- Food and Cooking
Hannah Swensen Recipes & Me
Hannah Swensen Recipes - My Reviews & Notes
My daughter and I have been smitten by the Hannah Swensen Mystery Series books - and the cookie recipes that are in them! We've been baking and baking. And, we thought we'd share our experiences, commentary and tips on the recipes. And, of course, we want to keep track of everything that we've tried - and what we like and love (and what we can skip next time).
The Lake Eden Cookbook is finally here!
We really enjoy this cookbook. It has our favorite Hannah Swensen recipes in it (like Ooey Gooey Cookie Bars) & some new recipes that we're enjoying trying. We really like not having to search through all of our books to find the Hannah Swensen recipe that we're making today! It's our first go-to dessert cookbook.
Nah, just a co-patriot in cooking adventures.
Didn't they make a movie out of a 20-something year-old woman who blogged about cooking all of the recipes in a famous cookbook?
Well, this isn't exactly that. First, I couldn't possibly approach something as creative and adventurous and fun as baking cookies with the structure of 1-at-a-time-in-order-must-do-all-please. Second, I'm not exactly blogging as I go, but I will be updating this Squidoo lens when we bake and cook new recipes! Third, I'm lots older and less prone to emotional meltdowns than Julie is.
And, this journal is also oriented to YOU- with tips, suggestions, and comments for YOUR baking success with these recipes.
The Actual Recipes
belong to the mystery series' author, Joanne Fluke
Here you'll find our reviews on our experience baking (& eating) the recipes. We don't have an oversized orange tabby, but we do have two doggies - one who stole the latest baked goods right off of the cooling rack!
The Cherry Cheesecake Murder is, so far, our favorite and most successful set of recipes.
[We can't post the recipes here because they are copyrighted to Hannah's author, Joanne Fluke. So, you'll have to acquire or borrow the books, or visit her website - Murder She Baked - for her monthly recipe posting. But don't worry, we'll give you plenty of information here to steer you in the right direction.]
Ooey Gooey Chewey Cookie Bars
You'll be glad you did.
(We gave some to a friend who eats mostly salad - she ate them all in one night. It's good. It's real good.)
Ooey Gooey Chewey Cookie Bars
Make These For:
Anyone who wants to get a Cookie High.
We Love Ooey Gooey Chewey Cookie Bars! - from Cherry Cheesecake Murder
Ooey Gooey Chewey Cookie Bars are definitely our family's favorite (so far). They are Hannah Swensen's answer to the 7-layer bar. But, the 7-layer bar can't even come close to the dessert high that I get from Ooey Gooey Chewey Cookie Bars.
One day, we had a good friend of ours visit. I usually bake or cook something nice for him when he visits. Anyway, we (Zoe & I) baked Ooey Gooey Chewey Cookie Bars. We took them out of the oven about 5 minutes too soon - BUT we decided to put them back into the oven to bake a little more ONLY after all of us had many samplings of the warm, chocolately, lusciously satisfying dessert. I've never seen our friend go back for so many "seconds."
Find the recipe for Ooey Gooey Chewey Cookie Bars in Cherry Cheesecake Murder.
- I suppose you could leave out a key ingredient if you insist on living without chocolate, nuts, coconut, or marshmallows.
- Very, very Kid Friendly.
- There's a short-cut for the crust, which I haven't yet tried (but, I'm sure that I will because the crust takes a little time - we're talking a few minutes, but compared to how quickly this comes together, it's the longest part of the cookies). BTW, I LOVE the crust.
- We now make sure that the pantry is always stocked with all of the ingredients for Ooey Gooey Chewey Cookie Bars. We first made these on my husband's Ideal Protein Diet "Cheat Day," so now he wants them every Cheat Day (which is weekly).
- The recipe is perfect as is. I do pay attention to making sure that the butter is fully incorporated into the crust. And, as with (almost) all Hannah Swensen recipes, I do chop the shredded coconut (in the food processor). Actually, now I just do the whole bag of coconut in the food processor and put it in a zipper storage bag, all ready for use in any cookie recipe.
- I don't put a lining on the bottom of the pan. I just spray it with cooking spray, and the cookie bars come out just fine. Okay, well, sometimes the first few come out uneven, but that just gives me, as the baker, the opportunity to "even it out" just a little, if you know what I mean.
- This recipe makes a brownie pan amount of Ooey Gooey Chewey Cookie Bars. So, however many brownies you usually end up with, is about how many Ooey Gooey Chewey Cookie Bars you'll have. However, I will say that these bars are RICH. A decent size one could be the better half of a meal!
- Hannah has another version of Ooey Gooey Chewey Cookie Bars, called Multiple-Choice Bar Cookies, which is in the Blueberry Muffin Murder book. It has 4 layers (1 from each column), and it mixes up the ingredients a bit, in the event that you were ever to get bored with the Ooey Gooey Chewey Cookie Bars (not that that could ever happen!).
1 Hour After Leaving Oven
16 Hours later
Don't Ask, Don't Tell Cookies
Make These Cookies For:
People who love Chocolate and Chocolate Cake
Don't Ask, Don't Tell Cookies - from the Cream Puff Murder
Don't Ask Don't Tell refers to the SECRET INGREDIENT (not a military policy). It's based on a similar chocolate cake. So, it has the basic cookie ingredients, plus chocolate powder, plus the SECRET INGREDIENT. And, it has a mocha frosting.
Find the recipe for Don't Ask, Don't Tell Cookies in the Cream Puff Murder.
Here's our experience with making this wonderful cookie:
1. You can't actually taste the SECRET INGREDIENT, but it does give it a certain indescribably subtle texture, similar to coconut, but not. And, we really liked that!
2. We used 1/2 cup less flour than the recipe called for. That gave it a nice, cake-like cookie texture. I think it would have been too cake-like and too dry if I had used the extra flour.
3. HOWEVER, I drained my SECRET INGREDIENT really, really, really well. So, if you're going to drain yours fast, then I suppose that the extra 1/2 cup of flour would serve to soak up the extra moisture that would be added from the SECRET INGREDIENT.
4. I used 1 cup of the chopped SECRET INGREDIENT, which is what is says to use in the Directions part of the recipe, but which is different than the 2 cups that it calls for in the Ingredient list. I think they meant to specify that you start out with 2 cups of the SECRET INGREDIENT, but after it's chopped and packed down, it results in 1 cup of the final chopped version.
5. In my oven, it was 12 minutes (of the 10-12 min. range). The edges were dark, but the center perfectly done.
6. Unlike some other cookies, these did not do any noticeably additional cooking while cooling on the cookie sheet.
7. As to the frosting, it was more on the chocolate rather than the mocha side - and I used very strong coffee.
8. Also regarding the frosting, it calls for 3 to 3 1/2 cups of powdered (confectioner's) sugar. However, by 2 cups, it was waaaaay too thick. So, I added about 1 TBL of water, and another 1 to 2 TBL of coffee.
9. This recipe batch made tons!!! And were we glad, because we LOVE them. I don't think that there's enough frosting for all of them, so that portion will have to be adjusted - in other words, I will probably use 3 1/2 cups of powdered sugar next time, but add more coffee, more water, and have started with more melted chocolate.
10. P.S. This picture isn't of the perfect "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" cookie because the frosting was inadvertently frozen, and needed to be reheated - thus the sort of glossy, less than perfect look. But they TASTE great!
This Month's Hannah Swensen Recipe
Each month, Murder She Baked (Joanne Fluke's website) posts one of Hannah Swensen's recipes.
- Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies (no rolling needed!)
These cookies are from the Devil's Foodcake Murder. My latest mistake? Baking cookies for my daughter's bake sale and forgetting to open Hannah's cookbook! Ughhh. We tried another sugar cookie recipe. What a disaster. Then it hit me like a ton of br
For Dessert, Just Give Me [Fill in the Blank]
Give me . . .
Is the SECRET to good cookies.
If you get Salted Butter, the salt in the butter will absorb too much moisture. Get the UNsalted butter, and let the recipe's own salt measurement be in balance with the rest of the ingredients.
Chocolate Chip Crunch Cookies
Make These For:
Those who like a crunchy cookie with just a tad of chocolate.
Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Crunch (we added chocolate powder)
Chocolate Chip Crunch Cookies - from the Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder (the first book)
Chocolate Chip Crunch Cookies are Hannah's sister Andrea's favorite. Hannah created them one afternoon for Andrea when she ran out of an ingredient and had to improvise. And what an awesome improvisation she accomplished! This recipe doesn't have a secret ingredient, it has a SPECIAL ingredient! Have no fear though, this SPECIAL ingredient is one that most homes stock on a regular basis.
So, if you have basic cookie ingredients, some chocolate chips and the SPECIAL ingredient, you're in business!
Find the recipe for Chocolate Chip Crunch Cookies in Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder.
- First, I've gotta say, I LOVE THESE COOKIES! These are perfect for when you want more crunch and less chocolate. But not too crunchy, like not filled with walnuts or anything. I especially love these cookies with a good cup of coffee.
- One day when I was basically working on my laptop all day, I munched on these every couple hours and got through the whole day. Not that that's a feather in my cap, it's just that they're very satisfying, have a delicious flavor, but they're not too rich.
- Also, these Chocolate Chip Crunch Cookies are very kid-friendly. So, if you have young guys living in or visiting your home, this is a perfect Saturday afternoon "Let's Make Cookies" recipe.
- The recipe calls for you to use a fork to criss-cross them after putting them onto the baking sheet. But, with the chocolate chips, it was difficult to get a nice pattern. So, we sort of just patted them down with a spatula or fork, or hands (this method is particularly enticing for the kids). [We just didn't try for a beautiful criss-cross pattern.] They came out perfect!
- The recipe proportions were perfect. The instructions were simple and easy (especially if you get the kids to help you with the SPECIAL ingredient.
- Also, we made our own Chocolate Chocolate Chip Crunch Cookie version, by replacing part of the flour with cocoa powder, then added more cocoa powder. Thus, about a cup of (unsweetened) cocoa powder, and 1/2 cup less of flour. They were very good, but burned around edges and bottoms quicker, and came out on the hard side. But, did I mention that they were very good?!! (My daughter prefers them without the chocolate powder though. I might have to keep experimenting with the cocoa powder because I really like the double-chocolate aspect of it.)
Yep, these didn't last long! :)
Mike or Norman
Who should Hannah choose? By the end of the most recent book, Hannah Swensen is still dating both suitors (who are still friends, by the way). How long can this go on?!! (The Cherry Cheesecake Murder starts out with this dilemma.)
Who Should Hannah Choose to Marry?
Too Easy Hot Dish
Make This For:
Super Easy Comfort Food
Ready for Oven
Side View (doesn't this look like those models fromScience Class ?)
Too Easy Hot Dish is Too Yummy to Miss! - from Apple Turnover Murder
We love this dish! Okay, it's not a dessert. But, comfort food is as close to a dessert as you can get without using white sugar. The beauty of "Too Easy Hot Dish" (from Apple Turnover Murder) is that it's easy, fast, simple, and easy. It's also very tasty. Yahoo!
After some thought, I realized that "Too Easy Hot Dish" is like a super-easy version of Shepherd's Pie. [Okay, technically, Shepherd's Pie is made with lamb, and Cottage Pie is made with beef. But, I've always referred to that luscious combination of savory ground beef filling topped with a thin layer of peas and heavenly whipped mashed potatoes as "Shepherd's Pie."]
One reason I don't make Shepherd's Pie very often is because peeling, cooking, and whipping potatoes is an awful lot of work to do before starting the real recipe. It may be easy for you, but not me. Whipped potatoes is a near-sacred food in my upbringing. It demanded attention and careful analysis of butter, milk, seasonings (aka salt) and whipping speeds/timing to accomplish the perfect food.
So, (getting back to our story), "Too Easy Hot Dish" solves ALL of those problems - yet still gives you that warm, yummy, comfort food experience!
Of course, I made this with Zoe. She loved making it and eating it. This is a very kid-friendly meal! Now, she wants to make it for every "special occasion" - party, sleep-over, game night!
Find the recipe for "Too Easy Hot Dish" in Apple Turnover Murder.
- 5 Ingredients - including the one optional ingredient
- Hmmm, let's see if you have these items in your pantry or refrigerator: meat, peas, soup, cheese, frozen potatoes - EZ Right?!
- WARNING: There will be NO leftovers. In Apple Turnover Murder, Mike ate half the pan (a 9 x 13 pan). In my home, Zoe, Chuck & I at the whole pan within 18 hours. (In other words, we had it for dinner, midnight snack and breakfast. And, yes, there WAS other food in the house. We just sort of LIKED IT that much!)
- I have always wanted this sort of dish to bring to a new neighbor, or someone in need. I've always struggled to find a recipe that had ingredients that I would keep handy, or that wouldn't take up the whole afternoon to make, etc. This is my new "take to a neighbor" recipe.
- It takes longer to preheat the oven than it does to assemble it! How's that for simply, fast & easy!
- We DID bake it in a glass 9 x 13 dish, and it DID take about 10 minutes longer to cook. We cooked ours for 10 minutes longer than the 35 minutes that the recipe called for.
- Hannah warns her friends not to use too much cheese because the melted cheese will cause an insulation barrier and the meats and things under the cheese won't cook. She's right. We also found that we didn't use the entire 8 oz. package of shredded cheese, because the top of the pan was already too covered with cheese before we even finished the package. And, even that, after it melted created a complete blanket. I kept the cheese away from the edges of the pan, and that created a nice place for the juices to bubble up.
- Another point about the cheese: if you put too much, and it takes too long for the meat to cook, then the cheese will burn before the meat cooks. I love burnt cheese, but I think you'll enjoy a little gooey-ness in your cheese in this dish.
- My Husband (who's from the South) says that this is quintessential New England food. And, yes, it is! Then I realized that the great hockey players come from Massachusetts and Minnesota, so no wonder a Minnesotan like Hannah came up with such a great New Englander dish!
What's Left after Dinner
What's Left @ Noon Next Day
Pip Is Coming!
(French for Grandfather)
That means we'll be making . . .
1. Too Easy Hot Dish
2. Lemon Meringue Pie (but shhhh! that's a surprise!)
3. Ooey Gooey Chewey Cookie Bars
[I think 2:1 is a good Dessert-to-Meal ratio, don't you?]
What's Next on Our List . . . - a.k.a. Oh my, we're out of cookies!
There are oh so many recipes that we want to try! And, while there are plenty of food recipes in the Hannah Swensen Mystery series books, it's mostly the desserts that we gravatate to. After all, we're constantly reading about Hannah in her Cookie Shop (with a great cup of coffee of course)!
On the other hand, I don't want to become diabetic overnight! So, we must try to balance, and, ummm, pace ourselves. Yes, pacing ourselves is a good way to put it. Here's our pace right now - when the cookies run out, it's time to buy more butter and bake the next Hannah Swensen recipe!
Our "What We Want to Bake Next" list is not in priority order. It's just our on-going "That sounds sooo great!" list.
- Hot Fudge Sundae Cake - We could barely finish reading the chapter after this dessert was introduced into the story. Oh . . . my . . . gosh! This is Hannah Swensen's version of molten lava cake. But, in true Hannah Swensen style, she makes it simpler, and more accessible to all of us. I can't believe that Norman was actually willing to share these with Mike! (Now, THAT was a very funny scene!) Plum Pudding Murder
- Hannah's Very Best Cream Puffs - I think I fell in love with the idea of making these cream puffs while Hannah was making hers in the story. Plus, I love the idea of having such a nice pastry here at home with a lovely vanilla cream or chocolate cream - and I think my family and friends will love the actual cream puffs (rather than the idea) even more! Cream Puff Murder
- Norman's Egg Salad - Our main challenge with this one is that we try to keep diary away from Zoe because it tends to make her not breathe so well. And, y'know, we tend to think that breathing is important. She's not hyper-allergic, but give her a grilled cheese for a few lunches, a couple slices of pizza, and a macaroni & cheese dinner, and she'll be winded and hacking after 2 minutes on the basketball court. But, one Norman's Egg Salad meal of dairy out of the whole week, won't cause any damage - and, according to Hannah, it'll be delicious! We need to get 3 key ingredients into the house all at the same time - sour cream, cream cheese, and mayo. (I always seem to have 2 out of 3 in the fridge.) Cream Puff Murder
- Lazy Potato Pancakes - Zoe really wants to make these for my husband on one of his "Cheat Days." All I can say is that it does NOT involve grating potatoes. And, they not only sound easy, but delicious too! Plum Pudding Murder
- Blue Blueberry Muffins - How does Hannah make her Blueberry Muffins blue? You'll have to read the book and find out. Zoe really wants to make these because Blueberry Muffins are her favorite kind of muffin, and she knows what ingredient makes it "blue" and why it adds to the muffins flavor - thus, further enticing her to make them! Blueberry Muffin Murder
The First Five - In Order
I'm a very orderly person (generally). That means, I put away the ingredients while I'm baking. Until the whole entire kitchen starts to implode - then the dirty pots and pans get tossed onto the washer and dryer.
Anyway, in book series, I'm sometimes in the mood to just read whatever intriques me first, and other times, I like to start at the beginning of the series. If you tend to enjoy the latter approach, this section is for YOU!
[By the way, there are A LOT more Hannah Swensen mystery series books than just these first five.]
This is #1 in the series.
[Yes, I know that the cover art is different than the exact same book just above with the cute little cookie guy, but it IS the same book.]
This is #2 in the series.
(Haven't read it - YET!)
This is #3 in the series.
(Reading it now.)
This is #4 in the series.
(Haven't read it - YET!)
This is #5 in the series.
(Haven't read it - YET!)
Hannah Swensen's Latest Mystery - "Red Velvet Cupcake Murder" by Joanne Fluke
Perfect for your summer reading list:
Ahhh, Hannah's wonderful baked goodies.
Ahhh, Hannah and Norman together again.
But wait! There's a double murder. And, guess who's the main suspect?
Zoe & I have Read These So Far . . .
. . . and we're looking forward to reading more! Every once in a while, we may need a respite from cookie-filled daydreams, but we always come back for more! Hannah's latest, Red Velvet Cupcake Murder, sounds scrumptious!
We're still trying to get around to baking Hannah's version of Blueberry Muffins. They're supposed to be much tastier than just a vanilla flavored muffin with some dried blueberries in it.
This book has recipes for the entire Lake Eden holiday smorgasbord around which the entire murder mystery takes place. Actually the party is not only a holiday party, but a recipe testing party for a book that Hannah's new publisher will be releasing. Sound familiar? Lots and lots of recipes of every type in this book, and really good story line too!
We think that this book has the best recipes cookie recipes in it. After all, it has our favorite, Ooey Gooey Chewey Cookie Bars.
Hmmm, the apple turnover recipe in this book freezes well. That means that instead of baking an apple pie every day my Husband has a "cheat day" on his diet (for which he craves apple pie - and/or - Ooegy Gooey Chewey Cookie Bars), Zoe & I can make turnovers ahead of time, and freeze 'em! Yahoo! This book also has the famous "Too Easy Hot Dish," which Mike got all of because Norman was away at a dentist conference. Great murder mystery story too! Especially the last 20 pages!
Aha, the cheating, conniving, sleeze has been murdered, but there are sooooo many who had a motive. How is Hannah supposed to narrow it down?
Reading Aloud to Your Child
A few notes to parents of grammar school-aged children. READ ALOUD TO THEM! Every day.
Zoe likes the Hannah Swensen books because she feels like she really gets to know the characters and can follow their development from book to book (i.e. the character development is great). She also likes the problem-solving aspect of Hannah solving the murder mystery (i.e. the plot), as well as the suspense that accompanies the end of the books and the capture of the person "who done it!" She also likes the interesting way that the story is written and unfolds.
But, what she gets out of the books more than anything (other than bonding with Mom at bedtime),(from a learning perspective), is that she gets to hear me read an ADVANCED LEVEL book outloud. She gets to hear what the cadence of a complex sentence structure should sound like.
And, after a year of this, what is the result? Well, it's pretty awesome. I'll give you an example. Our neighbor is a retired 5th grade school teacher, who'd recommended to us as a literature book. Zoe is in 4th grade. When I asked her about her lesson plans for "Mrs. Frisby," she explained that she would read the book aloud to the 5th grade students as they followed along in the book, and that she wouldn't ask the students to read the book aloud because the sentence structure was too advanced. Well, guess who understands the book in silent reading AND can read the book aloud to me with proper emphasis and cadence? You got it! Zoe. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
Reading aloud to your child every night really does have its many rewards. [BTW, we enjoy the reading at bedtime without trying to get Zoe to learn every word or nuance. If she "gets" 80% of it, we're both happy. It's bedtime, and it's meant to be a pleasure, not a learning experience - although the learning and the bonding that happen simply by doing this nightly act is amazing!]
We'll Take a Pass on the Cocalattas
from Cherry Cheesecake Murder
Could this be? It's true.
1. I used the amount of flour that the recipe called for, but it was WAY too dry.
2. The flavor was okay (and yes, I used the GOOD - read as: expensive - coconut extract), but nothing to write home about.
3. I tried them a couple days later with the same result.
Bottom line: There's waaaay better stuff out there. So, why bother?!
Lemon Meringue Pie
Our take on Hannah's
Lemon Meringue Pie recipe
won 2nd Place
at the 2012 County Fair!
Thank you Hannah!
Ever Try It?
Have you tried Ooey Gooey Chewey Cookie Bars?
Are you diggin' these cookies, and cakes, and recipes, oh my?!
Have you tried any of the Hannah Swensen Recipes from any of Joanne Fluke's books? Add your reviews here! If you put a review of a Hannah Swensen recipe HERE, I will add it to a list on this lens. AND, if you're a Squidoo-er (you don't have to be a Squidoo-er to leave a Comment here), I'll add your lovely icon mugshot too!