Drip & Drizzle Gingerbread

Jackson Pollock at work

Jackson Pollock at work

The artist Jackson Pollock was an influential figure in the abstract expressionist movement. He was born on 28th January 1912, and to honour him on his would-be birthday, I have designed ‘Drip & Drizzle Gingerbread’. The bold decorating colours and splattering I used for the glaze are imitations of his painting technique. This recipe is adapted from Dan and Phil’s ‘Pumpkin Spice Pumpkin Cookies’ Halloween Baking video tutorial. I know gingerbread and pumpkin spice are flavours typically associated with autumn and Halloween, but the rich taste and aroma of these cookies are enough to warm me up and put a smile on my face this winter!


Ingredients (makes about 200 small cookies!)

665g plain flour
1 tsp baking soda
¾ tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1½ tsp ground ginger
225g unsalted butter
395g granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
115ml dark molasses (treacle)

To decorate: about 50g icing sugar, a few drops of water, coloured food dyes and coloured fondant

MethodIMG_9248

Part 1 – preparing the dough

  • Create a flour mixture by combining the following dry ingredients in a mixing bowl: flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger
  • Cream the butter and sugar in a separate bowl until light and fluffy 
  • Add the eggs, vanilla and molasses to the creamed mixture
  • Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture until a dough is formed
  • Split the dough in half and form large discs with both sections
  • Wrap the discs in cling film and put in the fridge for at least 2 hours to chill

Part 2 – baking the cookies IMG_9246

  • Preheat the oven to 190°C
  • Take out the desired amount of dough – either keep the rest in the fridge (for up to 3 days) or in the freezer until your next baking adventure
  • Sprinkle a clean surface and large rolling pin with spare plain flour
  • Roll out the dough and cut 1/4 inch thick shapes with cookie cutters
  • Place the cookies on a baking sheet (leave enough space for them to spread out in the oven)
  • Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes (the cookies will set completely when taken out of the oven so do not wait for them to harden in the oven, otherwise they will be rock solid!)
  • Leave on a cooling rack whilst you prepare the decorations

IMG_9250Part 3 – decorating the cookies

  • Sprinkle a clean surface and a small rolling pin with icing sugar and roll out coloured fondant of your choice
  • Cut out shapes using the same cookie cutters that you used for the cookies themselves (the fondant should be about the same thickness as a £1 coin)
  • Set the fondant shapes to one side and prepare the icing glaze (this dries out quickly so should be done last)
  • Put a few teaspoons of icing sugar into a small bowl and add a drop of water, then mix
  • If the paste is not fluid enough, add a couple more drops of water (you can keep adding water or icing sugar to thin out or thicken the glaze until it reaches your desired consistency)
  • Add coloured food dye to the glaze
  • Take a teaspoon and add a small dollop of glaze on top of each cookie (to act as glue) before placing a fondant shape directly on top
  • Use a spoon to drizzle the glaze on top of the fondant – I lined mine up on the counter and used large sweeping strokes to do this
  • If you have 2 different coloured fondants and food dyes, you can make 2 batches of fondant shapes and glazes and use the opposite coloured glaze on the fondant (this works best with opposite colours, i.e. blue/orange, yellow/purple, red/green)
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Under The Skin

Film Review: Under The Skin

It’s weird because I don’t have a lot to say about this film. I’m still trying to figure out whether I liked it or not. I don’t know if it’s the kind of film you’re supposed to enjoy, or simply appreciate.

 Sound:

Under The Skin is an arty film, that’s for sure; stylistically, there are plenty of valuable attributes. A key element is silence. There is hardly any dialogue at all, and what we do hear are the vague mumbles from Glaswegians passing by, and the seductive undertones of the alien’s humanoid voice.

The rest of the background noise is from the alien’s surroundings as she explores Glasgow: the laughter and chatter of the people, the crashing waves against the shore, the hooting vehicles on the crowded roads… When I came home from the cinema, I noticed how alone I was, and every sound I created made me feel like I was in my own silent film. I suddenly became very aware of my actions, and although it gave me a sense of peace and perhaps mindfulness, I could only think back to the disturbing film I had just watched.

The music is minimal, but makes a big impact on the atmosphere conveyed. I only picked up on two pieces of music. One consists of a steady gong-like pattern, which is used when the alien lures naked men into her black, viscous void. It mirrors the slow, even paces of the characters, and yet your heartbeat can’t help but exceed the tempo as you anticipate the victims’ fate. The second piece of music is composed of scratchy violin sounds. The high-pitched, short, sharp sounds have the effect of your spine tingling and your head spinning simultaneously. So, so creepy.

 Light:

The contrast of light and darkness is evidently an extremely important component of this film.

  • Right at the start, you are left to watch a blinding white pinpoint of light race towards you through a black vacuum, accompanied by the ‘scratchy violin music’.
  • The second scene involves the alien undressing a dead woman and taking the clothes for herself. This takes place in an illuminated, endless-looking white space, and the two women are just black silhouettes against the backdrop.
  • The ‘viscous void’ I refer to is inky black and ominous, framed by a black studio-like room. Light is only shone on the naked bodies, to separate them from their surroundings, and it is unclear where the light is coming from.
  • Most of the film is set in dark places. The brightest parts are at the beginning, in the scene mentioned above, and at the end, when there is snow falling from a milky sky. This brings about a sense of wonder, in my opinion.
  • The alien’s eyes are dark. There is some fixation on her eyes, and I couldn’t quite work out what the meaning of it was. I just know that the darkness of the pupils has some relevance and symbolism that shouldn’t be ignored.

 Horror:

This is not some typical sci-fi film where an alien race invades Earth and tries to take over the planet. This is about one alien’s (ambiguous) mission, and it is very profound. I have to describe the intense moments, not because I want to give away spoilers but because I just can’t get these moments out of my head. They are more than unsettling images. It’s not to do with nudity or stranger danger; it’s the Under The Skin part!

I can’t tell you how much the body deflation under the ‘viscous void’ freaked me out. Watching the men’s bodies shrivel up into thin, hollow, latex sacks was enough to make me feel sick. When the insides of the bodies were churned down some kind of sewage shoot, with the ‘scratchy violin music’ dubbed over it, I couldn’t help but squirm in my seat. I had to hold in my tummy to make sure that everything stayed where it was (it’s a psychological thing that I fear bodily harm from fiction could occur to me at any given moment).

The other instance I want to talk about was the final scene. So the alien is being raped; the man is disgusted by her and flees; she stands up to reveal black patches on her back; she kneels down and peels off her head, as well as at least half of her abdomen; she exposes the black, anorexic creature that she is inside Scarlett Johansson’s skin and holds her human head in her hands; the man comes back and pours paraffin over her before setting her alight; she runs helplessly out of the forest and into a snowy field, and is left to burn; fire consumes her and a thick, black smoke rises into the pure white sky; and that’s how the film ends. I mean, firstly: WHAT?! What did I just watch? The alien is left to burn into an inter-galactic ash. I don’t understand the director’s message here. Are we supposed to learn something about consequences of interfering with others’ lives, maybe, or about how some tasks are just impossible? Someone help me out here, because I’m really dumb-founded.

 ***

I am completely weirded out by this film and do not necessarily recommend it, however artistic and intense it is. My friend and I can’t stop thinking about Under The Skin, and it leaves a very uneasy feeling in my gut. To be honest, I watched the trailer and did some research beforehand, and I knew just as much going into the film as I did when I came out afterwards.

Gallery

City of Sky and Glass

I was lucky enough to embark on a dream journey around the city of New York, which has always been a place I have longed to visit. Having spent a week there, I got a flavour of the culture and lifestyle, which is completely different to my own. The city is always, always bustling with tourists, business people, dodgy looking men lurking on street corners…

You can’t possibly imagine the scale of all the buildings unless you’re there – you often see whole skyscrapers reflected in other skyscrapers! It felt like London had been given plastic surgery: a bit of alligning the roads into a neat grid of avenues and streets, a bit of scrubbing and polishing, and a lot of pulling here and there – stretching the skin of the buildings as much as is humanly possible!

I enjoyed taking lots of photos of all the famous sites I visited, the food, exciting pop culture things which are practically meaningless to anyone else, and of course, my family. In this small selection of photographs from my adventure, I wanted to capture specifically the futuristic architecture and uniqueness of such an imposing, enormous city. In an attempt to impress you, I present to you the City of Sky and Glass…