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!
Mostly Blackberry Hazelnut Pie
Hazelnut All Butter Crust (for a double crust pie):
1 cup blanched, skinned hazelnuts, toasted and ground, divided into ½ cups
2 cups + 1/8 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, very cold and cut into small pieces
1 cup cold water
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup ice
½ cup old fashioned oats
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the ground hazelnuts, 2 cups 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 tablespoons 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 cups blackberries
1 cup blueberries
½ cup honey
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
zest of one lemon
juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons 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 cup oats, ½ cup toasted, ground hazelnuts and 1/8 cup 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!
Crust recipe adapted from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book
Featured art: 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 facon-de-Venise glass, a silver decanter, a roemer, and a knife on a pewter platter, on a partly draped table AKA LONGEST TITLE EVER, 1644, oil on panel – image courtesy of Christie’s Images Ltd., 2014
Willem Claesz. Heda, Breakfast Table with Blackberry Pie, 1631, oil on panel