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Shepherd’s Pie

16 Jan


I was pretty sure that I was the cook in this house, but Patrick keeps proving his own worth in that arena, dang him.  But also, yay him!  And me!  Because I get to eat his awesome food, and he’s WAY better at cleaning as he goes, so the dishes aren’t even as bad as one might fear.

After booking a trip to Ireland for the summer, he was inspired, and decided to surprise me with a little pre-vacation Irish celebration.  I came home from work to the most amazing Shepherd’s Pie I’ve ever had (no lie, and I’m totally not just saying that to be nice), bacon & Brussels sprouts with a drizzle of honey (admittedly not Irish per se, but delicious, and hey – they’re green), and Guinness – of course.

Adapted from the recipe at Genius Kitchen, here’s the low down on Patrick’s version.


  • tablespoon olive oil
  • teaspoon black pepper
  • lb ground beef (he used grass fed)
  • 1 lb lamb (grass fed again)
  • large onion, finely diced
  • 6 large carrots, chopped
  • 1.5 cups frozen peas
  • sprig of fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • tablespoons flour
  • tablespoon butter
  • glug of red wine (he used a Zinfandel)
  • tablespoons tomato paste
  • tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • cup reduced sodium chicken stock
  • large quantity mashed potatoes (estimating 1L or 6 cups, fresh or leftover) – he used Russets, and used the usual mashed potato accoutrements – salt, pepper, milk, butter – AND he mixed some of the Parmesan cheese through as well
  • egg, beaten
  • grated Parmesan cheese 
  • grated sharp cheddar cheese – Tillamook makes a tasty one  (for the cheeses, the amount you use is really up to you, but might I suggest “lots”?  Grate a cup and a half of cheddar and a half cup of Parm to be safe; not including the Parm you may have used in the mashed potatoes – ain’t nothin’ wrong with cheese. . unless you’re lactose intolerant, in which case just skip all of that cheese nonsense)


  1. Pre-heat oven to 400°F.
  2. Saute carrots in the olive oil until starting to get tender.
  3. Add in the onions and saute for a minute or two then add the meat.
  4. Season with black pepper and thyme.
  5. Cook until browned then drain fat.
  6. Add the butter and peas.
  7. Sprinkle with flour and stir through.
  8. Add tomato paste, wine and Worcestershire sauce.
  9. Let this reduce slightly then add the chicken stock. Allow to reduce down until you have a thick, meaty gravy. Season to taste.
  10. Remove from heat. Grease a 9×13 oven proof dish with butter and add the meat/veg/gravy base.
  11. Spoon or pipe the mashed potatoes over top. Patrick chose to spread his spuds out evenly, then dragged a fork lightly across the top to create ridges.
  12. Brush with egg, and bake for about 20 minutes or until the potato is nice and browned on top.
  13. If you’re using the cheese, you can either add it 5 minutes ago, or add it now and pop it under the broiler so it gets all bubbly and browned.

Let cool slightly before serving, so it holds its shape a bit better, and you don’t scald the inside of your mouth.

Kindred’s Milk Bread

4 Jul

Oh milk bread. I had such high hopes for our time together. Alas, it all fell apart before it even began. . .
* first, I realized that I didn’t have a dough hook. Apologies for going there, but – d’oh!  I borrowed one from my neighbor which I knew immediately was way too small.  And yes, I tried it anyway, because as has been proven – I always learn from my mistakes that baking is an exacting science and not something that one can wing.
* second, I saw that my milk powder was not distributing evenly – rather sitting in clumps – large, hard clumps that I couldn’t really break up with my fingers.
* third, once the dough hook really, truly, honestly was not going to work (as I was incorporating the butter), I took the dough out and kneaded it by hand.  I am not sure if that was wise.
* fourth, it calls for extra large muffin tins – somehow in my mind that was just “muffin tins.” I realized as I portioned out the dough into the tins, that allowing them to raise for their second proof was going to be a huge problem. Now I had to scramble and drop in my little lumps of dough into a bundt pan, a la monkey bread. I had too much, so I also did a loaf pan. Good LORD, was I doing ANY of this recipe correctly?!

Needless to say, this will certainly need a second attempt once I have the right dough hook.

Multiple failures aside, the bread was delicious, so I can only imagine that when made properly it’s absolutely magical.

portioning out the d’oh

Recipe from Food52, helpful video here:

Makes 6 rolls, two 9- by 5-inch loaves, or 12 split-top buns

  • 5 1/3cups bread flour, divided, plus more for surface 
  • 1cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup mild honey (such as wildflower or alfalfa)
  • tablespoons nonfat dry milk powder (such as Bob’s Red Mill)
  • tablespoons active dry yeast (from almost 3 full envelopes – measure it out though, don’t just dump in 3 envelopes)
  • tablespoons kosher salt
  • large eggs, divided (2 eggs to go into the dough, 1 for egg wash before baking)
  • tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • Flaky sea salt 
  1. Cook 1/3 cup flour and 1 cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly, until a thick paste forms (almost like a roux but looser), about 5 minutes. Add cream and honey and cook, whisking to blend, until honey dissolves.  I drizzled the honey in slowly, so it really dissolved as I added it.
  2. Transfer mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and add milk powder, yeast, kosher salt, 2 eggs, and 5 remaining cups flour. Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry have taught me to put the yeast on one side and salt on the other – sure, they’re all getting mixed together, but yeast doesn’t like too much salt, and I figure it can’t hurt, so I do it.  Knead on medium speed until dough is smooth, about 5 minutes.  I had to start my mixer off pretty slowly, or else my kitchen was getting a nice sprinkling of flour.  Once most of the flour had been incorporated I was able to turn up the speed another click to medium. Add butter, a piece at a time, fully incorporating into dough before adding the next piece, until dough is smooth, shiny, and elastic, about 4 minutes.
  3. Coat a large bowl with nonstick spray and transfer dough to bowl, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  4. If making rolls, lightly coat a 6-cup jumbo muffin pan with nonstick spray. Turn out dough onto a floured surface and divide into 6 pieces. Divide each piece into 4 smaller pieces (you should have 24 total). They don’t need to be exact; just eyeball it. Place 4 pieces of dough side-by-side in each muffin cup.
 If making loaves, lightly coat two 9- by 5-inch loaf pans with nonstick spray. Turn out dough onto a floured surface and divide into 12 pieces. Nestle pieces side-by-side to create 2 rows down length of each pan.
 If making split-top buns, lightly coat two 9- by 13-inch baking dishes with nonstick spray. Divide dough into 12 pieces and shape each into a 4-inch long log. Place 6 logs in a row down length of each dish.
  5. Let shaped dough rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size (dough should be just puffing over top of pan), about 1 hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 375° F. Beat remaining egg with 1 teaspoon water in a small bowl to blend. Brush top of dough with egg wash and sprinkle with sea salt, if desired. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until bread is deep golden brown, starting to pull away from the sides of the pan, and is baked through, 25 to 35 minutes for rolls, 50 to 60 minutes for loaf, or 30 to 40 minutes for buns. The top of my bread started to get too dark, so I had to cover with foil.  If making buns, slice each bun down the middle deep enough to create a split-top. Let milk bread cool slightly in pan on a wire rack before turning out; let cool completely.

St. Pat’s Day Bread

21 Mar

Patrick is the Irish soda bread baker in the house, and rightly so.  It’s likely 100% in his blood, it’s only 17% in mine (thanks, Ancestry!).  However, it’s my challenge, and he was out of the house, so I needed to take the reins.  I knew I couldn’t compete with his soda bread, but I still wanted something “Irish” to go with our day after St. Pat’s feast.  Thanks to Sara Kate over at The Kitchn, I was off and running in no time.  Luckily, beer bread is the quickest and easiest of breads, and one I hadn’t tried yet.  I was expecting it to be quite dense, and hoping my darn oven cooked it all the way through. . .

The bread was indeed dense, but not uncomfortably so.  Joy of joys – adding a bit more cooking time did the trick and it was fully baked.  I think I’d recommend a little less sugar and a bit more chive.  The guys liked it, I thought it was just okay.  The people on the comments over at The Kitchn freaking raved about it, so perhaps I’m an aberration.   I think if I do something similar, I’ll use a different type of beer – someone had suggested a honey brown ale, and I think that could be great.

Cheddar & Chive Guinness Bread

makes one 8 1/2-inch loaf

2 3/4 cups sifted all purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 (12-ounce) bottle Irish stout beer
1 cup grated Irish cheddar cheese (about 4 ounces)
1/4 cup chopped chives
1/4 cup Irish butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375° F. Line 8 1/2- x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan with parchment paper, or coat with butter.

In a mixing bowl, thoroughly whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Get rid of that whisk, pour in the beer and mix until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. Fold in 3/4 cup of the cheese and the chives.  I mean, you * could * keep the whisk, but then you get gloppy beer dough all stuck inside the whisk, and what a pain.  A spatula is much easier.

Transfer the batter to prepared pan. Pour the melted butter evenly over top of the dough. Bake about 30 minutes then scatter the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese over the top. Return the loaf to the oven and bake 15 to 20 minutes longer or until a tester inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes.  I found the butter really pooled at the bottom underneath the bread, creating a dense, buttery base.  Not sure if that’s a good or bad thing, but you probably don’t need to smear more butter on this.  Though you probably will.

Turn out and serve warm, sliced.  With butter, maybe.


“Twinkie Bundt”

6 Mar

Deb over at Smitten Kitchen is right – it’s fun to say.  However, it was a disaster for me.  Things started out well.  Mise en place – check.  I loved that this recipe featured weights – I felt like that was going to be key to my success here.

I did have to do the lemon juice + milk trick for the buttermilk though, since my grocery store didn’t have any buttermilk (?!).  No mind – this was fine.  The batter came together nicely.  It came nowhere near filling up my pan (I guess that’s why she specified the size of the bundt pan?  Go figure. . .), but no harm, no foul, right?  It just wouldn’t have all of the detail – plus, who knows, maybe it would puff up enough?  Clearly, I am not a baker.

Frosting.  Hmmm.  Frosting.  So, I thought I had Cream of Tartar at home.  Turns out I didn’t.  I did have meringue powder though, and what is marshmallow frosting if not sort of meringuey?  Wilton to the rescue, although this recipe did take up most of my meringue powder – something to keep in mind the next time I want to make macarons.

All in all, I’m still feeling pretty good.  Batter seemed good (smelled delicious as it baked), marshmallow fluff looks great.  Reminder to self: get thermometers for oven, since oven bakes at wrong temperature.  Was reminded of this when my cake took a full 12+ minutes longer to bake than the recipe stated.  Though 15+ is probably closer to the truth, because. . . . .

This was not baked as thoroughly as I would have liked; not sure if you can see the slight squidginess of the cake still in the pan, but it’s there.  Also, I learned a valuable lesson in REALLY making sure that the pan is properly greased/floured.  I thought I had done a good job – I was wrong.  On the left you can see my Ziploc bag o’fluff, ready to be piped in to the bundt, but lest you think all was lost. . .

The hubs and the pup thought everything tasted great – even if it didn’t quite turn out.  If I’m honest, I didn’t LOVE it.  I had a couple of bites of bundt + fluff and called it quits.  Though, I don’t love Twinkies, so no one should be surprised, right?  In any case, I’m definitely adding bundt cake to the list of “things to try again” during this challenge, just maybe not this one.

Twinkie Bundt*

1 cup (225 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature (I used this trick to quickly soften my butter)
1 3/4 cups (350 grams) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 large yolks (save the 2 whites for the filling Deb recommends, or cook it up for your dog, who is patiently waiting for anything you might be willing to give her)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt
2 1/2 cups (315 grams) all-purpose flour
1 cup (235 ml) buttermilk (purchased, or concocted as necessary

1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp Meringue Powder
1 cup cold water (divided in half)
2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup

Heat oven to 350°F. Generously grease a 10-cup Bundt pan, either with butter or a nonstick spray.  REALLY do this part.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down bowl between each, and then yolks. Add vanilla. Sprinkle batter with salt and baking powder and mix briefly to combine. Add about 1/3 of flour, mix to combine, then half of buttermilk, mixing again just to combine, repeating with next 1/3 of flour, remaining buttermilk then remaining flour.

Scoop batter into prepared pan and spread smooth. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert onto rack, remove pan, and let cool absolutely completely. You can do this in the fridge to speed it up – it should take about 45 minutes.

When cake is completely and totally cool, invert it again. If your cake puffed up, you can use a serrated knife to level it a little. Then, using a melon baller, scoop out several mounds of cake through the underside, being sure not to cut through top or sides of cake.

In a large bowl, whip meringue powder and 1/2 cup cold water with an electric mixer on high speed, until stiff peaks form (about 4 minutes).  In a saucepan, stir together sugar, corn syrup, and remaining 1/2 cup of water.  Bring to a boil, and then cool for 1-2 minutes.  Slowly add syrup to meringue mixture, trying to stream the syrup down the side of the bowl.  Whip on high for ~4 minutes.  Add vanilla extract and whip until well combined.

Scoop filling into a large piping bag fitted with a large, round tip or plastic bag with the corner cut off and fill the indentations of the cake. Center your cake platter over the cake and invert your filled cake back onto it. If desired, dust lightly with powdered sugar before serving.

This cake keeps at room temperature for up to 3 days.

* Deb has several pointers on her blog – you should really just head over there and follow her recipe.

Pastry – A tale of heartbreak

27 Feb

I’ve watched people make pastry on The Great British Bake Off for years.  Looks easy enough, right?  Ha.

I made bread.  Dense bread.  Fair, I did a “rough puff” using my food processor. . .and then I froze it for a week or so. . . and then it was driven three+ hours to a rental house in Tahoe that was not equipped for baking. . . where it sat in the fridge for another day; so admittedly, I did not exactly set myself up for success for my first pastry go.  Watch, as I amaze:

Getting yeasty with it.

Preparing to pulse.

Post pulse – after combining the butter/flour mix with the yeast mix.

Mid “booking.”

Making do in Tahoe. . . using a roll of cling film as a rolling pin. This is how ALL the best pastry chefs do it.

Adding my sweetened cream cheese and jam mixtures.

Did I mention making do? We couldn’t find any sharp knives, but this spatula had a nice edge for cutting strips.

Braiding away.

Braided and egg washed – ready to bake!

Et, voila! A little dark, I know, but why start succeeding now?

I took my inspiration from Sally’s recipes for the dough and filling, and this page for freezing/defrosting the dough.  It tasted. . . fine.  The texture was. . . bready rather than flaky.  It was edible, but I am not calling it a success.  I’ll definitely need a second take on this – perhaps without the freezing and thawing, perhaps without the shortcut to rough puff.  And yes, my second take will absolutely count as one of the 40.

Eggless Cookie Dough – for fear free snacking

26 Feb

I am not exactly a cautious person.  I walk right out to the edge of things.  I swim along with the (nurse) sharks when snorkeling.  I drink milk past its best by date if it smells okay.  Those leftovers in the back of the fridge?  Well, they’re not furry – I’m sure they’re probably fine.  Jumping out of an airplane attached to a stranger by nothing more than an adult version of a BabyBjörn?  Sounds fun!  So eating cookie dough, eggs and all, is not something that has ever frightened me.  I will eat an entire batch of it in fact, if I’m not kept a close watch on.

I can appreciate however, that not everyone has my pluck.  And, because I really would like nothing more than to eat an entire batch of cookie dough, I decided to give one of these “snacking dough” recipes a try.  Now, I’d be remiss to not mention that eating raw flour also comes with a certain amount of risk, like e.coli, but the idea of raw flour seems to frighten people less than raw egg – especially if you’re thinking of making truffles with the dough.

Kailley was kind enough to post her recipe, (which she adapted from this recipe, which looks closer to what I ended up doing).  I made a few tweaks to it, and turned it into truffles.


  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • 2/3 cup-ish chocolate chips (I like bittersweet, and I don’t know if there is really such a thing as too much chocolate, so I may have used closer to a full cup)


  1. Add butter, sugars, and vanilla extract to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat until smooth
  2. Add flour, baking soda, and salt to wet ingredients and mix
  3. Add milk and mix until dough is firm and smooth
  4. Fold in chocolate chips with a wooden spoon
  5. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 3 months if not turning into truffles

To turn this into truffles, pop the dough into the fridge (I just left it in the mixing bowl), and get ready to temper some chocolate (again, I’m using dark) for dipping.

I then used a small scoop to scoop up even amounts of dough, and rolled them quickly in my hands to form “perfect” balls and set them aside on a piece of parchment paper.  Using my handy dandy Wilton dipping tools, I coat the dough truffles and set them pack on the parchment to dry.  A little sprinkle of something festive, et voila.  Chocolate chip cookie dough (salmonella free, but possibly e.coli loaded) truffles!

Cauliflower and Lemon Pasta – Take Three

17 Jan

I keep playing with this recipe.  I have since given up on recreating the original since it was so long ago, and I’ve tried so many other things since then that I’m not sure I even remember what it tastes like now.

Last night, I did the following:

roasted a head of cauliflower (split into florets) with olive oil, salt & pepper at 400 degrees

cooked a few slices of bacon til extra crispy and crumbled what I didn’t devour right away

sliced a large shallot, and cooked it in some of the bacon fat

put the cauliflower in the pan with the shallot to hang out while I did other things

zested and juiced one lemon; added the zest to the veggies

cooked up a batch of pasta

Tossed the cooked pasta in a pan with a little bit of the cooking liquid, the veggies and zest, crumbled bacon, then added the lemon juice and some parmesan cheese.  It’s definitely the best so far, and I guess it just proves that everything really is better with bacon.

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

3 Jan

A little Kerrygold and a drizzle of honey, and you’ve got yourself a tasty slice.

Here I sit, in jeans complete with two floury handprints on my rear, somewhat defeated by my first bout with bread.  Kneading is hard, y’all.  I never did get to the “windowpane” stage with my dough, but I think (?!) it was okay?  I mean, I’ve never done this before, how will I know?!  The recipe I’m using says nothing about testing it that way, but it seems like the standard if I’m to believe the contestants of The Great British Bake Off.  After 12 minutes of kneading, I was pooped!  Well, tired of kneading in any case, I’ve already mentioned patience is not a virtue I possess.  It’s my first go – we’ll see how it turns out, and I can try again and knead until I get the windowpane, and see how different it is, and then I’ll know, yes?  Science.  This is one of those times that I wish I had taken a class first, so I had some basic knowledge from a skilled bread maker. . .

Thanks to my bag of Bob’s Red Mill Whole Wheat Flour, I was lightly armed with all the necessary ingredients and a recipe for Honey Whole Wheat Bread.  Combine that with an excited husband, and one last day of holiday vacation, and I was ready.

Bread.  Round One.

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

  • 1 cup warm water (this means 100-110 degrees, not warm to the touch, which for a novice baker is not clear at all, and was luckily something I knew in advance)
  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (one packet; which, thank God, since I did not measure this out at all, just dumped the packet in)
  • 1 cup milk, room temperatureimportant note since on my first round I did not use room temperature milk and tossed the whole thing to start over.  Yes, already.
  • 1/4 c honey
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 3/4 c all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
  • 1 tbsp salt (I used some local stuff I got as a Christmas present)
  • 2 3/4 c whole wheat flour

In a large bowl, or the bowl of a mixer, (oh, how I wished for a pastry hook!!!!) combine water and yeast and set aside for 5 minutes.  Stir in milk, honey and oil.  Add all-purpose flour and salt.  Stir to combine, and give yourself the dough claw.  Add whole wheat flour and stir by hand (or with a dough hook – sob) until a dough forms, about 1 minute on low if using mixer.  ** looks like you can do this part with a paddle attachment in your mixture, but why gum it all up when your hand works just as well?  One less thing to wash!

Knead dough until smooth and springy, about 10 minutes on medium speed, or 10+ minutes of what is sure to at some point become zen-like kneading by hand.

Form dough into a ball and place in a large bowl lightly coated with oil.  Turn dough to coat.  Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about one hour.

Transfer dough to floured surface.  Divide dough in half and form into 2 balls.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Grease two 9×5 inch loaf pans.  Gently press and shape each ball into a 9×9 inch square.  Fold into thirds, like folding a letter.  Pinch the seam closed and place loaf seam-side down in prepared pan.  Cover and let rise for 45 minutes.  I ended up using a rolling pin to help me with getting 9×9 squares (I should note that I cannot roll or form dough into any particular shape on purpose without the aid of a cookie cutter – circles for pizza?  nope, I get oblongs and we call it flatbread; 9×9″ squares for this bread?  how do you feel about oblongs?), and lord knows if I did it right at all.  Pinch the seal closed?  What does that look like?  How do I know if what I’m considering a pinched closed seal is right?

warm and cozy spot to rise – note that one is doing a better job than the other. . .

Make 3 angled slashes on top of each loaf with a knife and place in oven.  Immediately reduce heat to 375 degrees F and bake until loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped, about 30 minutes.  Remove from pans and let cool completely.  Makes 2 loaves.

why can’t you be more like your sister?

So, what do we know after Bread, Round One?

  • I did not manage any type of information retention when reading the recipe through. Twice. Good lord, what is wrong with me?  Room temperature milk means not straight out of the fridge.  If 2 1/4 tsp of yeast was not the entire packet, I would have been out of yeast and my bread plans would have been foiled.
  • Patience is a virtue – knead until the kneading’s done.  This is still unclear to me since I’ve seen the windowpane thing, but I’ve also read/seen that you just knead until it seems smooth and elastic, which I definitely thought mine was.  Does all bread need to make it to the windowpane stage?  Or is that just certain types of bread?
  • Those weird folds and crumples I got when shaping?  May have mattered since the finished product had some odd creases running through it, and as is evidenced above, one loaf had much better rise than the other.  I knew when placing them in the pans that one felt better – bread instincts are a thing.  But how do I avoid those?  Other bakers don’t baby their dough. . .maybe it’s just like having children and some just turn out better than others, even if you treat them the same?*
  • Maybe I should, I don’t know, watch one of the trillions of videos online or something.  According to the few I watched (after I tried it myself, of course), there are various techniques to getting your loaf ready to go into the pan, so I guess it’s not that important that things are “perfect” before then.  I didn’t learn how to avoid those creases, but maybe that’s just how bread goes?
  • Even a mediocre first run at making bread can still be pretty tasty.

* I don’t have children, but I realize that making bread is probably nothing like raising children.

Sriracha Pineapple Sauce

30 Dec

Well, Martha’s folks call it a marinade – we used it as a dipping sauce, and it was fantastic.

We had it with skewers of pork, red onion and pineapple, and holy cow!

2 c pineapple juice
1/4 c veg oil
2 or more tbsp Sriracha
1 tsp salt

Boil the pineapple juice down to 1/2 c. Keep an eye on it – it will turn into a splattery, stuck on mess if you say, go out to grill the skewers and take your eyes off it. I’m guessing.
Let cool, and whisk together with other ingredients.

Dunk everything in and smile. 🙂

Linzer Torte/Tart Cookies

30 Dec

My main man is a huge marzipan fan, so while watching some baking show or other, when he saw someone make Linzer Tart Cookies, he was sold.  Because I’m a selfish only child, and I agreed to this whole 40 by 40 challenge, I took over the baking of these myself.  Full disclosure, I thought they were just okay, but my sister in law said, and I quote, “Your Christmas cookies are off the chain” and “I ate all the Christmas trees I brought home and didn’t share.  My fave.”  So maybe they just aren’t my jam (see what I did there?  because they have jam. . . ).  I think if I did them again, I’d follow some of the suggestions I saw online and incorporate some other types of ground nuts with the almonds.  And since you’ll probably sense the theme straight away, I’ll just let you know in advance that yes, I also made changes to this recipe.  Sorry not sorry.  Looks like I might not learn anything after all. . . .

  • 1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 cups sifted all purpose flour, divided
  • 1 3/4 cups ground almonds (or almond flour, which I had on hand and gladly used)
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon (I would have used Allspice if I had it since I think the other flavors would have gone nicely)
  • 5 tbs seedless raspberry jam
  • 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • lemon zest from one lemon

First things first – read the recipe all the way through.  Twice maybe.  Okay, begin.

Mise en place first, to minimize screw ups.

Beat butter & sugar together until light and fluffy.  Stir in 1/2 cup flour, the almond flour (or ground almonds), cinnamon and lemon zest.  Oh crap, I forgot to sift the flour before adding it to the ground almonds.  SEE?  Gah.  Sift rest of flour.  Mix in remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time til a slightly stiff dough forms.

Shape dough into a ball, divide in half, wrap each half in plastic and pop in the fridge for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Take one half of the dough and roll it out between two sheets of parchment – it is a sticky nightmare to work with, so do yourself a favor and use the parchment.  You want to roll it out to about 1/8″ thick.  We used a Christmas tree cutter for obvious reasons, but using whichever cutter you like best, cut out as many cookies as you can.  Knead the scraps together again, and roll out again, and cut out – again.  It’s a good idea to refrigerate in between re-rolls.  I swapped back and forth between the two halves of dough to ensure it stayed cool as I worked with it.  (roll, cut, knead back together, rewrap in plastic, and put in fridge; grab other half and do the same, on and on until I had no more dough)

Don’t forget that half of your cookies need the “windows” in the center cut out – we used a star that came with the tree.  I also put the cookie sheet in the fridge before baking to help stop spread.  In this example, I rolled out nine trees and put them about 1″ apart (on parchment) on a cookie sheet and put it in the fridge.  Then I rolled out nine more trees with the stars cut out of the middle.  First tray comes out of fridge and goes into the oven; second tray goes into the fridge while the first tray bakes.

Remember what I said about this dough being a nightmare?  There was a lot of breaking and cursing as I tried to get the center stars out of the trees and get the trees onto the trays without falling apart.  Ensuring the dough is cool helps with this.

Bake 10-15 minutes until light brown.  We found that baking for 7 minutes, rotating the pan, and baking for 7 more minutes worked best for our oven.

Move the bottom cookies (the ones without cutouts) onto a wire rack to cool.  Put another wire rack into a cookie sheet or on a piece of parchment – this is for the top cookies.  As soon as you put the top cookies onto the rack to cool, dust with the confectioners sugar first.

Heat up your jam to make it a little more spreadable (I did it for a few seconds in the microwave, but you could also do it on the stove top).

Spread a thin layer of jam on the bottom cookie, avoiding the edges so it doesn’t squish out when you put the top cookie on and press down.  Put the top cookie on, being careful not to touch the tops of the cookies and smudge the sugar.

See my “learn from my mistakes” fingerprints on the edges.

Served straight away, the cookies are crisp; saved overnight and served the next day they become a bit softer and chewier, which we actually preferred.  If you like a crisper cookie, don’t do the jam sandwich part until you are ready to serve them.