Makin’ Biscuits With Martha!- Biscuit Sandwich Cookies! -235 eggs, 177 1/2 cups of sugar, 178 3/4 sticks of Butter, and 222 cups of flour used so far- 38 recipes to go!

August 21, 2011

Martha's Biscuit Sandwich Cookies

André's Biscuit Sandwich Cookies

Calling a cookie a biscuit is a very British notion but I followed Martha down the road of pretense and baked them anyway. A yummy cookie of egg, flour, sugar (but not a lot), butter and salt, Martha’s Biscuit Sandwich Cookies are made by rolling out a chilled dough until it’s 1/8 of an inch thick and cutting fluted circles. Each circle is given a brush with egg yolk so that as it bakes it develops a golden brown glaze. The biscuits are allowed to cool completely before sandwiching chocolate-hazelnut spread between them.

Slightly sweet with a salty bite, these cookies are buttery and delicate with delicious centers filled with creamy chocolate-hazelnut spread. They are a more sophisticated cookie than most and would surely please a more adult set and probably disappoint children as the flavors and sweetness are quite subtle.

I baked up a couple of dozen for my partner, Dan to take as a tokens of thanks to two of his co-workers who’d helped him make the transition to his new management position. They were gratefully received and quickly dispatched.

Working with sandwich cookies is a pain in the cookie-cutter. You have to make twice the cookies for your yield. These were particularly challenging because they have to be rolled very thin. If you don’t work quickly, the dough can lose its chill and become impossible to handle. I had to stop, roll up the dough, cover it in plastic wrap and put it back in the fridge several times in order to make these cookies. All-in-all I spent a few hours putting these together. Not the most exciting way to spend an afternoon.

I usually don’t write much about politics. I simply feel like far too many people are far too eager to share their opinions about who’s right and who’s wrong, too quick to point  at the other side of the aisle with a self-righteous finger and scream, “foul”. In my opinion, it’s all too childish and petty which is actually a pretty terrifying notion and not one that I’d want to dwell on for extended periods of time lest I lose what little of my mind I’ve managed to keep. That said, I hear the words, “Budget Cuts” and I know what two words will soon follow- “The Arts”. It seems to me that whenever the political topic of the day turns to frivolous spending, the ol’ standby scapegoat always seems to be funding for the arts.

I taught high school theatre classes for six years and I cannot tell you how many times I encountered eye rolls and under-the-breath judgements from parents, colleagues and even students when it came to defending the arts as an integral part of an academic curriculum and as an important pillar of our culture.

In recent years, we’ve been gifted with the wisdom of Sarah Palin, a Trojan Moose parked just outside of the Nation’s Capitol from the great, although isolated, State of Alaska. The media can’t get enough of her homespun charm and grizzly metaphors. Her rhetoric and hyperbole are greeted with smiles and applause from supporters who, by golly, just think she’s so darn cute. In recent interviews about the nation’s deficit she is quick to jump on the old party bandwagon with her conservative cronies to eliminate Federal Arts spending, citing this kind of support as frivolous and irresponsible.

Dear Ms. Palin and the rest of you (you know who you are),

I wish you all had been freshmen in my theatre class because if you were, then perhaps you’d enjoy my first day lecture. In case you ever take the time to read something other than the Bible and Guns & Ammo Magazine, here’s a little food for thought. Chew slowly.

Good morning, class. My name is Mr. du Broc. I am a middle-aged man who teaches theatre to high school students for a living. I don’t make a lot of money. I have a car that works most of the time and I live in a neighborhood that you’ve probably seen featured on the six o’clock local news. I went to college. I work on the weekends and the evenings as a theatre professional/retail associate and I complain a lot. By virtue of this life I’ve chosen you may not choose to respect me. Your parents, too may find it easy to dismiss my career choice and particularly my choice in curriculum as being frivolous. You may think this class will be an easy “A” to pad your G.P.A. so that you can get into that private college you have your eyes set on. I assure you, I am fair but this course is not an easy anything. You will work. You will not make excuses.  You will respect me. You will respect each other. You will respect yourself. You will succeed or you will fail.

They call it, “The Arts & Sciences”. Why is that? What does art and science have to do with each other? Anyone?

Well kids, these are the two heads on the same snake of invention. They are both fundamental to our culture. They define us, particularly as Americans, a society of innovators and entrepreneurs. At the very core of art and science is the desire to accomplish a simple objective… discover truth. They are both, in their own way an exercise in the pursuit of truth. Science pursues tangible truth through methods that lead towards fact and laws while the arts pursue abstract truth through mediums based on imagination and desire. They feed each other. One inspires the idea and the other brings it to fruition and vice versa. The arts inform science and science informs the arts. The prototype for tomorrow is cradled in these two very important studies.

Does this sound like an easy “A”?

Let’s take Star Trek, for example. Here’s a “frivolous” piece of entertainment from the late sixties about a future multi-planetary federation of explorers seeking out new life and new civilizations, boldly going where no one has gone before. The devices aboard the Starship Enterprise didn’t exist in the sixties. Small communication devices that with a simple flip of their shiny metal covers facilitated verbal and visual communications with the ship and each other sans wires. In the ship’s sick bay were all sorts of scanning devices that allowed medical personnel to see the internal workings of a patient’s bodily systems with dimensional accuracy. Again, such devices did not exist in the sixties. Now look at our world today. We have smart phones, CAT scans, MRIs and a host of other incredible devices. Were they directly related to Star Trek? Well, no… and yes. Star Trek put the thought of these devices out into our world. They inspired millions of us to ask “What if?”  Science had informed the creators of Star Trek to ask “Wouldn’t it be plausible if…?” Then art informed science to say, “Look how it could change our world!” Art sparked the desire in science to do the impossible. After years of this back and forth dialogue between art and science we, as a culture enjoy their offspring, invention and innovation.

Art is the ever-burning pilot-light for invention. It burns with the desire to enlighten the world with new truths and endless possibilities. When scientists, mathematicians, engineers and yes, even politicians, Ms. Palin, come along armed with facts and figures (accurate ones, Ms. Palin), the arts can ignite new ideas within them. It allows them to ascend to the role of visionary. These visionaries will lead us towards prosperous tomorrows. They are the ones who will change the world, stop famine, solve environmental issues, discover and implement new alternative fuel sources, and yes, even fix the budget deficit.

Can the arts survive without funding? Yes. The arts are inherent to the human condition. They are at the very heart of ourselves, our spirituality and our culture. They linger behind our every action and desire. They are that part of ourselves that is keenly aware of our mortality and our need to leave a legacy. They continue to ask the big, impossible questions of ourselves. Why are we here? What should we do? How should we be? To be or not to be?

Not funding arts initiatives sends a terrible message, though. It would be a highly irresponsible, short-sighted and temporary solution to a complex and ever-expanding socioeconomic problem. Pulling funding would nurture a cultural philosophy that devalues the role of the arts in our society. It would affect our educational system and our ability to compete in global innovation. If you don’t believe me, talk to a student or two currently enrolled in the über-competitive M.I.T.. You will quickly discover these students have brilliant minds. They know their science and most can write computer code in their sleep. Many also write a pretty good screenplay, master a musical instrument or two, can choreograph a modern dance interpretation of Nixon in China or pen a short operetta. The students and faculty of M.I.T. know that science without art remains stagnant. It is simply knowledge without desire.

What does it mean to be an artist?

It means to always be creating. It means to fail miserably and often.  It means falling in love with failure. It means questioning. It means curiosity. It means being arrogantly humble. It means being courageously cautious. It means trying and trying again. It means having the resilience to keep going even if the funding isn’t there. It means believing.

Love the art in yourself, not yourself in the art. You are a human. The arts are your birthright. You have been blessed with the ability to desire and to create. Love that about yourself. Even you, Ms. Palin. Love the fact that you have the ability to inspire people to become more politically active. Beware, though. Success can be detrimental to the artist. When you begin to outshine the work, when failure is no longer an option, when laughing at yourself seems preposterous, you are sadly no longer an artist. You are a vessel where creation can no longer exist. It’s been replaced with ego.  When you’re so filled with ego there’s no room for anything else, when you find yourself standing in front of hundreds of thousands saying you can save the world by declaring war on the arts, then you, poor soul, have rejected the most human part of yourself.

One last thought, Ms. Palin. In this mythical future where you are president/empress and I’m living in South America to escape the rounding up of homosexuals for mass reorientation, when the Trojan Moose is finally opened and pandemonium ensues, when you commission a monument depicting yourself spearing a wild grizzly bear who not-so-subtly resembles Barrack Obama, where will you find the sculptor who wasn’t affected by your arts funding cuts? Wouldn’t it be a bit like a neo-nazi being embalmed by a Jewish funeral director?

Maybe a tasteful obelisk would be a better, if not safer choice?

2 Responses to “Makin’ Biscuits With Martha!- Biscuit Sandwich Cookies! -235 eggs, 177 1/2 cups of sugar, 178 3/4 sticks of Butter, and 222 cups of flour used so far- 38 recipes to go!”

  1. Carol Says:

    Oh, my gosh, Andre. This should appear on every editorial page in the country. You hit it out of the park.

  2. Betty Rodriguez Says:

    Hi André, I made these cookies tonight. We loved them. After reading your post I thought I should give you a tip in case you decide to make them again. I anticipated the dough would be very hard to work with. I live in Florida…never cold enough here to handle high butter dough. Instead of rolling it out I made a log, freeze it and cut it in very thin discs. You’ll not get the nice cut out wavy edge but it’s a breeze to make them. Sorry for the long comment. I’m not used to this. Thanks for your posts. Fun to read and helpful too.

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