Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Ionic Elephant Ear Cookies


Hello! I’m back to the blog after surrendering my life to wedding planning, which essentially just means addressing and stamping what seems like millions of envelopes, trying out lots of beauty treatments and pushing myself to run run run...I'm up to 140 miles!  This weekend was a fun one to live in the city: the whole world has been celebrating the super exciting Supreme Court victory that happened last Friday, making this weekend’s Gay Pride events even better.

Because of all this, it seems like my social media is (even more so than usual) joyous, rainbow-hued and celebratory, and there are even more pictures of government buildings than usual (which is never). I mean, I would say that for every four Facebook profile pictures that have gotten the Facebook pride-treatment (or data/behavior studied), there is another shot of the Supreme Court, or the White House lit up in rainbow colors. This is totally perfect, because it brings up classical architecture in government buildings, which goes PERFECTLY with the cookies I made recently that look like ionic columns, which are not things that usually come to mind (or brought up in blog post) organically. 
So really, thank you Supreme Court—not only for making same-sex marriage legal (but mostly for this!), but for also making it easier for me to write a post on ionic column-shaped cookies. THANK YOU!!!!

These cookies, called palmiers or elephant cookies are buttery, soft and just so happen to look like one of Greek architectural orders. Ionic columns were named for the Greek Ionian Islands in the 6th century B.C. and characterized by the delicate scrolls or volutes on is capital, the top of the column. Ionic columns can be seen on historic buildings everywhere: the Vienna Parliament, Parthenon, Temple of Athena Nike at the Acropolis, the White House and many frat houses all have them!

Parthenon, image via Flickr

Mini Elephant Ear Cookies

·      2 c. all-purpose flour
·      ¼ c. whole wheat flour
·      pinch of salt
·      ½ t. baking powder
·      1 ½ sticks unsalted butter
·      ¾ c. sour cream
·      ½ c. sugar

These cookies take a little bit of planning ahead—they can be made in a little over 2 ½ hours, or you can make the dough the night before, and chill overnight.

First, dice the butter, and chill in the freezer for 30 minutes. When ready, combine the dry ingredients (but not sugar) in the bowl of a food processor and add in the frozen butter pieces. Pulse until the mixture resembles small uniform pebbles. Add in the sour cream and pulse until just combined. Dump the dough onto a counter and roll in a ball. Divide in half, and wrap each piece in plastic wrap. Chill for at least one hour (or overnight).

Sprinkle your workspace with the sugar, and remove one piece of dough from the fridge at a time. Roll the dough out into an approximately 12 x 10 inch strip. Sprinkle another layer of sugar on the dough, and slowly start curling one of the long sides into itself like a scroll, stop in the middle, and do the same on the other half.  Repeat process with the second ball o f dough. Press the ends of each scroll together, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for an hour. 

Preheat the oven to 425°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Take one of the scrolls from the fridge and cut into ½ c. slices, placing them on the baking sheet about 1 ½ inches apart from each other.  Bake for 13-15 minutes total, turning halfway through and watching carefully. Allow to cool completely before digging in. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Sweet Treats #7

The Gluten Free Diet is everywhere, including some of your favorite art

Frieze Art Fair is starts this week! There will be great art and great food—check out the health ratings for the food vendors planning to work the fair

According to this state food map, my favorite foods should probably be lattice-top peach pies (born in GA), pulled-pork BBQ sandwiches (raised in NC) with a little bit of buckeyes (OH), fish tacos (CA) and buffalo wings (NY) thrown in…how accurate are yours?

Can you tell the difference between a real or fake Old Master painting?

The most depressing cookbooks ever ("I Can't Chew Cookbook")

Monday, May 4, 2015

Soul-Saving, Heavenly Maple, Chocolate Chip & Walnut Oatmeal Cookies

I’m finding myself in a precarious position. With my wedding only 15 short weeks away (eek!!) I should be doing everything in my power to look my best for my big day. While this is totally true, I still can’t help myself from wanting to bake delicious things all the time. When I’m happy, I bake, and obviously this is a happy time, but it’s also the time I really shouldn’t be baking (and tasting) quite as often. So since I am having a hard time slowing down on the baking, I’m upping my exercise a bit to make up for it. In addition to my normal gym routine, I’ve also set a goal to run 200 miles before the wedding… which is a pretty insane goal, even if I started it at the end of March. Currently I’m at 82 miles—let’s see how I do!

These cookies are partially to blame for my need to log some miles. They are completely decadent but also a little surprising. The mix of chocolate chips and cocoa nibs and the walnuts are the base for a stellar cookie, but the addition of maple takes these to the next level. They remind me of the Romanesque sculptures that decorated European cathedrals during the eleventh and twelfth centuries. These intricate and expressive stone sculptures decorated much of the façade of these churches, as a means of extravagantly depicting various biblical scenes and principles of Christianity for the churchgoers to see. The scene of the Last Judgment was especially popular in the decorated archway (or tympanum) above the church doorways, showing Christ’s power to separate those destined for heaven and hell. 

detail, Cathedral of Saint Lazare, Autun, image via here

detail, Cathedral of Saint Lazare, Autun, image via here

A version of this that is still in remarkably good shape (given that it’s 900 years old) was completed between 1120-1135 at the Cathedral of Saint Lazare at Autun, France. From afar, this version looks like these cookies—sandy colored, textured and totally intriguing. Upon closer inspection, we see an enormous Christ judging the souls that surround him. To our left (his right) we see angels and saved souls. To our right (his left) are the damned souls, which are chaotic and terrifying. One bite of these maple-y cookies, and you might as well cue the trumpets and doves—they are heavenly! 

My favorite part about this artist’s work at Autun is that he signed his work: Gislebertus hoc fecit” meaning “Gislebertus made this”, which was totally awesome and against the norm for that time in history. Here Gislebertus demands recognition for his work and forcefully separates himself from the anonymous craftspeople. With his pushing of boundaries and exploration of his identity as an artist, Gislebertus is a forefather for any artist today who signs their work. On a tastier scale, these cookies demand attention and put it all out there. Basically I just can’t get enough. I think you’ll feel the same! 

Maple, Chocolate Chip and Walnut Oatmeal Cookies
Adapted from joy the baker

·      1 c. all-purpose flour
·      ½ c. whole wheat flour
·      pinch of salt
·      1 t. baking soda
·      1 ½ t. ground cinnamon
·      1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
·      1 c. brown sugar
·      1/3 c. sugar
·      2 eggs
·      2 t. vanilla extract
·      ½ c. pure maple syrup
·      2 c. old fashioned rolled oats
·      ½ c. walnuts
·      ¾ c. chocolate chips
·      ¼ c. cocoa nibs

Preheat the oven to 350°F and prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, cinnamon and baking soda. Set aside.

In a larger bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugars for a couple of minutes. Once the mixture is light and fluffy, add the eggs one at a time, beating completely between additions. Add the vanilla and the maple syrup, and then add the flour mixture over a few additions. Stir in the oats, walnuts, chocolate chips and cocoa nibs.

Using a large spoon or a heaping-tablespoon sized cookie scoop, divide the dough into portions on the baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie. Bake for 10-12 minutes, and let cool completely before devouring the whole batch!  

Monday, April 20, 2015

Totally Spring-like Carrot Cake with Cardamom

Spring has finally sprung, and I am psyched! Every year I am amazed at just how much the weather affects my mood.  Winter is fine for a while, but I got so tired of wearing my duck boots every. single. day and dealing with tons of snow, slush and ice. This past weekend I went running outside in shorts, and I honestly can’t remember the last time I did that!

This cake screams spring. It also screams spice! And excitement! And a moist crumb! I love that it has all of the best parts of carrot cake: the freshness of the shredded carrots, lightness of the cream cheese frosting and just that wholesome feeling you get when you are eating a dessert made out of veggies, ya know?

Adding cardamom to this cake is life changing—it adds a whole new dimension to this tasty cake, and I can’t picture going back to any other plain ol’ carrot cake. 

Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Spring, oil on canvas, 1573

With spring outside and in my kitchen, I can’t help but be reminded of one of my favorite artists, Arcimboldo, and more specifically, his work Spring. Giuseppe Arcimboldo was a 16th century Mannerist painter, who is best remembered for his anthropomorphic portraits, using flowers, plants, fruits, vegetables and other inanimate objects to create the faces. Arcimboldo grew up in Milan when naturalism was really in style, which no doubt influenced his later work, though there is no question that he took it a step further than his contemporaries! When he was in his 30s, he left Milan and went to Vienna to work as a court painter, decorator and costume designer for the Habsburg court. It was here that Arcimboldo really flourished. Under the patronage of Emperor Maximilian II and Rudolf II, Arcimboldo was encouraged to study botany, and his works truly began to fuse art and science.

Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Vertumnus, oil on panel, 1950-1
In the 1570s, Arcimboldo started his “The Seasons” series to celebrate the reign of his patrons, by personifying Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. The series was so popular that he created many reproductions and alternate versions (one version of Spring is hanging in the Louvre, and I saw it last month while I was in Paris!). In 1590, Arcimboldo created one of his most famous portraits, Vertumnus, which portrays Maximilian II’s son, Rudolf II as the god of seasons. In choosing this subject matter, Arcimboldo reinforced Rudolf II’s extreme power—he was Holy Roman Emperor, and ruled as king over Bohemia, Germany, Hungary and Croatia.

Now I realize that most of us don’t currently deal with the rule of monarchs (but some of us do, thank you faithful readers in London and Thailand!!), but with the changing seasons, this cardamom carrot cake is sure to make everyone feel a little bit like royalty! Now get to baking—hurry, before it gets too hot outside to comfortably turn on our ovens!!

Carrot Cake with Cardamom
Adapted from Food52

·      ¾ c. sugar
·      ¾ c. brown sugar
·      2 t. vanilla extract
·      4 eggs, room temperature
·      4 cups shredded heirloom carrots
·      2 c. flour (1/2 of this can be whole wheat)
·      1 c. self-rising flour
·      2 t. baking powder
·      1 t. cardamom
·      ½ t. cinnamon
·      pinch of salt
·      dash of citrus extract (I used this)
·      ¾ c. grapeseed oil
·      ¾ c. plain yogurt

Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from Martha Stewart

·      8 oz. cream cheese
·      1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
·      2 t. vanilla extract
·      1-2 c. powdered sugar

First bake the cake: preheat the oven to 325°F and grease two 9 inch cake pans. Lightly flour both pans and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the sugar and eggs until yellow and then add in the vanilla and citrus extract. In a separate bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder, salt, and spices. Add the carrots and stir until all combined. Pour half of the carrot and flour mixture into the stand mixer along with half of the oil and yogurt. Mix and then repeat.

Pour the batter evenly into the two pans and bake for about 55 minutes, alternating halfway through. Let cool completely, no ifs ands or buts, I’m talking at least an hour before you frost! Or you can wait to frost the next day, but I doubt you will be able to wait that long!

For the frosting: cream together the butter and cream cheese in a stand mixer for a couple of minutes. Add in the vanilla, followed by a cup of powdered sugar. Taste, and add more sugar until the frosting reaches your desired level of sweetness. Yum!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Rineke’s Stripy Sandwich Cookies

Happy Tuesday! Today’s post combines two things that are new to me: chocolate sandwich cookies that are not vegan (what?!) and the super-talented Dutch photographer, Rineke Dijkstra.
Let’s tackle the whole Oreos being vegan thing: I. Had. No. Idea. That. Oreos. Were. Vegan. Consider my mind blown! Anyway, these chocolate sandwich cookies are definitely not vegan. Sorry, not sorry!

I am however sorry that I didn’t really know about Rineke Dijkstra before now. She has been in the photography scene since the 1990s, focusing primarily on striking, large-format portraiture that draws from the Dutch old masters. Her works show single subjects, standing full-length, and looking straight towards the camera. Dijkstra skillfully gains the trust of her subjects, who in turn let her (and us) into an intimate and particular moment in their lives.

Rineke Dijkstra, De Panne, Belgium August 7, 1992, chromogenic print. Image via Christie's Images Ltd. 2015

In her early 1990s series Beach Portraits, Dijkstra profiles a bunch of teenagers posing at the beach in their bathing suits; at once awkward and engaging. These honest-faced subjects bare everything for the camera, but just for a moment, allowing the viewer to quickly glance into their adolescent world. In De Panne, Belgium August 7, 1992 we see a teenage girl, posing in her black and white striped one-piece bathing suit. Her hands are straight at her sides, and she stares intently forward, not directly meeting your eye. She looks a little self-conscious, but you also can’t look away. The image is perfectly composed and vibrant in color, further adding to the crisp shadows and highlights that deepen the girl’s relationship with her surroundings. Dijkstra’s work is truly very honest, and I think that is why I like it so much.

Meanwhile, I made these chocolate sandwich cookies, which taste just like Oreos, but better because they are homemade. The sleek, minimal black and white cookie looked too much like this stripy bathing suit, so really I didn’t have a choice. It’s also awesome that one from an edition of 15 of this striking photograph is being auctioned off today – check it out!

Chocolate Sandwich Cookies
Recipe adapted from Food52
Influenced by the Dijkstra Icebox Cake in Modern ArtDesserts

·      1 ¼ c. all-purpose flour
·      ½ c. cocoa powder
·      1 t. baking soda
·      ¼ t. baking powder
·      pinch of salt
·      1 stick unsalted butter, softened
·      ¾ c. sugar
·      1 egg
·      1 t. vanilla extract

·      4 T. unsalted butter
·      ¼ c. shortening (I used this)
·      2 t. vanilla extract
·      1 vanilla bean, scraped
·      2 ½ c. confectioner’s sugar

Sift together the dry ingredients: the flour, cocoa powder, baking sold, baking powder and salt, and set aside. In a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and the sugar for a few minutes. Add in the egg and vanilla, and beat until combined. Slowly pour in the dry mixture, stirring just until everything is incorporated. Shape the dough into two small discs, and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill the dough for at least an hour.

When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Remove one of the discs of dough from the fridge, and roll out over a floured surface until about 1/8 in. thick. Using a 1 ½-2 in. cookie cutter, stamp out as many circles as possible, and carefully transfer them to the cookie sheet. Once the cookie sheet fills up (remember to leave an inch or 2 between each cookie) bake for about 8 minutes, and let cool for about 5 minutes on the cookie sheet. Transfer to a cooking rack, and repeat with the remaining dough.

While the cookies bake and cool, mix together your filling. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and shortening until light and fluffy, a few minutes. Add in the vanilla and vanilla bean, and then slowly mix in the confectioner’s sugar, about ½ c. at a time. Keep beating until the filling reaches both the sweetness and consistency you want.

Using a small knife or offset spatula spread a quarter-sized portion of frosting on the bottom side of one of the cookies, and carefully add a top cookie. Slowly squeeze down on the sandwich and adhere, and wipe away any extra filling. Repeat and enjoy!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Matisse’s Cut-Out (Linzer) Cookie Bars

Matisse’s very popular show Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs recently closed at MoMA following a successful run at the Tate Modern last summer. Matisse is very well known for his colorful paintings, drawings, sculpture and mixed-paper collages, the latter of which he turned to exclusively in the early 1940s.

By this time, Matisse had experienced a long and prolific career: along with his contemporaries Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp, Matisse is recognized as a major player in early 20th century expressive art, and dabbled in Fauvism, Impressionism and modernism. A regular at the Paris apartment/salon of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Matisse’s works dominated their walls, and their patronage and friendship greatly helped his career.

Matisse originally used cut-outs in the planning process for his paintings and sculptures; a sort of technical sketch where he repositioned and re-pinned various elements until he was happy with the final composition. In 1941, after undergoing surgery for stomach cancer, Matisse was left bed and wheelchair bound and found that he could no longer paint or sculpt as he once had.

Not one to give up, Matisse then moved primarily to dramatic, yet simple cut-out collages, which he could do somewhat easily from bed. The works started out with a little experimentation: he would cut out various shapes, and instruct assistants or nurses to position the pieces all over the walls of his home and hospital rooms.  Matisse would then evaluate their positions, and have his assistants repositioned them, sometimes over and over again, until he was satisfied with the composition. Later, the pieces would be glued to canvases and paper, which is how many are presented today. Earlier examples of these collages show holes and puncture marks, showing the trial and error process, an imperfect look that Matisse preferred.

One of Matisse’s most well known cut-outs was also his only site-specific work. After visiting a pool in Cannes with his assistant, Lydia, Matisse wanted to bring the idea of the pool back to his dining room. After Lydia wrapped a portion of his walls in white paper, Matisse cut out and painted divers and swimmers, positioning them around his room. The end result, called The Swimming Pool, was purchased by NY’s Museum of Modern Art in 1975 (21 years after Matisse’s death at the age of 85) and quickly became a museum favorite and a prime and important example of his work in this medium. 

Henri Matisse, The Swimming Pool, 1952, gouache on paper, image via MoMA

One of my favorite things about this work is all of the research, conservation and care that MoMA has put into the display of this work. After viewing images of the work in situ in Matisse’s dining room, MoMA planned a huge conservation project with the goal of restoring the original color balance of the work, part of which involved re-mounting the white paper and blue shapes on new burlap and removing surface stains. Following all of this, the work was then re-installed in a gallery specifically designed to mimic the dining room in which they once hung; visitors enter a doorway arranged similarly to the entrance in Matisse’s dining room, and the burlap panels are hung at the same height as they were originally designed. Well done, MoMA!

Without further ado, here is a recipe for Linzer Torte Bars, which are the original cut-out cookie. This decorative dessert can be made as cookies, bars or a torte, which is how it originally appeared in Linz, Austria back in the 17th century. Even though these are typically a winter holiday treat, I think they still work now, especially since the recent snow up here in NYC is not exactly spring-like!

Linzer Torte Bars
Recipe adapted from smitten kitchen
Yield: 16 bars / an 8x8 square pan

Base and Lattice Dough:
·      ¾ c. hazelnuts, toasted
·      ¾ c. almonds, toasted
·      1 c. all-purpose flour
·      ¾ c. whole wheat flour
·      1 t. cinnamon
·      pinch of salt
·      ¼ t. baking powder
·      1 ½ c. unsalted butter, room temperature, and cut into ½ inch cubes
·      ¾ c. sugar
·      1 egg + 1 egg yolk
·      1 t. vanilla extract
·      zest of a lime

·      1 c. seedless raspberry jam
·      1 t. ground flaxseeds
·      1 t. all-purpose flour

To Finish:
·      1 egg yolk
·      dash of water
·      handful of slivered almonds (optional)

First make the base: In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and creamy, about 3 minutes. Measure 3 T. of flour (either variety) and set aside. Add in salt, baking powder and remaining flour to butter and sugar. Slowly mix in the egg, followed by the egg yolk, beating completely between each addition. Add the vanilla extract and lime zest, and set mixture aside.

Using a food processor, pulse the nuts and the 3 T. of flour that you saved above, until the nuts are ground but not yet in the nut-butter stage, about 10-15 seconds. Stir the nut mixture into your dough with a wooden spoon, and once combined, gently knead the dough a few times with your hands inside the bowl of your mixer. Divide the dough into two equal portions, either by eyeballing or using a kitchen scale.

Preheat the oven to 400°F and spray the bottom and sides of an 8x8 square pan with cooking spray (or butter!). Press one of the dough halves into the bottom of the pan, evenly pushing the dough into an even level that extends about ¼ inch up the sides of the pan on all sides. Bake the crust for about 15 minutes, and let cool.

While the crust is baking, throw together the filling: mix together the flaxseeds, flour and jam, and voilà—you have your filling! Next, roll the remaining dough out on a floured surface, until it resembles a 9-10 inch square. Now comes the cut-out part: using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut the dough into any shape you wish: you could do a woven lattice, strips, or cut out shapes with a small cookie cutter like I did. Top your crust with the filling, and then lightly arrange the dough shapes over the filling. 

Before sticking in the oven, whip an egg yolk with a little bit of water, and brush it over the pastry. Cover with slivered almonds if you like and bake for about 40-45 minutes. Let cool completely before cutting into 16 pieces. Yum!

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