|Willem Claesz. Heda, Breakfast Table with Blackberry Pie, 1631, oil on panel|
Monday, July 21, 2014
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.
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.
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.
· 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!
Monday, July 14, 2014
“Brownies are great, but brownies with blueberries are even better,” said everyone ever. The same goes for shades of blue: Carolina blue is nice, Duke blue is better, and International Klein Blue is the best, right? Well, I doubt many NCAA basketball fans will agree with me (especially those of you from North Carolina), but allow me to make my case:
Born to artist parents who were members of the Parisian Abstract movement, Yves Klein was a member of the French New Realism movement, and enjoyed much success during his short career (he died very young, at the age of 34). A pioneer in marketing himself, Klein was most well known as a conceptual and performance artist, and was constantly pushing the envelope and challenging attitudes towards art. Working primarily during the 1950s and 1960s, Klein craved attention, and loved being in front of cameras—which worked out perfectly, considering that this was a time when television had become the main means of mass communication for the average American household.
|Yves Klein, IKB (International Klein Blue), 1962|
Klein’s attitude towards art revolved around the act of making art, which he actually favored over the finished product. At his core, Klein was a performance artist, but he also created many works in paint on canvas, primarily in a monochromatic color palette. By the mid-1950s, he was working primarily in blue, in particular International Klein Blue, an ultramarine hue that Klein created with French chemists. International Klein Blue is so vivid that it really closely resembles lapis lazuli, a semi-precious stone used to make blue paint during the Renaissance.
To say that Yves Klein was obsessed with this shade of blue was an understatement. At the beginning of 1957, Klein held an entire show made up of canvas painted with the iconic blue shade. Next, he turned the success of the color into performance art—he covered nude models in his blue paint and had them roll and bounce on walls of white canvas.
Anthropométrie de l'Époque bleu, 1962
While I can’t promise that these brownies will give you the same artistic vision, I do think that the juicy blueberries and dense chocolate flavor will give you the same intense energy that Klein’s works evoke. You have no excuse not to make these easy brownies tonight; blueberry season is finally in full swing, and let’s face it, it's Monday—you need something to help wean you off the weekend.
Yves Klein Coconut Blueberry Brownies
Inspired by i am baker
· 1 c. fresh blueberries
· 1 stick unsalted butter
· ¼ c. mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
· ¼ c. unsweetened flaked coconut
· ¾ c. sugar
· ¾ c. brown sugar
· 2 eggs
· 2 t. vanilla extract
· ½ c. cocoa powder
· ½ c. all-purpose flour
· ½ c. coconut flour
· pinch of salt
· ½ t. baking powder
Preheat oven to 350°F and grease an 8 x 8 in. square pan. In a small saucepan, heat the butter on low heat until completely melted and starting to brown. Turn off the heat and stir in ½ c. blueberries and the mini chocolate chips. Remove from heat and let cool a bit. In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar until combined. Stir in the flaked coconut and vanilla and set aside. In a small bowl, stir together the salt, cocoa powder, baking powder and flours. When the chocolate/butter/blueberry mixture is cool enough, add to the egg mixture, and then slowly stir in the dry mixture. Be careful to only mix until combined; it’s ok to see a bit of unmixed flour. Pour and smooth into the greased pan, and stick in the oven for about 30 minutes, until a toothpick stuck through the middle comes out clean. Let cool for as long as you can handle it—at least 20 minutes! Slice into 16 squares and enjoy!
Friday, July 4, 2014
Happy Fourth of July! This post not only celebrates America’s declaration of Independence from Great Britain, but also marks one year for my blog. Given the circumstances, I thought what way to better celebrate than with an epic cake? Thanks to Food52’s well-timed post, I knew that I had the perfect cake for the occasion, and I can’t wait for you to try it out as well!
Last year we celebrated with this fabulous flag pizza along with Jasper John’s iconic Flag print. This year, I think we need to take a closer look at our founding father, the first president of the United States: George Washington. In addition to all of his political accomplishments—first president, commander-in-chief of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary war, contributor to the Constitution, Washington is also one of the most popular inspirations for art and culture in America…EVER. His face appears on both the US quarter and US $1 bill, has been on numerous postage stamps, and has been referred to or illustrated in paintings, sculptures, monuments, films, TV, songs…and the list goes on.
|Emauel Leutze, Washington Crossing the Delaware, 1851, oil on canvas|
One of the most iconic images of Washington is Emanuel Leutze’s 1851 depiction of Washington and his troops, Washington Crossing the Delaware. Here Washington is—you guessed it—crossing the Delaware River, on his way to New Jersey to surprise the German troops at the Battle of Trenton. Washington stands regally at the bow of his boat, while his troops, wrapped in blankets and heavy coats (since it was Christmas evening) navigate the icy Delaware waters. Funnily enough, German artist Leutze shows two of Washington’s men holding up an enormous early version of the American flag, a version with 13 stars arranged in a circle (the “Betsy Ross flag”), which was not actually used until a bit later. Nonetheless, Leutze’s work is significant, and a second version of the work is displayed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (following the destruction of the first version during WWII).
Over a hundred years later, artist Cindy Sherman posed as George Washington as part of her History Portraits series—portraits of herself styled and posed as characters inspired by the Old Masters. This series examined subjects’ representation in classical portraiture borrowing from many stylistic periods. In Untitled #196, Sherman is seen straight on, staring right at the viewer, her left leg perched up on a ruby ledge topped with books. She wears the costume that Washington might have worn, even down to wig and nose prosthetic.
|Cindy Sherman, Untitled #196, 1989, image courtesy of Christie's Images Ltd. 2014|
Shortly after, John F. Kennedy Jr. created the political magazine, George, named after Mr. Washington, and featuring celebrities dressed as George Washington on each cover. Cindy Crawford graced the first cover in an outfit was a little less traditional than Sherman’s, but no less dramatic.
Drama and pride are the motivation behind this spectacularly patriotic cake; one that I promise will be a hit at all of your July 4th parties. While putting this cake creation together may look as intimidating as Mr. Washington’s wooden teeth were scary, I promise, it is simple to make (though it does take a while, so be patient), and well worth the extra effort!!
I hope you all have marvelous holidays!
American Flag Cake
For this amazing cake, you will need to make 5 9-inch circular cakes—two white, two red and one blue
For each cake:
· 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature*
· 1 c. white sugar
· 2 eggs, room temperature
· 1 t. vanilla extract
· 1 t. almond extract
· 1 ½ c. cake flour sifted (don’t have cake flour? Use this trick!)
· ¾ c. buttermilk, room temperature (don’t have buttermilk? Use this trick!)
· 1 t. baking powder
· pinch of salt
· red and blue food coloring
For the buttercream frosting (enough to frost the entire cake):
· 4 sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature
· 8 c. powdered sugar
· 2 t. vanilla extract, or the scrapings of one vanilla bean
· 1/3 c. heavy cream
*When reading through this ingredient list, please don’t freak—when I first read through to see what additional ingredients I needed to pick up, I was initially shocked by the amount of BUTTER. While it certainly is a lot, remember that this is a special occasion cake (obviously, we are celebrating our nation’s birth!!), and you most likely will not be eating this cake every single day for the rest of your life. Remember that life is about balance (checks and balances, anyone?) and it is ok to indulge sometimes!
Preheat the oven to 350°F (at this point, I would recommend changing into your American-flag themed swimsuit if you have it—your oven is going to be on for HOURS, and if your kitchen is anything like mine, it is going to get STEAMY). Spray two 9-inch, circular cake pans with cooking spray or grease with butter, and sprinkle with a bit of flour.
In a medium-sized bowl, sift together your flour, salt and baking powder, and set aside. In a larger bowl, cream together your butter until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Beat in the sugar, and keep beating for a couple more minutes. Add in the eggs, one at a time, mixing completely after each. Stir in the vanilla and almond extracts, and then slowly mix in the dry mixture, only mixing until combined. Lastly, stir in the buttermilk, and add in your food coloring if you are making the red or blue cakes. I used 25 drops of red food coloring for each cake and 20 for the blue one (!).
Pour the batter into your prepared cake pan. I found it easiest to double the white and red cake recipes so that I could bake both cakes of those colors at the same time, thus minimizing my overall oven time. If you do this, be sure to double the red food coloring too, so you don’t end up with a two pink cakes!
Bake the cakes for about 30 minutes, rotating after 15. Be sure to watch the cakes carefully—everyone’s oven is a bit different, and baking two cakes at the same time means that you will need to bake a bit longer. Allow to cool completely, and proceed until you have all 5 cakes baked.
While the cakes bake and start cooling, make your frosting: Beat together your butter and sugar for about 5 minutes, until light and creamy. Add in the vanilla and cream, and mix until the frosting reaches the consistency that you like.
When all the cakes are cooled, remove from the pans and carefully wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for at least 30 minutes, so that the cakes are a bit stiff—this will make cutting them much easier! When cold, slice each white and red cake in half horizontally, creating 8 thin cakes. You will only need six of these—three red and three white, so save the extra one to snack on! Leave the blue cake whole—you don’t want to skimp on the “stars” portion of your stars and stripes.
Using a 4-inch biscuit cutter or small bowl, cut one of the red layers into a small circle and large ring, and set aside. Do the same with one of the white layers. You will only need the small circles, so munch away on the two rings! Using the same technique, cut the blue (larger) cake as well. You will need the outer ring this time, so set that aside and discard/munch on the smaller blue circle. At this point, you should have one large blue ring, two small red circles, two small white circles, two thin white layers and two thin red layers.
To build the cake, place the thin red layer on a cake stand (or large pan, or large cutting board), and top with a thin layer of buttercream. Make sure your layer of frosting is thin, so that you have enough for the entire cake, and so that the stripes look consistent—red and white instead of red, white and white frosting. Add the thin white layer on top of the red one, and add another layer of frosting. Repeat with one more layer or red and white, so that you have a layer cake of red, white, red and white. Next, add the blue layer. Inside the ring, place a small red circle, add a thin layer of frosting, followed by a small white circle. You should now have an even layer cake, so discard or munch on the rest of the leftover cake bits.
Now you are ready to frost the entire cake. I found it best to add a thin layer of buttercream over the entire cake, chill for a bit, and then add the remainder of the buttercream using a large offset spatula. This technique is called a “crumb coat,” and essentially evens out the surface of the cake with the first coating. Then, when you are ready to add the last coat of frosting, the cake will be easy to frost, and there is less of a chance of contaminating the frosting with bits of cake crumbs. This step is especially relevant for this particular cake, since you have sliced and cut up all of the pieces, leaving lots of crumbs, which you don’t want on your finished cake!
Now gather your friends around, and slice this baby up! Not only will they be impressed, but I am pretty sure that old George Washington would be too! Happy Fourth of July, and here’s to a weekend full of the freedom to indulge in lots of cake!