A Very Special Baking Book

Free_Modern Art Desserts.jpgToday is the long awaited pub date of my dear friend Caitlin Williams Freeman's extraordinary new book Modern Art Desserts: Recipes for Cakes, Cookies, Confections, and Frozen Treats Based on Iconic Works of Art It is so extraordinary that I was moved to write the foreword to this book that is more than just a cookbook; it is also a work of art in itself. The Foreword Eat Your Art Out! I first met Caitlin in 2004 when I visited her Miette Bakery production in Oakland. The purpose of the trip was to interview top bakeries for an article for Food Arts Magazine called "High Tide in the Bay Area Bakeries." The concept was that although San Francisco had led the way in artisanal bread baking, it had lagged behind in the area of pastry. Michael Battery, visionary publisher of Food Arts, perceived this as changing and assigned the article. Meeting Caitlin turned out to be the highlight of the interviews. I had been given a set of questions to ask each baker. When I asked Caitlin where she and her partner Meg had gotten their training, to my astonishment Caitlin's answer was that she had started with The Cake Bible (my book). Was it any wonder that she captured my attention? But beyond the compliment, and in addition to her solid organizational and technical skills, I was struck at once by Caitlin's extraordinary creativity. The signature Miette cake, which she named the Tomboy, consists simply of three unadorned dark chocolate layers, filled and topped with a contrasting white buttercream, and decorated with just one small pink sugar rose in the center. Caitlin most generously gave me permission to include the recipe in my book Rose's Heavenly Cakes and even sent me some of the pink sugar roses for photography. The art director loved the cake so much she used the photo to span the end pages, and by enlarging it created an impressionistic dreamy appearance, contrasting spectacularly with the all-dark chocolate cake I had designed for the cover. Over the years, as I watched Caitlin's work evolve, I saw that generosity, creative genius, and integrity were the hallmarks of her personality and character, permeating everything she touched. With every project or visit Caitlin continued to gain my respect and ultimately a deep friendship evolved. It may sound like a small thing, but any baker will realize how much it meant to me that when I travelled to San Francisco to make my friend chef Daniel Patterson's wedding cake, Caitlin loaned me a turntable from her bakery, and not just any turntable but the one that turned the most smoothly. She also drove all over the Bay Area amassing the equipment and special ingredients I deemed essential for my production. When my most recent book, Rose's Heavenly Cakes, was ready to launch, it coincided with the opening of Caitlin's husband James Freeman's Blue Bottle Roastery in Oakland. Caitlin came up with the inspiration to have a book party at the new roastery and invite bakers from the Bay Area to make their versions of recipes from the book. Caitlin and Leah made artistic renderings of the Diebenkorn using my génoise, mini Mondrians using my white velvet cake, and a Josef Albers cake using layers of my carrot cake, quail egg cake, and red velvet cake, each covered with rolled fondant from The Cake Bible. People came from all over the Bay Area to taste the cakes, enjoy a special coffee drink created for the occasion, meet the bakers, and the author who never stopped meeting, greeting, signing books, and talking for a solid three hours. I remember first meeting James Freeman at the Oakland Farmer's market when Caitlin and he had just started dating. I remember thinking that he had the same reverence for the quality of his coffee as Caitlin and I had for our baking. Given the grace, harmony, and focus of her life choices, is it any wonder that Blue Bottle coffee happens to be the best coffee I have ever tasted? Happily Blue Bottle coffee and Caitlin's wonderful pastries are now available in New York City as well as the Bay area. When Caitlin started to create recipes for SFMOMA inspired by designs from paintings she loved I knew this would be the perfect expression of her talents as artist and baker. Three of Caitlin's edible art desserts, featured in this book, that I find the most enchanting are: the White velvet cake and chocolate ganache, consisting of cake squares and rectangles of different sizes and colors held together by thin lines of ganache--a perfect replica of Piet Mondrian Composition (No. III) Blanc-Jaune / Composition with Red, Yellow, and Blue, page 79; mondrian.jpg © 2013 Mondrian/Holtzman Trust c/o HCR International USA the Pistachio & honey parfait with cardamom/white chocolate--a stunningly simple cube constructed from thin white chocolate squares, charmingly decorated with line drawings of bees, and containing a deliciously ethereal filling, inspired by Richard Avedon's, Donald Fisher, Beekeeper, page 127; and the adorable Salted chocolate and vanilla bean ice cream sandwich--shaped to emulate the poodles in Katharina Fritsch's Kind mit Pudeln (Child with Poodles), page 163. KATHARINA_FRITSCH_0027.jpg fritsch.jpg I'm so proud and honored that Caitlin chose to use two of my cakes as the base for some of her creations. She asked permission, saying:"They are perfect as they are--I'd rather credit you than adapt and change them."How like Caitlin not to change things just for the sake of 'owning' them. To me that is the ultimate sign of creative integrity and shows such a strong sense of certainty and security in her vision. Beyond the visual beauty, and engagingly accurate renditions of the paintings that inspired them, Caitlin's desserts are also uncompromisingly delicious. This book is unlike any other and a perfect reflection of the soul of Caitlin Williams Freeman. It is with great pleasure that I welcome this dear friend and fellow baker to the world of cookbook writing. For an enchanting video showing Caitlin at work click here.