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Gingerbread (Novel Food #6)

Posted by bakinghistory on December 20, 2008

gingerbread-1

Mildly spiced gingerbread cookies

ROUNDUP part 1 Roundup part 2

novel-foodSimona of Briciole and Lisa of Champaign Taste are hosting a new edition of their wonderful seasonal blog event, Novel Food. It is one of my absolute favorites since it pairs literature and food. This time, it was really difficult to choose which literary work to feature between two that I particularly like.

Since this is the winter edition, I finally opted for a short story by O. Henry, one of my absolute favorite American writers.  The short story is “The Gift of the Magi” and illustrates the theme of gift-giving: at the end, the author shows what is, in his view, the wisest gift to give, independently of what money can—and cannot—buy.

I won’t reveal anything else, since the story is short and well worth reading.  I read it for the first time when I was nine years old, and its implications deeply struck me then—now, almost three decades later, I am still moved by it, even if in somewhat different ways.

The characters of the story are a young married couple, Della and James Dillingham Young, and you can see them portrayed above in gingerbread dough and white icing.

The time  is around Christmas, the setting a big American city, but the theme transcends any specific time and place and is ultimately about the essence of human love.

here is a short excerpt:

Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a grey cat walking a grey fence in a grey backyard. To-morrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn’t go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling — something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honour of being owned by Jim.

Even if there is one specific food mentioned in the story, chops, I took the liberty of choosing gingerbread instead. The following recipe produces a wonderful dough, very easy to work with, mildly spiced and sweet.

From the original recipe by Hannah Widdifield

In: Widdifield’s New Cook Book: Practical Receipts for the Housewife”, 1856—USA

Ingredients:

1-1/4 lbs AP flour

1/2  lb. dark brown sugar

1/4  lb butter

1/2 tbsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1 yolk

1/2 cup milk

1/2 tbsp baking soda

Icing:

1/2 lb confectioner’s sugar

lemon juice as needed

1 egg white as needed

Sift flour, spices, and sugar. In a mixer, on low speed, mix butter with flour mixture until it resembles wet sand. Add yolk and mix briefly. Dissolve baking soda in milk and add to mixer bowl. Switch to the dough hook and knead the mixture on low speed for 5-7 minutes, until the dough forms and is smooth and supple. Let the dough rest, covered, for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 300F.  Take about 1/4 of the dough and knead it briefly by hand, then roll it rather thin and cut the cookies. Place the cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet (preferably insulated) and bake for about 15-18 minutes. Let the cookies cool on a rack—they will be soft and crumbly while hot but will turn crunchy as soon as the cool.

Make the icing by mixing powdered sugar with a few drops of lemon juice and a bit of egg white, just enough to have a stiff paste that can be piped, and decorate the cookies.


Posted in American Cooking, Blog Events, Cookies, Bars, & Biscotti, Holidays, Spices | Tagged: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Anise Biscotti (Pan d’Anice) Think Spice… Think Anise

Posted by bakinghistory on November 26, 2008

anise-biscotti-2Delicious and crunchy anise biscotti

anise5logo3As the host of Think Spice… –a monthly event founded by Sunita–for the month of November I chose Anise, and this was the best opportunity to finally feature these wonderful biscotti. Once toasted they turn incredibly crunchy and light, with an intense flavor of anise provided by both anise extract and aniseed. They are also very thin and great to have with tea.The recipe comes from an old Italian professional pastry making manual; it is very simple, without baking powder or any type of fats, just eggs, flour, sugar and anise. I scaled down the original formula which called for over 3 lbs. flour so that it could be easily baked in a home oven—however they are so good it is a pity not to be able to make the full amount.

From the original recipe by Giuseppe Ciocca
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In: “Il Pasticcere e Confettiere Moderno”, 1907—Italy
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Ingredients
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1-1/4 cup, scant, (150 g) AP flour, unbleached
3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
5.30 oz (150 g)  eggs weighed without the shell (about large eggs)
1 large yolk
1 tsp pure anise extract
1 tbsp aniseed
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Preheat oven to 325F (170C), line a rectangular 6×10-inch baking pan  (or one of equivalent volume) with aluminum foil and slightly grease bottom and sides.
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Place some hot water in a bowl and in it put another small bowl containing the eggs (keep the yolk aside for now). Start beating the eggs at high speed and add the sugar little by little. Beat at high speed until all the sugar has been incorporated and the mixture is very light and lukewarm to the touch. Keep beating until the mixture cools and then add the yolk, and finally the anise extract.
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Finally add the flour little by little letting it fall into the egg mixture through a strainer. Once all the flour has been incorporated with a spatula mix in the aniseed.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes until golden and springing back when pressed with a fingertip.
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Let the cake cool 5 minutes in the pan, and meanwhile lower the oven temperature to 200F. Slice the cake starting at one of the narrow ends, use a good serrated knife to make thin slices (scant 1/4-inch, 0.5 cm), place them on a cookie sheet and let them dry in the oven until crunchy. Make sure the oven temperature is not above 200F, or the cookies will burn at the edges before they are dried through. Let cool on a rack and store airtight.
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P.S. The Roundup of this event will be posted soon

Posted in Blog Events, Cookies, Bars, & Biscotti, Italian Cuisine, Italy, Spices | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Miss Diether’s Chocolate Brownies

Posted by bakinghistory on November 9, 2008

diether-brownies-21

Chewy brownie drops made with barley flour, spiced with cinnamon, and full of crunchy toasted almond bits

A very interesting version of brownies, shaped like drop cookies, and flavored with cinnamon, vanilla and a touch of almond extract. They also contain 50% of barley flour, which contributes great flavor and a velvety texture. Toasted almonds provide a wonderful crunch and are very well paired with chocolate. All in all, a variation on classic brownies really worth trying.

From the original recipe by Miss Diether (Boston Cooking School)

In: “American Cookery”, 1917—USA

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Ingredients:

1/2 cup (113 g) butter

1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar

2 squares (56 g) unsweetened baking chocolate

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup (65 g) AP flour

1/2 cup (75 g)  whole-grain barley flour (stone-ground)

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/4 tsp pure almond extract

1 cup (145 g) blanched almonds

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Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C), place the almonds on a cookie sheet and toast them until they are a reddish-brown color. Set aside to cool, then coarsely chop.

Melt the chocolate and set aside.

In a large bowl cream the butter and add the sugar little by little—the mixture does not need to be fluffy. Add the eggs and the melted chocolate, mixing well. Finally mix in the almond and vanilla extract.

Sift together the two flours and the ground cinnamon, then add to the chocolate mixture, stirring gently just until incorporated. Finally stir in the chopped almonds.

Place the mixture for 15 minutes to chill in the refrigerator, and meanwhile lightly grease 2 cookie sheets (preferably insulated).

Shape the brownie drops by rounded teaspoons and bake in a preheated oven (325°F—160°C)  for about 10 minutes.

Let the brownies cool on the baking sheet—they are too fragile to remove while warm.

P.S. I have recreated the original recipe as it was written, so I made the brownies as drop cookies. However, they can be baked in an 8×8-inch square pan (better lined with aluminum foil and then lightly greased) and then cut into bars.

Posted in American Cooking, Chocolate, Cookies, Bars, & Biscotti, Spices, Treenuts, whole grains | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Announcing Think Spice… …Think Anise

Posted by bakinghistory on November 1, 2008

I am delighted to host the November edition of Think Spice… , a monthly event founded by Sunita of Sunita’s World.  The theme of this month is Anise.

The tiny fruits of this graceful plant, which are commonly called seeds, have been used for centuries and have been mentioned in ancient herbals, as well as in texts on medicine, folklore, cookery, confectionery, perfumery, and witchcraft.

Pliny, in his treatise on natural history, mentions anise and states that the best was grown on the Greek Island of Crete. He also tells us that anise was used to substitute lovage in seasonings, as well as to alleviate headaches, soothe the stomach, clear the eyes, and treat colics and coughs. Pliny, as well as Pythagoras, also strongly recommended anise steeped in wine as a remedy against scorpions.  The ancient Romans also used it to flavor bridal cakes.

According to Democritus the humble anise was the best cure for melancholy.

In England, under King Edward I, anise was used to pay taxes; in early English herbals anise was also called Anny and Annyse.

In early Italian herbals anise was also indicated as helpful for nursing mothers.

Finally, in old astrology treatises anise was associated with the planet Mercury, and according to old plant-lore it protected the lungs.

Apparently, anise was also used to ward off evil, and kept in a small pouch under the pillow to avoid nightmares.

To participate in Think Spice… …Think Anise:

* Make a dish, baked good, or beverage in which anise is used. It can be a traditional recipe or a new creation, sweet or savory. Any information about lore and uses for anise that you are familiar with will be great to be included as well.

*Post your recipe by November 25, 2008. Include a link to this post and to Sunita’s blog. You can of course use the logo.

Send me an email at bkhstATyahooDOTcom

including:

>your name

>your blog name and URL

>name of your recipe and permanent link

>your language and location

> a picture of your dish (200 width)

I look forward to reading many great recipes that include this wonderful spice!!

Posted in Blog Events, Spices | Tagged: , , | 12 Comments »

Pumpkin Pie

Posted by bakinghistory on October 30, 2008

Traditional Pumpkin Pie

Update: Ivy has posted the ROUNDUP

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Ivy from Kopiaste… is hosting another wonderful event devoted to pies, this time sweet ones.  I decided to enter a classic all-American pumpkin pie, a traditional dessert enjoyed in the Fall and always part of the Thanksgiving feast.

The poet John Greenleaf Whittier, born in Massachusetts in 1807, immortalized pumpkins—and pumpkin pie—in his work The Pumpkin, from which the following verses are taken:

What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye,

What calls back the past, like the rich Pumpkin pie?

There are many versions of pumpkin pie, more or less rich, more or less spiced, some sweetened with sugar, others with molasses, maple syrup, or even with honey.

The recipe I feature here is very simple, minimally spiced with cinnamon, and sweetened with very little sugar.  If the pumpkin is very tasty to begin with there is no need to be heavy handed with spices, and sweeteners like molasses might be too strong and overpower the delicate flavor of the main ingredient itself. Even if canned pumpkin is an acceptable shortcut, it cannot compare with freshly roasted pumpkin and the result will be much tastier—and definitely worth the extra time and effort—if the latter were used.

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From the original recipes by Bertha Lippincott Parrish

In: “The ‘Home’ Cook Book”, by the Children’s Summer Home of Cinnaminson, NJ, 1914—USA

and Juniata L. Shepperd

In: “Handbook of Household Science”, 1902—USA

Ingredients

Filling:

1 cup (250 g) roasted and pureed pumpkin

1/4 cup (60 ml) cream or milk

3 tbsp sugar

1 tsp cinnamon or 1/2 tsp nutmeg (according to taste)

1 large egg, divided

1 tbsp butter

1/4 tsp salt

Crust:

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup (scant) butter

1/4 tsp salt

ice water as needed

Preheat the oven to 375F (190C).

Make the Crust: In a food processor put flour salt and butter (diced), and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. With the machine running add enough water for the dough to come together. Do not overprocess. Wrap the dough in wax paper and let rest in a cool place for about 30 minutes. Roll the dough to about 1/8-inch thickness and line a deep pie dish, make a decorative rim. I used a small cookie-cutter shaped like a maple leaf to decorate the rim of the pie as well as the top.

Make the filling: Cream the butter and add the sugar little by little, then the yolk, cream or milk, salt and spice, and then the pureed pumpkin.  Beat the egg white till stiff peaks form, and add it to the pumpkin mixture, gently, until well incorporated.

Fill the prepared pastry shell, decorate the rim and top as you like, and bake in a preheated oven (375°F), until the pastry is golden brown and the filling barely wiggles in the center. Let the pie cool on a rack.






Posted in American Cooking, Blog Events, Holidays, Pies & Tarts, Spices, Thanksgiving | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Cheese Straws (Think Spice… …Think Paprika)

Posted by bakinghistory on October 27, 2008

Crunchy savory biscuits flavored with cheese and paprika

Mimi from  Mimi on the Move is the October host for the Think Spice... event which was founded by Sunita of Sunita’s World. Mimi proposed Paprika as the theme of her edition of Think Spice….

My entry is a recipe that seems to have been around for quite a long time and is still very popular—and deservedly so. Cheese Straws are crunchy savoury biscuits that are made with a good amount of cheese, butter, and some nice spice like, as in this version, paprika. Despite their plain looks they are very tasty and hard to stop eating. Paprika pairs well with a good cheese, providing a pleasant warmth that complements the richness of the other ingredients.

I have used a very good, extra-sharp Vermont Cheddar and Hungarian sweet paprika, but Parmesan and hot paprika would work as well, as would also a 50-50 mixture of each. The only important thing is to bake the biscuits well, so that they are dry and crunchy.

From the original recipe by Janet McKenzie Hill

In: Practical Cooking and Serving, 1902—USA

Ingredients:

1 cup (125 g) AP flour

1/2 tsp paprika (Hot or sweet, or a mix of the two)

1/4 tsp salt

1/3 cup (75 g) butter, cold

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 to 1 cup (50 to 100 g) grated cheese (Sharp Cheddar or Parmesan or a mix of the two)

1-2 tbsp ice water (or as needed)

Place the flour, salt, paprika, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor and pulse briefly to mix everything together. Add the grated cheese and pulse again. Then add the butter, diced, and pulse just until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add 1 tbsp water and pulse again, add more water as needed with the machine running until the dough just holds together. Do not overprocess.

Shape the biscuits with a pastry bag or by hand forming small balls and then flattening them with a fork.

Bake in a preheated oven at 375°F for about 10 minutes, until golden. Lower the temperature to 300°F and bake a little longer, until the cookies are dry and crunchy. Cool on racks and store airtight.


Posted in American Cooking, Blog Events, Crackers & Savory Biscuits, Spices | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Baked Honey Custards (Rosh Hashanah 5769)

Posted by bakinghistory on September 25, 2008

A golden and velvety dairy dessert flavored with honey and cinnamon

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is approaching soon: the celebration begins at sundown Monday September 28th.

It is customary to eat honey to celebrate, in the hope that the new year will be a sweet one.

This simple custard is sweetened entirely with honey and could be a delicious addition to the table for this Holiday. It is milk based, but it could work as well with strained orange juice for a parve version. It is also very easy and quick to assemble.

Other ideas for Rosh Hashanah desserts are these:

Honey Cake—which I posted last year

Honey Cookies—from Miri at Room for Dessert

Magical Honey Cake—from Baroness Tapuzina

September is also National Honey Month and you can read all about it at Louise‘s Months of Edible Celebrations

From the original recipe by the United States Dept. of Agriculture

In: “Farmers’ Bulletin”, 1917—USA

Ingredients

5 eggs

1/2 cup of honey

4 cups scalded milk

1/8 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 325F (170C).

Mix the eggs, honey, cinnamon and salt, then add the milk in a fine stream. Mix well to combine but try to avoid making the mixture foam too much.

Fill 8-10 ramekins and bake the custard in a water bath: place the ramekins in a roasting pan, preferably placing a rack underneath them, fill the pan with hot water so that it reaches half-way up the side of the ramekins. Cover with a piece of aluminum foil and bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the custards are still giggly in the center. Let them cool in the water bath, then refrigerate. Serve well chilled.

L’Shanah Tovah!

Posted in American Cooking, Dairy, Holidays, Honey, Puddings, Spices | Tagged: , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Seed-Cake (Novel Food, Fall ’08 edition)

Posted by bakinghistory on September 20, 2008

A nice cup of hot tea and a slice of this cake are best enjoyed in the company of good friends

Roundup 1 —-Roundup 2

For this season’s edition of Novel Food—one of my favorite blog events, co-hosted by Simona of Briciole and Lisa of Champaign Taste—I chose to recreate a food item from Jane EyreCharlotte Brontë‘s masterpiece.

This also goes to Susan’s Yeast Spotting

I read the book for the first time many years ago, in Junior High School, and loved it ever since. Over the years I returned to it once in a while, and the story never ceased to fascinate me. In time I realized what I found consistently so appealing in it. The novel contains all the necessary components of Romantic literature: a love story full of passion, mystery and tragedy, a good touch of the supernatural and a happy ending against all odds.

However, besides all of that, what truly brought me back to this novel is how its main character, Jane, is portrayed. She is a young woman, orphaned and destitute, very smart and barely pretty—in other words a person apparently lacking all of the desirable qualities that would ensure her any happiness in life or at least a comfortable place in society.

And yet, even in the worst of her circumstances and situations, Jane never compromises, never gives up her dignity as a person, never loses her solid moral principles. She is able to balance a good heart with cool rationality, always seeing beyond appearances and never settling for the easiest path. It was—and is—her strength in being able to say no, even if compromise would seem to ensure her gaining everything she most dearly wishes, that I find admirable, as is her unshakable belief that the qualities of the heart and the spirit have a value very much above those of wealth, position and social approval.

In the book food is mentioned quite often, from the dreadful meals at Lowood, the boarding school for orphaned girls that Jane attends—and survives—for eight years, to that offered to Jane after she leaves Thornfield and is rescued by the Rivers family.

Among all of the possibilities, I chose to bake a seed-cake, like the one Jane shares one perfect evening with her beloved schoolmate Helen and their teacher Miss Temple. The reason of my choice is that, to me, that simple cake eaten with friends and kindred spirits shows how, despite the dreariest circumstances, the comfort of true friendship can lighten one’s heart and console of any sadness.

Miss Temple invites Helen and Jane for tea: 

“[...] she got up, unlocked a drawer, and taking from it a parcel wrapped in paper, disclosed presently to our eyes a good-sized seed-cake.

‘I meant to give each of you some of this to take with you,’ said she: ‘but as there is so little toast, you must have it now,’and she proceeded to cut slices with a generous hand.

We feasted that evening as on nectar and ambrosia; and not the least delight of the entertainment was the smile of gratification with which our hostess regarded us, as we satisfied our famished appetites on the delicate fare she liberally supplied.”

In the many vintage cookbooks I have read I found different versions of seed-cakes, some rather plain, made with a yeasted and sweetened dough and others closer to pound cakes, very sweet and rich in eggs and butter. The common trait between all of these versions is, of course, the caraway seeds that speckle their crumb. Caraway seed once was used in sweet baked goods such as cakes and biscuits and not limited to savory ones. The effect is amazingly good: the pungency and complex aroma of these seeds, as well as their slight crunchiness provide a wonderful counterpoint to the sweetness and tenderness of the cakes.

As much as I love the flavor of caraway in the tangy sourdough ryes found in the baking repertoire of Central and Eastern Europe, I have to say that tasting caraway in a sweet baked good allows to appreciate this pleasant spice even more.

I tried more than one version, and it was difficult to choose one among all, since all have pleasant qualities that made them worth recommending. Charlotte Brontë does not give a detailed description of the seed-cake Jane and her friends have together with tea. Given the time at which the novel was published (1847) I thought at least I could write off any of the more recent recipes made with actual baking powder, which became popular only in the late nineteenth century. I tried a yeasted version made with only a little sugar and butter and no eggs, and another rather rich made with great quantities of all of these ingredients. The yeasted, plainer version is my favorite, and is the one I feature here.

From the original recipe by Margaret Dods

in: “The Cook and Housewife’s Manual”, 1828—UK

Ingredients

1/2 lb white sugar

2 lbs bread flour

1 tbsp active dry yeast

2 cups whole milk, plus more as needed

1/2 lb butter

1 oz. caraway seeds

a pinch of allspice, nutmeg, and ginger

Mix the sugar and flour in the bowl of an electric mixer. Scald the milk and let it cool to lukewarm. Dissolve the yeast in 1 cup of the warm milk and pour it over the flour-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until some of the flour and the milk form a soft soupy dough (the rest of the flour will stay underneath. Cover the bowl and let the sponge ferment until doubled and bubbly. Switch to the dough hook, add the ground spices (except for the caraway) and knead until the dough starts to come together, adding the rest of the milk by the tablespoon as necessary (the dough should not be too soft at this point).

With the mixer running add the cold butter, diced, and knead until the dough is well developed, supple and smooth. Once the butter is well incorporated add the caraway seeds and knead a little more until well distributed in the dough.

Let the dough ferment until doubled in a covered bowl. Shape into two oval or round loaves and bake in a preheated oven at 350F (180C) for about 50 minutes, or until nice and golden. The loaves should be allowed to cool on a rack and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

If you prefer to use a bread pan, you will need two 9×5-inches pans.

Posted in Blog Events, Dairy, Eggless, Spices, Tea, Yeasted Cakes, Kuchen, Coffee Cakes | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 13 Comments »

Jumbles (Think Spice…Think Nutmeg)

Posted by bakinghistory on July 25, 2008

Ring-shaped cookies nicely spiced with nutmeg

Aparna from My Diverse Kitchen is the host of  Think Spice… , a monthly blog event initiated by Sunita of Sunita’s World. This time the theme is Nutmeg—a spice that brings a wonderful, warm aroma to savory and sweet dishes alike.

ROUNDUP IS HERE

Jumbles—also spelled Jumbals—are ring-shaped cookies that date back to Colonial times and were  much more popular in the 1800s than they are today.

These cookies were usually flavored with lemon zest and rose water, and often included coconut and/or treenuts. Virtually any early American cookbook contains several recipes for Jumbles, and often call for sour cream  among the ingredients, as in the case of the recipe featured here. This produces a wonderful texture, dry and crunchy and yet very very light. The pleasant aroma of nutmeg truly shines through thanks to the low amount of sugar and butter which would otherwise overpower it. They are nice with tea or a glass of milk.

The shape of these cookies evolved in time: the earliest versions were shaped by rolling small quantities of dough between the palms of hands and forming small rings—this is the method I used here. Later the dough was rolled and cut with a donut cutter, which quickly provided  ring-shaped cookies of a uniform size and thickness. The most recent versions were simply shaped as drop cookies.

My personal preference is for the earliest method for shaping the cookies. The final result are cookies that look plain and homey, and with slight imperfections and differences in size. I like the fact that one can tell they were hand-shaped.

The dough produced by this recipe is soft and smooth, and extremely easy to work with. The baked cookies have a wonderful texture and are great for dunking.

The original instructions called for “enough flour” to form the cookies. My rule-of-thumb—and preference—is to use an amount of flour that is equal to twice as much the amount of sugar. In this case almost 2 lbs of unbleached, all purpose flour.

The brand of flour I use is King Arthur, which is a little higher in protein than other all purpose brands. If you use another brand you might need a little more flour, but don’t be tempted to use too much, or the cookies will turn out heavy and hard like rocks.

Using a proportion of 1:2 for sugar and flour produces cookies that are crunchy, keep their shape and are not too sweet. If you prefer you can add a little more sugar, keeping in mind that it makes the shape less neat and the cookies brown faster.

From the original recipe by Mrs. M.D. Carrington  (a lady of Toledo)

In:“The Home Cook Book: Tried and True Recipes” , 1876—USA

Ingredients

2 cups sugar

1 cup butter, slightly softened

1 cup (all natural) sour cream (240 g)

3 eggs (medium)

1-1/2 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated (or less, to taste, but not more than 1-1/2 tsp)

1 tsp baking soda

2 lbs AP flour (King Arthur)

Preheat the oven to 325F.

Cream the butter at medium speed, gradually add the sugar and mix well. Add the sour cream and then the eggs, one at a time. Mix in the baking soda.

Sift the flour with the grated nutmeg, and add to the egg mixture, mixing at the lowest speed just until a soft dough forms. Gather the dough in wax paper and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Break off small pieces of dough and roll them between the palms of your hands to form little ropes about the thickness of a pencil. Shape rings, more or less large in diameter and bake for 12-15 minutes until dry and crunchy.

It is important not to underbake these cookies—they have to be crunchy and dry, which is why a longer baking time at a lower temperature is necessary.  Insulated cookie baking sheets are ideal.

It is not necessary to grease the baking sheets, and once ready the cookies don’t stick and are extremely easy to transfer to cooling racks. Keep in air-tight containers once completely cold.

Posted in American Cooking, Blog Events, Cookies, Bars, & Biscotti, Regional American Food, Spices | Tagged: , , , , | 7 Comments »

Linzertorte (Novel Food 4)

Posted by bakinghistory on June 21, 2008

A traditional Linzer tart made with almonds, spices, and berry jam.

Novel Food is a lovely, seasonal blog event that pairs food and literature—hosted by Simona of Briciole and Lisa of Champaign Taste.

ROUNDUP PART 1 & PART 2

This time I chose to recreate a food item from the novel The Inn at Lake Devine , by one of my absolute favorite contemporary American writers: Elinor Lipman.

In this novel the author addresses the issues of antisemitism and prejudice, of religious and ethnic barriers and the courage to cross them. It is no small feat to explore these themes in a novel and Ms Lipman succeeds at doing that through a flawless, witty tale in which sharp social satire intertwines with romance and tragedy, and destiny takes unpredictable turns.

The most remarkable aspect of the novel, in fact, is that it carries across its message clearly and powerfully by describing how the social and historical context affects the personal and the individual—and vice versa.

The novel unfolds at a swift pace and is masterfully written in a language peppered by humor—and a few Yiddish words here and there.  The story is told through the voice of Natalie Marx, who embarks in her own personal crusade against bigotry and social injustice and finds love in the process.

Food is present throughout the novel, as a metaphor for separateness and closeness, identity and nurture. Natalie realizes that her call is becoming a chef and through food she will finally, albeit unwittingly, conquer a local example of antisemitism—the Inn that gives the title to the novel itself.

Here is an excerpt from the novel in which the Linzertorte is actually mentioned:

Ahead of Nelson, a woman in a blue lace dress, with hair the smoky gray of cat fur, turned to speak. “What’s the name of your hotel again?” she asked.

“The Inn at Lake Devine”

“Is that near Rutland?”

“Very close. Do you know Rutland?”

“I have a cousin there,” she said. She held her plate out to the chef overseeing the Linzertorte. “Is it a white hotel with a big porch and a lawn that goes down to the water?”

“That’s us,”said Nelson.

She paused before asking, “And how long has your family owned it?”

“All my life,” Nelson said, with the polish of a spelling bee finalist. “And my grandparents before that.”

“My cousins told me about you,” said the woman, minus the smile of a satisfied customer.

From the original recipe by Florence Kreisler Greenbaum

In: “The International Jewish Cookbook”, 1919—USA

Ingredients

8 oz. flour

8 oz. shelled almonds (not blanched)

8 oz. sugar

4 oz. butter (room temperature)

2 eggs

1/2 tbsp brandy

1 generous pinch of allspice

1 pinch of salt

2 jars berry jam (e.g., strawberry, raspberry)

Grind the almonds with the sugar until powdery. Mix with the flour, spice and salt. Work in the butter at low speed until the mixture resembles wet sand. Add the eggs, lightly beaten, and the brandy, and mix at low speed until the dough holds together. Wrap the dough in wax paper and let rest in a cool place for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Prepare a 10-inch springform pan.

Take 2/3 of the dough and roll to about 1/4-inch thickness on a generously floured surface. The dough is crumbly and is tricky to roll. Alternatively it can be patted into the pan. Line the pan bottom and half way up the sides. Prick all over the dough with a fork, then fill with jam. Roll the remaining dough and cut in strips to form a lattice top on the jam layer.

Bake the tart for 25 minutes. Let cool in the pan placed on a rack for 5 minutes, then unmold it and let it finish cooling on the rack.

The tart is better made one day ahead.

Posted in American Cooking, Blog Events, Jewish Cooking, Pies & Tarts, Spices, Treenuts | Tagged: , , , , , | 13 Comments »

 
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