4 Jan 2012

A Blogiversary + A Goodbye

I regret to announce that I am retiring from Ingested Read (perhaps not for good, but at least for now). I have a new project this year that will see me spending more hours outside digging and less time inside reading and baking. No, I haven't joined a chain gang. My boyfriend C. and I have taken on an allotment! (a.k.a. A vegetable plot) If my track record with houseplants is anything to go by we may not have much of a harvest, but fingers crossed my black thumb turns green as the months go by.

I would like to extend a great big thank you to all my followers and visitors over the past year for making me feel a part of the vast food blogging community out there. I intend to keep following each and every one of you on my blogroll as well as any other fabulous foodies who catch my eye. Perhaps now I'll have time to make some of those bookmarked recipes from your blogs! I'll still be responding to any comments or e-mails so feel free to trawl through the Book/Recipe Index and let me know what you think. As always, I would be delighted if you were to share photos of your own conceptual cake creations with me.

And if you're ever feeling a bit peckish for some more fiction-inspired recipes, you can always sink your teeth into these:

Kafka's Soup: A Complete History of World Literature in 14 Recipes by Mark Crick
Published in the UK by Granta Books
Visit Mark Crick's website

Recipe for Murder: Frightfully Good Food Inspired by Fiction by Estérelle Payany. Illustrated by Jean-François Martin.
Published in the UK and France by Flammarion
Visit Estérelle Payany's website (in French)

I hope you've enjoyed my crazy little endevor.

Thanks for reading,


27 Dec 2011

Divine Matrimonial Cake (for 'The Winter Vault')

I found it next to impossible to pull a quote from this book that would encapsulate the reasoning behind this dessert. The Winter Vault by Anne Michaels crisscrosses between Egypt and Canada as we follow the life, love and loss of Avery (an engineer tasked with moving a sacred temple block by block to higher ground) and his wife, Jean (a horticulturalist who finds a spiritual connection between the soil and her deceased parents). In essence,  
"It is the story of ... people and nations displaced and uprooted; and of the myriad means by which we all seek out a place we can call home"
(Jacket Blurb)

By page 23 I knew I would be making a Matrimonial Cake (as it is known in Canada - I'm not sure why). The crumbly squares perfectly represent the blocks of the temple while the date filling comes straight from the palm trees so loved by Jean for their shade along the Nile. The coconut, pecans, spices and orange zest are not traditional, I wanted to add a little something extra special to symbolise the divinity of the great Abu Simbel temple and the memory of Jean's parents.

I also found it quite fitting that Matrimonial Cake reminds me of my childhood Christmases in Canada. It was a staple dessert that found it's way into many a bake swap and I remember eating thick wedges of it with one hand poised below my chin to catch all the delicious crumbly bits. As this has been my 11th Christmas away from home, it also evokes the same nostalgic longing in me that is echoed throughout the book.

Divine Matrimonial Cake
Makes 16 large squares or 32 bite-sized ones

For the Base and Topping:
125g unsalted butter, softened
125g light brown sugar
125g oatmeal
125g plain flour
zest of 1 small orange
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
small handful coconut
small handful pecans, roughly chopped

For the Filling:
200g pitted dates
200ml water
juice of 1/4 lemon
2tbsp golden syrup or corn syrup

In a large bowl mix together the butter, sugar, oatmeal, flour, orange zest and spices until they resemble breadcrumbs. (Or pulse it together in a food processor, if you prefer)Pour 3/4 of the mix into a 23x23cm (9x9 inch) pan lined with grease proof paper and firmly press to form the base. Place in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling. Add the coconut and chopped pecans to the remaining 1/4 and set aside.

In a saucepan, bring the dates and water to the boil, stirring occasionally while mashing with a fork, until it forms rough puree. Add a splash more water if necessary. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly before transferring to a food processor. Add the lemon juice and syrup then give it a whizz to break down any fibrous strands of date. Pour this onto your refrigerated base and top with the remaining crumble mixture. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Also keeps well in the freezer.

1 Dec 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011 - The Results

The deadline of midnight November 30th has come to pass the world over and I can proudly announce (drum roll, please...) I didn't pull it out of the bag this year. I haven't typed a single word since Nov 13th and my word count remains a paltry 18, 674. What have I learned from this experience? That it's certainly easier to make a cake out of a novel than it is to make a novel out of a cake.

So until NaNo 2012, I'm back to baking interpretive cakes. As always, you are more than welcome to Read, Bake, Eat along with me! All cakes and comments welcome.

21 Nov 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011 - Week 3

Word Count: 18, 674 (as of Nov 13)

The story so far:
The good news is, I finally had an idea for a plot development. The bad news is, I haven't been bothered to write it down. I am now 8 days (and 16,326 words) behind schedule. If this story were a croquembuche it would be nothing but a few stale profiteroles at the base of a huge cone gathering dust and mould. At this point, I would be pleased just to break 30,000 words by the end of the month. It's looking like the Winner's badge won't be mine this year. Yet again. What can I say? I lack dicipline.

What's next?
The plot development idea goes something like this:
Having decided to return the book she didn't like, 'Dear Reader' trawles through her bookcase for something to read in the meantime. She chooses one at ramdom with her eyes closed and finds a winning scratch card tucked inside. She is now £1 million richer. With the money, she decides to track down her old boyfriend and see if they still have a chance together.
All sorts of things could go wrong with this (which is what you want in a story - lots of obstacles to overcome).It could follow any number of well-worn romcom plots. He has a girlfriend / is married. Or he's single but doesn't really love her but is willing to string her along until the money runs out...

If I get around to typing anything this week I let you know how she gets on.

13 Nov 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011 - Week 2

Word Count: 16,846 (as of Nov. 10)

The story so far:
Well, to be honest, the story hadn't progressed at all since last week. I tried writing a few 'episodes' and found they weren't helping develop the plot. So, to keep the word count growing, I took a page out of The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron and gave myself permission to write whatever came into my head for 1,667 words. Mostly I've been whinging about work, chatting about what I'm planning on making for dinner and typing out my 'to do' lists. All pretty boring stuff - blah, blah, blah. The last couple of days my motivation has waned as I'm bored of listening my inner monologue and still have no clue what to do with my characters. I feel it may carry on this way until I have a breakthrough - or a breakdown.

What's next?
Your guess is as good as mine. Any suggestions?

6 Nov 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011 - Week 1

Word count: 8,391 (as of 5th Nov)

The story so far:
     Well, as it stands I have 8,000 words of epic stalling. My character (who so far doesn't have a a name but is addressed by the narroator as 'Dear Reader') is sitting down to read a new 50,000 word novel called Croquembouche but discovers she is out of biscuits to go with her tea. She heads out to get some from the corner store but accosts a crab-apple tree along the way and decides to make an apple crumble instead. Remembering she is out of oatmeal and raisins, she continues to the grocery store.
     Here, our 'Dear Reader' encounters an eerie, almost vacant supermarket where zombified customers shuffle aimlessly from aisle to aisle blocking her way and being generally rude and creepy towards her. This reminds her of a dream she once had in which she was Justin Bieber shopping for white bread in a 'supermarket of the future' where the trolley shuttles you around the store and mechanical arms on the shelves fill your basket as you type your shopping list into the onboard keypad. Except in the dream, Bieber's trolley was malfunctioning and kept directing him to the baked beans instead of white bread. In her haste to leave she accidentally buys cinnamon instead of oatmeal, but manages to snag 4 packages of digestive biscuits on a buy-one-get-one-free promotion.
     Once back at the house, realising her mistake and abandoning plans for an apple crumble she finally sits down with a cup of tea and some biscuits to start reading Croquembouche. Upon reading the first page, she decides the story is just boring old rubbish and resolves to return it to the bookshop for a refund.

What next?
Yes, yes, go on and say it - the plot stinks. It's hardly scintilating literature. But there have been a few interesting insights about the character's personal life: 'Dear Reader' is currently in a relationship with a man she doesn't love as much as her ex-boyfriend (neither of whom have names at this point). So, there is room for a real plot to develop. Or not. I really don't care. As long as my fingers keep tapping on the keyboard and increasing my word count, I'm happy.

I've been thinking about the structure of a Croquembouche and I've decided that the individual profiteroles could help solve my plot dilema. Instead of writing one long story, what if I wrote a series of short stories, or 'episodes'. From this point on, if I write three short 500-600 word episodes per day involving the characters above (and whoever else decides to show up) that would give me roughly 75 episodes by the end of the month (which, I think you'll agree, is more than enough to make a decent sized Croquembouche). And, to make my life even easier, each episode will be based on a Word of the Day from the archives of dictionary.com. Wish me luck!

1 Nov 2011

NaNoWriMo Cake Mix!

November is National Novel Writing Month! NaNoWriMo for short. Or simply NaNo to those in the know *nudge, nudge, wink, wink* The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel from scratch in 30 days. That works out to 1,667 words per day (just over 3 pages typed) and the best part is, it doesn't even have to be good! NaNo is all about quantity over quality. It's the Cherpumple of the literary calendar. If you'd like to join in the month of madness, head over to nanowrimo.org or check out The Office of Letters and Light Blog.

So this month I've decided to turn the concept of this blog on its head and mix things up a bit. Instead of using the elements of a story to create a conceptual cake, I'm going to use the elements of a cake to inspire the plot, characters and setting of my novel. The inaugural NaNoWriMo Cake Mix will be...

...a Croquembouche! It's got literary potential written all over it. For a start, it's traditionally served as a wedding cake in France. That could suggest a location, a character or some all-important backstory. It's shape could signify mountains, adventure or an obstacle to overcome. The hot caramel that binds it all together is a potential threat - if someones not careful they could metaphorically (or literally) get burnt. And not to mention the whole thing could collapse at any moment. See? The possibilities for drama are endless, as this croquembouche by Rainbow Sugarcraft in Peeblesshire, Scotland clearly demonstrates!

I'll add a word count widget to the sidebar (when it becomes available) so you can keep track of my progress and each Sunday I will attempt to write a plot summary so you can see what shenanigans my characters have been getting up to all week. I'd better get typing...

18 Oct 2011

Mincemeat 'Haggis': Tried & Tested!

"Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!"
Address to a Haggis by Robert Burns

I originally created this as a nod to J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows but, as I was on holiday at the time, the recipe in the original post remained untested. As the launch of Pottermore draws ever closer, I thought it was time to give it a go.

It also happens to be great for using up any leftover mincemeat, biscuits, nuts and dried cranberries that may be lingering in the back of the cupboard come Burns Night on January 25th.The result is extremely rich so you'll only need a small slice - especially if you've already had a proper helping of haggis, neeps and tatties. I found it tastes best served chilled or at room temperature with a drizzle of unsweetened cream. So feel free to make this up to 3 days in advance and keep it in the fridge until ready to serve.

Note: All the measurements below are approximate - this isn't something you need to weigh accurately.

Mincemeat 'Haggis'
Serves 8-10

400g (1 1/4 cup) mincemeat
80g (1/3 cup) oatmeal
50g (1/4 cup) biscuits (I had Amaretti left from Pineapple & Amaretto Crème de la Chranachan)
60g (1/4 cup) mixed nuts (I had walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds in my cupboard)
20g (2 Tbsp) dessicated coconut
20g (1 1/2 Tbsp) dried cranberries
50g (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted
3 sheets filo pastry, covered with cling film and a damp cloth until needed.
(The rest of the package can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months and defrosted thoroughly in the fridge before using again. Once thawed, do not re-freeze).

Pre-heat oven to 190*C (375*F)
In a food processor, crush the biscuits until they resemble fine breadcrumbs. Add the nuts and pulse to roughly chop, then place in a large mixing bowl. Add the mincemeat, oatmeal, coconut and cranberries and stir until well combined.

Layer three sheets of filo on top of each other brushing each sheet liberally with butter as you stack them. Shape mixture into a ball and place at the short end of your rectangle of filo. Gently roll it up, placing it seam face down on your baking tray. Crimp the ends as though you were making a Christmas cracker and tie with string. Trim off any excess filo. It should look a bit like this silhouette. Place on a baking tray, brush with more butter and bake for 30-40min or until filo is golden brown. 

Mine isn't quite round enough. I think I squished it while rolling.

9 Oct 2011

Ale 'Custard' Pie: An experiment too far

Obviously drunk on the success of my Hogsmeade Butterbeer Tarts, a mischievous little voice in my head cried, "More Ale!" So I got to thinking... Is it possible to use an entire pint of ale in a sweet pie filling?

Because of it's high egg content, I reasoned I could substitute Tudor Buttered Beere for the custard in a baked custard tart as long as I added some cream to tone the flavour down and give the mixture a thicker consistency. You see, I've always imagined the Butterbeer in Harry Potter to taste like a frothy, creamed honey ale with a bit of a kick that lingers at the back of your throat. (Nothing like the insipid butterscotch-flavoured root beer concoctions floating about). But let me tell you, the flavour of ale in this was something else. Not for the faint hearted.

The article does warn:
 "The taste is ‘sharp’, as the cloves bind with the ale to make it the lingering, lasting taste on the tongue, drying the mouth, (it is almost unpleasant at first) but carry on drinking and it soon mellows and it becomes acceptable, then very drinkable ... [if] chilled and blended with cold milk it is very enjoyable ... tasting of caramel and winter spices; and this is how we recommend it"

It was far too bitter for my taste, even after dumping in a whole cup of brown sugar.So I got to thinking... If adding more milk makes it more drinkable, would adding the filling to a cheesecake make it more edible?
Thankfully, I came to my senses and admitted defeat.

I'll post the recipe for the sake of curiosity only. I don't actually recommend making it. I was going to finish this pie with a meringue top because that's what every ale needs, right? A nice bit of froth on top? Sufficed to say, it never happened.

Ale 'Custard' Pie (An epic fail)

For the pie:
1 package unsweetened shortcrust pastry (or homemade)
1 bottle (500ml / 2 cups) real ale
1/8 tsp ground ginger
pinch ground nutmeg
pinch ground cloves
3 large eggs + 2 egg yolks, reserve whites
500g (1 cup, packed) light brown sugar
120ml (1/2 cup) double cream or whipping cream
30g unsalted butter

For the Meringue:
Reserved egg whites
¼ tsp cream of tartar
4Tbsp light brown sugar
½ tsp vanilla

Pre-heat oven to 220*C (425*F)
Prepare a 18cm x 4cm (1½ inch x 7 inch) pie tin with short crust pastry.

Pour the ale into a saucepan without letting it fizz too much and add the spices. Gently bring to a low boil, remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs, egg yolks, sugar and cream. Gradually pour the ale mixture into the bowl, stirring constantly. (Be careful not to scramble the eggs). Add the butter and whisk until dissolved.

Pour into the prepared pie tin and bake for 10 minutes before reducing the temperature to
180*C (350*F) and baking for another 20 minutes or until the middle has set.

While the pie is in the oven:
Whisk the eggs whites with cream of tartar until it foams. Add brown sugar 1Tbsp at a time, whisking well between each addition until stiff and glossy. (You should be able to turn the bowl upside down and none will fall out). Whisk in vanilla.

Spoon onto hot pie filling and spread right to the edges of the crust to form a seal. Bake until just golden and allow to cool.

30 Sep 2011

Fairytale Challenge Winner! Honey Layer Cake

Photo Credit: The Dusty Baker

This luscious layered dessert came to me from my biggest fan, Jaqueline Raposo of The Dusty Baker. (Once again, it was my only entry so there was no bias in my decision to crown her Princess of the Pea). I love that she took creative licence with the challenge and used a musical adaptation of this fairytale, Once Upon a Mattress, as her starting point. A musical which, until this morning, I'd never even heard of! It's like I've been living under a rock - or perhaps like the proverbial pea stuffed under the mattress. (Sorry, bad joke)

Please check out her blog and read the reasoning behind the recipe for this challenge.

While you're there, why not check out her other book-themed desserts:
Little Red Velvet Riding Hood Cupcakes
Hansel and Gretel's Grown-up Gingerbread 
Curious George's Banana Nut Bread

For those of you not familiar with Jacqueline's work, she is an actress, food writer and all-round allergy conscious baker extraordinaire living it up in NYC. She recently took part in The Great American Pie-Off and not only got Runner-up in the Best Pie category, she also won 1st prize in the Most Creative Pie category for her savoury Holiday in a Hand Pie - perfect for using up those Thanksgiving leftovers in a few weeks time!

The next Fairytale Challenge will be in February so mark it on your calendar, tell all your friends and don't be shy about participating! In the meanwhile, don't forget you can make a contribution to this blog at any time by turning your favourite novel into an interpretive cake and sending me the link. Find out more and Read, Bake, Eat along with me! All cakes and comments welcome.

4 Sep 2011

Fairytale Challenge: The Princess and the Pea

Photo Credit: Manda McGrory at TreeFall Design

This month I'll be taking a break from my regular interpretive cake baking however, I'm leaving you with a challenge. The Fairytale Challenge, to be precise. I realise not everyone has time to read books (much less turn them into interpretive cakes) but I know everyone is familiar with fairytales. So this month, give your inner child free reign to create an original dessert for The Princess and the Pea. It can be anything that takes your fancy so go wild!

All entries will be posted in my gallery, Intercaketuality, [See update] with a link to your post and a place in the Contributor's Hall of Fame. Plus, I'll send you this snazzy little badge for your sidebar so you can flaunt your Conceptual Cake Artist street cred.

The challenge closes at midnight (GMT) on September 29th. To submit your creation e-mail ingested.read[at]gmail[dot]com with the URL of your blog post.
No blog? No problem! Contact me at the same address and I'll set you up with a guest post.

My inspiration for this came from Jacqueline, The Dusty Baker who I met online through Foodbuzz. Check out her repertoire of fairytale-inspired cakes in the gallery [See update]. She's also been my first official Conceptual Cake Artist with her post for American Noir Cupcakes inspired by Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep. You can read her weekly allergy-friendly restaurant review column, The Dusty Review, on the NYC food blog Bromography. (As you can tell, I'm a big fan.)

If you're unsure how to create a recipe from a story take a look at the winning post from May's challenge: Goldilocks and the Three Bears, or send me a message and I'll help you get the creative dough rolling.

Read, Bake, Eat? Ready, Set, Bake!


Don't forget you can make a contribution to this blog at any time by turning your favourite novel into an interpretive cake. Find out more and Read, Bake, Eat along with me! All cakes and comments welcome. 

Update: Intercaketuality has been deleted by me. Jacqueline's cakes can be found here, here, and here.

31 Aug 2011

Spot, Merit & Demerit Badge Cookies (for 'Shades of Grey)

"Our clothes were dyed in a conventional shade visible only to other Reds, so to the Greens sitting opposite, we had only our Red Spots to set us apart from the Greys"(p.3)

"I was wearing a 'Needs Humility' badge below my Red Spot...if the Green woman had been more reasonable, she would have excused me the errand owing to the prestigious 1,000-Merit badge that I also wore."(p.4)
"She wore a bright synthetic Purple Spot and, below that, several merit badges and a Head Prefect badge upside down - she had once run the village."(p.63)

The world created by Jasper Fforde in Shades of Grey revolves around one's perception of colour and this perception determines their social hierarchy. I wanted to create cookies for each of the badges mentioned in the book but, sadly, they will have to remain imaginary. I've mocked up some examples of what I had in mind and I have to say that in spite of my poor photoshop skills, these turned out infinitely better than anything I could have achieved with icing. If you decide to make and decorate a batch or two of cookies along this theme, please let me know and I will post them on Intercaketuality with a link to your blog.

How would you interpret Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde? All cakes and comments welcome.

Coming Soon...
The Fairytale Challenge! (See the winning post from May's competition)
This time we'll be using 'The Princess and the Pea' as inspiration for an original dessert. So, put your thinking aprons on - more details will be available from Sunday September 4th.

23 Aug 2011

Cupcakes of Knowledge (for 'Shades of Grey')

"That's good wisdom."
"It was good jam. And Jam is Knowledge" (p.234)

If, like Eddie Russett, you need to bargain for answers to life's mysteries with an Apocryphal Man, it's worth having some loganberry jam to hand. And it has to be loganberry. The closest I could find was lingonberry (from Ikea). Perhaps if the Apocryphal Man was in a generous mood he'd grant me the answer to half a question and a juicy snippet in exchange for a jar since it's a close cousin to the loganberry. Also, in order to symbolise the friendship between Eddie and the Apocryphal Man, I decided to fill them with custard because Eddie appreciates a properly hued custard almost as much as he appreciates a well managed queuing system.

How would you interpret Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde? All cakes and comments welcome.

Cupcakes of Knowledge 
(Custard and Lingonberry Jam Filled Cupcakes)

Makes 16-18 cupcakes

For the Victoria Sponge: (from Cook with Jamie by Jamie Oliver) 
225g (1cup) butter
225g (1cup + 2tbsp) caster sugar
4 eggs
225g (1 3/4 cups) self-raising flour (or plain flour with 3tsp baking powder)
1 lemon, zest only 

For the Filling:
1 small pot (150g / 5oz) ready-made custard
1 jar lingonberry jam 
Icing sugar to decorate.

Pre-heat oven to 190*C (375*F)
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time beating well between each addition. Fold in the flour and lemon zest until you have a smooth batter.
Divide the batter evenly into muffin tins lined with paper cases and bake for 15min or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before filling.

To fill:
Cut the top off each cupcake and use a melon baller to scoop out a bit of each base. Spoon custard into the hole and spread a thin layer over the cut part of the base, so the two parts will stick back together again. Then take a small cookie cutter (I used a star shape) and cut out the center of each cupcake top. Place the cupcake tops back onto the bases and fill the cut-out with jam. Dust with icing sugar and serve.

I actually made another version of these but wasn't happy with them as I used store-bought cupcakes. Never Again.  As you can see, they seem knowledgeable enough perched on those philosophy books, but they turned out to be impostors. Like a mediocre self-help book, they looked appealing in their wrappers but one bite was all it took to realise the inside was dry and lacked substance, made palatable only by their sugary coating.

And the custard icing is delicious, by the way. It also happens to be the middle layer of My Great Grandmother's Nanaimo Bars. So, if you already have some cupcakes to hand (especially chocolate ones) this icing will go down a treat with or without a dollop of jam on top.

P.S. I know I said I was putting all baking on hold until the 10k race had been run (less than 3 weeks away!) but I just had to post these. I tried to cut corners reasoning that if I bought the cupcakes and decorated them I'd be torturing myself less than baking them from scratch and filling the house with their wonderful scent. In the end, I managed to find some super strength willpower hiding at the back of my cupboard and made both versions without so much as licking a spoon. I only hope I have enough left over for those cookies I'm planning on making next...

Recipe, Dessert , Cupcakes, Lingonberry, Custard

14 Aug 2011

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

'Imaginative thought is to be discouraged. No good ever comes of it' - Munsell Book of Wisdom (p.87)

I read this on holiday and dreamt about it for a week afterwards. The concept is so clever and intriguing that I don't think I'll ever look at colours in the same way again. Or spoons. Or postcodes. Or Loganberry jam. Even mildew is forever changed in my consciousness... Let's just say this book made a big impression on me. Plus it gave me two fantastic baking ideas:

Read, Bake, Eat along with me!
Check out the author's website www.jasperfforde.com or jump to the Shades of Grey home page
Shades of Grey is published in the UK by Hodder and Stoughton

7 Aug 2011

Pineapple & Amaretto Crème de la Cranachan (for 'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie')

"To Sandy, the unfamiliar pineapple had the authentic taste and appearance of happiness ... Both girls saved the cream to the last, then ate it in spoonfuls." (p.16)
"Sandy recalled Miss Brodie's admiration for Mussolini's marching troops ... It occurred to Sandy, there at the end of the Middle Meadow Walk, that the Brodie set was Miss Brodie's fascisti..." (p.31)

 With the Edinburgh Festival in full swing and feeling slightly nostalgic for the city after my Harry Potter musings last month, I turned to Muriel Spark for inspiration. It didn't take long for this heady concoction to tickle my creative palate. I took the classic Scottish cranachan (traditionally made with raspberries, oatmeal, cream and whisky) and, using the above quotes for inspiration, turned it into a flamboyant and sultry combination - much like Miss Brodie herself. The pineapple is symbolic of the bright enthusiasm of the Brodie set while the amaretto represents not only Miss Brodie's love of Italy, but the intoxicating effect of her influence.

How would you interpret The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark? All cakes and comments welcome.

Pineapple & Amaretto Crème de la Cranachan
Serves 4

1 small pineapple, stems reserved for garnish
120g amaretti biscuits, crushed
200ml double cream
1tbsp caster sugar (or to taste)
2tbsp Amaretto liqueur

Slice the pineapple into small pieces (like you would get on a pizza). Place half in a blender and pulse until roughly chopped. Stir in remaining pieces and set aside.
In a large bowl, whip cream and sugar until set. Stir in 2tbsp of the crushed biscuits and the amaretto being careful not to over whip the cream.
Layer the pineapple, crushed biscuits and whipped cream into glasses and garnish with the green stems. Allow to chill slightly before serving.

31 Jul 2011

Mincemeat 'Haggis' (for 'Harry Potter')

Decal by Lucidchaos Graphics, modified by me


If only Harry had defeated Voldemort with an attack of savage haggis.  
Now, that would have been something to see.

This adorable little guy was illustrated by Ryan S. Thomason, a friend and former colleague of my other half.  
Like it? Check out his flikr stream
[blog & online shop tezoarillustration.com currently unavailable, hopefully back soon]

But seriously, haggis is nothing to be afraid of. If you've never tried it, you're missing out. Think of it as a meatloaf with oatmeal and plenty of black pepper dressed up as an overgrown sausage and don't be a wuss about it. Trust me, you've eaten worse things in a hot dog. 

This sweet, dessert version of 'haggis' has more in common with a mince tart than it's meatier namesake. For an extra special touch, whip up some cream with a splash of whisky to serve.

Now, you're probably wondering, "What's haggis got to do with Harry Potter?" and I'll admit, not much, aside from a rather foul version served at Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington's five-hundredth Deathday Party in the video game for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. (Source: Harry Potter Wiki). I'm taking creative licence with this one and drawing on the fact that J.K. Rowling lives in Edinburgh and, therefore, Scotland's national dish should appear in some form in connection with the books. Bookmark this one to serve on January 25th for the perfect end to your Burn's Night Supper.

Please note: This is a theoretical recipe and has not yet been tested in my kitchen. New recipe & photos can be found by following the link below.

Tried & Tested October 2011

20 Jul 2011

Gryffindor Mulled Mead Jelly (for 'Harry Potter')

Photo: Harry Potter Wiki

This would make a stunning centerpiece to any Harry Potter party. Definitely one to make ahead of time.

Please note: I am away on holiday and haven't given this recipe a test run. It should work in theory... think of it as a Potions lesson with Professor Snape.

Here are links to sites which contributed to the creative imagining of this dessert:
Mulled Mead from celtnet.org
Broken Glass Jello from The Food Librarian
Wine Shot Jigglers from Cool Grapes
eGForums discussion of leaf gelatine vs. Knox

Gryffindor Mulled Mead Jelly


1 package cherry jell-o
1 bottle Chardonnay (a deep yellow one from the southern hemisphere is best)
3tbsp honey
100ml brandy or cognac (optional)
½ orange
8 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1tsp fresh ginger, sliced
4-5 whole black pepper corns
½ tsp ground nutmeg
12 sheets leaf gelatine

Make cherry jell-o ahead of time by mixing one box of jell-o with 250ml (1 cup) boiling water. Pour into a rectangular container and leave to refrigerate 3 hours or until firm.

To make the 'mead', start by placing the cinnamon, ginger, pepper and nutmeg in a muslin bag and tying with string. Stud the orange with cloves. Cover sheets of gelatine with water and leave to soak.

Pour the wine into a saucepan and stir in the honey. Add the brandy or cognac, if using, and place the studded orange and spice bag into the pan. Heat until just below boiling point (do not allow to boil) then reduce to a simmer for 10min. Remove from heat. Squeeze excess water from gelatine and add to wine, stirring constantly until dissolved.

Cut cherry jell-o into 1 inch (2.5cm) cubes and place into whatever you are using as a mold. Pour the mulled mead over the cubes and place in the fridge until set, ideally overnight.
Recipe, Dessert , Gelatine, Mead

13 Jul 2011

Hogsmeade Butterbeer Tarts (for 'Harry Potter')

Butterbeer Bottle Labels - available from Sidetracked Artist

This recipe is a fusion of Tudor Buttered Beere and a Canadian favourite, Butter Tarts.

Please note: I am away on holiday and haven't given this version of the recipe a test run, though I recently made a maple version of them for Canada Day with great success. It's basically this recipe for butter tarts from Canadian Living with a few tweaks. I don't think the changes I've made will affect the way they bake.

Tried & Tested: October 2011
As I expected, the recipe works and the hint of ale gives them a depth of flavour that just can't be achieved by substituting root beer. Which is why I'd like to take a moment to make a case for Real Ale:

Depending on which country you live in, your choice of ales may not be as numerous as here in the UK, but I suspect it won't take a whole lot of searching to find one. Ale aficionados have spread their influence far and wide. Now, I know 2 tablespoons doesn't sound like much in a batch of tarts so you may be asking, "Why should I buy a whole bottle if I'm only going to use 2 tablespoons?". My answer is: Because ale isn't expensive and trust me, it makes all the difference. If you're not up to drinking the rest of the bottle straight, you could pour it into a hearty beef stew or whisk it into batter for another British favourite, fish & chips! C. and I enjoyed our bottle with a plate of sausage, mashed potato and onion gravy. How very British.


Hogsmeade Butterbeer Tarts

Makes 12 tarts

Ingredients for the filling:

50g (1/4 c) raisins or currants
pinch ground ginger
pinch ground nutmeg
pinch ground cloves
2 tbsp Real British Ale* - NOT 'beer' as in German or American-style lager
125g (1/2 c) light brown muscovado sugar
125g (1/2 c) golden syrup or corn syrup
1 egg
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla

*For alcohol free tarts, substitute root beer, sarsaparilla, or dandelion & burdock soda.

Make ahead:
In a bowl toss the raisins or currants in the ground ginger, nutmeg and cloves. Pour in the real ale and leave to soak for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally, so the flavours have time to infuse. Or leave it in the fridge overnight.

Prepare tart cases according to recipe link above (or use pre-made ones) and place in the refrigerator.
Pre-heat oven to 230 C (450 F).
In a bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, golden syrup, egg, butter and vanilla. Take the tart cases out of the refrigerator and divide the raisin mixture between them. Fill the tarts 2/3 full and place in the oven for 12-15 min. They will puff and bubble as they cook but you'll know they're done when the pastry is golden. They should remain slightly gooey in the middle. Let stand for a minute or two before carefully removing them from the pan and transferring to a wire rack.

Recipe, Dessert , Tart, Raisins, Ale

7 Jul 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Desserts

Me as Professor Trelawney

When Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was published I was lucky enough to be working the midnight opening at Waterstone's, Edinburgh East End. Also with us that night, aside from the hundreds of fans queued up outside, was a documentary crew filming snippets for J.K. Rowling: A Year in the Life which later ended up as part of the DVD extras on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. If you watch closely, there is a split second of me dressed as Professor Trelawney waving my hands around like a spell casting maniac. It's my one claim to international fame (albeit anonymous).

Working my magic on the tills - 21st July, 2007

So as the last film makes it's premier in Leicester Square tonight, I thought it fitting to create some new Potter-themed desserts with a grown-up flavour. After all, our characters have come of age and they've just won an epic battle. 

Let's celebrate the end of a magical era with...Hogsmeade Butterbeer Tarts, Gryffindor Mulled Mead Jelly and Mincemeat "Haggis" (I know that last one isn't strictly Potter related but go with me on this one - I'm drawing on the JK Rowling / Edinburgh connection here. I guarantee you'll want to serve it at your next Burns Night Supper too.)

Read, Bake, Eat along with me!
Harry Potter is published in the UK by Bloomsbury Press 
Check out JK Rowling's official website www.jkrowling.com
Don't forget the launch of Pottermore in October! Register your interest now and you could be one of the lucky few to get a sneak peek at the end of the month.

30 Jun 2011

Garibaldi R-ice Cream Ladies (for 'The Edible Woman')

"Raisins are too risky ... Many don't like them" (p.18)

"The company is layered like an ice cream sandwich, with three floors: the upper crust, the lower crust, and our department, the gooey layer in the middle."

"Now she had a blank white body. It looked slightly obscene lying there soft and sugary and featureless on the platter. "

"You've been trying to assimilate me. But I've made you a substitute, something you'll like much better."

This dessert was created using the above four quotes as inspiration. The first two are from a scene at Marian's workplace, Seymor Surveys, where she edits market research questionaires. The first quote is the dietitian's response to Marian's suggestion of adding raisins to the canned rice pudding she's been asked to taste test. Canned rice pudding appears several times in the book symbolising the ultimate convenience food for busy housewives, hence why I decided the 'gooey middle layer' had to be rice pudding ice cream. I'm guessing nowadays, any dessert containing rice pudding is far more risky than one made with raisins. The last two quotes are from the title scene of the book where Marian bakes and presents her fiancee, Peter, with an edible woman as a test of his unconscious desire to consume her (hence the woman-shaped cookie cutter).

How would you interpret The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood? All cakes and comments welcome.

Garibaldi R-ice Cream Ladies 

For the Garibaldi's:
I always use Simon Rimmer's recipe for 'Squashed Fly' Biscuits. My boyfriend C. loves these and can never be without them while writing an essay. (So, yes I am partially to blame for his freshman fifteen this year)

I found the cookies held their shape better if the cookie cutter was pressed into the whole rectangle of rolled dough on the tray before baking and separated afterwards by pressing the cookie cutter back into the outline and tracing around the edge with a knife if neccesary.

For the Rice Pudding Ice Cream:
Modified from a recipe by Mark Hix, published in The Independent

1 tin good-quality rice pudding (aprox 400g / 10 oz)
1tsp vanilla
70ml (5tbsp) double cream
2 egg whites
2tbsp sugar

Stir rice pudding, vanilla and cream together. In a separate bowl, whip egg whites and sugar until stiff peaks form then add to the rice mixture and fold until well combined. Pour into a  large-ish freezer safe plastic container, seal the lid and place in the freezer. Stir with an electric mixer every half hour for 2 - 3 hours to break up the ice crystals (depending on the shape of your container you may need to run a knife around the edge and into the corners).

To assemble: 
This is the fun bit! It's also self explanitory, but I'll tell you how I did it anyway... I froze my ice cream in a rectangular container then turned it out onto a cutting board by cutting around the edge with a butter knife and diping the bottom of the container briefly in warm water. Then I used my cookie cutter and a knife to cut perfect lady-shaped centers for my lady-shaped biscuits. Sandwich together and leave to soften slighty before eating.

Recipe, Dessert , Icecream, Rice Pudding, Raisins

26 Jun 2011

Idea Munching: The Edible Woman - Part 3

When I began interpreting The Edible Woman I was keen to avoid making a woman-shaped dessert. I'm not sure why. Perhaps I was stubbornly avoiding it on the grounds that it would be too literal an interpretation, or that it would seem like I was 'copying' the main character, Marian, who bakes a "doll-like" cake and serves it to her fiancee as a test of his unconcious desire to consume her. So I turned to the introduction in my edition of the book, written by Margaret Atwood herself, and decided that creating an edible woman was practically obligatory. She writes,
"I'd been speculating for some time about symbolic cannibalism. Wedding cakes with sugar brides and grooms were at that time of particular interest to me." [...] "It's noteworthy that my heroine's choices remain much the same at the end of the book as they are at the begining: a career going nowhere, or mariage as an exit from it."
So I'm busy working on a creation using the following quotes for inspiration, two from the begining of the book and two from the end:

"Raisins are too risky ... Many don't like them" (p.18).
"The company is layered like an ice cream sandwich, with three floors: the upper crust, the lower crust, and our department, the gooey layer in the middle." (p.19)
"Now she had a blank white body. It looked slightly obscene lying there soft and sugary and featureless on the platter. " (p.269)
"You've been trying to assimilate me. But I've made youa substitute, something you'll like much better." (p.271)

22 Jun 2011

Cherry Cheesecake Lasagne (for 'The Edible Woman')

In trying to create a cake that reflected Marian's disturbed state of mind, I finally decided on a cheesecake with a lasagne complex. It's symbolic of the various psychoses alluded to in the book as well as representing the love triangle - or is it more of a sandwich? - between Peter, Marian and Duncan:

Peter, Marian's fiance, is the graham crackers as he is a seemingly solid individual who crumbles under the pressure of being the last remaining bachelor among his friends. Marion is the cherry filling because she is compelled to play the 'scarlet woman' by carrying on a relationship with both men. And Duncan, an eccentric and impossibly pale grad student, is the cream cheese layer. (Spread it as smooth as possible in a nod to his love of ironing).

How would you interpret The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood? All cakes and comments welcome.

A few notes before we start: 
  1. I can't get graham crackers here in the UK so I am indebted to Smitten Kitchen for her post on making your own. However, if you intend to assemble these individually and serve immediately (like I did) then the store bought variety may be more convenient. According to this yahoo forum store bought graham crackers are 5 x 2.5 inches which is pretty close to the ones I made measuring 4 x 2.5 inches (aprox.)
  2.  I have an inkling that this would work assembled as one large cake though you would need a rectangular springform pan (9 x 13 x 3 inch) or maybe you could build 'sides' out of foil / plastic wrap covered cardboard until ready to serve. In this case, assemble everything in the springform pan (cherries and all) and chill 2-3 hours or until ready to serve. I'm guessing it may be easier to slice before taking the sides away. Please leave me a comment if you try this, I'd love to know how it turns out!
  3. Lastly, I went overboard with the cherries for the slice shown here in the photo. There are 24 in all - 6 on each edge then filled with the thickened cherry sauce in the middle. You don't have to do this! It tastes exactly the same if you don't. If you wanted to do this with all 9 slices you'd either need a fair few few cans of pie mix (I estimate there were only 30 cherries in one 400g tin) or it may be more economical to make your own filling. My Baking Addiction has a nice looking recipe. I wish I'd made my own filling to go with my homemade graham crackers. Maybe next time.

Cherry Cheesecake Lasagna
Makes 9 slices

18 graham crackers, store bought or homemade (see note 1, above)
750g cream cheese
300ml sour cream
9 tbsp icing sugar, or to taste
2 tsp vanilla
2 tins cherry pie mix (400g) or homemade cherry filling (see note 3, above)

If you are making your own graham crackers, bake them on two 7.5 x 11.5 inch cookie trays and do not score or cut them into rectangles either before you bake them or after they have cooled on a wire rack (you'll see why in a minute). Once cool, line the same cookie trays with greaseproof paper leaving an inch or two hanging over one end to use as a handle later. Place the uncut graham crackers back onto the lined tray.

Mix cream cheese, sour cream, icing sugar and vanilla in a bowl and adjust sweetness to taste. Reserve one third of the mixture in a piping bag (it will be used to top the desserts just before serving - you'll want to pipe it to avoid disturbing the delacate balance of the slices) and spread the other two thirds over the graham cracker trays. Place in the refrigerator until firm, about 2-3 hours, or until ready to serve.

If you're using store bought graham crackers, spread a layer of cream cheese mix onto each of the rectangles and place on a tray to chill in the fridge and continue as per instructions below.

* Only assemble as many slices as you intend to eat* (or see note 2, above)

To assemble, carefully slide one graham cracker and cream cheese slab onto a cutting board using the grease proof paper handle to pull it along. Cut into 9 rectangles and place each one on a serving plate. Spread with cherry pie mix. Slide the second slab onto the cutting board, as before, and cut into 9 rectangles. Place each one cream cheese side down on top of the ones spread with cherries. Pipe the remaining cream cheese mix on top and either spoon on more cherry pie mix or garnish with individual cherries. 

*Serve immediately or they'll slide apart!*

Recipe, Dessert , Cheesecake, Cherry

16 Jun 2011

Idea Munching: The Edible Woman - Part 2

In part two of The Edible Woman the narration switches from first person to third person as Marian becomes a passive observer rather than an active participant in her life. She drifts apathetically from one situation to another and acquiesces to all kinds of demands (from her body, her fiancee, her friends and from Duncan) as though each were inevitable and unavoidable.

"So I'm finally going mad," she thought, "like everybody else. What a nuisance. Though I suppose it will be a change."(p.126)

I've been trying to come up with an idea for a cake that embodies Marian's disturbed state of mind. Something that says 'identity crisis' or 'deconstruction of the self'. When I saw the Cookie Cake Pie over at cakespy I thought I was onto a winner but decided against it on the grounds that (aside from being one big mash-up of a dessert) there was no significant symbolism between it and the book. I've also looked at numerous ways of deconstructing a banoffee pie (because some might say Marian is 'going bananas') but have shelved that idea as well. I'm now thinking along the lines of a tasty fake. The most frequently mentioned foods include: eggs, raisins, canned rice pudding, and spaghetti with meat balls. Wish me luck!

13 Jun 2011

Strawberry "Tin Can" Shortcake (for 'The Edible Woman')

"Are you going to have them serve it hot?" I asked, "Or maybe with cream?"
"Well, it's intended primarily for the time-saver market," she said, "They naturally would want to serve it cold. They can add cream if they like, later, I mean we've nothing really against it..." (p.18)

Consumerism isn't just an overarching theme in this novel, it's an all smothering one: Posters of girdle-clad young women, sly tactics used by supermarkets and advertisers to entice weary housewives, and the question of whether women become commodities when 'given away' in marriage. I wanted a dessert that reflected 60s femininity as a commodity. Something that could be packaged and sold to those same weary housewives as a worthy substitute for the real thing. And, of course, it had to be pink.

How would you interpret The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood? All cakes and comments welcome.

Strawberry "Tin Can" Shortcake
Serves 6

For the pudding:
50g (1/4c) butter
50g (1/4c) sugar
4 eggs, separated
175g (3/4c) all-purpose flour
2 tins (Net Weight aprox. 400g or 14oz) strawberries in juice, drained. Reserve liquid.

For the sauce:
50g (1/4c) sugar
Reserved strawberry juice
4 tsp arrowroot powder
2 tsp balsamic vinegar

Start with the sauce.  Place reserved strawberry juice and sugar in a saucepan and reduce to 125ml (1/2c). Set to one side and allow to cool. 

Pre-heat oven to 150*C (300*F). Carefully grease & flour 6 well-scrubbed tuna tins (or ramekins).

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks one at a time blending well after each. Add flour in three parts. (I found this made a very stiff batter. You may want to loosen it with 1-2tbsp water). Add strawberries and stir with a spoon until you have a smooth batter.

In a second bowl, whip egg whites until stiff peaks form and fold gently into strawberry batter.

Place your prepared tins onto a roasting tray and fill each one 3/4 full with batter before topping up with what remains. Cover with tin foil and secure with string or rubber bands. Fold excess foil up out of the way so the ends don't get wet and pour boiling water into the roasting pan so it comes 1/3 of the way up the sides of the tins.

Place on middle rack of the oven for 25min or until a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean. Immediately remove foil, run a knife around the edge of the tins and tip onto plates (they should release by themselves if left 30sec or so). 

Mix arrowroot powder with a little cooled juice before tipping it into the saucepan. Gently heat - do not allow to boil - stirring constantly until mixture thickens. Take off the heat and stir in the vinegar. Pipe sweetened whipped cream around slightly cooled puddings before spooning sauce over the top.Garnish with extra strawberries if desired.

Modified from cookbook The 150 Best Slow Cooker Recipes by Judith Finlayson
Some interesting info: History of Instant Cake Mixes foodtimeline.org

Added 16/06/11:
Just found these 60s Jello-O dessert photos on oh so loveley vintage. Loving that retro food styling!
Recipe, Dessert , Cake, Strawberry

9 Jun 2011

Idea Munching: The Edible Woman - Part 1

I have been waiting to do The Edible Woman for months now and I've been putting it off because I had the brilliant idea of baking something in a tin can as a way of symbolising the theme of consumerism. I've had ideas for cakes, cupcakes, tarts - even a tart within a cupcake (like a mini version of the Cherpumple) but none of them have gripped me as the perfect interpretation of femininity packaged as a commodity. I was completely stumped. Until yesterday while leafing through my cookbooks, I came accross The One:

Steamed Strawberry Pudding

To clarify for everyone, like me, who grew up associating the word 'pudding' with bowls of Jell-O milk based puddings - that's not what I'm referring to here. It's a steamed sponge cake and according to the author, Judith Finlayson, "it's every bit as delicious as strawberry shortcake, with fewer calories and fat." (The 150 Best Slow Cooker Recipes p.244) So there you have it:

Strawberry "Tin Can" Shortcake.

Time to see if it works as well in practice as it does in my lovely little sketch... Will it cook all the way through? Will I get it out in one piece? Will it taste faintly of tuna? (I sincerely hope not - I've scrubbed and boiled those tins twice!)