Monday, October 12, 2009

Meet Mystery Author Molly MacRae

Readers - You are in for a big treat today! Molly MacRae is our guest blogger today. She is an award winning short story writer and mystery novelist. She is a Children's Librarian in Central Illinois, too. I met Molly at Love is Murder a few years ago and realized she is one of the funniest people I've met - as you will see from this post! She does have one big flaw, though - she loves lots of the foods I make fun on on VC! She couldn't believe I mocked Prune Whip and Salmon Loaf, so I dared her to find an edible prune recipe. I chose this week as she - and I - will be speaking at Bouchercon in Indianapolis. - Amy

Dear Ms. Prune Whip,

I’m hosting lunch at my house next week for my book club and I’m so nervous! I’m the newest member of the group (they invited me to join last spring!) and I want to do things properly and make a good impression. I’ve dusted and cleaned and polished and I’ll take the dog to the groomer and I remembered your tip from a letter I read last year so I promise I’ll chill the glasses for the ice tea in the freezer. But here’s my question: it’s after Labor Day. Is it okay to serve White Chili?

Ina Proper Tizzy

Dear Ina,

You didn’t mention what book your group is discussing over luncheon, the title or subject of which might lend a clue for menu planning. For instance, were you reading Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, you’d be making no missteps by serving a splendid Deviled Clam Loaf from that staple of everyone’s book shelf, How to Cook Clams, by Kathryn L. Osterhaug and Rose G. Kerr (Test Kitchen Series No. 8, United States Department of the Interior).

However, if you’re asking if there is a similar stricture against serving white food after Labor Day as there is for wearing white shoes, I think you are confusing cuisine with couture and custom. May I suggest, dear Ina, that you not let yourself get too carried away with propriety and restrictions. Propriety is often pompous and restrictions can be so silly. Enjoy your White Chili. Enjoy your books.

Ms. Prune Whip

P.S. You must be remembering your chilled glass tip from some other maven’s column. I only drink hot tea.

* * * * *

Dear Ms. Prune Whip,

Congrats on your title! My daughter is competing for the Miss Clam Loaf crown next month. Will you please tell her the secret of your success? You know, any little insider beauty pageant tips to give her an edge over those other girls. Not that she needs any help in the looks department, because she takes after her mama, but as you know, every advantage helps in this business!

Hoping Your Pointers Earn Results

Dear H.Y.P.E.R.,

Such a wonderful time in your daughter’s life. You must be so proud.

All Best,
Ms. Prune Whip

P.S. Perhaps you’ve mistaken me for someone else. I’m sorry to say, mine is not a beauty pageant title. Rather, Ms. Prune Whip is a name given to me in recognition of my single great accomplishment – I ate and enjoyed Prune Whip when it was fashionable, or at least not laughable, and lived to tell the tale. Please tell your daughter if she embraces honesty and tolerance throughout her life she will always be beautiful. A sense of humor helps, too. And a smear of Vaseline on the teeth.

* * * * *

Dear Ms. Prune Whip,

Stop living in the past. Stop looking over your shoulder. Prune Whip is so dead and gone. This is a new century. Get with it and give us something new to do with prunes. Are you up to it? Hah! I don’t think so.

Take That!
The Challenger

Dear Challenged,

Prune and Chocolate Bread.

Ms. Prune Whip

P.S. Calm down. Cooking is not a competition. Cooking is veneration of our mothers and grandmothers. Cooking is creation for our children and grandchildren. Cooking celebrates life.

Prune & Chocolate Bread
(from Bread: Artisan Breads from Baguettes and Bagels to Focaccia and Brioche, by Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno, p. 124)

2 ½ tsp. dry yeast
1 ½ c. water
3 ¾ c. bread flour
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 ⅛ c. pitted prunes, roughly chopped
7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
2 Tbs. butter, softened, plus more to grease pan
1 egg, beaten

Sprinkle yeast into ½ c. of the water in a bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes, then stir to dissolve. Mix flour and salt in large bowl. Make a well in center and pour in dissolved yeast.

Mix in flour. Stir in remaining water, as needed, to form a soft, sticky dough.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.

Put dough in a bowl and cover with dish towel. Let rise until doubled in size. Grease a 9 x 5 x 3-inch pan.

Punch down dough, then let rest for 10 minutes. Add prunes, chocolate, butter, and egg, using your hands to gently squeeze them into the dough until they’re evenly distributed and egg is absorbed. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until just firm enough to shape, 1-2 minutes.

Shape dough for a loaf pan and place in prepared pan. Cover with dish towel and let rise until dough is 1 inch above rim of pan, about 30 minutes.

Bake in preheated 350ยบ oven for 45 minutes, until lightly browned and hollow sounding when tapped underneath. Turn out onto wire rack to cool.


Jacqueline Seewald said...

Thanks but I like my prune juice straight up!

Very funny, Molly! I really enjoyed your "column." I also enjoyed WILDER RUMORS and look forward to reading your next mystery novel.

All the best,

Jacqueline Seewald

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Dear Ms.Prune Whip: Ah, you arrived at the perfect time. I was thinking about jello with marshmallows. And maybe--chopped prune chunks? It could be quite lovely. Do you think it's appropriate for a fall booksigning?

Off to make prune bread, which sounds delicious.

Molly MacRae said...

Dear Hank:

Jello with marshmallows is an unpleasant combination at the best of times and, with the addition of chopped prune chunks, possibly dangerous. Please reconsider.

Best Regards,
Ms. Prune Whip
P.S. Have you tried meditation?

Amy said...

Dear Ms. Prune Whip:
I have at least 10 cookbooks with yummy Jello/Marshmellow recipes. It is possible that your taste buds have been forever altered by scary vintage foods like Prune Whip, Salmon Mousse, and Mock Mince Pie. Get ready to see some posted later this week - Jello, that is.
Sincerely, Amy