What’s Cooking, Neighbor?
ERIN AND CAT BLAKELY
Siblings Erin and Cat Blakely have a breezy one block walk from their narrow red brick Federal townhouse on 35th Street to their equally petite Pie Sisters bakery at the foot of Key Bridge. That’s where the Great Falls, Va., natives, with third sister Alli Sydnor, have been baking sweet and savory goods since opening for business in early 2012. A home nearby is an ideal retreat for the trio, day or night.
Let’s take a look inside. The slim all-white contemporary first level living and dining space, with dark bamboo floors and a spiral staircase to the one bedroom, leads to the adequate modern kitchen and door to a postage stamp garden, covered in wood decking. Throughout, furnishings are sparse and there is zero clutter. “For as small as it is, from the living room to the garden, we can have 20 for dinner, divided-up in two groups,” says Erin. “Everything is multifunctional.”
For example, a clever custom built-in unit serves as home office, bar storage and buffet area. A second built-in, each flanking the fireplace, is a convenient spot their party-sized glass beverage urns, one each for a serve-yourself rum punch, sangria and margarita cocktail.
Before guests arrive, the sisters place fresh multi-colored floral arrangements in every room. (They buy assorted bunches at nearby florist Greenworks.) With a monochromatic interior design, “flowers make it pop,” says Alli. For ambiance, out come short and tall pillar candles, which give the space more dimension. Next, they line the buffet surface with bowls of hummus, pita chips, nuts, olives as well as a cheese board. Still, one important have-to-have is missing . Alongside the snacks, there is always a platted dessert. “There are no rules. You can have dessert before dinner,” says Alli. “That’s the way our parents always do it at home.”
Often, the party sweet is a gluten-free, chocolate-glazed, walnut brownie. They call it “Texas Sheet Cake.” “It’s our mother’s recipe from her hometown of Roby, Texas,” says Erin. “And it melts in your mouth.”
What’s Cooking, Neighbor? visits with wine, food and entertaining professionals, who call the Georgetown area home. Georgetowner dining columnist Walter Nicholls is the food critic for Arlington Magazine, a former staff writer for The Washington Post Food section
Texas Sheet Cake Ingredients: 2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter 5 tablespoons cocoa powder 1 1/4 cups water 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda 1 teaspoon salt 2 1/2 cups King Arthur gluten-free flour 3 eggs 1 1/4 cups sour cream Directions: Pre heat oven to 350. Combine butter, cocoa and water in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. In a separate mixing bowl, combine powdered sugar, baking soda, salt and flour. Pour hot mixture over flour mixture. Add eggs and sour cream and beat with a hand mixer on medium speed until smooth. Pour into a 12 X 18-inch greased pan and bake for approximately 20 minutes.
Frosting Ingredients: 1 stick unsalted butter 8 tablespoons milk 4 tablespoons cocoa 4 cups powdered sugar 1 tablespoon vanilla 1 cup crushed walnuts Directions: Bring butter, milk and cocoa to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add sugar and vanilla. Beat well with a whisk. Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes to slightly thicken. Add crushed walnuts to frosting and smooth over warm cake. Let cool before slicing into 2-inch squares.