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September 28, 2015

Liked It: Bread of the Dead by Ann Myers + Giveaway & Recipe

Series: Santa Fe Cafe Mystery 1
Format: eGalley
Release Date: September 29, 2015
Publisher: William Morrow
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Genre: Mystery

The Day of the Dead is approaching in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and cook Rita Lafitte is busy decorating sugar skulls, taste-testing pan de muerto (bread of the dead), and refashioning her post-divorce life. She loves her job at Tres Amigas Cafe and feels like she’s found a good home for herself and her teenage daughter…until her kindly landlord is found dead next door, seemingly from suicide.Although Rita discovers evidence of murder, the police aren’t convinced, especially one of the lead detectives who’s also Rita’s ex-husband. To uncover the truth behind her friend’s death, Rita teams up with her octogenarian boss Flori, the town’s most celebrated snoop. Soon, their investigation encompasses other crimes, including break-ins and the murder of their number-one suspect. Rita won’t feel safe until the killer is caught. But when she unearths a long-buried secret, will she become the next victim?




I'll make my review quick because we have a big post for you today.

BREAD OF THE DEAD by Ann Myers was an entertaining and quick one-sitter for me. I enjoyed the culinary backdrop of this cozy mystery as well as the rich references to the Mexican culture. I want to insert a disclaimer though, I'm not Mexican so I can't tell you if said references are accurate or not. That said, I applaud AMyers for offering something different to the reading public so if she took some creative license, granted it's not offensive, I'm all for it!

BREAD OF THE DEAD felt more like chick lit with a slice of murder-mystery than a suspenseful cozy. Seventy-five percent of the novel was about Rita, her love for food, the drama with her asshole ex-husband, struggles as a divorcee parent, and the first blush of a new romance. This part was fun, entertaining, and gave me serious munchies! By the end of the novel I was craving for Mexican food so bad! What stopped me from giving the first Sante Fe Cafe Mystery novel four cauldrons is the lack of suspense. The plot isn't driven by the murder mystery, it felt more like a side-note to me than the main story.

Then again I LOVE chick/women's lit, so even if I didn't exactly get a good dose of cozy in BREAD OF THE DEAD I still enjoyed the novel very much. Suffice to say that I gorged on Mexican food after. And a last note to my fellow foodies, the novel also includes delicious recipes in the end, can't skip that!







I asked Ann Myers to tell us more about Rita Lafitte, the culinary gifted heroine of BREAD OF THE DEAD. There's also a bonus recipe in the end.



Hi, Braine! Thrilled to be interviewed on Talk Supe!

Mmmm…what makes Rita tick? I’ll start with the easier part, some characteristics. Rita Lafitte is forty-one, recently divorced, and living with her teenage daughter in a cute but tiny casita. She’s leery of jumping back into dating (who wouldn’t be!), but loves her job as a chef at Tres Amigas CafĂ©. She also loves Santa Fe, even if she’s still considered a relative newcomer and her mom keeps urging her to return “home” to Illinois.

What makes Rita tick, I suppose, is her commitment to her family and friends. When her kind landlord is found dead, Rita knows he wouldn’t have killed himself like the police say. She sets out to find the killer with the help of her octogenarian boss and friend, Flori. The sleuths also investigate possible dirty dealings in the pan de muerto baking contest, which Flori has a good chance of winning on a level playing field.

Lucky Rita gets to taste-test a lot of pan de muerto, or bread of the dead. I did too! It’s wonderful bread, buttery like a brioche but with extra sugar and flavorings. Plus, you can shape it like a skull. Fun! Pan de muerto is great for breakfast or afternoon snacks and makes a killer bread pudding if you have any leftovers.

I’ve included a recipe below. Even if you’ve never baked with yeast, don’t worry! It’s actually really easy, and much of the time involved is simply letting the dough rise. The hardest part is waiting for the bread to cool after it comes out of the oven.

One tip (or caution) for making good bread is to make sure your oven is heated to the correct temperature before putting the dough in. Many years ago, in an early yeast bread attempt, I popped a loaf in a cold oven and waited in great anticipation as that wonderful, fresh-baked bread scent filled the kitchen. Yep, it smelled divine, but emerged as flat as a cutting board. 

I also go by the feel of the dough more than a recipe’s exact measurements for dry to liquid ingredients. Living in dry Colorado, I sometimes have to add more liquid. If you’re baking in Florida, you might have the opposite problem. For this dough, aim for soft and supple, easy to knead but not sticking to your counter or fingers.

Pan de Muerto—Bread of the Dead 

Makes two loaves

Ingredients:
4-5 c all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
8 T unsalted butter
4 large eggs
1 egg yolk beaten with 2 teaspoons water (for the glaze)
½ c granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
½ c whole milk
½ c warm water
½ oz. (2 packets) active dry yeast
1 T orange zest
1 t anise seed
½ t fine salt

Directions:
In a small bowl, add the yeast to ½ cup of warm water (about 90° F). Add a pinch of sugar for the yeast to munch on and then whisk gently. Soon, the yeast should start to bubble and froth. If nothing happens after about 15 minutes, your yeast might be dead. In that case, start over with a new batch of yeast.

While the yeast proofs, warm the milk and butter in a small saucepan just until the butter melts. Do not boil. Transfer to large mixing bowl. Add the orange zest and anise seed and let the milk mixture cool to about 90°F or cooler.

When the milk has cooled, stir in the yeast mixture, sugar, and eggs. Next, add the salt and then the flour a cup at a time, mixing after each addition. Add flour until the dough starts to come away from the side of the bowl. Sprinkle some flour on a clean, dry countertop, scoop out the dough, and knead, adding small amounts of flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands or the counter. The amount of flour you use will depend on the humidity and other factors, so go by feel instead of exact quantities. The dough should be soft but not sticky. Knead for about 10 minutes, producing a supple and elastic dough. (You could also use a KitchenAid for the kneading step)

Clean the mixing bowl and butter it. Place the dough in the bowl, turning so that all sides get buttered. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size. Doubling should take about an hour. A good place for warm, draft-free rising is your microwave. Heat a mug of water, push it to one side of the microwave, and add the bowl of dough. Just be careful not to turn on the microwave while the dough is inside.

When the dough has doubled, gently deflate it and shape into a ball. Divide the dough ball into equal halves. Unless you have lots of oven space, cover one half and reserve it for baking later. From the other half, cut three small (about 1 oz.) balls to form the “cross bones” and a “skull.” Form the larger piece into a round. For the bones, roll the dough into a dog-bone shape—skinny in the middle and larger at the ends. For the skull, make a simple round shape. Place the large round on a parchment-paper-lined cookie sheet. Arrange the bones in an X shape across the large round. Press down on the edges and ends. Place the skull in the center of the X, pressing down firmly. It’s okay to flatten the skull because it will puff up when rising.

Cover the dough lightly with buttered plastic wrap and let it rise again until nearly doubled in size, about an hour. When the dough is nearly doubled, prepare your oven. Place a rack in the middle of the oven, with several inches of space above for the dough to rise. Heat the oven to 350°F.

Mix together the egg yolk and water. Gently brush this egg wash over the bread; keep the remaining egg wash. Place the sheet with the bread on the center rack and bake for 20 minutes. Then remove the bread from the oven and brush it again with the egg wash. Sprinkle sugar over the egg-washed bread and return it to the oven. Bake 20 minutes more or until the loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Important: resist the urge to eat the bread immediately! Let the bread cool on a wire rack for at least half an hour. Repeat with the second loaf, which you can form and let rise while the first loaf is baking. Alternatively, you can refrigerate the second half of dough for a few days or freeze it for several months. In that case, seal the dough in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag. Let refrigerated or frozen dough come to room temperature and then proceed with the shaping, proofing, and baking steps.






Ann Myers, her husband, and extra-large housecat live in Colorado but, like Rita, feel most at home in Santa Fe.

Follow Ann
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Talk Supe


53 comments:

  1. I think I liked this one a bit more than you but I still need to post my review. It was so much fun to have the recipes at the end of the book too!

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  2. Love the cover. I don't think I've seen a cover quite like that, which is awesome. I love all kinds of bread and I love trying new recipes so woohoo and thanks for that. Very interesting premise for a book, sounds good.

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  3. Anything with food and mystery is a good thing! I love the title, cover and sounds of this one! Thanks for the recipe for the Pan de Muerto. It would be fun to nibble on it while reading this book!

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  4. I don't think I've read a cozy mystery in 2 years, and that was more noir I think.

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    Replies
    1. This is definitely funner and lighter than that

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  5. This does sound like a fun and different mystery and seriously, way for the different part. It is so hard anymore to find something that truly stands out.

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    1. When you read like we do, that is a challenge

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  6. That is one great-looking cover - though, I have to admit, cozy mystery was the last thing it inspired in my mind. And, wow, not exactly an easy recipe ... but probably worth it. Happy Monday, lovely - hope you had a good weekend! <3

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    1. I screw up breads that have yeast. I prefer pre made or easy bake lol

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  7. I really loved the setting of this, it was something different for me. I'm not into spicy so Mexican food doesn't always work for me, but when it's mild I like it. And I love bread but it doesn't like me so I'm gluten free. So... that ruins this recipe for me. But who knows, one day I'll just be prepared to be an achy mess and try it anyway (gluten makes me really achy).
    Thank you so much for hosting a tour stop today!

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    1. I'm the opposite: I love spicy food and bread. I'll eat your share ;)

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  8. Have my eye out on this one, despite the lack of cozy i do like chick-lit

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    1. I am a forever fan of chick-lit. Even if it's a 3-star, it still rocks

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  9. I Really liked this one, and after reading it I totally wanted to visit Sante Fe. I also want to try the Bread of the Dead recipe. I also was able to grab book two off Edelweiss and I am excited to dig in.

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    1. I grabbed book 2 as well, I want her to whip Manny's ass

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  10. The cover looks fun, and man I'd be craving Mexican food big time while reading.

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    1. You have no idea! I was so tempted to go on a SUnday Buffet brunch at this great Mexican place here in my city. I can easily sniff 10k calories in under an hour

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  11. I haven't read her Braine but a cozy mystery/chick lit is right up my alley. Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. This is the first book so perfect time to give it a try

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  12. This is definitely something I would read. It's right up my alley and I am very anxious to have a crack at that bread recipe. I love baking (it never turns out very good) but I still enjoy it :)

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    1. She has other recipes that might work. I don't work well with yeast, I always fumble it

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  13. Love the southwest so I need to read it. Santa Fe is a great area to write a book about and that bread looks delish!

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    Replies
    1. Have you been to Santa Fe? Tell me more!

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  14. Food, mystery, and life troubles does sound like a good mix to keep one's attention. :)

    Thanks for the recipe, too!

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    1. You're welcome, great to try for Halloween ;)

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  15. Mmmm now I want some Pan de Muerto! Rita sounds like a fun character.

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  16. I love Mexican food! Seriously. Might be worth reading the book for the tidbits of recipes and Mexican fare. :)

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    Replies
    1. Have some handy, it'll give you serious cravings

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  17. This suddenly reminded me of that skull shaped baking pan I saw on the internet a few days ago! So cool! And ugh, I wish I was Mexican so we can celebrate The Day of the Dead in a fun way, not like how we do it here in the Philippines, haha!

    Rita sounds fun, but it sucks this wasn't that suspenseful. Kinda reminds me of this book called "Recipe for Love/Murder", I think they would have the same feel. Great review!

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    1. Don't like camping in the cemetary? :D

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  18. I guess it's all to do with expectations, Braine. When you pick up a book that's supposed to by a mystery, with a little romance, and what you get is romance with a little bit of a mystery, you can't be completely fulfilled.
    The story still really sounds like one I'd enjoy, though. I'm thinking of all the food quotes I'd be able to find for Thirsty Thursday and Hungry Hearts, too ;)
    Great review, girl!
    Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

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  19. That cover made me smile, this does sound good. Love that it is standalone. Wonderful of the author to share the bread of the dead recipe with us.

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  20. Bread of the Dead sounds really cute! I like chick-lit mysteries, though it's been a long time since I've read any. I'm gonna have to try it sometimes (or beg mom to, lmao!)

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  21. I am just getting into the cozy mystery genre and this one sounds like a fun one with the culinary setting! Although with a cozy mystery I do expect a big focus on the mystery, but maybe if you know the mystery will be more on the side before you start readign that helps.

    That recipe sounds so good, but while I love cooking I don't attempt baking bread often, it's the only thing beside cakes that I can mess up badly. I tried to make french bread last week and killed the yeast as I thought I could use boiling water when the recipe said very warm water. Let's say the dough didn't rise at all, oops.

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    1. Do try it and let us know. Although try to follow the recipe this time around lol

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  22. Replies
    1. Skull candy never fails to make things quirky :)

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  23. I've yet to give the cozy mystery genre a try but I really like the sound of this one. Santa Fe seems like it'd make a great backdrop for a mystery series where food is a main ingredient. :) And I'm definitely making the Pan de Muerto. Hopefully it'll turn out since Ms. Myers lives in Colorado, as do I. :)

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    1. And here I thought you already read most of the genres

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  24. Food sounds good and love mystery, but I'm not 100% convinced that I would pick this up, despite your awesome review. Of course, I totally love the way you write your reviews! Hugs...Ro

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