Monday, August 29, 2016

Gilmore Girls: Remembering, repeating and Working through pt1

I have been teasing about it for a while and now I shall tease no more. This week I am starting the first in a series of slightly psychological reviews of Gilmore Girls. Why slightly psychological; firstly there is no shortage of GG reviews, therefore it is necessary to take an angle, secondly as I am a psychologist and am completing my doctorate in psychology I don't think I could honestly claim to see it in another way.

You may note that it sounds like a heavy title and I suppose it is. If you are a psychologist you may recognise this as a reference to Freud's seminal paper. However if you are not a psychologist I encourage you to continue reading. I intent to take an only slightly psychological stance and will not be filling this review with psychologist specific references. Partially because I spend enough time doing that in my thesis and I honestly could not be bothered but also because I intend these reviews to be generally accessible. So I will keep my referencing of obscure terms to a minimum. My other intention is to put forward a number of reviews. I may break it down into multiple reviews. All building up to an episode by episode review of the new season in November.

Now as I am aware that not everyone who comes to this website loves Gilmore Girls so I intend to space these out over the next three months and each of the posts will come with a cookie recipe, because you know...TVandCookies.

So anyway here we go...

Image property of Warner Brothers*

In a recent round up of the best episodes of the Gilmore Girls on a popular website they said that you can skip season one all together. Well, I'm sorry but I firmly disagree. Season one is essential! It establishes the mood of the show and the foundational context of the opposing worlds of Stars Hollow versus "Hartford," (i.e. Emily and Richard's World, Chilton). I use invert commas here for a reason. I recently watched a video of a Gilmore Girls fan who pointed out some geographical inaccuracies with the show and made a point that the depiction of Hartford is quite inaccurate which gave me a smile. I actually got to visit Hartford in 2009 and I was bitterly disappointed to see that Hartford was nothing like the place they describe in Gilmore Girls, at all!!!

However I digress, Season one. So, for me, the most important episodes are the Pilot, Rory's Birthday parties, Rory's dance, Star-crossed lovers and Other Strangers, and Emily in Wonderland. I will go through each one and explain why.

The Pilot is amazing and introduces us to all the major players and contexts. The intro scene with Lorelai, Luke and then Rory sets the pace and tone for the whole show and demonstrates the incredible Sherman-Palladino story crafting skills. We meet all the major players; the aforementioned three, Sookie, Lane, Richard and Emily, and Dean. Then there are the references, you have to love the many, many references. My favourite mother daughter fantasy relationship is beautifully depicted. I know the word chemistry is generally saved for romantic couples but the natural and loving banter between Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel gives the impression of people who have known each other for years, I guess like mother and daughter/best friends! It's so comfortable and that entices us, the audience into this beautiful, relaxed environment and makes us want to visit again and again. Then the core conflict between Lorelai and her parent's is played out beautifully in the first Friday night dinner. The acting in this scene between Kelly Bishop and Lauren Graham is wonderful, of course,but the dynamics are much less subtle than they come to be. In many ways I enjoy this, it's over spilling of pent up emotions, it's tolerating that by all parties for a greater good.

Image property of Warner Brothers*

Rory's Birthday Parties
This episode starts with Friday night dinner and unlike the pilot shows us a glimpse of the hope behind the anger/hurt in the Lorelai- Emily relationship. We see Emily making efforts to connect and Lorelai getting excited by those efforts, responding in kind. This, for me,is essential GG viewing. People can be hurtful to each other for lots of reasons but hurting each other because you want to love each other, well that's the stuff of Shakespeare! The party that Emily throws is beautiful and it's clear what a huge amount of effort she has put in, however once the party starts (foreshadowed by the shopping trip) it is immediately clear that the party was thrown for Emily's fantasy grand-daughter and not necessarily the real Rory. I also love that we get to see more of Rory's character; her attempts to sublimate her needs for those of others and then the subsequent frustration and outburst. Rory gets a taste of Lorelai's life and we get to see the dynamic repeated with Emily and Rory with Lorelai putting her head out to change the dynamic this time, with positive consequences. Sidenote: if you want a laugh watch the random extras at Rory's second party!

Image property of Warner Brothers*

Rory's Dance
Oh this is another classic episode. We get to see more of Dean and we get to see a bit more of the elusive Christopher! We see one of the major introductions of the theme of separating Lorelai and Rory. Emily accuses Lorelai of influencing Rory too strongly and then we see Lorelai encouraging Rory to form her own opinion on dances. This is one of the things that I most admire about Lorelai and Rory's relationship. A single mother and daughter creates an interesting situation. There is no father here to create an oedipal triangle and Lorelai makes it crystal clear that her major priority is Rory. Therefore Lorelai must hold a third within herself (as many mothers do) but is particularly important for single mothers. We see Lorelai struggling to be greater than how she sees her own mother, as being trapped in the dynamic of their relationship, doomed to repeat the past in every interaction. It is Lorealai's desire, to give  Rory the chances she didn't have, that pushes her to re-engage with her parents and the grandparent's desire, for a second chance to give Rory what Lorelai refused, that force them to stay in relationship with Lorelai. They each want what is best for Rory (which of course is subjective) but this shared interest connects them and creates space for relating and small incremental adaptations. This is interesting as their core conflict could have been seen previously as Emily and Richard want what is best for Lorelai and Lorelai wanting what is best for Lorelai but those things being diametrically opposed. Now in Rory they may meet half way, kind of...
What we see in Rory's dance is a climactic effect of these various efforts. Lorelai and Emily are brought together by the dance and they dare to hope for mother daughter connection between them only for that to blow up in their faces when Rory's best interests are not met. The second this happens all of the pains and failures of the past come flooding back and we see the explosion that occurs in the kitchen and unfortunately Lorelai and Rory's relationship takes a blow from the flying debris. As you can tell, I kind of love this episode!!

So lets talk cookies

Macadamia White Chocolate Cookies

The recipe for the cookie base was a trial of these by Simmer and Boyle.
I was impressed but would make some small adjustments next time. I obviously went for white chocolate chunks and macadamia nuts in place of milk chocolate

Here's a couple of delicious pics

And on with the review

Image property of Warner Brothers*

Star Crossed Lovers and Other Strangers
This episode comes much later in the season and Rory and Dean are well established. The episode leads up to them going out to celebrate their 3 month anniversary. The episode focuses on love and we see Lorelai's frustration at being alone. We also see, in part, why Luke has not made a move with Lorelai, i.e. his history with Rachel. This concept is introduced in 'Concert, interrupted,' but now we meet the woman herself and see the dynamic in action. Now much of this episode seems less significant that the episodes above but I would argue that a subtle dynamic is building that comes to a head in the last few minutes of the show. (Spoilers to follow)
Lorelai has forsaken her relationship with Max for the benefit of Rory, and Max, but mostly Rory. However now she is alone, while Rory has a boyfriend. We see from very early in the episode how Lorelai subtly dismisses and downplays the importance of the anniversary. She projects it onto Emily, of course, but I believe it belongs to her. Then comes the date and Rory is blown away with Dean's efforts, that all lead up to the gift of the car and the declaration of love. Now, this could easily have been anticipated. Dean has been telling Rory that he loved her since day one and Rory clearly has intense feelings for him. But as she sits there with the meatball for her mother I believe that Lorelai plays an enormous role in Rory's inability to say 'I love you,' back.
As I mentioned above, Rory has not had a father in her life to separate her from her mother, or with whom Lorelai can model romantic relating. We see in 'Love and Snow and War,' that Lorelai has never introduced another man to Rory, which is something I massively applaud, it's undoubtedly difficult but has provided stability. However every positive has a shadow and the shadow here is that Lorelai has never modelled romance, nor has she ever let a man come between herself and Rory (the essence of the oedipal situation, not the incest part that people erroneously focus on). Therefore how is Rory to know what romantic love looks like, and furthermore how is Rory supposed to put a man between herself and Lorelai? This becomes particularly difficult within the context of the messages of hating love that Lorelai has been showing Rory for the whole episode. Therefore I believe this is an important episode because it shows the shadow side of the fantasy mother daughter relationship and I might go as far as to say that it foreshadows the eventual situation with Lorelai and Max. Eitherway, I suggest you watch it.

Image property of Warner Brothers*

Emily In Wonderland
So finally we come to the fifth essential episode of season one. In this episode we see Rory bringing Emily further into Lorelai and Rory's Stars Hollow world. The themes are somewhat similar to those in 'Rory's Dance,' so I won't get too far into them. However I enjoy Rory's naivety about how easy it would be to introduce Emily to the world that Lorelai worked so hard to keep her out of. The emotional punch of seeing the shed that Lorelai chose over Emily's beautiful house, with all it's advantages, leaves no room for doubt about Lorelai's desire to separate from Emily and her whole world. She reacts in the way that becomes the typical of the negotiation of the new dynamic, by trying to pull Rory closer to her, while in turn taking a step away from Lorelai. I like this episode and this story-line particularly. For me it sets the adaptation that perpetuates the conflict between Lorelai and her parents while trying to maintain the Rory connection. However the fact that Rory is not an inanimate object and therefore has her own interests and concerns, well this puts a spanner in the strategies and keeps things very interesting. Rory's tendency to want to facilitate other's needs is useful in that it gives them the impression that she is more malleable than she really is and this gives a hope that keeps this strategy in play throughout several seasons.

So those are my favourite episodes and there significance in season 1. If you just want to know everything that happened, the actor that played Kirk has been making summary's that cover all the major plot points in 60 seconds that are quite fun, so I would recommend those also. Otherwise I will return soon will more season reviews. I hope that you enjoyed this, it was a bit more involved than some of my other television reviews and since Gilmore Girls is my favourite show, possibly ever...idk, there is a lot more that I could say but I am trying to keep it to the important bits. Anyway, enjoy and the cookies are awesome too so maybe you'd give them a try.

*Warner Brother images used under fair use for the purposes of review

Monday, August 15, 2016

Coffee and Duolingo reminds me of Gilmore girls

This week we had a really fun and impressive anniversary. My fiancé hit a one year streak on Duolingo!! That is one whole year without missing a single day! That is very impressive to me, I think the most I have managed is about 10 days, but then if you've been reading this blog for any amount of time then my constant efforts to work on consistency won't be a surprise!!

Anyway back to my partner, to celebrate we decided to do a cake and when I asked him he said 'Coffee!' which may have been more to do with him wanting a cup of coffee than any specific cake design concepts.But We figured out a way to give him both!

This cake was so much fun to make. It. COntains 3 separate. cakes. One 7" and two that are basically oversized muffins each approx 3" diameter. Then there's the frosting. I used 3 types, ganache, buttercream and marshmallow fluff .The ganache was a combination of whipped and fudgy ganache to give a woodgrain look. The outside of the.cups is butter cream and the foam on top is the fluff. After that I just added a tiny bit of fondant/flower paste for the handles and raised decorations and we were away!

The cake needed to be sturdy so I did a coffee pound cake. For future reference I would add a coffee syrup for texture and extra flavour. However I think this was still pretty delicious! Here's how I put it together, recipe at the end.

I divided the main cake and first filled with fudgy ganache

Then coated it in whipped ganache and smoothed it out

Then I split the mini cakes, filled them with ganache and added them to the top of the cake, Being careful to avoid crumbs!!

Then I added a top coating of ganache before frosting with buttercream. I piped a rim for the mugs from butter cream also. The butter cream was initially difficult to smooth so I got it as smooth as possible and then let it set up in the fridge before applying greaseproof paper and smoothing further.

The handles were a mixture of fondant and flower paste, as mentioned above. If these are not things you have lying around you could feasibly make a play dough from flour, water and food dye and leave it it dry in the oven or the sun. Just be sure that no-one tries to eat it!

Finally there was the issue of the froth/cream. For this I made a homemade marshmallow fluffy using marshmallows and some agave nectar. It worked beautifully imho. However word to the wise- this stuff is Hella sticky, so keep some tools and a food scissors in a bath of hot water nearby while applying.

And that's it! Simples! Not really....but fun!

Coffee Cake Recipe

220g Butter
220g Sugar
280g Plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp instant coffee + 2 tbsp boiling water

285g Dark Chocolate
285/1 container double cream

100g unsalted butter
200g Icing sugar
1 tbsp Milk
Black food colouring

Marshmallow fluff
3 jumbo marshmallows
1 tsp Agave nectar

1 - Preheat oven to 180'. Beat together butter and sugar

2- Sieve together the flour, baking powder and baking soda

3 - Alternate additions of flours and eggs

4 - Add the coffee and vanilla

1 - Heat the cream

2 - Chop chocolate into small pieces and pour over the hot cream

3 - Leave the chocolate and cream to sit and then mix thoroughly

4 - Leave to sit for at least 30 minutes to cool fully before whipping

1 - Beat together the butter and icing sugar

2 - Add milk and food colouring

Marshmallow fluff
1 - Melt marshmallows in the microwave for 30 seconds

2 - Add the agave nectar and add to the top of the cups immediately

I am not going to get to worked up encouraging you to do this at home as I appreciate it's not a one hour job. However I will say that if you have a loved one that deserves a special treat it is probably less work thanks you would imagine! The whole thing really reminded me of Gilmore Girls and as a result I got through a few episodes while putting the cake together, which means that the review will be soon. (I don't know why I am constantly teasing this review......setting myself up for failure)

Otherwise I hope you enjoy this fun post and I will return next week with something a little more normal but just as delicious!!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Simple things and stranger things

This week has been awesome and then tremendously empty. Once you find Stranger Things,  get completely hooked and then realise that there are only 8 episodes. Well everything has slightly less shine now! Aw, I joke but honestly this show is fantastic!! It creates such a wonderful atmosphere of 80s nostalgia and childhood adventure with a hint of the mysterious paranormal!

Image property of Netflix

So I thought naturally that I would accompany this post with a simpler thing - Scones.

Scones are one of the first things I ever learnt to make, scones and brownies. When I was about the age of the Stranger Things kids, maybe a little younger. My Mum taught me how to make these two things from a Darina Allen book and I was absolutely enthralled!! I felt like I was being taught some kind of super-power;You can just make treats?! Mind-blown! Well as you can tell, I started there and didn't stop but today I wanted to revisit the ole favourite with a bit of a healthy twist. 

Obviously scones are sweet breads so they are inevitably carbs but I have made a few adjustments to make them as healthy as carbs can be, and honestly you wouldn't know he difference. They definitely passed the fiancé test. These two lasted about five minutes between us.

So what are the adjustments - the flour is a fine ground wholemeal flour. Fine ground is important here, it can be called pasta flour but it makes a very big difference.

The second big alteration, these contain no added sugar. They are sultana scones and thereis  natural sugars in the sultanas but otherwise there is no sugar, no sweetner and no way to tell that it's no added sugar, I promise!

The secret is to soak the sultanas in tea. The tea adds a depth of flavour anyway but as the sultanas are soaked the natural sugars seep into the tea and then the whole lot is added into the scones which adds just enough sweetness, not to mention beautiful plump juicy sultanas. So you would never know that I didn't add sugar, why not give it a try?!

Healthy Scones (Wholemeal, No Added Sugar) (Makes 12 large)

1-1.5 Cups Sultanas
Black tea - enough to cover the above

500g Wholemeal fine ground plain flour
1 tsp Baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
1/2 tsp all-spice
1 egg
2 tbsp milk of choice
2 tbsp oil of choice (I used almond)

Egg-wash to beautify

1 - Soak the sultanas for at least an hour up to overnight

2 - Preheat oven to 180'C. Sieve together the flour, baking powder and spices

3 - Pour in the sultanas and mix

4 - Add the rest of the wet ingredients and mix until a dough is formed

5 - Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes

6 - Form into even sized balls, try to hide the sultanas inside, and place on a lined baking tray

7 - Egg-wash to finish and bake for 15-20 minutes or until hollow sounding when tapped.

8 - Allow to cool and enjoy with some sneaky butter ;)

Perfect for enjoying during an episode of Stranger things. I haven't spoken about it much but I feel that I don't wish to spoil anything. Suffice is to say that it is well, well worth watching! My favourite character was Eleven, shortly followed by Dustin, toothless kid, because he was just a hero and so cute whenever he speaks! If you don't have Netflix, get it, there is more and more amazing ontent there every week. I am not sponsored to say this, I just appreciate Netflix more and more every day and you will need it to see Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, which I will review, episode by episode! Not to mention catching up, or rewatching Gilmore girls as I am doing right now to put together a full review for you shortly. So anyway for now, watch Stranger things, make these scones and thank me later =)

Monday, August 1, 2016

Apple and Salted Caramel Cake

This week a very good friend asked if I could make a cake for them. I was absolutely delighted to do so and the requested cake was Apple and Salted Caramel

I had never actually made an apple and salted caramel cake before so I decided to do a little research. I found a delicious looking recipe on the Brown Eyed Baker and I must say that her cake looks amazing. However, naturally I had to make a couple of little adaptations and I am very happy with how it turned out. Firstly I wanted to make the cake lighter and more summer appropriate, so less spicy. I also wanted to include fresh apple to make it taste more fresh. Finally I came up with my own easy to make icing and some interactive decorations

Chocolate apple of mystery!!
Two delicious layers of apple cake were covered in frosting

before three little apples were placed on top

Excuse the on location picture quality
And the apples, well let me show you how they work.....

Fun right?!

Apple Salted Caramel Cake (adapted from BrownEyedBaker)

Apple Cake (enough for 2x9" Cake layers)

340g Butter
400g Caster Sugar
75g Brown Sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
500g Cake Flour (Plain flour with 8 tbsp replaced by cornflour)
1 tsp Baking powder
2 tsp Baking soda
1/2 tsp all spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 eggs
4 cups grated apple in 2 lemons worth of lemon juice

Salted Caramel Icing (enough for this cake)

280g Salted Butter
560g Icing Sugar
60ml Caramel Sauce

Caramel Sauce recipe that I used


1- Preheat oven  to 180'C and grease and line your cake tin

2 - Beat together the butter and sugar, beat in the vanilla extract

3 - Sieve together the flour, baking powder and soda and spices

4 - Beat the eggs together

5 - Add portions of the eggs and flour to the butter alternating between the two, leaving a portion of flour

6 - Add the grated apple and the remaining flour.

7 - Divide between 2 9" cake tins. Wrap the tins in tin foil to protect and bake for 45-50minutes.

8 - Allow the cake to cool in the tin.

*Note - This is a very soft and light cake and needs to cool completely in the tin to be workable but the texture upon eating is just perfect!!*

9 - Beat together the butter icing sugar and caramel sauce for the frosting.

10- Ice the cake - First do a crumb coat - there will be crumbs. Although I think a naked cake version would also be awesome

Finish the icing and make the chocolate apples.

To make these I used half circl moulds and dark chocolate. I found the bet technique was to paint the chocolate onto the mould to achieve even layers. Then set and melt the edge to get two half circles together

I made a hole in the top and filled with more caramel sauce. Then filled in the hole with a pretzel stick.

Then when the cake is ready to be eaten, just cut the apples and enjoy the show!!

So that's it! I hope you enjoy and try it out for yourself!

So.........that went well......but I'm back with a bang!

At the start of the year I said that I would try to post more regularly and......yeah....that didn't happen =/ Finishing this doctorat...