The "Simon" Sourdough

Bread is one of the few constants in the food world. Recipes and methods for baking bread haven’t changed much over the centuries. When you think about it, it really is amazing that people all over the world still make bread using the same processes and recipes as their ancestors. With this sense of history in mind, food designer Marije Vogelzang approached her latest project, which involves a sourdough, named Simon. The project, which is a collaboration between Marije and The Museum of Dordecht in The Netherlands, is held at the former house of banker and collector Simon van Gijn. In the kitchen of this historic home, Maije has created a sourdough that permanently lives inside the museum. Because a sourdough culture will remain active, as long as it’s given flour and water regularly, Simon’s yeast will continue to develop, feeding off the molecules of the house as it grows.

From Marije: Simon is site specific and can only be made in the museum. In this way I sort of "catch" the atmosphere of the collector's house. Once a week the sourdough is baked as a cake in a special copper baking pan I designed for it. When Simon is being baked the smell will spread through the premises making the house, which is a silent witness of the past filled with lifeless artifacts, come to life again.

The Simon sourdough currently resides in the kitchen of the Van Gijn house, where it will remain, as a living organism. Visitors will be given an opportunity to take a piece of the Simon starter home with them. By using this starter to produce their own bread, they will be, in a sense, creating Simon’s offspring.

**The recipe of the final cake is based on a recipe used by the mother of Simon van Gijn (c. 1850). --Erin


Date Syrup

I am a huge fan of dates. No, I don’t mean the kind of dates where you sit awkwardly across from a stranger. That’s not the kind of date I’m referring to. I’m talking about the deliciously sweet fruit of the date palm tree. So good. It’s practically candy. It should come as no surprise then that I did a little happy dance when I first saw this date syrup, which is commonly used in the middle east, but is used less widely in other parts of the world. It’s such a great idea and I love the idea of using it in place of other sweeteners like honey and caramel. Speaking of caramel, Date Lady also offers a caramel sauce that is made from organic dates (date syrup), organic caramel extract and sea salt. Yum! I love how these two items really encourage you to explore different flavors and baking ideas. I can’t wait to try them! For more info and to shop online, click here. --Erin


Edible Art: Amy Stevens

When it comes to baking, there’s perhaps nothing braver than diving head first into a decorating idea, with little or no experience behind you. It takes a certain amount of confidence, and a certain amount of humor, knowing that what you are about to do could go terribly, horribly wrong. This was exactly the challenge Amy Stevens faced when she first started her Confections Series, which began as a response to her 30th birthday and quickly transformed into something else entirely.

From Amy: My original idea was to bake 30 birthday cakes for myself and photograph them. I ordered a kit from Martha Stewart.com and watched an instructional video on decorating cakes. When I quickly discovered my cakes were never going to look like the ones in the video and the pamphlet, I decided they were better off in their exuberantly imperfect states.

In the end, it’s the flaws in Amy’s cakes that make them so great. The unevenness and bright colors of the desserts, which are often set against similar graphic backgrounds, are so absurd that you can’t help but smile. The content is garish and trashy, but that’s the reason you love it. In a way, these cakes remind me of characters on a child’s television program, a claymation fantasy where the charm is in the imperfections.

Amy’s photographs aren’t all about the cakes, though. There is a deeper meaning beneath the layers: I am commenting on cake as a rich cultural symbol as well as the domestic fantasy world of contemporary home decorating magazines and television shows. It’s a fantasy world where entertaining, cooking and decorating unite. It’s a place where one needs to have a beautiful home, decorated seasonally, in order to entertain friends with gourmet meals and elaborately concocted desserts.

I really love the whole idea behind the Confections series and the photos are just mesmerizing. You can see more of Amy’s work on her website. You can also buy prints online, via her Etsy shop.


Sweet Testing: S'more Nut Bars with Smoked Chocolate Chips

Nothing says summer like grilling. Traditionally a meat centered event, grilling has expanded over the years to include everything from lettuce to pizza to chocolate. Chocolate? Yep, that's right. Autumn Martin from Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery in Seattle has created her own line of smoked chocolate chips! The semisweet chips, which are cold smoked over alder wood for ten hours, actually taste and smell like a campfire. After I finally managed to get my hands on some, I couldn't stop opening the jar and inhaling the warm woodsy aroma inside. What was I going to make with my new discovery? S'more bars, of course! There are many creative ways you could use these chips, but I felt that a dessert that is already known for being smoky would be the perfect way to showcase the chocolate.

You can order Smoked Chocolate Chips via the Hot Cakes website, right here. If you would like to try making the chips on your own, check out Autumn's cookbook, Malts and Milkshakes, which contains instructions on how to smoke the chips, along with tons of unusual milkshake recipes, including Smoked Chocolate and Scotch Shake, Salted Black Licorice Shake, Tamarind Shake, Passion Fruit Creamsicle Shake, and Blackberry Lavender Shake.

You can find the complete recipe for the S'more Bars after the jump.


Edible Art: Shelly Miller

A few months ago, I shared with you some tile cookies from Whipped Bake Shop. This week’s post, about Montreal artist Shelly Miller, takes the whole of idea of edible tiles one step further by placing the tiles on actual buildings. Using cake icing, Miller created replicas of Portuguese-inspired ceramic tiles on the sides of abandoned buildings in Brazil. According to Miller, “This piece acts as a metaphor for the economic imbalance in many of the sugar producing countries, such as Brazil and the sugar industry as a whole. Beneath the surface of the sugar industry empire lies the reality of its slave labor foundation.”

But Miller doesn’t stop at tiles. As with her work in Brazil, she is always influenced by her surroundings and her wall art takes on various forms, depending on the location of the piece. In urban landscapes, her sugar technique may pop up in the form of graffiti art, elsewhere it appears as an incredibly detailed decorative mural. No matter what the design, all of these pieces share one common element. Much like their real life counterparts, they will all disappear eventually, slowly dissolving over time.

Day One
Day Six

You can see more of Shelly Miller's amazing work after the jump.

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