“Once upon a time in the depth of winter, when the flakes of snow were falling like feathers from the clouds, a Queen sat at her palace window…looking out at the snow, she pricked her finger, and three drops of blood fell upon the snow. Because the red looked so well upon the white she thought: “Had I now but a child as white as snow, as red as blood and as black as ebony…”
All things Grimm are getting a makeover this year. There’s Grimm (NBC) – a sort of CSI crossed with Twilight where fairy tale beasts walk amongst us. Then there’s Once Upon a Time (ABC) where the evil Queen casts a spell which traps the characters in the modern world with no memory of their former lives. Only the daughter of Prince Charming and Snow White can release the curse.
On top of this there’s a fairytale face-off in two retellings of the classic, Snow White. Mirror Mirror is a comedy version with Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen with sumptuous costumes and a smattering of romance. Snow White & The Huntsman is a much darker version starring Kristen Stewart as Snow White and Charlize Theron as the Queen. With hair as black as night, skin as white as snow and lips as red as blood, Snow White is the nemesis of Queen Ravenna. The Queen, consumed by a need for power and beauty, is promised eternal life, but only if she eats Snow White’s heart. Snow White is taken under the wing of the Huntsman and trained to become a warrior to lead an uprising against Ravenna.
This feels truer to the original Grimm story which was quite always quite grizzly rather than the mushy 1937 Disney version. There are so many versions of the Snow White story, however; some sweet, some sinister. My favourite is Roald Dahl’s version, where Snow White changes her fate by abducting the mirror and using it to help her win on the horses at Ascot. But even with this version is quite revolting…
“Then suddenly, one awful day,
She heard the Magic Mirror say,
‘From now on, Queen, you’re Number Two.
‘Snow-White is prettier than you!’
The Queen went absolutely wild.
She yelled, ‘I’m going to scrag that child!
‘I’ll cook her flaming goose! I’ll skin ‘er!
‘I’ll have her rotten guts for dinner!'”
Roald Dahl, Revolting Rhymes.
The original story of Snow White and the evil Queen, however, may have been based on the Blood Countess, Erzebeth Bathory. (Warning: don’t read any further if you are squeamish!)
Erzebeth was born in Hungary, a relative of the great noble families of Transylvania – perhaps even a distant relative of Vlad the Impaler. Her immediate family was obsessed with the purity of their bloodline, that it is likely she was the product of inbreeding. Growing up, Erzebeth suffered from seizures, moodiness and insanity. Her childhood was filled with brutality; her family dealing out gruesome punishments to the peasants and gypsys that lived in their lands. Erzebeth was forced to marry when she was just 14 to Ferenc Nasady. She was given a castle high in the Carpathian mountains as a wedding present where she became known for rescuing fallen women in the villages and giving them jobs as handmaids in the castle. All across the land she was known for her luminous beauty and stunning Italian dresses.
However, her sinister upbringing would eventually catch up with her. A minister, called Magyari became suspicious after the young women taken into Erzebeth’s care stopped returning to the villages. With the support of a local noble, Count Thurzo, they raided the castle to find out the truth. All across the castle they found evidence of Erzebeth’s true nature. The girls had been beaten, tortured and locked up. Hundreds of them, some still trapped in circular metal cages.
In 1610, Erzebeth was brough to trial, accused of torturing and killing around 650 women. Witnesses testified to Erzebeth whipping and throwing the young women out into the snow to freeze. Legend also tells that Erzebeth was so obsessed with youth and beauty that she believed that the deaths of these young women and their blood would keep her young and beautiful. It is now thought that Erzebeth, the Blood Countess, could have been the real inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. You can read more of this gruesome story here and watch a clip of the film adaptation starring Anna Friel in Bathory.
Back to more pleasanter things…
Snow White Cream Buns
I combined deep red ingredients like Creme de Cassis (blackberry liqueur) and rich ruby raspberries, with snow white cream and marscapone. what I ended up with was something a little bit naughty and a little bit nice and very very pink!
For the buns:
300g strong bread flour
1 tsp yeast
1 egg and 1 additional egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tbsp frangelico
1 tsp light brown sugar
For the cream centres:
6 tbsp marscapone cheese
1/2 punnet of raspberries (blended and sieved to remove the pips)
1 tbsp creme de cassis (blackberry liquer)
For the icing:
1 cup of icing sugar
1/2 punnet of raspberries (blended and seived to remove the pips)
1 tsp creme de cassis (blackberry liqueur)
1. Mix your dough ingredients and leave to rise for 1 hour.
2. Cut into circles (2″ in diameter)
3. Leave to rise for another hour and cover with cling film.
4. Brush with milk and bake for 15 minutes at 175C / 350 F / Gas Mark 4.
5. Whip up your cream and icing ingredients in two separate bowls.
6. When the buns are cool, slice in half and fill with the raspberry cream and top with the icing.
The results: Crispy bun with a creamy interior, but set off by the sharpness of the raspberries and sweetness of the icing. And just small enough to pop into your mouth in one go.