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  • Melissa Orquiza

Brown Butter and Vanilla Bean Weekend Cake, Handel’s Butterfingers & BTS

Updated: Jul 7, 2021

Brown Butter and Vanilla Bean Weekend Cake. Homey calm personified. Thank you, Dorie Greenspan!

Brown Butter and Vanilla Bean Weekend Cake, Handel’s Butterfingers & BTS

My natural state is “go with the flow” but like most humans, I’ve developed a few idiosyncrasies in order to deal with the chaos life ensues. The first piano lesson I ever gave my daughter, was to FIRST wash her hands before touching the piano. It’s the same with the cello and ideally, but not normally, my keyboard when she runs into my studio. It’s like an unspoken rule with musicians. You don’t just ask to play their instrument or expect you even have a right to even touch it. You can admire, but it’s a common courtesy and a sign of respect to at least ask for a closer look. (Same goes with gear… including DJs.) Yes, it looks like fun, but honestly, it’s not really a toy. With instruments costing about the same as a car, it’s no wonder that we’re so judicious about who can “play” with our instruments that essentially, are mainstays of our lives (and livelihood). But… it doesn’t mean we won’t let you play or share our instruments eventually. You’ll just have to be a boyfriend, significant other, or a really close friend for us to watch in happiness as we share something so meaningful and intimate with you. Btw, in my household, ukuleles don’t count. I share those with everyone… Just don’t put stickers on them.

So imagine my horror when I read an account of Handel’s behavior and his inadvertent contribution to the creation of the British Museum. As the first secular museum, the British Museum was established in 1753 when Sir Hans Sloane, a successful London doctor, passed and left his absurdly large collection of rare books, antiquities, and oddities to the British Crown. He had numerous visitors, but the most damning visit was with the composer, Handel who apparently outraged his host by putting a buttered muffin on one of his rare books. OMG. Which begs the question? Who’s the buffoon? Is Handel at fault? (In most people’s opinions, I would say “yes.”) But… as a musician, I wouldn’t entrust something so rare and valuable to a species interminably obsessed with food and drink (fear of scarcity) so much so that most of us will do silly things for it.

How Handel’s Butterfingers inadvertently helped create the British Museum. I will never look at English muffins in the same way again.

Introducing, pianist Ragna Shirmer who’s discography includes the Handel Suites played with a formidable balance of precision and improvisation. That is true artistry.

Ragna Schirmer, Händel - Beitrag in der ARD Sendung ttt - titel, thesen, temperamente

Here is Ragna Schirmer’s interpretation of Handel’s, Keyboard Suite in D minor, HWV 437. I’ve always loved Baroque keyboard music because it’s completely honest (and most of us learned it as children). It’s like hearing a kid’s description of the sky compared to an adult’s. There is nowhere you can hide. You hear immediately if the pianist has technique, brilliance and hidden emotion. It looks “easy” but like chefs and eggs, you know succinctly the breadth of a classical pianist’s musicianship by their interpretation.

Händel - Ragna Schirmer (2009) Suite d moll HWV 437

On the flip side, while I like my keyboard music precise (except jazz, blues and “normal” music… how sterile), I like my strings a bit more romantic, oozing mystery and visceral hunger at the right times. It keeps things interesting. I like hearing the dichotomy between period interpretations and realizations versus encompassing the vastness of musical alliterations for historical canon. It’s like talking about an experience versus living or doing it. I’m a sucker for sweeping strings, especially the cello section, even when it’s Handel.

Suite in D Minor, HWV 437: III. Saraband · Karol Teutsch, Orchestre Leopoldinum-Wroclaw

And finally, BTS. I wonder what Handel would’ve thought of this?

BTS (방탄소년단) 'Butter' @ Billboard Music Awards

I hope this makes you think, laugh, and hopefully, admire the universality of food, music, and human gaffes, throughout history. Here’s to more inspiration, creativity, and happiness in your life. Thanks for reading! Have a wonderful week! Xo, Melissa

Brown Butter and Vanilla Bean Weekend Cake. Perfect for a happiness break!

Brown Butter and Vanilla Bean Weekend Cake

by Dorie Greenspan from “Baking Chez Moi” Recipes from My Paris Home to Your Home Anywhere


1 stick (8 Tablespoons; 4 oz; 113 grams) unsalted butter

1 3/4 cup (238 grams) all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 1/4 cups (250 grams) sugar

1 moist, fragrant vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped or 4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

4 large eggs, at room temperature

1/3 cup (80 ml) heavy cream

2 Tablespoons dark rum or amaretto (optional)


1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Pull out an insulated baking sheet or stack two regular baking sheets one on top of the other. Line the (top) sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

2. Butter a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan, dust with flour and tap out the excess (or use baker’s spray). I suggest preparing the pan this way even if it’s nonstick. Set the loaf pan on the baking sheet(s).

3. Put the butter in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium heat, swirling the pan occasionally. Allow the butter to bubble away until it turns a deep honey brown, 5 to 10 minutes. Don’t turn your back on the pan - the difference between brown and black is measures in seconds. And don’t worry about the little brown flecks in the bottom of the pan- they’re a delicious part of the process. Remove the pan from the heat.

4. Put the sugar and the vanilla- bean pulp in a large bowl and rub them together until the sugar is moist and fragrant. (If you’re using vanilla extract, you’ll add it later.) Whisk the eggs into the sugar, beating for about 1 minutes, or until they’re thoroughly incorporated.

5. Still working with the whisk, beat in the extract, if you’re using it, then the heavy cream, followed by the rum, if you’re using it. Continuing to whisk or switching to a large flexible spatula, gently and gradually stir in the dry ingredients until you have a thick, smooth batter. Fold in the melted butter in 2 or 3 additions. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

6. Bake the cake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Take a look at the cake after it’s been in the over fro about 30 minutes; if it looks as if it’s browning too quickly, cover it loosely with a foil tent. When the cake tests done, transfer it to a rack to cool for 5 minutes, then unfold it and let cool right side up.

#brownbutterweekendcake, @doriegreenspan, #britishmuseum, @handel, @bts, @ragnaschirmer, #handelhwb437

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