LUCY BURDETTE: Welcome to Book Club Week at MLK! I love book clubs--love belonging and love visiting. And I love recommending books for clubs to consider:). This time around I’d like to suggest MURDER WITH GANACHE, the fourth in the Key West food critic mystery series.
MWG is a cozy mystery starring Hayley Snow, a food critic who lives on a houseboat in Key West. Her extended family is descending on the island like a category 3 hurricane for her best friend's wedding. When her stepbrother disappears into the spring break party scene, she must put the baking of cupcakes and other wedding chores on hold in order to search for her brother. The book features Hemingway cats, and cupcakes, and wedding drama, but in the end it's about finding and embracing family in whatever form they come.
If you are going to choose MURDER WITH GANACHE for one of your book club selections this year (and I hope you will--I love this book, and there are so many things to talk about), as the hostess, you must resign yourself to providing something chocolate.
You might choose hot fudge pie or chocolate cake, both swoon-worthy, but here is an easy alternative. This recipe began as Chocolate Nutella Fudge from the Tasty Kitchen--until I read the list of ingredients on the Nutella package. At that point, thinking there must be something better, I searched for a substitute, and found an organic chocolate-hazelnut spread that is really quite incredible.
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (make these good quality, as it will show)
1 cup Nocciolato (organic chocolate-hazelnut Spread--I used the whole 9.5 oz jar)
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
½ teaspoon sea salt or pink salt
To make the fudge:
Line an 8 by 8 inch pan with two layers of parchment paper, overlap on the sides.
In a stainless steel bowl, stir together sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, chocolate chips, hazelnut spread, and butter.
Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water. (The pan should not touch the water.)
Stir until the chocolate chips are melted and the mixture is smooth, 5 to 7 minutes.
Scrape the mixture into the papered pan, smooth the top, and sprinkle with sea salt. (I would have used some of Krista’s pink sea salt if I’d had it on hand--so pretty!)
Refrigerate until the fudge is firm, at least 2 hours. Lift the fudge out of the pan using the parchment paper. Cut the fudge into bite-sized pieces and arrange on a pretty plate. Store leftovers (if there are any) in an airtight container in the fridge. This can also be made ahead and frozen.
As for what to discuss while enjoying the fudge, here are some questions to get things going:
1. Hayley’s mother says that “life develops around the kitchen table” and that “kids need to understand how food connects the people in their lives.” Hayley’s stepmom insists that life develops at work–who cares whether a mother uses a cake mix or serves macaroni from a box? Where would you stand in this argument?
2. Hayley’s parents have a disagreement about social justice on the way to the marina. How do you feel about the homeless people as presented in the book? Have you had any personal experience with homeless folks?
3. When Hayley’s brother Rory gets into trouble, the family struggles with how much to tell the police. They wonder whose side the cops are on. How do you think you might react in a similar situation? Would you trust the police to have your interests at heart?
4. Hayley says “Food meant comfort and love and even peace in my family.” If you had to sum it up, what would you say food meant to your family?
5. Hayley tells Rory “I’ve discovered that family has less to do with biology than it does with who cares enough to make the effort.” Does this statement ring true for you? Talk about a person who isn’t a blood relation in your life who feels like family.
6. When spirits are low, Hayley and her mom make comfort food for the extended family–spanakopita and Greek salad and strawberry whipped cream pie. What menu would you design to cheer up a troubled family member or friend?
If you’d like to read some of the reviews on MURDER WITH GANACHE, you can do that right here. I was completely delighted this spring, when Woman's World magazine selected MURDER WITH GANACHE as a pick for a foodie book club. As you can see in the photo, they also recommended reading with a daiquiri in hand:). Sounds like a good idea, right? Recipe here.
And, if you think your book club might like signed postcards from the Key West mysteries, leave a comment today with your email.
Lucy Burdette is the author of the Key West food critic mystery series. DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS will be on bookshelves on December 2. You can preorder it now, from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or your favorite independent bookstore.
Follow Lucy on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.
DEADLY ADVICE, the first advice column mystery (written as Roberta Isleib) is finally available as an ebook.