Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Pies and Thighs

Happy Thanksgiving! I am staycation-ing in Brooklyn and thoroughly enjoying the cozy lounging I plan to do this weekend - it’s really gotten cold outside! Being at home is also giving me the chance to bake up a storm, and I recently made these cookies, which are an excellent addition to your dessert table - tonight, or any night. 

These pie cookies are incredibly cute, and go perfectly with the work of one of my favorite artists, Fernando Botero. The combination = pies and thighs! Botero’s very distinct style is characterized by round, inflated forms and bright, precise colors. Botero was greatly inspired by earlier masters, and he made his own versions of their masterpieces. 

Fernando Botero, After the Arnolfini Van Eyck, oil on canvas, 1978

In both After the Arnolfini Van Eyck (1978) and The Arnolfini (After Van Eyck) (1997), Botero clearly references Jan Van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait, one of the most famous (and my favorite) paintings in the world. One of the main differences between the two portraits is Botero’s treatment of the background. In the earlier version, the figures take up more space - especially the groom’s hat! Starting in the 1980s, many of Botero’s portraits emphasized the background and picture environment more, and in these two works it is a very subtle difference. Both pictures include all the same elements and details - the ornate red bed, shoes on the floor, dog, mirror with the reflection, the window and windowsill, and the same costumes on the bride and groom. However, the earlier version is a little less defined and darker than the 1997 version, which is lighter, brighter, and more established. 

Fernando Botero, The Arnolfini (After Van Eyck), oil on canvas, 1997

These cookies are also light, bright and pretty clearly adorable slices of pie, so start letting your butter get to room temperature and get to baking!

Pumpkin Pie-esque Sugar Cookies
Makes about 2 dozen medium/large cookies
Adapted from You Can't Judge a Cookie by Its Cutter

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 t. baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 c. + 2 T. sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 t. vanilla extract
In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients through the salt, and set aside. 
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar for a couple of minutes on medium speed, until light and fluffy. Reduce the speed and add the egg and vanilla, mixing thoroughly. Add the dry mixture in 2 additions - add 1/2 first, mix and scrape the bowl, then add the second 1/2. Mix dough until combined and divide into two equal discs. Wrap both in plastic wrap and chill for about 30 minutes. 

Preheat your oven to 350ºF, and remove one disc of dough at a time. Lightly flour your workspace, and gently roll the dough out thin using a floured rolling pin. Cut your cookie shapes out. I used one shaped like a pie slice (similar here). Space out on a parchment or silicone mat-lined cookie sheet and bake for about 10-12 minutes. You want the cookies to brown slightly around the edges. Let cool for at least 30 minutes before icing.

Royal Icing with Egg Whites
Makes about 2 c. - enough to ice all your cookies
  • 5 1/2 c. confectioner’s sugar
  • 7 T. liquid egg whites
  • 1/2 t. lemon juice
  • dash of vanilla extract
  • food coloring in desired colors
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine confectioner’s sugar and egg whites and mix until smooth. add in the lemon juice, mix, add the vanilla, and mix. Beat for 1-2 minutes, until fluffy and smooth. Divide into smaller bowls and beat in food coloring. 

To decorate:

Fit a plastic pastry bag with a thin metal tip and spoon in the icing. Feel free to decorate as much or as little as you want. I was super inspired by Patti Page’s awesome book You Can’t Judge a Cookie by It’s Cutter, and I tried my best outlined, decorated cookie. To do this on the pie slice cookie, I started by outlining the entire cookie in light yellow icing. I then filled the top in, to mimic a buttery top crust. Fill the rectangular “pie-filling” with whatever icing you want. I chose orange to make my cookies pumpkin pie-eque, but you could also do a purple-y blue for blueberry pie or a bright red for cherry pie. The pie’s the limit!

Let the icing set for at least an hour before eating, preferably a few hours.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! I hope you enjoy a day of food and family, with these cookies on your dessert table!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Manet’s Barmaid’s (Slutty) Brownies

When first working on this post, I honestly felt a little guilty about using "slutty" brownies as a reference to a work by the late, great Édouard Manet. Turns out Manet, the genius French Realist and Impressionist painter, died of pretty embarrassing circumstances - syphilis and gangrene when he was 51. Yikes! Now I feel slightly less guilty and inappropriate!

Edouard Manet, Self-Portrait, oil on canvas, c. 1878

These brownies are out of this world - a bit like my admiration for this beautiful painting, which was Manet’s last major work. Exhibited in the 1882 Paris salon, A Bar at the Folies-Bergére depicts a barmaid, who is also a prostitute, in the elaborate dancehall/variety show venue. This work has various illusions throughout - starting with the barmaid. She is the central figure in the work, and stands before a mirror. She is seen straight on, looking right at the viewer, and noticeably sullen and remote. At the same time, on the right side, it also looks like she is speaking to the gentleman in the top hat. This is actually a trick of the mirror - the man is actually farther away to the left, and not even looking at the barmaid. Crazy!

Edouard Manet, A Bar at the Folies-Bergere, oil on canvas, 1882

It's possible that the illusion of the barmaid interacting with the man is him propositioning her. After all, she is a prostitute-bartender at a nightclub known for women of her profession - she can be purchased along with a drink.

Manet exhibited this as the Paris Salon, the official exhibition of the French Academy of Fine Arts, and in doing so, presented an immoral subject to high society fine art. Like Manet’s work, these brownies are inappropriate and provocative. They get their name from the trio of delicious flavors: oreo, brownie and cookie - a sugary threesome! Run, don’t walk to your kitchen, and make these awesome treats immediately! They are rich, chocolatey and dense, and unlike paintings by Manet, they are a super affordable masterpiece!

Slutty Brownies

For the brownie layer:
  • 10 T. unsalted butter
  • 3/4 c. sugar 
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 3/4 c. cocoa powder
  • 2 t. vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 c. flour

For the oreo layer:
  • 1 box oreos, either original or vanilla (you won’t use the whole box!)

For the cookie layer:
  • 1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1 c. flour
  • 1/4 c. whole wheat flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1 c. Reese’s Pieces

Put together the brownie layer first:
In a medium metal bowl, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the sugars and cocoa powder, and remove from heat. Let cool for a couple of minutes, then add the vanilla and eggs and whisk until smooth. Stir in the flour and salt until combined, and set the batter aside. 

Next, tackle the cookie layer:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars for a minute or two. Stir in the egg and vanilla. In another bowl, sift together the flours, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Add the dry mix to the wet in a couple of additions, and only mix until combined.

Line a square brownie pan with aluminum foil and spray lightly with cooking spray. Spread the cookie layer into the pan first, and use a silicone spatula to create a smooth cookie crust for the brownie. Arrange oreo cookies in an even layer over the cookie. Cover oreos with an even coating the brownie batter and bake on 350°F for 35-40 minutes. Cool for an hour if you can stand it, and dig in! 

Recipe adapted from What’s Gaby Cooking

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Sending Love to Paris

My heart is broken thinking about Paris. Here are some pictures from my last visit in February. 

Hope everyone is safe and don’t forget to tell your loved ones that you love them!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Razzle Dazzle Pie

Halloween was this weekend, which means that we are fully into fall. Despite this, I am still trying to hold onto summer for just a little while longer. Not only is our local grocery store still stocking rhubarb and berries, but we also got our wedding photos back this month, and it is so fun to think back to the biggest event of my summer (also, life) … my wedding!

The wedding process as a whole was incredibly fun and also totally emotionally overwhelming at the same time! My family and friends made this such a special time, and I was overwhelmed by all of the wonderful bridal showers, thoughtful and generous gifts and kind words. At one of my amazing showers my mom gifted me with a beautiful quilt - one that I was aware that she was making but also completely caught off guard by. This quilt, made up of “pineapple pattern” with a “flying geese” border was started earlier this year in colors I picked out: blues, neutral tones and coral for our bedroom. During the craziness of wedding planning, my mom didn’t mention it for awhile, so I assumed it was on the back burner. Surprise - turns out my mom finished it and presented it to me surrounded by my nearest and dearest!

My mom has been quilting for as long as I can remember. Quilting and needlework, like the work she does has been an important artistic expression of American women since the Revolutionary War. That’s a ton of history! When was growing up, she and a couple of her girlfriends formed an informal quilting group called the “razzle dazzle girls,” a nod to the tradition of quilting as a group. 

surprise detail on the back!
That brings me to this razzle dazzle pie, which is juicy and summery and just the answer to this fall that is still a bit summer-like. 

Razzle Dazzle Pie 

Butter Crust, previously seen here

Pie Filling
  • 2 c. raspberries
  • 1 small bunch of rhubarb, washed and cut into 1/2 pieces
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 3 t. ground arrowroot
  • 1/2 t. ground cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 t. ground cardamom 
  • 1 large egg
  • dash of Angostura bitters
Egg Wash
  • 1 large egg, whisked
  • 2 T. heavy cream

Roll the dough out into two 12-13 inch discs. Fit one of the discs into your pan - either a pie pan or a square brownie pan, and gently trim, leaving an inch of overhang. Cut the other disc into lattice strips, and chill both rounds as you prepare the rest of the pie. 

In a large bowl, gently stir together the raspberry, rhubarb, sugars, arrowroot and spices. Stir in the egg and the bitters and let sit for about 20 minutes. Remove the crusts from the fridge and spoon in the pie filling. Arrange the lattice top and crimp the overhang dough evenly around the pie. Chill for about 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425°F and brush the pie with the egg wash. Set the pie on a cookie sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating halfway through. Lower the oven heat to 375°F and bake for another 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least an hour, preferably more. 

Slice, serve and savor! Summer is over but I’m actually pretty excited about sleeping under my new quilt now that its chilly. Have a great day!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Sweet Treats #9

Paints that teach you how to mix colors

So cool! France and the Netherlands have come together to jointly buy two rare Rembrandts

This is so sad! These were the glory days

Finally - your ultimate coffee guide

Apparently this year’s Turner prize show isn’t so exciting

Opening this week:
  • Jim Shaw: The End is Here (New Museum)
  • Andrea del Sarto: The Renaissance Workshop in Action (Frick)
  • Edvard Munch: Archetypes (Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza) - I visited the museo for the first time a little over a month ago on my honeymoon, and am bummed that I so narrowly missed this awesome-looking show!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Masters and Makers: I Adore Latte Art

New York is known for having great pizza, bagels, and for me, caffeine. It seems like every block around the city and Brooklyn boasts the “best brew” around, whether that is determined by the huge line snaking out the door, or the incredible price - $5 for an ice coffee? $7 for a latte? What?!

Despite the outrageous price of my coffee addiction (and the fact that I am perfectly capable of making a great cup of coffee at home) I can’t help but treat myself every once and awhile to a perfectly foamy latte at my favorite neighborhood coffee spot. 

My husband - which I am still getting used to referring to Michael as - and I have been frequenting Cusp in Park Slope since we moved to the neighborhood. The staff are super friendly, the coffee is nice and strong, and their crepes are amazing. What more could you ask for? Well, if you are me, you also ask them to teach you how to make lattes with designs in them!

Latte art has gotten huge in New York during recent years. It seems like nowadays any coffee shop you order from is going to hand you a drink with a flower, heart or face swirled into your foamed milk. I’m certainly not complaining, and am instead happy to learn the tricks of the trade from my favorite baristas. 

How to Make a Perfect Latte + Latte Art 

First: Make the perfect espresso! A couple of things to remember: use the best coffee beans you can afford, use good-tasting water and preheat your cup. Grind your coffee and pull an espresso shot directly into the cup using a machine.

Now for the latte! Add your milk of choice to a stainless-steel jug, leaving room at the top for the hot milk to expand, and place the tip of the steam wand a little bit under the surface of the milk. Keep the tip of the steamer in the liquid, and tilt the jug, circulating the milk, until your liquid has doubled in size. You can also make sure that the milk is hot enough - the ideal temperature is 150ºF.

Slowly swirl the milk in the jug, and then super slowly, start to pour into your cup, about an inch away from the rim. Once you have poured in half of the hot milk, gently shake the jug back and fourth as you pour the remainder, now moving in the opposite direction. Visually, the first half of the milk creates the large bottom of the flower, and as you shake the milk and pull backwards, the flower and leaves form and fill up the cup. OR try out a heart, like the last picture above.

For me, this new skill is definitely going to require a ton of practice, and I may never have the skills of my talented barista. And I seriously doubt that any consumers of my homemade lattes are going to take a sip and say, “Wow, she was definitely taught by a Brooklyn barista!” Back in the day, as in the 1400s, many artists went to learn from even greater, well-known artists, and usually left these apprentices with considerable skill and the influence of their mighty teacher. The Venetian painter Jacopo Bellini went to work under the great Gentile da Fabriano, and was so touched by his teacher that he named one of his sons after him! Flattering as it is, I probably couldn’t get away with naming any future children “coffee” :) .

Gentile da Fabriano, Adoration of the Magi, oil on panel, 1423

Gentile da Fabriano is most well-known for his beautiful work, Adoration of the Magi, which he completed in 1423. Hanging in the Uffizi today, this triptych shows a subject that was very popular at the time, especially among wealthy Florentines, who wanted to get around the city’s sumptuary laws at the time. The Renaissance in Florence was all about luxury, but laws at the time limited the show of wealth in public, since it usually tended towards extreme excess. By commissioning a religious work showing great wealth - in this particular scene, kings and wealthy men are shown visiting the Christ child after his birth and showering him with jewels and extravagant gifts - patrons were able to display their wealth in a way that was more accepted by the church. 

I am specifically reminded of the work of Gentile da Fabriano in Jacopo Bellini’s Virgin of Humility Adorned by Leonello d’ Este (a donor), which might have even been attributed to Gentile for awhile. Take a look at the background behind the Virgin - it looks just like the windy Venetian landscape that Gentile used in the background of Adoration of the Magi. Coincidence? I think not. Happy caffeinating! So fitting for a Monday, right?

Jacopo Bellini, Madonna of Humility Adorned by Leonello d' Este, oil on panel, c. 1440-1

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