligible. "Which recipe would you like?" she asked.

"The one for that appetizer you made for the film shoot. It was on a round cracker and you said it had cream cheese in it."

"Cream Cheese Puffs?"

"That's it. I'd like that one. You said it was easy."

"It is, but you have to serve it hot out of the oven."

"I can do that. Will you bring the recipe to your mother's luncheon?"

"Sure," Hannah promised. "I'll see you there, Bertie."

And then the end of the chapter includes a recipe for those delicious Cream Cheese Puffs. Voilà!

Enjoy this recipe for some real-life Cookie Jar cookies!

Merry Berry Cookies

DO NOT preheat the oven – this cookie dough has to chill before baking.

  • 1 and 1?2 cups melted butter (3 sticks, 12 ounces, 3?4 pound)

  • 2 cups white (granulated) sugar

  • 1?2 cup melted raspberry, blackberry, strawberry, or any berry jam (I used Knott’s seedless raspberry)

  • 2 beaten eggs

  • 1?2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 4 cups flour (pack it down in the cup when you measure –don’t sift it)

  • 1/3 cup white (granulated) sugar for later

  • 1/3 cup berry jam for later

Melt the butter in a large microwave-safe bowl. Add the white sugar and mix it in thoroughly. Let the bowl sit on the counter while you do the next step.

Melt the jam in the microwave or in a saucepan over low heat. Once it’s the consistency of syrup, mix it in with the butter and sugar.

Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition.

Mix in the baking soda and salt. Stir until they’re thoroughly incorporated.

Add the flour in one-cup increments, mixing after each addi- tion. Give a final stir, cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours. (Overnight’s even better.)

When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.,
rack in the middle position.

Place 1?3 cup sugar in a small bowl on the counter. You’ll use it to coat your cookies.

Roll the chilled dough into walnut-sized balls with your impeccably clean hands. Roll the balls in the bowl with the sugar, and then place them on a greased standard-sized cookie sheet, 12 cookies to a sheet. (Alternatively, you can spray your cookie sheets with Pam or another nonstick cooking spray instead of greasing them, or simply line them with parchment paper.)

Flatten the dough balls with a greased spatula. Make a small indentation with your thumb or index finger in the center of each cookie. Fill the indentation with a small bit of jam (about 1?8 teaspoon.)

Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes at 350 degrees F. Let them cool for 2 minutes on the cookie sheet, and then transfer them to a wire rack to finish cooling. (If you used parchment paper, all you have to do is pull the cookie-laden paper onto the wire rack.)

These cookies freeze well. Roll them up in foil, put them in a freezer bag. You may want to be sneaky about labeling the cook- ies or the kids will find them and eat them frozen. (If you write “Pork Kidneys” on the freezer bag, the kids will probably leave them alone.)

Yield: 8 to 10 dozen pretty and tasty cookies, depending on cookie size.

Excerpted from Joanne Fluke’s Lake Eden Cookbook (Kensington). Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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