Saturday, May 12, 2018

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Saturday, May 5, 2018

Linzer Cookies

Linzer Cookies

My sister's favorite cookie is a Linzer cookie. The cookie is composed of two large round, butter-flavored cookies with raspberry jam in the center. A round hole is cut in the top cookie so one can see the beautiful red layer. The entire double cookie often has a fluted edge. The cookie is sometimes dipped in chocolate and/or powdered sugar. As Linzer cookie purists, we prefer the Linzer cookie without a topping. In addition, like the Linzer torte, ground hazelnuts are preferred in the dough, but almonds are good too. Omitting the ground nuts entirely is possible if one is allergic to nuts, but the ground nuts add aroma and flavor to the dough.

As mentioned in the Introduction of this volume, the Linzer torte (or Linzertorte) is a German-Austrian torte with a lattice design on top of the pastry, named after the city of Linz, Austria. It is believed to be the oldest cake in the world. I can vouch for anyone that had my Mom's Linzer torte, which won the grand prize in any bake sale.

The Linzer cookie is reminiscent of the torte. If the cookie dough does not have some kind of ground nuts, our family does not consider it authentic!

The dough for Linzer Torte includes flour, unsalted butter, egg yolks, lemon zest, cinnamon, lemon juice, and ground nuts, usually hazelnuts. They are ground with the skins on for this holiday classic dessert. The filling is traditionally raspberry jam, but red currant jam is popular in Europe as are other flavors. The torte is covered with small leaves cut from dough to form a lattice design or a more simple version is covered with thin strips of dough also formed into a lattice design. The lattice allows one to see the beautiful layer of red jam. When made with red currant jam, the torte has a bit more of a sour taste as it is very, very sweet when made with raspberry jam.

In the days before food processors, I remember my Mom grinding the hazelnuts and when visiting Germany, although the tortes are not as good as homemade, the German bakeries made them with ground almonds. I personally prefer the torte made with hazelnuts, but it is wonderful with any ground nut.

Although not traditional, I have seen the Linzer cookie frosted with chocolate. A dust of powder sugar is more traditional, but not necessary for this very sweet treat.

The recipe is based on butter and is one recipe that I have never modified and also rarely make, as I am better off buying two cookies than making a tray of them and eating them all. Here is a recipe, but note that the traditional recipe ingredients are weighed and in grams and this recipe uses cups, which is not as accurate as weighing the ingredients to get a consistent product.

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup whole almonds -- most cookbooks say to blanch the almonds but I do not
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
4 large egg yolks
6 tablespoons raspberry or red currant preserves
2 teaspoons powdered sugar (optional)

Grind the almonds with about 1/2 cups flour until fine, add the ground mixture to the remaining flour which has been sifted with the baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Mix. Beat the sugar and butter until light and fluffy and add egg yolks. Add the flour mixture gradually to form a soft dough to roll out after chilling for about an hour. Roll out the dough and cut the tops and bottoms of the cookies and bake them at 350 F for about 10-12 minutes, leaving some room for spreading. After baking and cooling, spread the cookie bottoms with raspberry preserves and cover with the window-like cookie tops.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Crusty, French Bread

Here is some background information before I jump into the recipe and directions.

My husband asked me to bake some crusty French bread. I had not made French bread in over 40 years and remember watching Julie Child on television in the late 1960's. I would rush home from college to turn on her TV show. Today I use her videos on YouTube to refresh my memory.

I checked several recipes and decided to combine some things to try to recreate the bread my husband remembers. I keep a jar of yeast in the refrigerator and keep several types of flours on hand. I decided to follow Julie Child's advice and use unbleached flour as she states the unbleached flour creates a crisp crust.

Julie Child also mentions that the addition of salt (besides controlling the yeast's growth) gives color to the inside of the bread. I rarely use salt in any of my recipes, but decided to use half the salt recommended. I used a bit of sugar to feed and "proof" the yeast and used water instead of milk in the bread dough.

A bit of corn flour/cornmeal is used to keep the sticky bread dough from sticking to the pan. To make doubly sure I would not have a sticky problem, I set the dough to raise on my silicon baking sheet.

To insure I would get a crisp, crackly crust, I used an enamel pan on the lowest shelf in my upper oven and added boiling water to it just before placing the bread dough in the oven. The key to the crust is the brushing of the bread dough with a bit of salt water. Since I could not find my pastry brush, I wet a folded paper towel with the salt water and used it as a brush to quickly cover the loaves with the slightly salted water while baking! This bread requires the yeast to be proofed to make sure it is alive and the dough is left to rise 3 times, most recipes I use require that the dough rise only twice.

My ingredients for 3 loaves of French bread include:

1/4 cup lukewarm water (I use cold tap water and microwave it to lukewarm - take care as hot water will kill the yeast
2 tsp of dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
2 cups water
1 tsp salt
5 cups unbleached flour plus about 1/2-1 cup extra for kneading
1/2 cup fine corn meal

For brushing the bread I used 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 cup water (I would lower this to 1/4 tsp next time).

Directions to be continued.