Posts Tagged ‘baking’

Christmas cookies | Zimtsterne (cinnamon stars)

22 December 2013

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Maybe I wasn’t being completely truthful last year when I exclaimed that the almond and currant cookies of my youth are my favorite. In reality I’ve always loved Zimtsterne most of all.

As a little girl, cinnamon stars represented the very promise of Christmas. The sweet tinge of icing an irresistible finish to the chewy bite. Nutty. Not too cinnamony. For some years I may have snubbed them a little, perhaps in a flaccid effort at emancipation from too obvious a childhood treat. But why resist the irresistible?

This is another recipe my mother has kept alive all these years. She received it initially, many years ago, from Marcelle, a close family friend and my grandparent’s neighbor in Switzerland.

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Marcelle’s Zimtsterne
The cookies must rest for a few hours or overnight before baking, so plan accordingly. They are best made a few weeks ahead. (Ahem.
)
Store in an airtight tin box, separating the layers with parchment paper.

450 g (3 cups) almonds

3 egg whites

Pinch of salt

300 g (1 1/2 cups) unrefined sugar

2 1/2 tsps ground cinnamon

Kirsch (1 Tbsp for cookies and 1 Tbsp for the icing)

Star-shaped cookie cutter

100 g (3/4 cup) powdered (icing) sugar

Pulse chop the almonds in a food processor until they reach the consistency of coarse sugar. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until very firm.

Add the sugar, cinnamon, and 1 tablespoon kirsch to the almonds. Fold in the egg whites with a wooden spoon, then knead by hand until the dough holds together (kneading will help extract the almond oil).

Take the dough and flatten it evenly on a slightly moistened wooden board (working in batches if necessary). The height should be approximately 8 mm (1/3 inch), but the most important is that it be even so it also cooks evenly.

Prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and sprinkled with sugar. Cut out stars from the dough with a wet cookie cutter and place them on the baking sheet. (Wet the cutter repeatedly throughout the process to avoid sticking.)

Let the stars rest, uncovered (they must dry a little), at room temperature, for a few hours or overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

Slide the sheet in the middle of the oven and bake the cookies for 10 minutes. They will harden when they cool but must remain moist.

Make the icing by mixing the icing sugar with 1 tablespoon Kirsch and 1 tablespoon water. The icing should be quite liquid, add water drop by drop if necessary.

Using the back of a small spoon, coat each star, while still warm, with a light layer of icing. Let dry.

Store in a tin box, layers separated by parchment paper, for up to a month.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas cookies | Almond and currant (Corinth raisin) cookies

22 December 2012

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Traditionally, my mother and I divided baking duties for Christmas. I baked Stollen, she made everything else. A most delicious fruitcake that soaks in bourbon for weeks, gingerbread with the children, Zimtsterne (cinnamon stars), Haselnuss Leckerli (Swiss hazelnut cookies), and these almond and currant cookies. Recipes from our childhood, which she has baked for decades.

In a newly discovered enthusiasm for baking cookies, in the past couple of years I’ve sought out new recipes, to complement the Christmas spread. Last year I also decided to make these myself, to pick up the tradition, perhaps? They are understated, without the heady Christmas spices. They are my favorite.

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The dough must sit in the refrigerator overnight so plan accordingly, otherwise the cookies are extremely quick and easy to make. They improve with time so, ideally, they should be prepared a few weeks in advance. Oh well.

1 cup (225 g) butter

1/2 cup (115 g) sugar

4 egg yolks

3 1/4 cups (400 g) flour

1 cup (100 g) slivered almonds

3/4 cup (100 g) currants (Corinth raisins)

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Let the butter soften at room temperature.

Mix the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and mix well, then the flour. Mix and knead until the dough is homogenous and smooth.

Divide the dough into two equal parts. Add the almonds to one half and the currants to the other, kneading well until they are completely integrated.

Roll each half into a long log approximately 2 in (5 cm) in diameter. (Optionally, to make squarish cookies as shown above, flatten the log on four sides.) Wrap each log first in parchment paper then clingfilm, and place in the refrigerator overnight.

When ready to bake the next day, preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).

With a thin sharp knife, cut the logs into thin cookies 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake 8 to 10 minutes, until they just start to turn golden. (They will feel soft to the touch but will harden as they cool.)

Store in a tin in a cool dry place for up to a few weeks.

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Related recipes

Christmas cookies | Swiss Anisseed Chrabeli

Stollen

Candied orange and lemon peel

8 December 2012

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For years I’ve wanted to do this. Every time, as I gather all the ingredients to make Stollen in early December, I think I really should make candied citrus peel myself. But caught in the rush I end up scrambling and scouring stores desperately to find an acceptable option — usually just barely.

So I’m quite excited. It’s not as if I’d suddenly been graced with lots more time, rather to the contrary, but I guess that’s how it works.

It does take time — a few hours. Peeling, cutting, staying close to the boil. Repeating. It’s time-consuming. But simple. It’s meditative. And worth it.

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Orange peel

I candied the peel to use in Stollen, but there is plenty left over, which can be eaten as is, rolled in sugar, or dipped in dark melted chocolate to make orangettes. Mmmm.

5 oranges

3 cups (600 g) sugar

1 1/2 cups (350 ml) water (more for the first step)

To peel the oranges, trim off a ‘cap’ at either end so the orange sits in a stable position. Cut pieces of peel, equal to approximately a sixth of the fruit, from top to the bottom, including the pith and a bit of fruit. (The flesh can be used elsewhere for example in a fruit salad.) Slice the pieces of peel into strips 1/2 to 1-inch (1 to 2 cm) wide.
Place the peel in a smallish saucepan, cover with water, bring to a simmer and boil for a couple of minutes. Drain, discarding the water. Cover the peel with fresh water and repeat this three times (4 boils altogether).

Rinse the saucepan. Pour the sugar and 1 1/2 cups (350 ml) water, bring to a boil, then add the peel. Simmer, partially covered, for about an hour, removing scum if it occurs, until the peel is soft and translucent on the sides. (The pith should be translucent too.)

Place the pieces of peel on a rack or baking sheet covered with parchment paper and let dry for 24 to 36 hours.

Keep the syrup in the fridge and mix with sparkling water for a refreshing drink, or drizzled over plain yogurt.

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Lemon peel
(Same technique but the quantities are halved, and lemon peel can also be dipped in dark chocolate to make ‘lemonettes’!)

5 lemons

1 1/2 cups (300 g) sugar

3/4 cup (200 ml) water (more for the first step)

To peel the lemons, trim off a ‘cap’ at either end so the orange sits in a stable position. Cut pieces of peel, equal to approximately a sixth of the fruit, from top to the bottom, including the pith and a bit of fruit. (The flesh can be used elsewhere for example in a fruit salad.) Slice the pieces of peel into strips 1/2 to 1-inch (1 to 2 cm) wide.

Place the peel in a smallish saucepan, cover with water, bring to a simmer and boil for a couple of minutes. Drain, discarding the water. Cover the peel with fresh water and repeat this three times (4 boils altogether).

Rinse the saucepan. Pour the sugar and 3/4 cup (200 ml) water, bring to a boil, then add the peel. Simmer, partially covered, for about an hour, removing scum if it occurs, until the peel is soft and translucent on the sides. (The pith should not be white anymore, completely translucent.)

Place the peels on a rack or baking sheet covered with parchment paper and let dry for 24 to 36 hours.

Keep the syrup in the fridge and mix with sparkling water for a refreshing drink, or drizzled over plain yogurt.

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Related posts

Stollen

Quick lemon and lime tart

2 May 2012

In my world, lemon pie is a little like roast chicken; having been introduced to the utterly convincing very elaborate version, I had forgotten how quick and easy it can also be.

The herbs-stuffed-under-the-skin-of-the-chicken version of lemon pie is that of the River Café Cookbook Blue. It requires 6 whole eggs plus 9 yolks and half an eternity of patient stirring over a very low fire. It is the mother, grandmother, fairy godmother, and evil aunt of all lemon pies. It should be made at least once in a lifetime.

But if you don’t have 15 eggs or an entire day to spare, there is this recipe, which asks for nothing more than to whisk all the reasonably proportioned ingredients together, pour them into a pre-cooked tart shell, and bake.

This is the child prodigy of lemon pies. Effortless. Very tart, with an unconventional twist of lime. Addictive.

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Recipe slightly adapted from The Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver

1 unbaked sweet pie crust

Egg-wash (1 egg and a little milk)

Zest from 2 limes

3/4 cup (200 ml) fresh lime juice (4 to 5 limes)

Zest from 2 lemons

3/4 cup (200 ml) fresh lemon juice (3 to 4 lemons)

1 1/2 cups (300 g) sugar

8 large eggs

1 1/2 cups (350 ml) heavy cream

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Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).

With a fork, mix 1 egg with a little milk and egg-wash the uncooked pie crust before baking blind.

Bake the pie crust blind for 10 to 12 minutes minutes. **When baking blind either poke a bunch of small wholes into the crust with a fork, or use dried beans or ceramic baking weights on the crust to prevent it from rising.**

Remove the blind-baked crust from the oven and set aside while making the filling.

Grate the limes and lemons for their zest. Squeeze the limes to obtain 3/4 cup juice and the lemons to obtain 3/4 cup lemon juice.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs until the yolks are completely broken up and the mixture becomes very smooth.

Stir in the heavy cream, then the lime and lemon juice.

Place the blind-baked pie crust back onto the oven rack then pour in the filling (this avoids spillage, as the pie will be filled up to the rim).

Bake the tart for 35 to 40 minutes until it is barely starting to turn golden and still a little wobbly in the middle. It will set as it cools.

Let cool completely before serving.

Fresh strawberries or raspberries would be a great complement to this pie, but just a little unsweetened home-whipped cream goes really well too.

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Related posts

Walnut tarte with Chartreuse

Roast chicken with lemon and fennel seeds

Basic | Sweet pie crust

Cuban bread

20 March 2012

In his New Complete Book of Breads, Bernard Clayton doesn’t elaborate on this bread’s name; he does, however, call it “… a beginner’s dream.” And adds “Often I have used it in baking classes to demonstrate the ease with which good bread can be made.”

He might also have pointed out that this handsome bread is just the right measure of dense and chewy on the inside, with a soft but assertive crust on the outside, and that the rising time is only 15 minutes, which means the bread can be made from start to finish within an hour and a half, which is pretty great if — like me — you leave bread making to the last minute.

I first made it last September, realizing there was no bread in the house a bare ninety minutes before guests were to arrive for brunch. The name had also caught my eye and indeed it complemented well the baked eggs with cherry tomatoes, basil, and dash of balsamic vinegar I was serving that day.

Back then I hoped this sudden baking impulse would set the tone of a home-baked-bread–filled year, and perhaps even lead to realizing the sourdough fantasy I’ve been chasing.

Well, there hasn’t been much bread baking in the interim, let alone a sourdough adventure. Not a single loaf, in fact, until I baked this same Cuban bread for brunch again recently. It was well complemented, this time, by fried eggs with sautéed leeks and mushrooms atop grilled polenta (or that was the intention — the reality wasn’t quite so neat, but delicious nonetheless).

Happy spring!

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From Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads

5 to 6 cups white flour

2 packages yeast

1 Tbsp salt

2 Tbsps sugar

2 cups hot water (120°-130°F or 50°-55°C)

Sesame or poppy seeds (optional)

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Prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Place 4 cups of flour in a large bowl, add the yeast, salt, and sugar, and stir until they are well blended.

Pour in the hot water (using a thermometer is best here because if the water is too hot the yeast won’t work its magic, but, in the absence of such a device, a very unscientific gauge for right temperature is to place the little finger into the water and slowly count to ten. The water should feel quite hot at the end but below burning).

Beat with 100 strong strokes, or for 3 minutes with the flat beater of a hand mixer.

Gradually work in the remaining flour, half a cup at a time, until the dough is no longer too sticky and can be shaped into a ball. Kneed the dough for 8 minutes by hand on a floured work surface or in a hand mixer with a dough hook until it feels smooth, elastic, and “alive.”

Shape into a ball in a greased bowl and let the dough rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size, about 15 minutes.

Punch down the dough, separate it into two equal parts, and shape each into a smooth round. Place onto the parchmented baking sheet and cut an X on each loaf using a sharp knife. Brush with water and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds if desired.

Place the baking sheet with the loaves in the middle of a cold oven and place a large pan with hot water on a grate below, and heat oven to 400°F (200°C). **The bread will continue to rise in the oven as it is heating.**

Bake for about 50 minutes, until the bread is a deep golden brown. To check for doneness, knock on the bottom crusts; the loaves should sound hollow.

Let cool before slicing.

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Related posts

Basic | Sweet pie crust

Banana cake

Stollen


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