Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Chocolate Ganache Tart with Raspberries

                                                                                         Photography by Rachel Horesovsky

This year at Christmas I didn't want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen slaving over a complicated dessert, but I still wanted something special for the holidays.  This tart is the answer to the dilemma.  It is very simple to prepare, it must be made in advance (so there is zero last minute preparation) and it is incredibly dramatic in both presentation and in flavor.

This can be made with any kind of fruit you desire.  I have made this with strawberries, cherries, kiwi and blackberries, and of course raspberries.  Its perfect for a large gathering of people or for a small intimate gathering.  

Chocolate Ganache Tart with Raspberries
serves 8

1 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar
7 Tbsp ice cold butter, cut into small cubes
4 Tbsp ice water

Combine flour salt and sugar and mix well in the bowl of a food processor.  Add cold butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Add ice water and pulse until the mixture just barely comes together.  STOP.  Over processing will make a tough inedible crust!

Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate one hour.  Do not skip this step.  Refrigerating the dough helps relax the gluten in the dough and results in a tender pastry.

Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface until 1/8-inch thick .  Press dough into a tart pan with a removable bottom, trimming overhanging dough scraps.  Pierce dough with a fork.  Return the tart pan with dough to the refrigerator for 20 minutes while you preheat the oven to 375F.

Fill the chilled tart crust with pie weights or dried beans.  Bake 30 minutes until lightly golden.  Remove from oven and cool completely before removing pie weights.

1 cup heavy cream
12 oz. 60% cacao chocolate, chopped (or 60% cacao chocolate chips)
2 Tbsp orange liqueur

In a small saucepan bring the cream just to a boil over high heat.  Remove from heat and stir in chocolate until smooth and glossy.  Stir in orange liqueur.

fruit preserve (raspberry, apricot, cherry, apple... your choice)

While ganache is hot, pour into prepared tart crust.  Allow to rest at room temperature for several hours until ganache begins to set.  Place fruit on top of ganache, then refrigerate Tart for several hours until completely set.  Glaze fruit with hot fruit preserves (heated in microwave for 20 seconds or until liquid).

Friday, December 16, 2011

Spitzbuben (German Jam Cookies)

This is my favorite childhood cookie.  Spiztbuben translates to "little rascals".  My mom always had to make a triple batch of these cookies so that my brother and I wouldn't be fighting over them.  Yeah, they're THAT good.

My mom would start baking the day after Thanksgiving, and would make 12- 15 different kinds of cookies every year, and usually a double or triple batch of each.  This resulted in us having quite literally thousands of cookies in the house.  We had spitzbuben, and buttery hazelnut crescents dipped in chocolate, coffee-flavored hazel nut meringues perched atop thin buttery sables, lebkuchen, almond paste crescents and peanut butter kisses. The variety was seemingly endless.  Not that we ate them all ourselves, my mom would give them out as gifts every year, and they were always very welcomed.  My mother was an exceptional baker and I miss her dearly, especially at Christmas.

In fact this recipe is my mother's recipe. She would give me "the thrashing of my life" if she knew I was posting it on the internet, since her recipes were family secrets she never shared.  But times have changed, and so here we are.  I think life is always made richer by sharing.

My mom is the one who taught me that vegetable shortening is evil, especially in cookies.  There were always at least 3 pounds of butter in the refrigerator at my mom's house around the holidays.  I try to keep that practice alive, and I've got the waistline to prove it!  Na Zdravi!

We always used homemade raspberry jam in these cookies at home because we had a raspberry farm for several years, and hence we always had a freezer full of homemade raspberry jam.  I am posting a simple recipe for making your own raspberry jam using frozen berries and port wine.  I also like to make these with apricot amaretto jam.

Traditionally these cookies are cut with a fluted flower shaped cookie cutter and dusted with powdered sugar.  I sometimes  like to only dust half the cookie with powdered sugar.  I think it makes a more elegant presentation.  But follow your own aesthetic sensibilities...make these your own.  Who knows, maybe some day your son or daughter will wax nostalgically on the internet fondly remembering your cookies!

One last note, these cookies are best if left to "ripen" in a sealed container at room temperature for at least one week.  They become soft and cakey and the flavors begin to blend... if you can keep away from them for that long!

Spitzbuben (German Jam Cookies)
makes 4 dozen sandwich cookies

1 cup slivered almonds
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
3 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 Tbsp grated fresh lemon peel

raspberry preserves (recipe follows)
powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Place almonds in a shallow pie pan and toast for 20 minutes until light brown.  Turn off oven and cool almonds completely, then grind until very fine.

Im a large bowl combine flour and baking powder and salt, whisk to combine.  In the bowl of a mixer combine butter and cream cheese and sugar.  Cream until very light and fluffy, scraping sides of bowl occasionally.  Add egg and cream until well incorporated.  Add ground almonds, lemon peel and dry ingredients.  Mix on low speed until just combined.  Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

cut dough into 4 pieces.  Roll each piece out on a lightly floured surface until 1/8 inch thick.  Cut cookies with cookie cutter, punching a large hole in the center of half of them (I find a large decorating tip works well for this).  Transfer cookies to a greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes until cookies are just slightly browned.  Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely.

Spread a solid bottom cookie with raspberry preserves, then place a perforated cookie on top.  Dust with powdered sugar.

Raspberry Port Preserves
1 1/2 lbs frozen raspberries.
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup port wine (or water)

In a heavy medium saucepan combine sugar and port (or water) and bring to a boil.  Add raspberries in three batches and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat.  Pour berries into a fine metal sieve placed atop a large bowl.  With a large spoon press the berries through the sieve, collecting the pulp and juice in the underlying bowl.  Continue until only seeds and a little pulp remains.  Discard seeds.

Transfer berry juice and pulp back to saucepan and heat to a boil over medium high heat.  Continue to cook over medium high heat, stirring constantly until reduced to about 1 1/2 ups and mixture is very thick and jam-like.  Transfer to a plastic storage tub, seal and cool to room temperature.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Molasses Crinkles

It's December and yesterday I began my Christmas baking.  At our house it wouldn't be Christmas without these molasses crinkles.  They seem to be one of everyone's favorites.  Chewy, buttery, crispy, spicy molasses cookies with crunchy sugar. I love these cookies with a glass of good bourbon on the rocks, or with a cold glass of egg nog, and of course they are amazing with a tumbler of ice cold milk.  This cookie is the taste of childhood.

Most recipes for molasses crinkles I have read call for shortening.  Why?  Why why why?  Shortening has no flavor, why on earth would one use a flavorless glop of fat in a cookie?  Stop the madness I say!  I use butter.  In fact I have found that the better the quality of the butter, the better these cookies are (Plugra is exceptional).  I am starting a revolution against the use of shortening.  You wouldn't spread shortening on your toast, why use it in your baking?  Just trust me on this.  There isn't anything in the world you can make with shortening that isn't a million times better when made with butter.

I also much prefer using a coarse granulated white sugar on top of these cookies.  They can be made with ordinary table sugar, but coarse sugar makes the cookies sparkle and the crunch is pure magic in your mouth.  Coarse white sugar can be difficult to find, but Wilton makes a good product (they call it white sparkling sugar) that can be found at most craft stores in the cake decorating aisle.  For me it is worth the torture of going to the craft store, enduring the visual assault of horrific glittery blue poinsetta wreaths (really? blue silk poinsettas with glitter? REALLY?) just to get this sugar.  You should make the same sacrifice because it makes a huge difference in these cookies (and that glass of bourbon will help calm your nerves afterwards).

Yes, it IS worth going to the dreaded craft store, just to get this sugar.

One more word.  I store these cookies in an airtight container, separated by layers of wax paper, with a single slice of bread.  I really don't know why, but the slice of bread keeps the cookies tender and soft.  Leave the bread out and the cookies become hard.  Christmas magic!

Molasses Crinkles
(makes about 7 dozen small cookies)

1 1/2 cups best quality butter, softened at room temperature
2 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
2 eggs, room temperature
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour (I prefer White Lilly)
4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
coarse granulated white sugar (about one cup)
1/4 cup water
1 slice bread

Butter and eggs MUST be at room temperature.

In the bowl of a mixer combine room temperature butter and brown sugar.  Cream better and sugar until light and fluffy, scraping sides of bowl occasionally (about 5 minutes).  Add molasses and cream for an additional minute.  Add room temerature eggs and cream for 3 more minutes until very light.

In a separate large bowl combine all dry ingredients except coarse granulated sugar, and whisk until well-combined.  Add dry ingredients to butter mixture and mix on low speed until. all dry ingredients are just incorporated.  Cover dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Roll cookie dough into 1-inch balls, dip in water and then coarse granulated sugar.  Place on a greased baking sheet, sugar side up.  Bake 9-11 minutes until cookies are puffed and slightly cracked on top.  Remove from oven and let cookies "deflate" for 2 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

 Cookie balls covered in coarse sugar before baking...

 ...and after!

Cool cookies completely before transferring them to an airtight storage container, separated with layers of waxed paper.  Place a slice of bread on top and seal.