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!)

5 Jun 2011

The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood

I can't count the number of times I've read this book as it was a text for two different English Lit classes (and the subject of two essays). It can be read from just about any perspective but in creating my interpretive cakes I'm only concerned with the following themes:
The focus on consumerism
Deconstruction of the self
Ideals of femininity

I'm going to have a lot of fun with this one.

Read, Bake, Eat along with me!
The Edible Woman is published in the UK by Virago Press
Check out the author's website at margaretatwood.ca