Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Book Club

Tonight I hosted book club and we ate half the ginger cake I baked. This is the second ginger cake I've made this week. First I made the gingerbread recipe from the Fanny Farmer Baking Book (by Marion Cunningham), and my son whipped cream to go with it, and it was very good, but I also love it with lemon sauce. So I made lemon sauce from Joy of Cooking (1964 edition) for the rest of it. I had to laugh when I opened the book to the dessert sauces pages because it was so spattered and smudged.
That lemon sauce recipe might be the one my mom made the most from that cookbook. Then there was so much lemon sauce left over after we finished the first ginger cake, and because I was hosting book club, I made a second ginger cake. The second one had fresh ginger in it. I can't decide which one I like best.

Here's the fresh ginger cake recipe. It's from Room For Dessert by David Lebovitz (one-time Chez Panisse pastry chef).

Fresh Ginger Cake

4 oz. fresh ginger
1 cup mild molasses
1 cup sugar
1 cup vegetable oil, preferably peanut
2-1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
1 cup water
2 tsp. baking soda
2 eggs, room temperature

1. Position the oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9"x3" round cake pan or a 9-1/2" springform pan with a circle of parchment paper.
2. Peel, slice, and chop the ginger very fine with a knife (or use a grater).
3. Mix together the molasses, sugar, and oil. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, cloves, and black pepper.
4. Bring the water to boil in a saucepan, stir in the baking soda, and then mix the hot water into the molasses mixture. Stir in the ginger.
5. Gradually whisk the dry ingredients into the batter. Add the eggs, and continue mixing until everything is thoroughly combined. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for about 1 hour, until the top of the cake springs back lightly when pressed or a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. If the top of the cake browns too quickly before the cake is done, drape a piece of foil over it and continue baking.
6. Cool the cake for at least 30 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Remove the cake from the pan and peel off the parchment paper.

Dave recommends serving with a plum and raspberry compote, sliced and sugared peaches, or lemon curd mixed with a little whipped cream.

In between eating and talking about our children, we did talk about the book, Run, by Ann Patchett. Although most of us liked it, the general concensus was that it was not as satisfying as Bel Canto. Bel Canto had an emotional intensity and depth; the writing was lyrical, resonating long after I read it. (If you haven't read Run, you might want to stop here.)

Run has an intriguing and engrossing plot, but the characters were like cut-outs--not fully fleshed. Someone said, "It's like an abridged version of itself." Another person said they could see it as a movie, and there would be nothing left out of the movie that was in the book. I certainly could see the scenes vividly enough--the accident on the snowy street at night, Tennessee lying in the hospital bed, light flooding into Tip and Teddy's room--and suddenly the book did seem more like a screenplay. Actually, the snowy scenes were some of the most beautifully written passages. My favorite part was when Tennessee came back to talk to Tennessee. But did that really fit with the rest of the book? The person in the book that I would like to hear from when she grows up is Kenya. It seemed incredibly sad to me that the secret of her origins died with her second mother. Would she ever find out who she really was, and how important would that be to her?

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