Monday, March 2, 2015

The Mystery of the Salty Oat Cookie—Solved!

Agatha Award winning author, Leslie Budewitz, has been searching for a recipe for the perfect Salty Oat Cookie with Ginger Ice Cream. Now she's found it and she's ready to share it with us to celebrate the launch of her new book, Assault & Pepper. 

People sometimes ask me why I write mysteries focused on food. (Okay, obsessed with food.) Truth is, I love to eat. And it’s a lot of fun to recreate some of the food I’ve met in my travels at home. 

In May 2012, I attended the Malice Domestic Mystery Convention in Bethesda, Maryland for the first time. Sunday afternoon, I took the Metro down to the National Mall and met an old friend and her partner. After touring an exhibit at the National Gallery, we popped into Teaism for a bite and catch-up time. I can’t tell you everything we ordered, but I can remember the fabulous moment of the discovery: Salty Oat Cookies and Ginger Ice Cream.

Thus began a kitchen journey of trial and error. The café does not share recipes. Numerous home bakers and a handful of professionals posted their attempts, but none were entirely successful. And then, in the tradition of investigative journalism for which the paper is famous, a food reporter from the Washington Post followed the trail of the recipe to a restaurant consultant in Boston, who had once served a similar cookie in another restaurant (long-closed, and thus not sharing). The likely originator also Does Not Share. So our reporter created her own version, and by golly, I think she’s got it. 

In ASSAULT AND PEPPER, my main character, Pepper Reece, runs the Seattle Spice Shop in the city’s famed Pike Place Market. Every Tuesday, she gathers for Movie Night with her three best friends, who call themselves the Flick Chicks. 
“At Flick Chicks, no one minds watching a movie we’ve already seen. Plus, some nights, the movie is beside the point. We’d been inspired to start the group by the Senior Señoras, a group my mother belonged to before the move south. But we didn’t care about improving our Spanish, or improving ourselves at all. We just wanted to hang out with good friends, and talk and eat.”
One of the gang, Laurel Halloran, runs a deli and catering company. And on this warm September evening, after Pepper’s discovered a homeless man dead on the doorstep of her shop, and her trusted employee Tory Finch has been arrested and charged with murder, Laurel serves up a comforting combination, inspired by my afternoon with old friends in the Other Washington.

I hope it inspires you, too, to take a food-inspired trip with me, Pepper, and the Flick Chicks.

This photo is a little blurry because we were so excited to eat the cookies

Salty Oat Cookies
(adapted from a recipe by Leigh Lambert, in the Washington Post)

¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
½ cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 cups rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
sea salt, for sprinkling (small crystals are best)
In mixer bowl, beat the butter on medium-high until light and fluffy. Add the sugars, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon, and beat until well blended, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go. Reduce speed to medium and add the eggs and vanilla, mixing thoroughly. Add the flour and oats, mixing on low and scraping sides of bowl just until incorporated. Cover the bowl and chill the dough for at least 1 hour; this allows the oats to absorb the eggs and vanilla and to soften, which is important for the texture of these cookies.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Roll the dough into large balls, about the size of a golf ball. Place about two inches apart on the baking sheet and flatten slightly. Sprinkle tops of balls generously with sea salt. Bake about 15 minutes, until cookies are puffed and beginning to turn golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Makes 18 to 20 cookies about the size of hockey pucks, with a chewy exterior and a soft interior. They pair beautifully with ginger ice cream. If you plan to eat more than one, protect your stash from teenage boys.

Ginger Ice Cream

Ginger ice cream is fabulous by itself, or with Salty Oat Cookies. This recipe makes a quart, using a Donvier ice cream maker. You may need to adjust amounts and method for your own ice cream maker. Crystallized ginger may be found packaged, or in bulk at your natural grocer’s, with other dried fruits or in the herb and spice section.

2 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1¾  cups milk
2 cups cream
½ teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup (roughly) fresh gingerroot, finely grated, plus any liquid left by grating
½ cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped

Beat the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer until thick and cream-colored. Add the milk, cream, vanilla, and fresh ginger, along with any liquid left by the grating. Mix well. If your grated ginger has any stringy fibers, pour the mixture through a strainer at this stage. Stir in the crystallized ginger.
Freeze according to your ice cream maker’s directions. As with many homemade ice creams, it will be soft at first, but will harden if stored in an airtight container in the freezer. Keeps about 1 week.

(Recipes excerpted from Assault and Pepper, by Leslie Budewitz, published by Berkley Prime Crime)


From the cover of ASSAULT AND PEPPER:

Pepper Reece, owner of the Seattle Spice Shop, thinks she can handle any kind of salty customer—until a murderer ends up in the mix…

After leaving a dicey marriage and losing a beloved job in a corporate crash, Pepper Reece has found a new zest for life running a busy spice and tea shop in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Her aromatic creations are the talk of the town, and everyone stops by for a cup of her refreshing spice tea, even other shopkeepers and Market regulars. 

But when a panhandler named Doc shows up dead on her doorstep, a Seattle Spice Shop cup in his hand, the local gossip gets too hot for Pepper to handle—especially after the police arrest Tory Finch, one of Pepper’s staffers, for murder. 

Tory seems to know why she’s a suspect, but she refuses to do anything to curry favor with the cops. Convinced her reticent employee is innocent, Pepper takes it on herself to sniff out some clues. Only, if she’s not careful, Pepper’s nosy ways might make her next on the killer’s list… 

ASSAULT AND PEPPER, March 3, 2015 (Berkley Prime Crime)
ISBN-13: 978-0425271780  

Leslie Budewitz is the only author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction—the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel, for Death al Dente (Berkley Prime Crime), first in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, and the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction, for Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law & Courtroom Procedure (Quill Driver Books). She lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat Ruff, a cover model and avid bird-watcher. 

Connect with her on her websiteon Facebookor on Twitter.

You can check out her wonderful recipe for a Huckleberry Martini here.


  1. Salty Oat Cookies for All! Thanks for inviting me today, Deb!

  2. I cannot wait to try this! Thank you for such a great post. Looks so yummy and the book sound great.

  3. Wow, thank you so much for sharing the recipe that you worked so hard to track down. I will ride the coattails of your investigations. And the ice cream recipe too, I'm in heaven. I love Seattle and Pike Place Market, what a wonderful setting for a series. Can't wait to read, and eat, and read some more, and eat.

  4. Thanks, Deb and Kerry! Food and mystery are a natural -- and yummy -- combination, aren't they?

  5. I love oatmeal cookies, and this recipe sounds like a winner. I can't wait to try it. I'm not into making ice cream, so I think I'll add a bit of ginger marmalade to a bowl of ice cream. That could do the trick. I'm looking forward to reading your new series. If it is half as good as your other series, I know I will enjoy it.

  6. Grace, that's a good solution -- and making ice cream does take some work. I'll confess, these cookies are marvelous all on their own! Thanks for your kind words -- I do hope you enjoy the literary trip to Seattle!