Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Cranberry Linzer Torte

First - hello, campers. Second - tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the States (just in case you've lost track of your calendar like yours truly). It's the one day a year where we try to consume a few days of calories in one meal. And usually, after that, slip into a tryptophan-induced coma on the couch. What? Like you've never fallen asleep on the couch after consuming too much turkey, mashed potatoes, GRAVY, assorted veggies, and pie mit schlag.

There's this other thing that shows up at Thanksgiving a lot. It's small, red, and strangely tart: the cranberry. I must admit, if I were to ignore anything on Thanksgiving it would be the humble cranberry. I don't do cranberry sauce: canned, homemade, jelled ... just nope. There's something about the taste of the little ruby jeweled fruit and where it hits me in the back of the throat.

However you put cranberries in a baked good and I'm all over it like white on rice. Scones. Cookies. Bread. Cake. Biscotti.

And now, tortes.

I can't express to you how freaking AH-MAZING the dough smells after chilling in the fridge over night (well ... more like 24 hours in my case). Lord, I wanted to sit right down on the kitchen floor and eat the dough by itself. I may have tasted a bit of it (read: a lot ... I know, raw eggs - shame on me); this dough will be in my life forever, and ever. It tastes of sugar, cinnamon, citrus and, toasted nuts - each note shines through and alerts your pallet to it's presence, but does not overwhelm.

Making the cranberry filling is as easy as you suspect it to be, and if you've ever made any kind of jelly / jam / or marmalade you too can make the filling for this torte (which in a pinch could sub for a nice cranberry sauce).

The best part about this whole recipe is everything can be made a head of time. It can even be assembled ahead of time and baked later (or even baked then frozen). Really - could you ask for anything better?

The tartness (even with all the sugar) of the cranberries, melded with the subtle sweetness of the dough gives your the perfect non-sweet dessert. It's light. It's fresh. This torte will hold up well next to perennial favorites of pumpkin and pecan pie.

All I can say is: well done, New York Times. Well done.

Cranberry Linzer Torte
Modified from the New York Times



12 ounces cranberries
2 cups sugar
Zest of 1 orange
Juice of 1 orange, plus water to equal 3/4 cup
Pinch of salt


3/4 cup hazelnuts
3/4 cup almonds
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
14 TBSP unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan
3/4 cup sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 orange
1 large egg, plus 1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt



Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Lower heat to a brisk simmer and stir frequently, until cranberries burst. Continue cooking, mashing fruit a bit with the back of a spoon, until thick as jam, about 30 minutes. Set aside. (Filling may be prepared in advance.)

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place hazelnuts and almonds on a baking sheet and bake about 10 minutes, until well browned. Rub skins off hazelnuts while still warm, discarding skins. Cool nuts, then grind finely in a food processor, adding 3 tablespoons of flour to keep them from becoming oily. (Nuts should have the texture of coarse cornmeal.) Set aside.


In the bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment, combine butter, sugar, and lemon and orange zest. Beat until sugar is dissolved and mixture is pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg, egg yolk and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, mix together ground nuts, the rest of the flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Add to butter mixture in three parts, mixing each time until it forms a slightly sticky dough.

Divide dough into two pieces, one slightly bigger. Form larger piece into a ball, wrap and flatten to a 1-inch thickness. Form smaller piece into a rough rectangle, wrap and flatten to a 1-inch thickness about 4 by 5 inches. Chill 3 to 4 hours, or overnight.

Heat oven to 350. Butter and flour an 11-inch fluted French tart pan. Remove dough from refrigerator and let stand for 10 minutes. On floured parchment paper, roll the larger piece of dough into a 12-inch circle, dusting the top with flour as necessary. If dough is difficult to handle, chill again. Pat evenly into pan until sides and bottom are completely lined with dough about 1/8-inch thick. Refrigerate or freeze tart shell until firm.

Roll out smaller piece of dough on floured parchment paper to rectangle about 10 by 12 inches and 1/8-inch thick. Cut into strips about 3/4 inch by 12 inches. Transfer parchment to a tray and refrigerate or freeze until firm.


Spread cranberry jam evenly into shell. Lay strips across top in a lattice pattern. Form remaining dough scraps into a rope 1/2 inch in diameter and use it to encircle outer edge of tart. Score diagonally with the handle of a spoon or flute with fingers to make a border.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until jam is bubbling and pastry is lightly browned. Let cool, and dust with powdered sugar if desired. Serve in small wedges.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Neiman-Marcus Chocolate Chips Cookies

A chocolate chip cookie, is a chocolate chip, is a chocolate chip ... right? Well. Maybe not. At least we can agree that not all cookies are made the same. Or maybe it's you can't make cookies without breaking a few eggs. Or something. But, cookies: YAY!

There is an internet legend that surrounds these cookies, and if you've spent any amount of time scouring the interwebs for cookie recipes, you probably have come across it. And if, by some miracle of the internet, you haven't heard the myth behind these cookies: settle in 'round the fire for story time, campers.

The story goes a mother and daughter (though the first time I heard the tale it was a father and daughter) had lunch at Neiman's - which included the famed chocolate chips cookies. The mother asked if they could share the recipe, the server said no - but it was for sale. How much, you ask? Oh, two-fifty. Sounds like a steal the the mother, so she agrees. Then a month (sorry - but who doesn't look at the receipt when paying for a meal?) later she sees her bill from the department store and it's way, way, way higher than she could account for, so she looked at the detail and saw a $250 charge for a cookie recipe. The HORROR! She called customer service and complained, but they wouldn't take back the recipe and refund her money. So, when faced with actually having to pay a ridiculous amount of money for a cookie recipe (I mean ...), what's a gal to do other than take to the internet for revenge and post it for the world to have for FREE? Yup. Pretty much. 

So. This lovely, lovely interweb myth is just that: a myth. Apparently, before this recipe started floating around on the internet (which as far as I can tell, was basically right after Al Gore gave birth to the world wide web) Neiman-Marcus didn't even have a chocolate chip cookie on their menu. Then after this story started circulating, they suddenly had a chocolate chip cookie on their menu (and have subsequently put "the recipe" on their website for free). I smell the world's best sleeper marketing campaign. Ever.

There are several recipes (other than the official one) floating around out there - all slightly different. I combined the best of everything to make one ridiculously delicious cookie, because that's how I roll.

There's a lot crammed into this cookie: two kinds of chocolate; espresso powder; pulverized oats; and PECANS. And to me, the best thing about these cookies is how they bake up: crispy on the outside edges and still chewy on the inside. Ugh. So. Good. Utter. Perfection.

Neiman-Marcus Chocolate Chips Cookies


2 1/2 cups of oats blitzed through a food processor
2 cups flour sifted
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 TSP espresso powder
1 cup butter (two sticks), room temperature
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
8 ounces milk chocolate, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans


Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line baking sheet with Silpat or parchment paper.

In a large bowl, stir together the blitzed oats, sifted all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and espresso powder.

Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and both sugars until fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the eggs one at a time. Add vanilla.

Add in the flour and oat mixture in three sections, making sure to fully incorporate before adding more (Note: you may have to increase your mixer speed a bit here to keep the paddle turning, this dough gets thick). Moving forward you have two choice: add the following ingredients by hand, or proceed with caution but use the mixer. I use the mixer for adding the two types of chocolate - but I hand mix in the nuts because ... that's how I was taught to do it as a wee thing. Anywho: add the chocolate chips, the chopped chocolate, and the pecans.

Using a #70 cookie scoop (or a Tablespoon) drop cookies onto Silpat covered cookie sheet approximately 2 inches apart. Flatten slightly using a fork or back of a spoon.

Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let cool for a couple of minutes before carefully transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.