As I mentioned in this post, I was recently traveling in London and Amsterdam, and while in Amsterdam, I was delighted to visit the Van Gogh museum. Making up the largest van Gogh collection in the world, this museum gives each visitor the ability to trace van Gogh’s development as an artist from his early works in the early 1880s to those completed up until his premature death in 1990. Since van Gogh was only producing art for about a decade, the pure volume of works completed by his hand—over two thousand, is extraordinary.
Van Gogh painted several paintings devoted to almond blossoms, showing the magnificent trees of the South of France, a setting which proved to be most inspirational to van Gogh, who was very productive there. Van Gogh found brilliant light in lovely Provence and Arles, and completed an average of a painting a day while there, focusing mostly on the blooming trees around him, a sure sign of spring.
His work, Almond Blossoms of 1890, was painted after the birth of his nephew, named Vincent after him. The elder Vincent was so delighted by the news of the birth that he started working on this painting to symbolize hope and new life, which he described in a letter to his mother, in February of that year. As we finally make our way in to what is hopefully a long-awaited spring, these rich, yet simple cookies are a great way to get out of your prolonged-winter funk. If you are anything like me, you have been in a deep, seasonably-caused, Vitamin-D depleted depression since November, and the promise of warmer days with sunny skies are to me at this time, similar to what I imagine the happiness in finding out that you have a nephew to be. If that seems dramatic, you must live on the West Coast!
Almond Blossoms à la Vincent Van Gogh
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup unsalted almond butter
1/3 cup sugar plus some for rolling
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg, room temperature
2 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
In a large bowl, beat together the butter and almond butter until completely blended. Mix in the sugars and continue to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add in the egg, milk and vanilla and set aside. In a smaller bowl, mix together the flours, baking soda and salt. Slowly mix it into the wet mixture, until a uniform dough forms. While your oven preheats to 375°F, line a baking sheet in parchment paper or a silicone mat, and shape the dough into approximate 1 inch balls. Quickly roll each bowl into a small bowl of sugar, coating each evenly. Bake for 10-12 min., and once out of the oven, quickly place an unwrapped chocolate kiss on the top of each cookie, gently pressing in. Let cool completely and enjoy!
Recipe adapted from The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion
Featured art: Vincent van Gogh, Almond Tree in Bloom, 1888, oil on canvas
Vincent van Gogh, Almond Blossoms, 1890, oil on canvas