From My Kitchen Year: Linzer Torte

December 19, 2015

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For more info and MKY recipes, head here.

SHOPPING LIST

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

1¾ cups almonds

½ cup raspberry preserves (the best you can find)

1/3 cup red or black currant jam

STAPLES

12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened

2 eggs

1¾ cups flour

salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 lemon

LINZER TORTE

Every Christmas my father went uptown to Yorkville to purchase a Linzer torte; it reminded him of his Berlin childhood.

The year I was twelve I surprised him by baking one myself.

Much later I learned that the classic recipe requires considerably more effort than mine, but to this day I prefer this super-easy version. To me it will always be the taste of Christmas.

Cream the butter with the confectioner’s sugar. Beat in 1 egg and 1 egg yolk (save the leftover white).

Toast the almonds and grind them very fine. Add the nuts to the butter mixture, along with the flour, a pinch of salt, and the cinnamon. The dough will be very stiff. Form it into a disk, wrap it well, and refrigerate it for at least half an hour.

Separate one-third of the dough from the rest, and lightly roll out the larger piece on a floured surface so that it fits into an 8-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, pressing it up the sides. Don’t worry if the dough falls apart; just patch and press it into the pan. Brush with the reserved egg white and set aside.

Meanwhile, mix the raspberry preserves with the currant jam. Grate in the zest of the lemon, enjoying the wonderful citric scent. Add the juice of the lemon, mix well, and pour the filling into the crust.

Roll out the reserved dough and make ½-inch strips.

Weave a lattice over the top of the jam; the dough will very likely break, but you can patch it, which will give your torte a pleasantly rustic quality. Brush with the remaining egg white and bake in a 350-degree oven for about 1 hour.

Sift a little confectioner’s sugar over the torte as it comes out of the oven, and let it cool completely before serving.

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Gift Guide 2015: Serious Spice

December 18, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 1.16.57 AMMost serious cooks I know are committed to their mise en place. They’ll prep everything ahead of time, making sure it’s all easily reachable before a drop of oil hits the pan. Sometimes that’s just salt and pepper. But when you’re cooking complex Indian food, digging through the cabinet for each and every spice can take a lot of time.

Which is why masala dabba, compact little spice containers, arranged within a lidded tray, are so common in India. The most-used spices are stored together and kept right on the counter. These trays are terrifically functional – and they offer all sorts of alternate possibilities. Why not make a pickling spice masala dabba? Or one filled with hard-to-find spices for an experimental friend? This year I’m filling my trays with a variety of chiles: some smoky, some sweet, others dark, hot and fruity.  

There are few better ways to spend an afternoon than wandering the aisles of one of New York City’s great institutions, Kalustyan’s with its hundreds of packaged spices. But for those not lucky enough to live near a spice emporium  Kalustyan’s online store is a fine alternative. It’s an extremely affordable way to give a highly personalized gift. 

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Gift Guide 2015: For the Cocktail Crowd

December 17, 2015

porthole_LKP_20130217_0061_1024x1024One pleasant side-effect of the never-ending cocktail craze? Beautiful displays of fruit-filled liquor bottles winking at you from behind every bar.  

Leave it to the folks at The Aviary in Chicago to come up with a better way. Their friends at Crucial Detail  invented this clever alternative to jars and bottles, one that maximizes the beauty of the operation. The Porthole is an infusing vessel that allows you to arrange your raw ingredients into a bouquet you can gaze at from across the kitchen. It’s like looking into a small, private world. 

Once reserved for the exclusive use of Grant Achatz’s cocktail club, The Porthole is now available to everyone.  It costs almost a hundred bucks – but I can’t think of a better present for a mad mixologist. 

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From My Kitchen Year: Tart Lemon Tart

December 16, 2015

070_Reic_9781400069989_art_r1For more info and MKY recipes, head here.

SHOPPING LIST

½ cup cashews (or unsalted almonds or hazelnuts)

¼ cup confectioners’ sugar

STAPLES

¾ cup flour

salt

10 tablespoons (1¼ stick) butter

3 tablespoons olive oil

5 large eggs, separated

4 large lemons

¾ cup sugar

2 teaspoons cornstarch

TART LEMON TART

Begin by making a tart shell. If you have some nuts on hand—I like cashews in this crust, but unsalted almonds or hazelnuts are also excellent—carefully toast a handful, then grind them in a spice grinder or food processor with the flour, the confectioner’s sugar, and a pinch of salt. Put the nut mixture into a bowl and cut in 4 tablespoons of butter with two knives until it is the size of peas. Stir in the olive oil and 1 egg yolk.

Form the dough into a disk, put it between two pieces of plastic wrap, and roll it out to an 11-inch round. Press the dough gently into a 9-inch tart shell with a removable bottom, and chill for half an hour. Bake in a 400-degree oven for about 15 minutes and allow to cool on a rack.

To make the filling, grate the zest from 1 lemon. Squeeze all 4 lemons and mix the juice with the zest. Put the lemon mixture into a heavy-bottomed non-reactive pot and whisk in the sugar and cornstarch. Whisk in 2 eggs plus 2 additional yolks.

Put the pot on the stove and turn the heat to medium high. Whisk constantly until the mixture begins to boil, then keep whisking for a couple more minutes until the mixture is smooth and thick.

Remove from the heat, add 6 tablespoons of butter (cut into pieces), and whisk the mixture until the butter has vanished. Spread into the tart shell and allow to cool. Put the tart in the refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours.

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Gift Guide 2015: Have Knife, Will Travel

December 16, 2015

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They call it “The Greyhound.”

Ashley Christensen (2014 James Beard award winner for Best Chef Southeast of Poole’s Downtown Diner in Raleigh, NC), was in New York last week with a group of women chefs, cooking a charity dinner. When I asked how she carried her knives, she showed me this wonderful knife clutch.

It’s made out of heavy duty waxed canvas, with a pocket on the inside that closes with snaps. There’s room for five knives, and an entire kitchen battery of spoons, steels and microplanes. It closes with a leather strap, and would be perfect for any traveling chef.

“Oh yeah,” Christensen added modestly.  “I designed it.”

$130 very well spent dollars.

Incidentally, if you’re looking for a smaller, less expensive version, the same company, Hawks and Doves in Raleigh, also makes this version of a knife clutch.

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