Cleo Coyle’s Brewing Up Murder and Banana Muffins (Recipe Included!)

My newest Coffeehouse Mystery, French Pressed, just hit every major mass market mystery bestseller list in the country: Borders, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Bookscan (yeah, baby!). If you haven’t yet met my heroine, Clare Cosi, single-mom, barista, and amateur sleuth, then allow me to introduce you...

Clare is the manager of the historic Village Blend coffeehouse in Greenwich Village , New York (where I live and work, too, which is how the idea for this series began). Clare’s daughter, Joy, is in culinary school nearby. Her ex-husband, Matt, is her shop’s globetrotting coffee buyer, and her love interest, Mike Quinn, is the NYPD homicide detective who craves Clare as much as her lattes. Together with a colorful group of younger baristas, Clare runs her shop and always finds herself running into mayhem and murder.

I'm a coffee geek, so I not only love to drink coffee, I love to talk about it with pros in the trade and research and sample exotic kinds from around the world. It's during my research into the coffee and culinary worlds that ideas for Coffeehouse Mystery stories often emerge. If you'd like to read more about French Pressed or the other books in my series, just go to my website, where all the books are described. In the meantime, here's the bonus muffin recipe form my latest newsletter. (FYI: All of my Coffeehouse Mysteries include recipes and coffee-making tips.)

Cleo Coyle's Banana-Walnut Muffins with Sweet Crunchy Tops

These easy-to-make muffins pair very well with my Coffee Pick of the Month: Kenya coffee. To read more about one of the world's finest coffees and the country it comes from, drop by the “virtual” coffeehouse at my website: http://www.coffeehousemystery.com/, where I discuss and give away my favorite coffee finds every month.

Makes 12 muffins

1-1/4 cups sugar
1/3 cup oil
3 bananas (well ripened)
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2-1/4 cups flour (sifted)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin pans with paper liners. Dump into a bowl: the sugar, oil, 2 of the ripe bananas (just slice into bowl), eggs, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Beat the assembled ingredients with an electric mixer until smooth, about two minutes. Now add the flour, baking powder, and baking soda to batter. Mix with electric mixer until batter is smooth (don't over mix). Use a large spatula or spoon to fold in chopped nuts and the final ripe banana, which should be mashed up roughly with a fork before adding.

Fill your muffin tins with batter. You can either fill them 3/4 full OR you can fill them all the way to the top (that's what I do). Note, however, that I spray the tops of my muffin pans with nonstick cooking spray. That way, when my muffins bake over the top of my pan, giving me lovely big muffin tops, they won't stick to the top of the pan. Now let the muffin batter sit in the pan, allowing flavors to penetrate while you make the sweet, crunchy topping.

Sweet Crunchy Topping

4 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
3 tablespoons flour
*1 cup Brownulated light brown sugar (I use Domino Brownulated.)

Melt in a saucepan 4 tablespoons butter (I just use salted butter because that’s what I always have on hand). Stir in cinnamon, nutmeg, chopped walnuts, flour, and Brownulated light brown sugar. The crunchy topping will be lumpy and that's fine. Spoon topping over the muffin batter in your pans (see photo). Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 to 35 minutes. Ovens vary so make a note of what works for you. Bake until a knife inserted comes out clean. Enjoy!

(* NOTE: Do not substitute dark brown sugar in this recipe. The Brownulated sugar has less moisture and will give you the perfect crumbly texture, nice and light, letting the muffins rise.)

where coffee and crime are always brewing...

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Cleo Coyle


Nicole Byrd Entices....

Writing Enticing the Earl was both a delight and a bit sad. Sad because it’s the final book in the Applegate Sisters/Sinclair Saga, and it would be the last glimpse at some very beloved characters. These books started several years ago with Lord Gabriel Sinclair and his family feud with his brother John, the marquis of Gillingham. They weren’t meant to become a series, but they offered too many possibilities and the characters were so strong, ideas just kept bubbling up. So the stories kept spinning, most recently with Gabriel’s half sisters, the five Applegate siblings, as irrepressible and unpredictable a set of young ladies as any handsome young man would care to meet. The family secret Gabriel had been searching for was finally revealed in the first Applegate Sisters book, Seducing Sir Oliver.

Their adventures have taken the sisters into a second-rate London theater, up a tree to avoid escaped African cats, on the run from a half-crazed assassin, and most important, into the arms of a wonderful series of beguiling and sexy heros. So I couldn’t wait to see what would befall the final Applegate sister, the middle child, Lauryn, now a young widow, who’d always been proper and sweet, taking care of her extended family and doing all that was proper. Until now.

When her grief-stricken father-in-law gambles away his estate and all his valuables, Lauryn Applegate sees only one daring step to take--offer herself as courtesan to the winner, the handsome and notorious earl of Sutton. She can retrieve the land, and, in the–ah–process, she can trample on every rule. This good girl is ready to be bad!

Read an excerpt at my website, http://www.nicolebyrd.com/ Hope you enjoy her adventures–

Enticing the Earl
Berkley, April '08