Friday, February 17, 2012

Janet Rudolph: Immersed in Mystery & Chocolate

 It's my pleasure to welcome playwright, editor and blogger, Janet Rudolph, who has immersed herself in two fields that happily often collide: Mystery & Chocolate. She is the Editor of the Mystery Readers Journal. She blogs daily at, facilitates a weekly mystery bookgroup, hosts literary salons with mystery authors, and has been a committee member on numerous mystery conventions. 
A long time contributor to the mystery genre, she received her Ph.D. in religion and literature, specializing in religious mystery fiction. Janet Rudolph also blogs daily at with all the news, reviews and recipes for the Chocoholic. She is a Judge at the International Chocolate Salons in San Francisco and Napa. Her companies TeamBuilding Unlimited & Murder on the Menu have a whole range of Chocolate Teambuilding events and entertainment ranging from Chocolate Tastings to the Chocolate Challenge to Chocolate Scavenger Hunts and Chocolate Tours.
She lives in the Berkeley/Oakland (CA) hills with her husband, a golden retriever, and 2 cats.

What a pleasure to be invited to blog here on Pots & Pens. Truly my world is full of both pots (chocolate) and pens (mystery). As a chocoholic, I post daily at with chocolate recipes, reviews and news. On Mystery Fanfare, I post mystery news, reviews and crime fiction holiday lists. And, sometimes, I post on both with chocolate recipes from mystery books or mystery books with chocolate. I also collect Literary, Movie, TV, Art & Music Tie-in Cookbooks, including several mystery cookbooks.

If you were marooned on an island, and Pots & Pens granted your wish for only one book and one food, what would you choose? Well, the book would be the complete works of William Shakespeare. It was a toss up between that and the Bible. They both are filled with mystery, romance, great characters, food, laughter, crime and love. Since I’ll have a lot of time on the island, if I’m not rescued early, I would have a lot of time to read and think about what I’m reading. Shakespeare is always good for a reread.

Share your favorite literary feast or treat. What makes this food and/or writing so memorable? Over the years of moderating my weekly mystery book group, I have assigned four 10-week sessions on food mysteries (culinary crime). In two of the sessions I led, I prepared the ‘suspect’ food in the book for our dining pleasure…sans poison, of course. This was over 30 years ago, and it was quite unique for its time. I even made my own Chocolate Truffles, as in Anthony Berkeley’s The Poisoned Chocolates Case. Another time I set up a Lord Peter Wimsey dinner at a local restaurant where everything was prepared from the recipes in the Lord Peter Wimsey Cookbook. Harriet Vane appeared half way through the dinner! Very exciting! I was able to arrange this since I write and produce mystery events. My company’s name? Murder on the Menu®! One year, I also set up a Nero Wolfe Dinner. Everyone came in costume, and I wore Yellow Silk Pajamas. Perhaps my other love --for orchids-- came from the Nero Wolfe books?

What’s your favorite kitchen accessory or appliance? My Kitchen-Aid stand mixer. Since I love to bake, I cannot imagine how I existed before owning this beauty. Mine, of course is a dark blue. You think it should be red? The color of blood? Perhaps. But it matches my dark blue stove!

What is your A+, number 1 writing/editing/query-reading snack? Chocolate. I always have some kind of fabulous truffle or chocolate bar in my desk. So convenient and helpful to get through editing and writing—and an inspiration for chocolate recipes.

What’s cooking? Can you share a bit about your next project? I’m currently working on an article on San Francisco Chocolate Shops for a new Foodie Magazine. I’ll have to taste a lot of chocolate. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.

Tell us about your edible specialty, and rate your skill in the kitchen: novice, not bad, or nominate me for a Michelin star. I no longer cook regular meals, but I’ve expanded my baking repertoire, specifically chocolate cakes, muffins, pies and more, now that I blog about chocolate. I would say I’m an ok cook, but certainly not a pastry chef or great baker. I do have three ovens—one is in my blue O’Keefe & Merritt 1950 stove. The other two are electric. I think I prefer the gas oven for baking, but being that it’s from 1950, the oven is small and not always accurate. Still, breads and cakes and brownies come out better!

Describe the best cook you know and something wonderful he or she has served you. Although I personally know many famous chefs and cooks, my immigrant grandmother ,who lived with us when I was growing up, was the best cook I know. She made everything from scratch with fresh ingredients.  I learned to bake from her. Every Friday, she would make Apple Pie in a huge rectangular pan. It would feed an army, and it did, as there were always extended family members dropping by. Now Apple Pie was not part of her heritage, but when I asked her why she made it every week, she said, “Because I am an American now, and Apple Pie is American.” Yes, as American as Apple Pie!

If you could invite a character to dinner, who would it be and what would you serve? Nero Wolfe, of course, but I’d ask him to bring his Chef Fritz! :)

14 ounces white chocolate, chopped into small chunks
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 teaspoon white tequila
1 teaspoon grated lime zest
Drop of fresh lemon juice and drop of fresh lime juice or 1/4 tsp each of lime and lemon oil (natural) 

1 pound dark chocolate (70% cacao) for dipping, chopped into small chunks
Coarse sea salt

Directions for the Ganache:
1. Line shallow baking pan with saran wrap or any plastic wrap, overlapping 2 or more sheets as needed, and leaving a generous overhang on two sides (enough to cover the ganache once it is in the pan).
2. Place white chocolate in a food processor and process to a crumb consistency. Add tequila, zest, and juice or oils.
3. Bring cream to boil in small pan. With food processor on, pour the cream through the feed tube, processing for 20-30 seconds, until mixture is perfectly smooth. Scrape ganache into plastic wrap-lined pan and let cool at room temperature, without stirring it.
4. Once ganache is cool, fold plastic wrap over it and let sit at room temperature for several hours, preferably overnight, until firm enough to scoop. You can always refrigerate, but the texture of the truffles won’t be quite as silky. Once the ganache has set, chilling won’t hurt it.
5. To shape truffles, use a melon baller to form balls of ganache. If needed, smooth the surface with hands. (I do both)
6. Place centers (ganache balls) slightly apart on tray lined with parchment or wax paper. Let stand at room temperature, uncovered, until surface is dry and slightly crusted, at least 2 hours, preferably longer.

Directions for Coating:
1. Temper dark chocolate by melting about 75% of the chocolate either in double boiler or in microwave until it reaches about 100°F. Add remaining 25% of solid chocolate to bowl and mix until it all melts and temperature reaches about 90°F. Dip truffles one at a time (I use the two fork method—but there’s a device for this) in melted chocolate, let excess drip off and place on tray lined with parchment or wax paper.
2. Sprinkle with a little bit of sea salt before chocolate begins to harden. Continue with remaining truffles, but if dark chocolate begins to cool, reheat a bit until it gets back up to about 90°F.
3. Let sit at room temperature. Store the truffles in a covered container at cool room temperature for up to 10 days, or refrigerate for up to a month. I don't freeze chocolate, but you can.

Cream Cheese Brownies
1/2 cup sweet butter
4 oz. 85-95% good quality chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup sugar
1 tsp Madagascar vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup dark fair trade dark chocolate (65-75% cacao), cut into smallish chunks

Cream Cheese Layer
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp Madagascar vanilla extract
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
1. Line 9 x 9 inch square baking pan with aluminum foil across the bottom and up two opposite sides of the pan.
2. In saucepan over a saucepan of simmering water, melt butter and chocolate.
3. Remove from heat and stir in sugar and vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Stir in flour and salt and beat until the batter is smooth and glossy and comes away from saucepan (about a minute).
4. Remove 1/2 cup of brownie batter and set it aside.
5. Fold chocolate chunks into remainder of brownie batter and then pour batter evenly into prepared pan.
6. Using stand mixer, whip cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar, vanilla, and egg and process until just smooth.
7. Spread cream cheese mixture over brownie layer. Spoon small clumps of reserved brownie batter on top of cream cheese filling. With knife or wooden skewer, swirl two batters without mixing them (don’t over swirl).
8. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes or until brownies start to pull away from sides of pan and edges just begin to brown.
9. Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool.
10. Refrigerate brownies until firm enough to cut into squares (at least two hours if you can wait).
11. Once chilled, remove brownies from pan by lifting with ends of foil and transfer to cutting board.
12. With sharp knife, cut into squares.
Fun idea: These brownies are very rich, but you can always frost them with a dark chocolate ganache (after cool). Put in refrigerator for an hour or two. Then cut the brownies into shapes (while still in pan) such as hearts using a deep cookie cutter. Make brownie pops with the extra brownie parts.

Thanks so much for joining us today, Janet! For those who can't get enough chocolate, on Saturday we'll have your recipe for Chocolate-covered Strawberries To Die For on The Writers' Lens: And don't miss Janet's Dyingforchocolate blog!


  1. * Thanks for sharing that fun interview! Those brownies look heavenly!

  2. What a fun interview but it made me crave chocolate. Unfortunately I didn't have the time or the patience to whip up the tequila truffles so I grabbed a few dark chocolate Kit Kat miniatures. It's a good thing I don't live closer to you, Janet. You are a chocolate genius.

    BTW can you bring those truffles to Left Coast Crime in case we all need an energy boost?

  3. Cindy, there will be chocolate at Left Coast Crime, and you're on one of my panels, so you definitely get some!

    FYI: Sisters in Crime, NorCal, will be having a chocolate tasting on 4/14 in San Francisco. Try to come to it.

  4. Looks like I need to come to California conferences! Thanks so much for being my guest, Janet. It's been fun getting to know you. Now I'm going to go have something chocolate for breakfast. :)