Monday, September 1, 2014

End of Summer Shark-Bite Corn Basil Muffins




Happy Labor Day! While this holiday is historically a celebration of the American labor movement, it is also largely seen as the unofficial end of summer. This summer was a bit stressful at times (dramatic much?), but was mostly filled with pretty weather, fun trips, quality time with family, lots of baking and plenty of lazy days. I don’t like the idea of summer ending, but an upcoming vacation and birthday means September can’t be too bad!

Summer for many means trips to the beach and the return of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week. Sadly this year’s programming seemed to hit an all-time low, with even more footage than usual of sharks just biting stuff and eating meat fed to them by humans, as well as new shows: “Alien Sharks”, “Zombie Sharks”, and the fake documentary, “Shark of Darkness: Wrath of Submarine.” The depiction of sharks as dangerous predators is nothing new, though the shark-infested waters seen in Théodore Géricault’s Raft of Medusa are only a small part of the drama in this epic work. 

Theodore Gericault, The Raft of Medusa, oil on canvas, 1818-1819
  
Raft of Medusa, completed in 1819, is based on the real events surrounding the wreck of the French government vessel Medusa off the coast of Africa in 1816. Seen as proof of the corruption of Louis XVIII’s rule, the captain and other officials took the lifeboats, leaving over a hundred passengers to drift on a makeshift raft. Few survived when the raft was rescued 13 days later, and the people who did suffered sickness, thirst, hunger, cannibalism and insanity as they struggled to remain alive in the shark-infested waters. Arranged in a pyramidal form, this work shows the various stages of hope and despair, capturing the moment the survivors see a ship—potentially rescuers. The foreground, or base of the pyramid is crowded with nude corpses—including a father holding the body of his son—the forms of which were inspired by Michelangelo’s figures descending into hell in the Last Judgment. The viewer’s eyes go next to the men in the middle who have spotted the boat, and then finally to the top of the pyramid, where the men frantically wave rags in hopes of attracting their rescuers. 

Michelangelo, The Last Judgment, Sistine Chapel, fresco, 1536-1541
 
This dramatically lit work highlighted the huge scandal of the wreck, and was an icon of French Romanticism. As some of Géricault’s contemporaries painted works as propoganda for the government, this work is clearly anti-government, and is a clear break from the popular Neoclassical taste at the time. The dark color palette and sinister nature of the piece asked viewers how this emotional work could also be art—a paradox that appealed to the soul, and forced viewers to see beyond the conventional beauty of art.

 Summer may be ending, but who’s ready to take a bite out of fall?

  
Corn and Basil Muffins with Tomato Jam
Adapted from Crepes of Wrath (muffins) and Mark Bittman (tomato jam)

Tomato Salsa:
·      1 ½ lbs. ripe Roma tomatoes, cored and chopped coarsely
·      1 c. sugar
·      1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
·      1 T. minced ginger
·      juice of 1 lime
·      1 t. ground cumin
·      ½ t. ground cinnamon
·      dash of paprika
·      dash of all spice
·      pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in a heavy saucepan, preferably cast iron, a dutch oven or something similar. Turn stove heat to medium, and allow the mixture to come to a boil, stirring often. Once boiled, lower the heat to a simmer, and let the mixture thicken over the next hour or so, mixing occasionally. You will know it is ready when it has reduced down to a jam consistency, and you find yourself sampling it every few minutes! Let cool a bit and then store in clean jam jars until you are ready to fill your muffins. This delicious jam will keep for about a week (unless you can it for real, which you can read about here). Depending on how many muffins you make, you may have a bit left over, which is fine, since this jam goes especially well with everything—I can’t wait to try with my morning eggs and my weekday sandwiches! 

 

Muffins:
Makes about 10 full-sized muffins
·      1/3 c. brown sugar
·      2 ½ T. unsalted butter, melted
·      flax egg (1 ½ T. flaxseed meal + 5 T. water, let sit for 5 minutes)
·      1/3 c. buttermilk
·      1/8 c. olive oil
·      ½ c. milk
·      1 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
·      ½ c. cornmeal
·      1 t. baking powder
·      ¾ t. baking soda
·      pinch of salt + pepper to taste
·      2 ears of corn, kernels only
·      2 T. chopped basil
·      approximately ½ - 1 c. ricotta cheese

Preheat your oven to 350˚F and grease or line a muffin tin. In a large bowl, beat together the melted butter and sugar until incorporated—a minute or two. Add in the flax egg, buttermilk, and olive oil, one at a time, making sure to mix well after each addition.

In a smaller bowl, combine together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt and pepper. Add 1/3 of the dry mixture to the wet, beating well to combine. Follow with ¼ c. milk, more mixing, and then repeat—dry—milk—dry. Scrape the sides of the bowl, and then stir in the corn kernels and basil, incorporating fully, but try not to overmix. Spoon the batter into your muffin pan and bake for about 22 minutes—keeping a very close eye on them after the 20 minute mark. 

  
Allow the muffins to cool completely before you proceed with filling them. When ready, carefully core the cupcakes using any technique you prefer—an actual cupcake corer, or my method: improvising with a pastry tip and a ¼ teaspoon. I am sure that a cupcake corer is much easier to use, but this gadget was surprisingly difficult to find in my neighborhood—one kitchen store actually told me that they were sold out—who knew these were so popular?! Anyway, I used the larger end of a standard pastry tip to cut a perfect circle in the top of each of my muffins, and then used a ¼ teaspoon to gently scoop a tiny portion of the cake out. Next, use the same tiny measuring spoon to fill each hole with the homemade jam. Finally, using either a pastry bag or a plastic bag with a whole in one corner, gently pipe ricotta cheese over the top of your jam opening. 


Now, climb out onto your fire escape or stoop—or porch if you live somewhere with actual outside space, and enjoy these seasonal treats while you savor the last days of summer! Happy Labor Day!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Life lately, according to instagram

I'm off to San Francisco for the weekend, so here is a peak of what I have been up to!


In other news:

My Heda's Mostly Blackberry Pie with Hazelnut Crust won Food52's Best Berry Pie Contest this week! Read my interview here.

Think selfies are new? Think again...statue selfies are old news.

Katy Perry visited the Art Institute of Chicago this week.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Dalí’s Relaxing Lobster Risotto


Let’s talk about crazy things. Is it insane to be stressed out over the summer, when life is supposed to be carefree, calm and full of relaxing holidays? Of course it’s crazy! But I have always marched to the beat of my own drum, so after enjoying countless relaxing summers without a care in the world, I have ditched that this year, in favor of embracing a more manic me.

Sure, BBQs, picnics and lazy days with friends are fun, but so is working full time, blogging, baking and the countless other things that pop up in our daily lives, am I right? While you, sane, readers may not completely agree, I assure you that I have at least one person on my side… bizarre, eccentric genius Salvador Dalí. Who else’s imagination would lead them to pair a telephone with a lobster? 

Salvador Dali, Lobster Telephone, 1936

Dalí’s 1936 work, Lobster Telephone is a classic example of Surrealism, an artistic movement that sought to juxtapose fantasy and reality in a way that makes the viewer rethink their preconceived notions of what is normal. Dalí explained his quirky crustaceanous telephone in his 1942 autobiography, The Secret Life of Dalí: “I do not understand why, when asked for a grilled lobster in a restaurant, I am never served a cooked telephone.” While I don’t anticipate that I will be replacing my treasured iphone with an aquarium of lobsters any time soon, I can appreciate the craziness that Dalí evokes when he suggested that maybe we should combine such a normal, everyday object with one that will surely pinch us.

Art historians have come up with plenty explanations for this work, but since I have not yet shared my lobster-related recipe with you—in which case you could skip all of this crazy-talk, and go straight for the good stuff—I am not going to delve into Dalí’s obsession with erotic pleasure and pain in his study of the lobster as an aphrodisiac. Instead, my initial reaction to this work was one of self-reflection, specifically in how attached I have become to technology, namely my phone. When I really think about it, I am really quite connected at all times, something that certainly doesn’t encourage me to stay calm and collected. If I suddenly reached for my phone to do something non-urgent, like check my instagram for the hundreth time, or check the weather without actually looking outside, and my phone was actually a lobster, would it be such a bad thing? If definitely would not be good on a Monday morning, but what about for a weekend afternoon? It could be pretty nice; a pinching (yet tasty) monster forcing me to live my life and disconnect for a bit.  

Could this be the solution to my iphone attachment? Image courtesy of noddy boffin
 
With that in mind, what better way to sit back, relax and disconnect than by making risotto, an Italian dish notorious for the attention and time it takes—I mean, that rice is not going to stir itself into a creamy, heavenly dish! So turn off your phone, shut down your computer (after you memorize this simple recipe), and get ready to de-stress, and dare I say relax (!) as you stir for the next 20-30 minutes! 



Lobster Risotto
Adapted from Food52 and Giada De Laurentiis

·      2 ½ c. low-sodium chicken stock
·      ¾ c. Arborio rice, thoroughly rinsed
·      2 TB unsalted butter
·      1 shallot, chopped finely
·      ¼ c. dry white wine
·      pinch of salt
·      1 lb. lobster, steamed (either whole or tails), I used Maine lobster
·      Parmesan or Manchego cheese for grating

Heat the broth in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Once it starts to boil, reduce to low, and let simmer. Meanwhile, chop the lobster into bite size pieces, set aside.

In a medium-sized saucepan or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat for a couple of minutes. Add the shallot, and cook another minute or two. Stir in the rice, mixing to coat completely in the butter. Add the wine and ½ of the stock. Mix gently, and then allow the rice to absorb most of the liquid. Continue to add the stock this way, in ½ c. increments, stirring occasionally. When you run out of liquid, the risotto should be creamy and thick. Season with a pinch of salt, and remove from the heat. Grate a bit of cheese into the risotto, and stir. Divide between two plates and add the lobster—“Provecho!” as I am sure Dalí would say!  

How do you deal with stress in a positive and delicious way? Let me know in the comments, unless your answer is something crazy (hard) like “run a marathon.” Otherwise, share your wisdom!  :)

Monday, August 4, 2014

Lace Cookies, please (hold the Leather)



Stevie Nicks was clearly on to something in her 1981 hit, Leather and Lace. Not only is that song a m a z i n g, but it seems that she knew that these two popular materials would be around for the long haul. Since leather and its faux variations have now become pretty commonplace (hello, pleather!), lets focus on lace—a textile whose popularity was just as strong, if not stronger, in early European fashion as it is today.

Today, most lace is machine-made, which I am sure is much more enjoyable and cost effective than toiling for hours to hand-stitch it yourself. However, prior to the industrial revolution, artisans had to make the delicate fabric by hand, making it very expensive, and therefore quite desirable in the costumes of the wealthy upper class.

The appearance of lace accents in the costumes of portrait subjects was very common during the European Renaissance, especially in idealized portraits. Patrons paid artists big bucks to portray them artistically in their best light—confident, powerful and rich.  One way to show wealth in a portrait, which by nature only shows a small aspect of the subject’s personality—their appearance, and usually shown alone—was to add ornate decorative aspects to their costumes, like lace ruff collars and sleeves. 

Frans Hals, Portrait of Pieter van den Broecke, oil on canvas, 1633 (detail)

Frans Hal’s Portrait of Pieter van den Broecke is significant not only for its beauty, and the emphasis on detail, but also because van den Broecke was a successful Dutch cloth merchant. Therefore, it makes perfect sense why the lace work is so intricate here! This design is fairly geometric in both his lace collar and cuffs, which compliments his thick, gold chain, another hint towards his wealth and success. When I first saw this painting hanging in Kenwood House, I had no idea who Pieter van den Broecke was, but I could tell instantly that he was rich and successful, just from his costume—socialities of the 21st century, are you paying attention?

Ferdinand Bol’s work of a few years later shows an anonymous lady, but we can still tell from all that lace that she was someone special. In addition to a large ruff collar with a delicate lace layer underneath, her lace cuffs also lead the viewer’s eyes to her gold bracelet and gemstone (sapphire? onyx? I have no idea!)  ring, further hinting at her noble background. The work itself is pretty dark, which was typical of Bol’s teacher, Rembrandt, but the darkness also acts as a contrast to the light, fragile lace. Who says Stevie wasn’t looking at this picture on her ipad when she wrote this song 30+ years ago…? ;)

Ferdinand Bol, Portrait of a Lady, oil on canvas, 1680 (detail)

 Now lets get to the cookies! Lace cookies (also called “Florentines”) are not only super easy to make, but also impressive in their delicate nature. These cookies are sure to wow your friends/co-workers/significant other/own stomach, so get ready to let the compliments roll in! I am also a firm believer that broken cookies don’t have any calories, so be prepared to eat your fill without regret, since these don’t exactly travel well. Better yet, bring them with you wherever you go, and the whole batch is guilt-free! 

 
Salted Peanut Lace Cookies
Adapted from Not Without Salt
Makes about 30, 3 inch cookies

·      2/3 c. unsalted, roasted peanuts
·      1.5 T. all-purpose flour
·      pinch of salt
·      ½ c. sugar
·      1/8 c. half and half
·      2 T. maple syrup
·      ½ stick unsalted butter
·      ¼ t. vanilla extract
·      flaky salt for sprinkling on top*

Preheat your oven to 350°F, and prepare a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Roast your peanuts if they are not already roasted. In a food processor, pulse your (completely cooled) peanuts for a few seconds, until they are all chopped, but not anywhere near turning into peanut butter—obviously that would be delicious, but we can’t do down that road today! Transfer the chopped nuts to a medium sized, metal or glass (or otherwise heat-resistant) bowl, and stir in your salt and flour.

In a small saucepan, melt your butter over medium heat. Add in the sugar, half and half and maple syrup, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches a low boil. Let boil for about a minute, then remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Pour over the peanut/flour/salt mixture, and stir until just combined. Let cool for about 10-15 minutes. When you return to the bowl, the mixture should actually start to resemble dough. If not, let it sit and cool a couple more minutes! Using a teaspoon, spoon out rounded teaspoon portions of the dough onto your prepared baking sheet. Be sure to leave at least 3 inches between each cookie—there is very little flour, so these cookies will not rise, they will spread! Sprinkle with a tiny bit of your flaky salt, and transfer to the hot oven for 5 minutes. After the initial 5 minutes, rotate the pan and cook 5 minutes longer. Let cool for at least 10 minutes—these cookies are f r a g i l e ! Repeat with the remaining batter, and enjoy!

pre-oven            
post-oven; I told you these babies spread!!
  
*Confused as to why you might need a different salt than your normal, run of the mill Morton salt? It honestly depends on what you are willing to spend. I have made this recipe with both Maldon salt and Trader Joe’s sea salt, and guess what? Both versions were crazy delicious. Use whatever you prefer, and if you want to get even saltier, check out what David Lebovitz has to say about it here!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Starry (Over)night Apricot Pecan Cinnamon Rolls



Four months after my visit to the van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, this season’s beautiful apricots influenced me to try my hand at cinnamon rolls again, influenced by Vincent van Gogh’s loose, expressive night sky in his 1889 work, Starry Night. Van Gogh’s stellar (sorry, I couldn’t resist) picture is one of the most iconic paintings in the world, and has been a highlight at the Museum of Modern Art in New York since they acquired it in 1941. 

Vincent van Gogh, Starry Night, 1889, oil on canvas
  
Starry Night was completed in 1889, making it one of Van Gogh’s last works prior to his premature death in 1890. Painted during his stay at an asylum in Saint-Rémy, France, Starry Night seems to be a window into the mind of an extremely creative yet unstable artist. The subject of the painting is simple enough: the idealized view from Van Gogh’s hospital room in Saint-Rémy, with a small village nestled in the hills. A single church steeple pierces the sky to the right center and a large cypress tree rises up in the left foreground. Shown at night, the village is quiet and sleeping, juxtaposed against the active, swirling sky, with bright, painterly stars and a bright yellow moon.

When Van Gogh painted this work, he was torn between accepting the realism and observation of nature championed by traditional Impressionists, and the less realistic, more abstract and expressive genre embraced by some of his friends, such as Paul Gauguin. In his previous attempt at painting a star-scattered sky, Starry Night Over the Rhone, painted a year earlier, Van Gogh challenged himself by working directly from nature; he painted the work at night using a gas lamp to light his canvas. In his work of a year later, he decided to paint from memory during the daylight. 

Vincent van Gogh, Starry Night Over the Rhone, 1888, oil on canvas
 
Since Van Gogh painted this from memory, he could have taken a few artistic licenses with the exact scene. Cypress trees were usually planted around graveyards in southern France, and Van Gogh’s inclusion of one could have been a nod towards his own death, a year later. Despite this depressing interpretation, the work is also harmonious and transcending. The glow of light from inside some of the village homes compliments the bright light of the swirling stars, and the sky itself suggests a tranquil, quiet night, probably a nod towards the kind of existence van Gogh dreamed of from his room in the crazy house.

While Van Gogh certainly created a masterpiece with this work, I have not had a great track record with cinnamon rolls. The first and last time I tried to make what I imagined to be a standard and easy breakfast treat, I was disappointed by the lack of rise. Guess what? Figuring yeast out is tricky! Thanks to my handy King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion along with my trip to the King Arthur mecca in November*, I have finally started to get the hang of this whole bread thing. 
  
For this recipe, you first need to make sure that you are using the correct type of yeast, and that you are treating it correctly. Most yeasted bread recipes call for either instant yeast or active dry yeast. You can pretty much use one in place for the other, and will use the same amounts, but the activation process is a bit different. Instant yeast (which is what I used here, and recommend) can be mixed in with the dry ingredients and added to the wet ingredients without changing your process. If you use active dry yeast, you first need to dissolve the yeast into lukewarm water, let it sit for a couple minutes, and then mix it in with your other ingredients. The kind of yeast you choose to use will impact your rising time—instant yeast will rise faster, so plan your rising time accordingly!

The second thing that threw me off in my previous bread adventures is the actual kneading of the dough. I think that previously I was too timid with my kneading, and didn’t actually knead the dough as long as it needed to be done. I would work the dough for a minute or too, notice that it was getting dry and kind of rough, and leave it like that for the second rise. This time, I kneaded the dough for about 5 minutes by hand, working through the rough stage, until the dough transformed into a much smoother and softer mixture, and after I left if for the second rise, I was completely blown away by the result. Instead of a weak “half” rise, the dough actually did what the recipes told me it would—it doubled in size. Imagine that!


Overnight Apricot Pecan Cinnamon Rolls
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Dough:
·      3 ½ c. all purpose flour
·      2 t. instant yeast
·      ¼ c. instant potato flakes
·      2 T. non-fat dry milk
·      3 T. sugar
·      dash of salt
·      4 T. room temperature unsalted butter
·      2/3 c. room temperature milk
·      ½ c. (you may need 2-3 T. more) lukewarm water

Apricot Pecan Filling:
·      1 ½ c. chopped pecans, toasted
·      1 ½ c. ripe apricots, finely diced (about 5 small apricots)
·      approximately 2 t. cinnamon

Glaze/when ready to serve:
·      1 T. unsalted butter, melted (optional, but recommended)
·      1 c. powdered sugar
·      ¼ t. cinnamon
·      3 T. milk

In a large bowl, mix together the dough ingredients with a wooden spoon. If needed, use your hand or stand mixer just to get the ingredients combined. On a lightly floured surface, gently knead the dough for about 5 minutes (you could also do this using the dough hook on your stand mixer), until the dough is soft and smooth. (If you find that your dough is a bit tough and gritty, let it rest for a couple minutes, and then come back and try again). Spray your bowl with cooking spray, put the dough back in, and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit in room temperature for about 90 minutes, until the dough has doubled in size. 

The tastiest filling!

At some point while the dough rises, mix together your toasted pecans and apricots in a medium-sized bowl, and set aside. You can also use this time to prep your pans: spray two 9-inch circular cake pans with cooking spray, and set aside as well. When the dough is ready, gently remove from the bowl and place on a lightly greased workspace (I sprayed my kitchen table with a tiny bit of cooking spray, and lightly floured as well). Carefully deflate the dough and roll (I sprayed my rolling pin with a bit of cooking spray too) out to a large rectangle, about 24 x 20 in. Sprinkle with cinnamon, either by using a sieve or just lightly dusting straight from the bottle.  Distribute the apricot pecan filling evenly over the dough, making sure that you don’t have any spots that are too pecan-only or apricot-only heavy (which could make it not only tricky to roll, but also slightly disappointing to bite into an apricot-only filled roll when you were expecting both apricots AND pecans).

Think floss is just for your teeth? Think again!
  
Starting on one of the longer sides, carefully roll the dough into a long cylinder, with a generous amount of filling within each fold. End the rolling on the seam, so that the filled dough can sit on the seam, sealing it.

To cut the dough, King Arthur bakers recommend the best pro tip: use dental floss! Santa always includes plenty of dental floss in my stocking (thanks!), and finally, a real use for it! :) Cut a long piece of floss, and lay it out over your workspace, under the roll of dough. Pull the floss around the dough where you want to make a cut, and pull the floss in opposite directions—voilà, perfect, non-squished slices! Cut the roll into 16 even pieces, and add to your baking pans—8 in each. Cover pans with plastic wrap and let rise in the fridge overnight, at least 8 hours. 

Pre-glaze, these tasty treats are surprisingly low-sugar!
  
In the morning, preheat your oven to 350°F and let the buns come to room temperature while the oven gets warm. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. While they are still hot, brush with melted butter and stir together the glaze ingredients. Brush on the glaze and enjoy—these are best when they are hot!


*I promise that this post is not in any way sponsored by King Arthur...I am just a huge fan!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Heda's Mostly Blackberry Pie with Hazelnut Crumb Crust



Goodbye Weekend, Hello Monday! How exciting, right? Is it just me, or is having a fun and relaxing weekend hanging out with friends really enough to make you roll into Monday exhausted and wondering where your break went? I don’t recall doing anything especially strenuous over the past couple of days, but still I am starting a brand new week a bit worn-down and not quite as recharged as I was hoping. This week I am working from one of our other offices, outside of the city, so I hope that the absence of commuting into midtown will prove to be a lower-key week. Which is just what I need after a low-key weekend!

One thing that should help you start your week off with a bang is another berry dessert. I have been on a berry-kick lately, and since the berries keep getting harder and harder to pass by at the market, (not to mention they are super cheap this time of year) I don’t really see that changing anytime soon. Seventeenth century Dutch artist Willem Claesz. Heda also seemed to have a hard time staying away from berry pastries, but his preference leaned more towards the “breakfast” variety. 

Willem Claesz. Heda, Breakfast Table with Blackberry Pie, 1631, oil on panel

Most Mondays I would do almost anything for a warm slice of blackberry pie for breakfast, and it seems like Heda agreed. In a couple of works he features the same blackberry pie, arranged in an elaborate and luxurious still life, surrounded by other objects displaying the patron’s wealth and privilege. We took a look at Heda’s still lifes a few months ago, and his great skill and underlying message is no different here. The still life genre existed in seventeenth century Netherlands as a means to record the social stature and style of its owners, and in such, they were normally pretty extravagant—a nod towards either the honest or (more likely) desired fanciness of its patrons. 

Two of Heda’s blackberry pie-featuring works, painted over 10 years apart, both show a well-balanced composition in similar color schemes. Both pictures show a draped table covered in sumptuous objects—showing that their patrons were wealthy members of upper class society who had the means and opportunity to fill their homes with such objects. The earlier of the two, simply called Breakfast Table with Blackberry Pie, shows a strong pyramidal composition with a large blackberry pie to the left side, a piece already cut out and partially eaten. Before this, artists usually showed the food untouched, but here Heda shows that the food is easily obtainable for those of a certain class. This pie, a perishable luxury, will keep well until you cut it open, after which the contents will rot, just like the soul when corrupted by outside influences. Who knew that taking a bite of pie could be so complicated!

Heda’s later work, A blackberry pie on a pewter platter, a silver-gilded cup and cover, an upturned tazza, a partly-peeled lemon, a bread roll, hazelnuts, a façon-de-Venise glass, a silver decanter, a roemer, and a knife on a pewter platter, on a partly draped table shows a very similar composition, but viewed from a position not quite as physically close as the other, perhaps to demonstrate that the viewer is not as close to the ornate spread, and therefore not on the same social rung. Nevertheless, we see a draped table covered in ornate and carefully scattered objects: a knocked over tazza (goblet), a large silver decanter, various silver and table ware, and the remains of a blackberry pie, with a partially peeled lemon and some hazelnuts scattered around for good measure. Here is where Heda was really at his peak—he was very well known for his great skill and careful arrangements, and this is no exception. His use of paint to show reflections, and renderings of highlights and shadows is just as dramatic as his placement of the objects. They may look carelessly strewn about, but are instead meticulously positioned, creating a balanced harmony rather than chaos.  

Willem Claesz. Heda, A blackberry pie on a pewter platter, a silver-gilded cup and cover, an upturned tazza, a partly-peeled lemon, a bread roll, hazelnuts, a facond-de-Venise glass, a silver decanter, a roemer, and a knife on a pewter platter, on a partly draped table, 1644, oil on panel, image courtesy of Christie's Images Ltd., 2014

What better inspiration to take to the kitchen (the rolling board?) than one of balanced mayhem? I mean, it is as if Heda is looking out from his pictures and encouraging me to make a flour-y mess of my kitchen all for the sake of a nice, virtuous piece of pie!



Hazelnut All Butter Crust (for a double crust pie)
Adapted from The Flour & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book, All Butter Crust
·      1 c. blanched, skinned hazelnuts, toasted and ground, divided into ½ cups
·      2 c. + 1/8 c. all-purpose flour
·      pinch of salt
·      1 T. sugar
·      2 sticks unsalted butter, very cold and cut into small pieces
·      1 c. cold water
·      ¼ c. apple cider vinegar
·      1 c. ice
·      ½ c. old fashioned oats

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the ground hazelnuts, 2 c. flour, salt and sugar, and pulse until mixed. Add in the cold butter and pulse 20 times. In a separate, smaller bowl, combine the cold water, apple cider vinegar and ice. Add a couple T. of the cold water mixture to the dough at a time, pulsing until combined after each addition. Once the dough in uniform, divide into two equal portions and wrap in plastic. Chill dough for at least 3 hours, or even up to a month. When you are ready to use the dough, keep it in the fridge until you are ready to roll it out. 


Berry Filling
·      2 c. blackberries
·      1 c. blueberries
·      ½ c. honey
·      2 T. unsalted butter
·      zest of one lemon
·      juice of one lemon
·      2 T. cornstarch

In a small saucepan, melt the butter into the berries over low heat. When completely melted add the honey and lemon juice, and let sit over low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring ever few. Add in the lemon zest, and remove from heat. Let cool for 30 minutes, and prepare your bottom crust as you wait. 


 Remove one of the dough halves from the fridge, and carefully roll out until about 12-13 inches in diameter on a floured countertop. Due to the hazelnuts in the dough, the fat content is even higher than usual, and therefore the dough gets very soft, very quickly. If you find that your dough is getting too soft, re-wrap in plastic, chill for another hour, and try again. After you have rolled the dough out for your bottom pie shell, carefully move the disc to your 9-inch pie pan. Smooth into the pan and trim around the top edges.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. When the berry mixture is cool, stir in the cornstarch completely, and then pour the mixture into the prepared pie shell. For the top crust of the pie, combine ½ of the remaining prepared dough from the fridge with ½ c. oats, ½ c. toasted, ground hazelnuts and 1/8 c. flour. Pulse in a food processor until combined and the consistency of green peas. Carefully pour the oat/dough mixture over the top of the pie in a large circle, adding a layer of the mixture around the outer layer of the pan. 


Bake the pie for 40-45 minutes, and then let cool completely, about 2 hours. Slice and enjoy with ice cream or alone! 


 
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