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.