When I was in high school in North Carolina, I had a really wonderful pottery and sculpture teacher, whose classes I adored. His enormous classroom was in the basement of our school, and a true treasure trove of inspiration, filled with pottery in various stages of completion, glass bottles of all shapes and sizes, old windows, doors and drawers, spare lumber, paints in every color and past student’s work, all of which overtook (in a comforting, not overwhelming way) the large work space. For me, this class was a safe haven—though I enjoyed all of my academic classes, the hours I spent creating in this studio are some of my most cherished from high school, and the works I brought home are still hanging on the walls of my parent’s house (and the broken pottery and sculpture has now started moving outside to their garden, creating a funky sculpture graveyard).
One of the things that I feel really set this teacher and his aesthetic apart from other art teachers I have had was his fondness for “found art,” which helped me find the beauty in pieces created from random materials, truly giving meaning to the saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” In exploring this genre, I studied the works of Claes Oldenburg, Joseph Cornell and Marcel Duchamp, and created some of my own (when we moved into our now family home and replaced the existing windows, I probably surprised my parents a bit when I requested that they keep the old windows so that I could use them for my “art”).
After seeing the show for myself, I instantly craved one of my favorite NYC bakery discoveries—a Momofuku Milk Bar Compost Cookie. These cookies are delicious, and echo Sanditz’s intelligent-hodgepodge sculpture style in a sugary-sweet way. Completed after a trip to Tucson, Arizona, the sculpture portion of the Surplus series consists of a group of brightly- colored, ornately decorated, seemingly random cacti, some with Styrofoam cups propped on their limbs to protect them. The organization of each cacti seems both thoughtful and arbitrary, and is strangely comforting. This is one of the few works that I can see in the context of a gallery space or museum, but also in a classroom space, acting as inspiration for students to dig a bit deeper into their creative subconscious.
Momofuku Milk Bar Compost Cookie
1 1/3 cup bread flour (why bread flour?)
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (how to rush butter to room temp?)
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup chocolate chip
½ cup butterscotch chips
1/3 cup oats
2 ½ teaspoon ground coffee or espresso
2 cups potato chips (I used plain air-popped)
1 cup mini pretzels
graham mixture (see below)
1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 tablespoon milk powder
1 ½ teaspoon sugar
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon heavy cream
Please note that this dough must be made ahead of time, since you need to let it chill for at least a couple of hours, or even a few days. Please don’t try to rush and make this same day—I promise the flavor will be better if you wait 🙂
First prepare the graham mixture:
Combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the butter and cream, and then slowly mix in the dry ingredients. Mix until it reaches an even, wet texture, set aside.
For the cookie dough:
Mix together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugars and corn syrup for a couple of minutes, scraping the edges of the bowl periodically. Add in the egg and vanilla, and continue to beat for a few more minutes. Slowly add in the flour mixture from before—adding in a couple of stages. Only mix until it comes together, and then continue adding in the chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, graham mixture, oats, and coffee, again being careful not to over-mix. Finally add in the more fragile potato ships and pretzels. At this stage, you can either stop, seal the top of the bowl with plastic and refrigerate, or you can scoop the dough into 2-3 T. mounds**, and then chill. Regardless of when you do it, please chill the dough! After it is ready, say, in a couple hours or a few days, remove the dough from the fridge and preheat the oven to 375°F. As the cookie dough comes to room temperature a bit, line a baking sheet in parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Either scoop the dough into small portions or jump straight to positioning it onto the baking mat. When oven is ready, bake each baking sheet for about 13-14 minutes, carefully watching after the 10 min mark for faintly browned edges. Let cool completely and serve.
**The original recipe suggests that you use a 1/3-cup measuring cup to portion the dough into individual cookies. Perhaps it is my healthier upbringing, but I have a life-long appreciation of portion control, which I can only credit to my father. With this in mind, I usually prefer my cookies and baked goods to be more bite-sized than saucer size. In this recipe, feel free to stick to the original and make larger cookies. Just remember to increase the baking times to about 17-18 minutes.
Recipe from Brown Eyed Baker
Featured art: Lisa Sanditz, Cacti Display, 2004