In Bloom

10 March 2014

Poppy Cake | Flour ArrangementsTessa’s birthday parties always involve flowers, so it didn’t surprise me when she and her friend Sabrina decided to have a joint Georgia O’Keefe-themed party this year.  What did surprise me was the fact that the girls gave us an earful about O’Keefe when we shared their party options at 4 Cats Art Studio, where we planned to celebrate.  Van Gogh didn’t elicit any response, nor did Pop Art, or, for that matter, did any of the other cool choices.

Georgia O'Keefe-inspired Birthday Party

Apparently their kindergarten class had studied O’Keefe and had even sketched some O’Keefe-inspired flowers. Since the kids on their guest list had also had this exposure, we figured the party would be a big hit.

Once we’d settled on the theme, it didn’t take long for me to get excited about making the birthday cake.  I felt inspired by O’Keefe’s poppy paintings and researched how I might shape a giant poppy to place atop the cake.

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Quick Tart

2 March 2014

Mocha Tart with Shortbread Crust | Flour Arrangements

Long ago, I gave up on pie and tart recipes that require prebaked crusts.  Tricks like using pie weights or allowing the crust to rest before baking just never worked for me.  With the exception of this chocolate crust, every time I’ve ever pre-baked a crust, it slumped or buckled miserably, dashing any foolish hope I’d had about serving a fresh fruit tart or banana cream pie.

These luscious sweets are filled only after the crust has cooled, and, once filled, they require no additional baking;  their velvety pastry cream and cool, succulent fruit leave no leeway for workarounds like baking the crust and filling simultaneously. Because of this, I resigned myself to enjoying fresh-fruit tarts prepared by others.

But now, miraculously, I see fresh fruit tarts in my future, all thanks to a shortbread tart crust recipe I discovered while baking a mocha tart recipe from Alice Medrich’s Seriously Bitter Sweet I shudder to think that I nearly passed this recipe over when I noticed that it involved pre-baked crust.

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Imperfect Hearts

12 February 2014

Cardamom Scones | Flour ArrangementsEverywhere I look, I see hearts, pink and red and perfect in their symmetry. No breaks, no bruises, no scars.  In February, it seems, only flawless hearts will do.

But let’s be honest: hearts fracture, hearts break, hearts shatter.   If you tell me your heart beats free of baggage, I’ll call you a liar.

Cardamom Scones | Flour Arrangements

I’m not suggesting that anyone dwell on heartache.  I think, rather, that we should acknowledge heartbreak’s role — albeit a painful one — in shaping who we are.  Our hearts’ scars and imperfections give us empathy and compassion. They teach us how to love.

In honor of scarred hearts, healed or otherwise, I give you heart-shaped cardamom scones.

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Sticky Situation

5 February 2014

Cinnamon-Chocolate Brownies | Flour Arrangments My daughter Eliza eats cinnamon sticks.  Watching her gnaw them down to nothing makes me squeamish;  I always worry that she’ll end up with splinters in her mouth, though she swears this never happens.  Clearly my qualms have made me stingy with the supply in my spice cupboard because Eliza requested her own stash of cinnamon sticks for Christmas this year.

In addition to her affinity for eating bark, Eliza also believes that ground cinnamon improves most foods.  Whenever I’m baking, be it lemon cake or monkey bread, she always asks me to shake in some cinnamon.

Cinnamon-Chocolate Brownies | Flour Arrangments

After telling her that the flavor wasn’t quite right so many times, I asked if she wanted to bake the cinnamon chocolate brownies with chocolate ganache that she loves so much.  She declined, saying that she’d rather create a new recipe because there just aren’t enough recipes that include cinnamon.

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Heart Felt

30 January 2014

Conversation Hearts Cake | Flour Arrangements

I‘ve been thinking about conversation hearts ever since ever since I stumbled across this poem in the sidewalk near the Ferry Building in San Francisco last November:

Candy Hearts Poem

I always stop when I see a bronze poetry plaque embedded in the sidewalk, even when I’m in a hurry. Since these poems fit inside a small square, they’re usually short enough not to slow me down too much (although they typically come in multiples), but they often stay with me for quite some time. In this case, I love how this alphabetical arrangement of conversation hearts tells a story.

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