Friday, December 19, 2014

Baking I Linzer Cookies with Strawberry Jam

I've been wanting to post a Christmas recipe for the longest time now. Something, anything. But it still hasn't felt like Christmas to me as yet. I suppose that's because my tree hasn't gone up and frankly I'm in no mood to celebrate either.

It's been a tough year - moving all over again - trying to figure out what I really want to do - and starting from scratch. Just a tough tough year. But that's for another time.

So as I sit here and reminisce, I can't help but crave for something warm to drink. Something to calm the nerves, something to soothe. But what I really want is something to dunk into that warm thing. A piece of rusk, a biscotti or a cookie. Anything that can really make me feel slightly festive and well, content.

The first time I ate a Linzer cookie, was when I sneaked it off a Christmas display. There was this gingerbread house that housed some fun looking things to eat including a cookie that was drenched in jam. One bite and realised that the cookies really hit that spot. Almondy and jammy, they were just terrific.

Named after the Austrian city Linz, the cookies are an off shoot of the Linzer Torte. Short crust pastry with jam baked in. The cookies are pretty much similar - some lemon zest some cinnamon, lots of almonds and then topped with jam. And these are made mostly during Christmas time.

My Linzer cookies were made one night when I was so troubled by the world and I needed to make something to calm my nerves. The only jam in sight I had was a Strawberry and White Pepper preserve and I just needed to pop something sweet in my mouth asap. The only catch with jamming the cookies is that they get soggy super soon, so I suggest you make them and jam right at the end.

Linzer Cookies with Strawberry Jam
Adapted from Joy of Baking


1 cup (150 grams) whole almonds2 cups (260 grams) flour 1/2 teaspoon (1 gram) ground cinnamon1 pinch nutmeg1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) saltZest (outer yellow skin) of one small lemon 1 cup (226 grams) butter3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar , divided1 teaspoon (5 grams) vanilla extract2 large (40 grams) yolkTopping:1/2 cup (60 grams) confectioners' (Icing or Powdered) Sugar1/2 cup Strawberry jam

Method1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) with the oven rack in the center of the oven. Place the almonds on a baking sheet and bake about 8-10 minutes, or until lightly browned and fragrant.
2.  Remove from oven and once the nuts have cooled, place in a food processor, along with 1/4 cup (50 grams) white sugar, and process until finely ground. 3. In a separate bowl, whisk or sift together the flour,nutmeg,  cinnamon, salt, and lemon zest. 4. In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter and remaining 1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes). 
5. Beat in the vanilla extract and egg yolks. Finally, beat in the ground almonds and then the flour mixture. Divide the dough in half, cover each half with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm (30-60 minutes, or up to two days).6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.Remove one ball of dough from the refrigerator. On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough until it is about 1/4 inch (.5 cm) thick. Using a 3 inch (7.5 cm) cookie cutter (star, round, square, heart, etc.) cut out the cookies. 
7. Place the cookies about 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart on the prepared baking sheet. Use a smaller cookie cutter to cut out the centers of half of the cookies on the baking sheet. 
8. Reroll any scraps and cut out the remaining cookies. Repeat with the second ball of dough. (Note: If you find the cookies are soft, place the baking sheets with the unbaked cookies in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes to chill the dough. This will prevent the cookies from spreading and losing their shape when baked.)
9. Bake the cookies for about12 minutesor until lightly browned around the edges. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

Assemble Cookies:  Place the cut out cookies on a baking sheet and lightly dust the tops with powdered sugar. Spread a thin layer of jam on the bottom surface of the full cookie (top of cookie will face out). Place the cut-out cookie on top and gently sandwich them together. Using a small spoon or a piping bag, fill the cut-out with a little more jam.

The filled cookies will soften when stored. If you want the cookies to stay crisp, assemble the day of serving. The assembled cookies can be stored in the refrigerator, in an airtight container, for several days.

Food Festival I Shahajahanabad ki Sair. At Ssence, The Suryaa Hotel

There's something magical about food that tell stories. And not just ordinary stories, but tales of kings and kingdoms and things they liked to eat.

The Shahajahanabad food festival a Ssence at the Suryaa Hotel is nothing short of magic, not only because of the history it's seeped in but also because of the person who was making it. Food from the bylanes of Old Delhi cooked  by Nazish Jalali, a lady who's had connections with a long line of royal khansamas.

Nazish Jalali is no ordinary woman. Despite no formal training, she's a Rampuri woman who's managed to collect recipes of the Mughal era that are on the verge of being forgotten, . And then has cooked up a storm that's truly fit for the kings. Home-style cooking that obvious won over the kings.

On the night, we went to attend the food festival, the spread reminded you of an old fashioned daawat. Served on beautiful silver crockery, you knew that you were going to be pampered. A platter of mutton seekh, chicken seekh and kachche kheeme ke kebab were brought out. Along with kathal ki tikki and the bhutte ki tikki under the vegetarian umbrella.

Osama Jalali, Nazish's son and the curator of the event explained how at home however these kebabs were made on the sigri and therefore retained all the fat and all the flavour.Unlike in the hotel, where it was made in the tandoor where it lost a significant amount of flavours. Yet the kachche kheeme ka kebab was stellar. Midly spiced with a pronounced fragrance of the badi elaichi, it was realy quite excellent.

As the main course was laid out, we heard tales of the mother and son's cooking escapades - about five-year-old Osama standing on the edge of a tandoor looking down at it, about a daughter who learnt cooking from the royal cooks and a new bride who cooked for her father-in-laws guest.

Aloo Gosht, Chicken Korma and Mutton Nihari were set out in front of us. And a mildly spiced parwal was piled onto our plates. Hot sheermals and khameeri rotis were laid down for us as we plodded our way through the curries. The chicken Korma was exceptional - curd based gravy that was scented with cardamon and tomatoes, I could have eaten it by the bowlful. The aloo gosht was superb too, light and easy on the palate, this was also Nazish Jalali's speciality. 

The Nihari though deserves an paragraph on its own. Simmered over for six hours, the mutton was so succulent that it melted in the mouth. Spiced generously with fresh ginger and coriander, it was one of the stalwarts from the festival. 

Steaming hot plates of biryanis were brought out. Nazish told us that they served it with a spicy garlic chutney instead of raita. The three coloured rice was mild, and not oily, so home-style that it won my heart over.

For dessert we had the zarda rice and sevaiyyan, both tasted fab and was a great end to the this fantastic meal. 

The food festival is on till December 21st, so go there as soon as you can.