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Cooking with Lady Smokey: Cookies & Art – A Perfect Union
My favorite dessert has always been cookies but not just any cookies, really good homemade cookies. I don’t eat much sugar so when I do, I want it to be top notch. One of the best bakers I know is our friend Rebekah Turshen who just so happens to be one of the best pastry chefs in Nashville. (I have found that it is always beneficial to get to know your local pastry chefs!) For the past three years, she has worked at one of our favorite Nashville restaurants, City House, but she has been baking cookies (among other delectable treats) professionally for twenty years!
We got to know Rebekah and her husband Harry Underwood, who happens to be one of our favorite artists, when they started coming to a music house party that my friend Allison and I host once a month during the summer for the last four years.
And once I knew Rebekah, I started seeing her all around town, always toting a bag of delicious little cookies. Her cookies are among my favorites I have ever tasted. She always opens the bag and offers me some or sometimes even, she sends me away with a little bag or box of my very own to eat on the next few days. Grant and I usually ration them out and have two or three a day until they are all gone. Then I usually spend the next few days thinking about them and how I can get more. Whenever we eat at City House and are tempted to try another one of her amazing desserts, I always order a cookie plate to go! They are that good.
She was kind enough to share a couple of her recipes with me and let me come photograph her at work one day.
These are two of her favorite holiday cookie recipes that both use one of her favorite ingredients, sorghum!
Sorghum Graham Cookies
• 1 1/2 cups Butter, room temp
• 6 Tbs White Sugar
• 6 Tbs Light Brown Sugar
• 3 Tbs Sorghum
• 2 1/4 cup All Purpose Flour
• 3/4 cup Whole Wheat Flour
• 1 tsp Kosher Salt
• 3/4 tsp Baking Soda
• 1/4 tsp ground Cinnamon
• 1/2 cup White Sugar
• 1 tsp ground Cinnamon
Preheat oven to 325. Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Mix dry ingredients by hand, add to creamed mix with sorghum and mix until just combined. Dump dough out onto floured board, shape into an approximate square, divide in four strips. Shape each strip into a square log about one inch in diameter. Refrigerate several hours or overnight. Slice logs into 3/8″ cookies, pierce cookies with a fork tine in three rows. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until tops are light brown.
Unbaked cookie logs can be frozen for a couple of months and wrapped airtight to bake fresh whenever the mood strikes!
Sorghum Molasses Spice Cookies
• 3/4 cup Butter, room temp
• 2 cups White Sugar
• 2 cups Light Brown Sugar
• 1/4 cup Sorghum
• 1/4 cup Dark Molasses
• 2 Eggs, room temp
• 1 tsp White Vinegar
• 3 cups All Purpose Flour
• 1 tsp Baking Soda
• 1 tsp Kosher Salt
• 1 Tbs ground Ginger
• 2 tsp ground Cinnamon
• 1 tsp ground Mace
• 1/2 cup White Sugar
Preheat oven to 325. Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs and mix till combined. Mix dry ingredients by hand, add to creamed mix with sorghum and dark molasses. Mix until just combined. Scoop small rounds using small 1″ cookie scoop. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until tops are light brown.
Unbaked scooped cookies can be frozen for a couple of months and wrapped airtight to bake fresh whenever the mood strikes!
Rebekah and Harry have been together for five years and have been completely inseparable. As a couple, they are a blend of quiet southern charm and creativity. Originally from Florida, Harry Underwood has been in Tennessee for thirteen years a painter for over ten years. Before becoming a painter, Harry installed ceramic tiles and painted houses.
Art for him is a way to work his way through understanding the meaning of existence. His paintings have their own very unique style combining timeless figures with images of various scenes, such as vacation spots or store fronts, in a vibrant yet slightly vintage color scheme with text written in pencil ranging from slogans or phrases to stories he comes us with. You can spend hours staring at his paintings and always notice something new. The meaning of each can evolve and change the more you study them. His first solo art exhibit was in 2005 and since then, he has attracted collectors world wide.
This summer, he had a solo show at The Arts Company in downtown Nashville.
When I visited his studio last week, which is in their warm and inviting house right outside of Nashville, in the town of Springfield, he was preparing for his next show at Skypac Performing Arts in Bowling Green, Kentucky at the first of the year.
Harry enjoys many of Rebekah’s delicious cookies and never tires of sweets! The last few months I have noticed he has been doing a considerable amount of “research” on ice cream which just so happened to appear in one of his latest paintings, below. He especially enjoys ice cream from Bobbie’s Dairy Dip in Nashville and assures me that chocolate is, in fact, the best flavor ever available. He told me that brown ice cream never looks good in a painting but he finally had to include it in this painting because it is true and honest. And here is the final painting, below, that he was working on when I last visited.
Aside from baking at City House, Rebekah often sells her cookies at craft and art fairs throughout Nashville. Occasionally, she has some of Harry’s paintings available alongside her baked confections. A perfect union, if you ask me.
You can read more about Rebekah in this Tennessean article featured last week and visit her website here- myfavoriteplum.tumblr.com.
You can find out more about Harry and his art work on his website here- http://www.artbyharry.com.