Sunday, December 26, 2010

Linzer Lattice Cookies

We always made several kinds of Xmas cookies every year when I was a child. For some reason, they all seemed to be labor intensive - lots of rolling out and shaping and squeezing of things through tubes or decorating with various sprinkles. Maybe that's part of why I haven't had these particular cookies in years. I realize there are plenty of less demanding linzer cookie recipes out there, but these were always my favorite growing up, and there's something about the process of rolling out and cutting the dough over and over. It's like cookie meditation. Not to mention you feel like you've really earned those cookies by the time they're all done.

Linzer Lattice Cookies

(I asked my mother to send me this recipe about a month ago, and apparently all she had were the ingredients and bake time written down on a scrap of paper. I copied that out of the email she sent me word for word - the directions I had to recreate from memory.)

1 c butter

1 c sugar

2 egg yolks

1 tsp lemon zest

2 c flour

2/3 tsp cinnamon (odd, isn’t it?)

½ tsp cloves (or nutmeg - oh, I lied. This is my addition. I never have cloves in the house, but I always have nutmeg.)

1 c ground almonds

10-12 oz. jar raspberry jam

one: In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, cloves, lemon zest, almonds and a pinch of salt. In another (larger) mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. When uniform, add egg yolks one at a time and continue to beat until smooth.

two: Stir dry ingredients into wet until all combined. You will have a very thick, heavy dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hr.

three: Preheat the oven to 350. Cut dough approximately in half. Roll each half of the dough out between two large pieces of wax paper. I should be as uniform in thickness as possible – and should be no more than about an 1/8 of an inch thick. Place half of the rolled-out dough in the freezer.

four: Remove top wax paper from remaining half of the dough and trim edges with a pizza cutter or sharp knife so that you have a rectangle. Save the scraps in a pile on your wax paper. Spread about ½ the jar of jam over the dough using a spatula.

five: Remove the other half of the dough from the freezer and remove top wax paper. Cut dough into strips about ½ an in thick, using your same pizza cutter or sharp knife. Lay the strips diagonally, about ¾ of an in apart, across the jam-covered rectangle, first going in one direction and then in the other so that you have a lattice-work of dough across the top of the jam. Trim the ends off the lattice so it fits the base rectangle – again, be sure any extra dough gets saved. Slip a cutting board or baking sheet under the large rectangle of cookie and return to the freezer for several minutes to aid in further cutting.

six: Remove rectangle from the freezer when it seems stiff and cut into squares of desired size. Transfer to lightly greased baking sheet with spatula. These cookies do expand slightly, so be sure you give them enough room. Bake for about 15 min or until lightly browned.

seven: Repeat steps three through six until dough is no more.

eight: Before serving, place cookies on wax paper and dust with powdered sugar.

Remember, the freezer is your friend with these cookies. You don’t want the dough to be too cold when you roll it out – otherwise it will take forever and you’ll be sweating by the time you’ve got it – but once it’s rolled out, it can quickly become too warm to work with. The strips won’t maintain their integrity when you try to peel them off of the wax paper, and the cookies will be impossible to transfer cleanly from wax paper to baking sheet. So don’t be afraid to stick things in the freeze as soon as they start giving you trouble. It doesn’t take long for them to calm down in there and get ready to behave.

White Chocolate Almond Biscotti

I like biscotti because they tend not to be too sweet. Even when you add a little white chocolate.

White Chocolate Almond Biscotti

2 ¼ c all-purpose white flour

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

3 large eggs

1 c sugar

½ tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp almond extract

1 cup sliced almonds

¾ cup white chocolate (chips)

one: Preheat oven to 325. Lightly grease your baking sheet(s) and set aside.

two: In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. In another (larger) mixing bowl, beat eggs, sugar, vanilla and almond extract until thick and pale. (About 3 min with an electric mixer on high.)

three: With a wooden spoon, stir the dry ingredients into the wet, followed by the almonds. (The dough will be soft and sticky.)

four: With two rubber spatulas, form the dough into two or three 10-in-long logs on the prepared baking sheet. (The do

ugh doesn’t expand much when baking, so consider how long you want your biscotti to be and that should dictate how many logs you want. That is - how wide you want the logs to be and thus how many you can make at about 10 in long.) They should be about an inch thick. Smooth the logs with a spatula or moistened hands.

five: Bake for 30 min or until the logs are lightly browned and spring back when pressed in the center. Lightly. Transfer logs to a cutting board and slice crosswise into ½-in-thick-slices. Stand the slices upright on the backing sheet about ½ inch apart and return to the oven for another 10 to 15 min. Or until they are lightly colored and crisp. Transfer to a rack to cool.

six: Melt white chocolate carefully – i.e. in a double boiler. I just put a smaller pot in a larger pot filled with a couple inches of

simmering water. Stirring constantly. You can also melt the chocolate in the microwave, if you have one of those, as long as you do it in short installments so you don’t burn it by accident. Stirring in between.

seven: Using a small spatula, spread white chocolate on bottom side of cooled biscotti. Place – top or chocolate side down – on wax paper to cool. Once the chocolate has hardened, remove from wax paper and enjoy!

Especially with coffee.

Winter Slaw: Cabbage & Grapefruit

It's easy to get bogged down with starch in the winter. The holidays are all about stuffing and potatoes - mashed, baked, candied, au gratin - and meat. Which isn't a starch but is often a similar color. Not to mention all of the cheese - cheese plates, on crackers, in balls, mixed into the stuffing and potatoes and meat...tis the season of beige food. It makes sense, of course. If we were actually eating with the seasons, it would be nothing but root vegetables and meats, and preserved things, like cheese. Very few fresh veggies and fruits - mostly fresh from a can or a jar. So it's nice to have some interesting salad options to brighten up our plates. Cabbage - which gets a bad rap, I know - is much hardier than lettuce and thus makes a good cold-weather raw option.

Fresh cabbage has a nice peppery bite that can stand up to the bright citrus of grapefruit, and hot peppers and toasted cumin seed add warmth to this refreshing mid-winter, xmas-colored slaw.

Cabbage-Grapefruit-Cumin Slaw

1 1/2 lb green cabbage (1 lg head), thinly sliced

1 - 2 grapefruit, peeled & "diced"*

5 - 10 red orchid peppers (or other red chili or even green chilis)**, halved the long way, seeds removed & thinly sliced

1/2 tsp toasted cumin seed***

1 tbsp Mirin (rice cooking wine)

1/2 tbsp brown sugar, packed

1/4 tsp salt

3 tbsp olive oil

one: Whisk cumin seed, Mirin, brown sugar, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste in the bottom of a large (serving) bowl.

two: Toss cabbage, grapefruit and peppers in dressing. Let sit for 1 hr.

three: Serve. (about 6)

*Once you've peeled the grapefruit, cut it in half top-to-bottom. Then slice each half into about 1/2 in. slices cross-ways. You can then pull apart the slices into neat, bite-sized segments.

**If you can't find the bonnet chilis - which I happen to get at my local farmer's market - you may of course use any chili that you can find. Just beware of how spicy the chili you've chosen is, and how spicy-tolerant anyone you might try to feed this to is. Adjust pepper amount and the size of your slice accordingly.

***Heat a frying pan over medium heat until hot. Shake tsp of cumin seed over the surface of the pan and toast until fragrant - shaking the pan gently once or twice. This shouldn't take much more than a minute.