Syrup for No Good by Kathryn Bruns

In this second book in the Maple Syrup Mystery series, our heroine, Leila Khoury, has come to terms with inheriting her father’s Sappy Endings maple farm. It helps that she discovered she not only likes running the business, but she’s damn good at it. She’s also secretly happy to be back in her childhood home with her new love, Noah Rivers, as well as her lifelong best friend, Heather Turcotte.

Heather is actually about to get married in what is shaping up to be the wedding ceremony of her dreams. However, she is a bit worried that her parents are relying too much on her uncle Grant to finance the festivities. Grant Butterfield married into wealth, and his wife Monica is always happy to flaunt that fact. Because of this, and Monica’s general disregard for social niceties, Heather is hesitant to involve her in the wedding planning any more than necessary. However, Heather feels compelled to invite Monica to the wedding reception that Layla is throwing, where Layla sees how horrible Monica can be.

However, this is no preparation for Layla finding Monica stabbed to death in her car shortly after the shower is over. A grieving Grant refuses to pay another penny for the wedding until Monica’s killer is caught. While Heather wants to honor his grief, the wedding is only weeks away. With non-refundable deposits on the line, Heather asks Layla for help speeding up the process of figuring out who killed her aunt by marriage. In the end, Leila successfully apprehends her own father’s killer – and at no small risk to herself.

There’s no way Leila is going to let her best friend down, even though the return of Leila’s ex-fiancé brings a whole host of complications to her already chaotic life. Will Leila be able to overcome all these challenging circumstances or will a cunning killer make her his next victim?

To be honest, I found Layla to be unnecessarily judgmental in the series debut, so I was genuinely pleased with how she loosened up somewhat in this book. I also liked how Kathryn Bruns showcased Lebanese culture, even as Leila embraces her heritage and resists the pressure to promote it mindlessly. I really adored how her mother, Selma, overcame her own highly critical nature—despite a few difficult moments—and affirmed Layla’s belief that mutual care and happiness are the most important things in a romantic relationship, not conventions and cultural expectations.

There were six delicious maple and/or Lebanese American recipes featured here. It was hard to figure out what to make, but I finally settled on this dessert, edited slightly for space:

ingredients

One 9-inch pie crust [blind-baked]

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 ¼ sticks), melted and cooled

1 cup dark strong maple syrup

¾ cup packed light brown sugar

¼ cup fine yellow cornmeal

Pile on ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 large egg yolk, at room temperature

1 ¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 large egg, beaten

Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling

Instructions

In a medium bowl, whisk together the melted butter and maple syrup. Whisk in the brown sugar, cornmeal and kosher salt. In another medium bowl, beat the 3 eggs and add the yolk. Add the cream and vanilla and beat until combined. Slowly pour the egg mixture into the maple mixture and beat until combined.

Place the blind baked [pie crust] on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush the folded edge with the beaten egg. Pour the maple filling into the pie crust until it reaches the bottom of the creases.

Transfer the baking sheet with the pie on it to the oven and bake for 45 to 60 minutes, until the edges are puffed and the center jiggles slightly when shaken. It will continue to harden as it cools.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer the pie to a wire rack to cool for 4 to 6 hours. Once completely cooled to room temperature, sprinkle liberally with flaky sea salt. Store leftover pie, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap or under a pie dome, at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Oh, this is such a lovely dessert! It’s very reminiscent of a chess pie, only with a distinct maple flavor, which I’m a big fan of. It actually reminded me a lot of a pie-sized egg tart, which is one of my favorite desserts. The flaky sea salt garnish is an excellent addition, perfectly balancing the sweetness of the filling. Pie in general is quite easy to make and is a great anytime treat.

Next week we’re traveling to France to whip up a satisfyingly spicy meal while exploring the setting of a favorite mystery series. Join me!

See also: Cooking the books: Spoon to be dead by Dana Mentink

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